7 Ways to Avoid Detox Symptoms on a Cleanse

by Linda Zurich Detoxification, Natural RemediesComments: 77

sick or detoxing

If you’ve ever done any kind of fasting or detoxification protocol for any length of time, you may very well be all too familiar with the various kinds of unpleasant symptoms that can manifest during such cleanses.

Even just going cold turkey for a few days from things like drinking coffee, diet soda, eating refined sugar, or smoking tobacco can trigger such reactions.

Some of the most common detox symptoms when doing a fast or detox include headaches, nausea, body aches, nasal or sinus congestion, sore throat, constipation, diarrhea, skin rashes, or even full blown flu-like symptoms.

Such symptoms are known by various names including healing reactions, cleansing reactions, healing crises, Herxheimer reactions, detox symptoms, or in some cases, die-off.

The Underlying Causes of Detox Symptoms

Many people who endure these sorts of disagreeable sensations want to know more about exactly what’s going on in their bodies when they’re happening, and what they can do to prevent them from occurring in the first place.

What’s happening when we experience these sorts of detox symptoms while we’re implementing a cleansing protocol is essentially threefold:

  1. Because we’re being proactive about cleansing ourselves, during this time, the cells of our bodies suddenly have an opportunity to release an even greater than normal quantity of stored toxins, pathogens, impurities, metabolic wastes and other materials that do not belong inside us.
  2. Several of the body’s innate pathways through which it normally and naturally eliminates such undesirable materials become overwhelmed, stagnated, and effectively incapacitated by the unusually large quantities of toxicity being released on a cellular level throughout the body. This puts undue pressure on the remaining pathways.
  3. In some cases, there may also be pathogenic microorganisms such as bacteria or yeasts that have been feeding on substances we’ve been regularly ingesting, (for instance candida that feed on an overabundance of sugars in the diet) which may die when we deprive them of their preferred food, which releases toxic substances into the bloodstream.

Such a die-off can contribute to and exacerbate the problem of the already compromised and overburdened elimination pathways.

The Body’s Modes of Elimination

Our bodies are innately equipped with an ingenious and highly interactive system of organs and processes through which it has been naturally designed to mobilize and purge toxic materials from itself on an ongoing basis.

These are the body’s primary organs and pathways of elimination:

  • Colon
  • Liver
  • Kidneys
  • Lymphatics
  • Lungs
  • Skin
  • Blood

Each of these pathways is synergistically interconnected with and interdependent upon the others, and if they’re all functioning properly chances are we’ll enjoy good health.

However, if one or more of these pathways becomes sluggish, congested, overwhelmed, or is otherwise functioning less than optimally, this puts an unnatural burden on the others, which often results in unpleasant symptoms.

For instance, if our liver is congested, especially during a cleanse, we may notice some skin eruptions like a rash or adult acne. Or if we’re experiencing constipation while doing a detox protocol, we may develop flu symptoms like swollen lymph glands, a sore throat, or perhaps a cough or lung congestion.

Supporting the Body’s Detox Pathways

The key to avoiding detox symptoms during a cleanse is to be proactive about supporting our body’s own inherent ability to cleanse itself. We can do this by employing various holistic methods that assist, empower and clear our natural detoxification organs and pathways to more effectively do their job of mobilizing and offloading toxins and wastes.

Here are 7 suggestions for doing so while on a cleanse so that detoxing can be attempted and completed with minimal to no discomfort:

1. Promote good regularity

Keeping the bowels moving during any cleanse is crucial. Two of the best ways to help get things moving if constipation is an issue are to take supplemental magnesium or a source of Vitamin C that is whole food based (not synthetic ascorbic acid).

2. Enemas or colon hydrotherapy/colonics

Many people are unaware of the powerful healing and detoxifying effects of doing a simple warm water enema, which is an age old cleansing practice that can easily be done in the privacy of your own home.

Another option is to have a colon hydrotherapy session, where the lower bowl is gently irrigated and flushed by a licensed professional using modern equipment.

3. Activated charcoal

Activated charcoal (AV) is known as the “universal antidote” which when ingested is renowned for its powerful ability to safely draw toxins, pathogens and wastes into its massive surface area, hold them fast, and efficiently remove them from the body right along with the feces during a bowel movement.

4. Salt baths

Adding sea salt, magnesium chloride flakes or oil, baking soda, or a combination of these to a warm bath, and soaking in it for at least a half hour is an excellent way to draw toxins out of the body via the skin. An epsom salt bath is particularly helpful for this purpose as it both detoxifies and helps remedy magnesium and sulfur deficiencies that may exist. Adding powdered bentonite clay to baths is also very beneficial. And if a whole body bath is not feasible, simply doing a foot bath can also be helpful.

This article provides much more detail on cleansing, detoxification baths.

5. Dry skin brushing

Dry brushing the skin of the entire body (except for face, neck, chest and genitals) with a special natural bristle brush made specifically for this purpose is a fantastic method both for exfoliating the skin as well as stimulating and supporting improved functioning of the entire lymphatic system. This article contains directions for how to perform dry skin brushing properly as well as precautions for those with sensitive skin.

6. Castor oil packs over the liver

A clean cotton or wool flannel cloth, soaked with castor oil, applied over the liver, (and covered with an old, heavy towel) covered with a heating pad and left on for about an hour is phenomenal for encouraging improved liver function. A castor oil pack not only helps the liver to better do one of its main jobs, which is blood filtration/cleansing, but it’s also tremendous for catalyzing the lymphatics, which are integral to cleansing the body on a cellular level.

7. Rebounding

If you have access to a rebounder or mini trampoline, bouncing on this piece of equipment is one of the best things you can do during a cleanse to support your body’s ability to naturally offload toxicity. Even just bouncing gently without leaving the mat is beneficial, as this action directly stimulates and mobilizes the body’s entire lymphatic system, assisting it in the transport, processing and elimination of wastes and pathogenic materials.

And finally, always be sure to drink plenty of the purest water available to you, which is absolutely vital for anyone following any detoxification protocol to help prevent detox symptoms, and be as gentle with yourself as possible during your process of inner purification.

More Information on Healthy Ways to Detox

Detox Baths: Which are Best and for What Ailments

How to Gently Detox in Preparation for Pregnancy

Coffee Enema: Unmatched Detoxification for Health and Recovery

Top 4 Cleansing Myths to Watch Out For

Natural Deworming Methods that are Safe and Effective

Seaweed Wrap for Gentle Detoxification

Detoxification Using a Castor Oil Pack

Food Poisoning Remedies that Work Fast

How to Do a Hair Detox and Enjoy Healthy Locks Naturally

Rebounding: A Great Way to Gently Detox

Juicing 101: Why Do It, Which Juicers are Best, Recipes to Try

About the Author

Linda ZurichAn avid independent researcher, writer, speaker, foodie, herbalist, lifelong lover of nature, and perpetual student, Linda Zurich is the author of Detoxification: 70 Ways to Cleanse, Clear and Purify Your Body, Space and Life, and the Raw Fed Cats eBook.

Dedicated to empowering people with the understanding that our bodies are imbued with a profound healing intelligence, Linda is devoted to broadening as well as sharing her ever evolving knowledge of the most natural and efficacious methods through which we may activate that innate healing wisdom.

Her writings on a wide variety of subjects as well as details of her upcoming speaking engagements can be found on her website ‘Holistic Paths to Healing and Wellness’ at www.lindazurich.com. Linda also shares information on raw feeding and holistic health care for domestic pets on her site www.rawfedcats.org.

She has also written an entire series on holistic pet care for this blog which you can read by clicking here.

Comments (77)

  • eileen richards

    I have been using the Dr Max Powers 15 Day Cleanse product for about six months (I do it every other month), and I love that it doesn’t cause cramping, and I have lost weight and feel so much better after it. This really helps to keep my system regulated. My husband uses them occasionally for cleansing.

    May 10th, 2016 10:53 pm Reply
  • Janice Curtin

    Thanks for this information– i have been searching for answers. I have experienced many of the symptoms mentioned but my worst are the mental symptoms. Detox always makes me depressed, emotional, with no mental energy. I don’t feel like taking on any projects. Then i get cravings and low thyroid and start gaining weight– very depressing. I also have experienced strange muscle pains sometimes. I am going to try the charcoal to see if that helps pull toxins out faster and more safely. For constipation I find Standard Process CoLax very helpful. While unpleasant, people need to know how much toxins can affect their mental health.

    January 8th, 2016 6:48 am Reply
  • David Widmann

    Wonderful, thank you. Great clear help.

    December 7th, 2015 11:41 am Reply
  • Josey Marque

    The sea salt bath idea was quite unique and i think it would be a great one too. I’ve been planning to do a colon cleanse, because day by day things are getting worse, and those laxatives seems to have no effect :(

    September 30th, 2015 12:15 pm Reply
  • Elleece

    Good information — thank you. I like how your recommendations promote facilitating release, rather than slowing down the detox (as some others recommend).

    June 13th, 2015 4:45 pm Reply
  • Maddie

    Awesome post! I have been panning to do a detox/diet soon, so this will be helpful if and when I experience post detox symptoms. The comments were helpful, too! Thanks for sharing.

    March 17th, 2015 5:39 pm Reply
  • Ginger

    I had a sever reaction to Activated Charcoal. Tongue swelling, facial swelling, nausea, vomiting. Be careful when ingesting activated charcoal.

    February 6th, 2015 4:02 pm Reply
  • piperchappi

    I was looking for a product that would clean me out without causing lots of cramping. The Lady Soma Detox does just that. If you take the maximum does of 3 packs per day, then you may experience some cramping, but taking one or two does the job. It’s a 7-day program, but I would recommend keeping it on hand for even occasional constipation.

    December 27th, 2014 7:41 pm Reply
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  • Hannah

    Activated Charcoal tablets and plenty of fresh water fixes me up!

    August 12th, 2014 12:09 am Reply
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  • Amanda Ethridge via Facebook

    Ok thank you Joanne.

    March 22nd, 2014 12:14 pm Reply
  • Joanne Turner via Facebook

    No Amanda Ethridge, you cannot. They haven’t been able to determine if the toxins release through the milk if done. While I was nursing, I took detox baths. You basically sweat the toxins out. There are several options she’s written about if you look on her blog. They worked great for me!

    March 22nd, 2014 8:32 am Reply
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  • Amanda Ethridge via Facebook

    Can you detox while breast feeding??

    March 21st, 2014 11:32 pm Reply
  • Mikayla Duff via Facebook

    Needed this, ugh! Two weeks & two days without meat. I haven’t been feeling great the last few days.

    March 21st, 2014 10:52 pm Reply
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  • Blueyez Shyne

    Loved reading this article, extremely informative! I’m currently detoxing and I’m experiencing things I never have before. I recently went to the doctor due to a horrible cold. Never got high fever or anything so sick I couldn’t get out of bed just running a low temp (99°-101°) and feeling bad, sluggish and no energy… took the course of antibiotics knowing full well I needed to cleanse! Took them anyway and started feeling better, family practitioner said I had sinus infection and double ear infection. So then about two or three weeks later started my cleanse…. Now im on the second full week and I feel absolutely like I did before the antibiotics! Same everything! Also in my blood test that he took it came back that I had high blood protein. So I researched that… ugh! Liver! He wanted me to be checked for hep! You gotta be kidding me! I’ve never done IV drugs and yes I have a tattoo but its been there for 18yrs… so I began my cleanse. Now I feel sick again… tonight I drank my usual senna tea but with bentonite, lemon (fresh squeezed, of course), raw organic honey & cinnamon hoping this will help & also did my version of a foot detox with the salts, bentonite, tea & ACV…. I’ve never heard of the castor oil pack and will definitely try! So I guess all that to ask how long should I continue feeling this way? I’m assuming (hoping soon) it will pass… my head, back, sinuses, throat… it all hurts and of course im the only one in my household that even cleanses and they think I’m crazy and saying this is making me sick due to me not eating. I’ve tried to explain to no avail but there’s no encouragement… I’ve done this for 21days in the past and did great and on my 11th day passed gall stones that I didn’t even know I had! This time is totally different bowels dont hardly move and I feel horrible. I’m thinking 21 days might not be enough because my body has been attacked since my last cleanse. Three years I let myself go and bad eating habits, drinking habits and not exercising! I need some words of advice and encouragement! Thank you in advance for reading this book… Lol! ~Dana 😉

    March 9th, 2014 5:20 am Reply
    • SoCalGT

      Hi Dana, I’m not sure exactly what type of cleanse you are doing (juice only, oil liver/gallbladder cleanse, some solid foods, etc.) but a couple of thoughts – Since you did the antibiotics recently and you are constipated, have you added any probiotics? If you are doing a juice or liquid cleanse you could try adding some naturally ferment sauerkraut juice. If you don’t have any homemade, most health food stores sell the Bubbies brand. You could get their pickles too and drink the juice or make your own beet kvass. That would be drinkable in a few days. Cleanses are great but in addition to trying to get the bad things out of your body you also need to look at getting the good things in. Good luck, I hope you feel better soon!

      March 11th, 2014 3:42 am Reply
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    February 8th, 2014 8:07 am Reply
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  • Susan

    The gall bladder is also an important organ ….it too is detoxed during a cleanse. This is an important over-flow organ and when it is cleansed it keeps the balance and prevents the infamous….Gall bladder removal surgery that docs just love!

    November 24th, 2013 9:59 am Reply
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  • Nicole Paterson

    Hi there. Thanks so much for this article. I am on day 3 of a 10 day detox prescribed to me by my nutritionist in South Africa. I have very severe body aches, especially in my lower back and headaches. I am happy to know it is all part of the process. Coming from the medical industry I so wish I could just take painkillers and anti-inflammatories to make it all go away but I suppose that is defeating the object. Regards, Nicole Paterson.

    October 10th, 2013 12:33 pm Reply
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  • Deborah

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    June 8th, 2013 5:24 pm Reply
  • Patricia Crozier Bennett via Facebook

    Any info on whether its safe to do a detox while breast feeding? Not sure if it would affect the milk supply.

    May 18th, 2013 10:38 am Reply
    • Linda Zurich

      I’d say it would depend on what you mean by doing ‘a detox’.

      Doing most any sort of detox or cleansing program, like a fast or a liver flush or something of that nature which is very focused, generally gives the body the opportunity to release stored toxins, which can end up getting into circulation. So yes, doing a dedicated detox protocol would most likely affect the milk supply of a nursing woman.

      But that doesn’t mean you can’t do things that are generally cleansing for the body, such as dry skin brushing or some gentle rebounding etc.

      May 19th, 2013 2:30 am Reply
  • Amanda Jill Sherbert Padilla via Facebook

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    May 18th, 2013 10:26 am Reply
  • Linda Zurich

    According to this site, activated charcoal is not absorbed via the digestive tract, so taking it should have no detrimental effects on breast milk:


    My understanding is that AC is an extremely safe and non-toxic substance. The only side effect I’m aware of is that it may cause constipation when taken in large doses.

    I’m sorry, but I’m not aware of any definitive evidence one way or another regarding whether or not clay is recommended for breastfeeding mothers to ingest internally.

    I personally can’t think of any reason why it wouldn’t be ok for a nursing mama to take some clay now and then, but if you have any doubts I’d suggest checking with your health care practitioner first.

    May 18th, 2013 1:30 am Reply
  • Megan

    Are AV and the clay safe to ingest while nursing? I just begun GAPS due to my 5 month old having eczema and my developing seasonal allergies. But flu doesn’t begin to describe how I’m feeling and I’d love to do anything and everything that could help! But I’m nursing my babe and my toddler and would like to make sure all is safe!


    May 17th, 2013 10:54 pm Reply
  • Jean | DelightfulRepast.com

    Linda and Sarah, great article! I’ve been thinking about doing a detox and this has really motivated me.

    May 17th, 2013 9:31 am Reply
  • Julia

    This is the second time this week I have heard of dry brushing! It was recommended to me to get super soft skin but it’s a way to detox too!? Great info!!! thanks!!

    May 17th, 2013 12:35 am Reply
  • Julia

    This is the second time this week I have heard of dry brushing! It was recommended to me to get super soft skin but it’s a way to detox too!? Great info!!! thanks!!

    May 17th, 2013 12:34 am Reply
  • aimee

    Thanks for the information! I know I need to quit some of the garbabge foods I am eating, namely coffee and sugar. I was always afraid of the detox symptoms of going cold turkey, but reading this article has given me the info I now need to do it. So if I am to quit completely, how long should I do some of the proactive measures you suggest in the post?

    May 16th, 2013 9:44 pm Reply
    • Linda Zurich

      I’d suggest listening to your body, choosing whichever protocols feel right for you, and continuing on with them for at least as long as you’re feeling any kind of symptoms you associate with withdrawal.

      There are also plenty more ideas for avoiding detox symptoms in my book!

      May 17th, 2013 2:37 pm Reply
  • TinaC

    How timely this is for me. I dropped sugar and simple carbs last Thursday, and while I felt fine the first fews days by Monday I had lung congestion and swollen lymph nodes, and by Tuesday started having flu like symptoms. By Wednesday I was completely debilitated by them. I also was bitten my a tick on Sunday, and usually would not worry since I got it right away, but since my reaction came a whole four days after I dropped sugar thought maybe it was something I had caught from the tick bite and not a detox reaction. I have been bathing daily in salt baths, but by Sunday had noticed I had constipation. Then by Monday everything started to go downhill. I did go to the doctor and had blood drawn to make sure it isn’t tick related, but now I feel better knowing it probably is the detox. I’ll take some Calm tonite to stimulate a bowel movement and take some charcoal also for good measure and go from there. Thanks so much for the timely (for me!) information!

    May 16th, 2013 8:28 pm Reply
  • watchmom3

    WONDERFUL INFORMATION! Thank you so much! I already do the Epsom/baking soda, so it was nice to know a few more ideas to add to it! Thanks!

    May 16th, 2013 6:04 pm Reply
    • Linda Zurich

      Thank you! I’m so honored to have been invited by Sarah to share here on her blog with her readers.

      BTW, my apologies for the duplicate responses above. I tried to respond to several comments yesterday, but they never showed up here and instead evidently the ended up in Sarah’s spam folder. I tried again to respond today and the same thing happened. Subsequently Sarah found them today and posted the whole kit and kaboodle. :)

      May 17th, 2013 2:30 pm Reply
      • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

        I’ve removed the duplicates now :)

        May 18th, 2013 9:36 am Reply
  • arlana

    Very interesting reading. I am curious what you think of Diatomaceous earth? Is it safe for human ingestion? I have done some reading where it is suggested to take 1-2 tbsp/day everyday for a good detox/dewormer, etc etc.

    May 16th, 2013 5:44 pm Reply
    • SoCalGT

      Hi Arlana, Food grade Diatomaceous Earth is safe to ingest and is great for parasites. There is one thing I would suggest you consider. I had been using DE ongoing for parasite control in my dogs. Everything I have read says it is fine to use ongoing. I had one dog start to have “seizures” it wasn’t a true seizure in that she didn’t loose any cognitive abilities, only a loss of control of her limbs. She would struggle to stand and not be able to. These episodes would last a minute or so then she would be able to stand but would be emotionally shaken up for a little while. Out of laziness I had stopped supplementing her for 6 or 8 months when I realized she hadn’t had an episode. Thinking there may be a connection I again started her on the DE. About a month after she had an episode. After doing some research I learned DE is about 89% silica, which is a great mineral our bodies need. It’s great for remineralizing teeth and bones. I also read you should supplement with Thiamine (B1) if you are taking a silica supplement such as horsetail. When I looked up symptoms of Thiamine deficiency I found it affects nerve function including weakness and locomotion. Right now I have our dogs on nutritional yeast to increase their B vitamins. I will try the DE again soon to see what happens. I can’t be positive this was the cause of her episodes but it did seem to correlate. Neither of our other two dogs had any issues. Anyway, all that said, you may want to consider a B supplement if you take the DE. If anyone else has any insight into this I hope you will comment.

      May 17th, 2013 1:36 am Reply
      • Linda Zurich

        Wow, thank you for sharing that, SoCalGT! I hope your pup is over those spells and that it wasn’t the DE that was causing them.

        arlana, I’ve taken DE myself, and my understanding is that yes, it is safe for human ingestion.

        DE is a very different substance from clay, and I don’t think that DE is nearly as effective as an internal detoxifier/cleanser. However I have heard a number of very interesting anecdotal stories from people singing DE’s praises saying that taking it has benefited them in various different ways and even helped them to recover from a variety of different ailments.

        It’s important to mention here that only food grade DE is safe for use both by people and on/in pets. There’s another type of non-food grade DE that’s made for use in swimming pools, which should never be ingested by or used topically on either humans or animals.

        May 17th, 2013 2:25 pm Reply
      • Nancy Nurse

        Why would you want to take a chance for your dog to have a THIRD episode? If it’s happened twice, it makes sense that that’s what’s causing these very dangerous symptoms.

        October 9th, 2013 6:49 pm Reply
  • Leslie

    Great information, what do you think about ingestion of bentonite clay? Many primitive cultures used clays to absorb toxins.

    May 16th, 2013 2:42 pm Reply
    • Linda Zurich

      Yes! Thank you for mentioning that.

      I’m a HUGE fan of both internal as well as topical use of all kinds of different clays, especially including bentonite.

      In fact I’m so impressed with the healing and cleansing properties of clay, that I’ve designed an entire class focusing on the benefits of both clay and activated charcoal. I’ll be giving that class in a few weeks June in Tacoma WA.


      May 16th, 2013 2:59 pm Reply
  • Beth

    Linda and Sarah, thanks so much for this excellent post. I’ve been researching rebounders and would welcome any advice on features or brands to look for or avoid.

    May 16th, 2013 12:09 pm Reply
    • Linda Zurich

      After researching the subject I decided to purchase a JumpSport rebounder.

      It’s very beefy and sturdy, has a nice comfortable bounce, and maybe best of all, is virtually silent to use. Because it’s made with bungee cords instead of metal springs, it makes none of those distracting squeaking noises when used.

      Some of the other brands I also considered were Rebound Air, Needak, and Urban Rebounder.

      There are some decent videos on YouTube you might want to check out which are helpful for comparingi the pros and cons of some of the major brands.

      May 17th, 2013 10:09 am Reply
    • Candace Suarez

      Yes, in my experience the best rebounders are ones with bungee cords. I tried an inexpensive one from Dick’s Sporting Store and would up hurting my back and neck after a few weeks. Then I researched and bought a Bellicon. It is really the Cadillac of Rebounders. Having had many chronic health issues this is the one I was able to tolerate the best. I would highly recommend. They come in great colors, have a great website, and are the healthiest for you. Good luck, rebounding is the single best exercise I have been able to do with limited capacity for any kind of physical endurance.

      May 22nd, 2013 3:36 pm Reply
  • Jim

    Thanks, this has some really good tips! How much activated charcoal is safe to ingest? I was also wondering about the castor oil. I guess that I am not sure I understand how a topical application can effect the liver.

    May 16th, 2013 11:10 am Reply
    • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

      Oils are readily absorbed by the skin into the blood. Some midwives recommend castor oil rubbed on the belly to facilitate labor. Cod liver oil is absorbed by the skin – a good approach for children who cannot or will not take it orally.

      With regard to AC, follow the directions on the bottle.

      May 16th, 2013 12:14 pm Reply
    • Linda Zurich

      I have taken bulk powdered AC many times stirred into purified water as a slurry, and have experimented with some relatively high doses – perhaps two heaping tablespoons at a time – and suffered no ill effects whatsoever.

      However I have noticed that such large doses of AC can have a tendency to cause some slowing of digestive transit time, so it’s a good idea to be aware of the possibility of constipation caused by the larger doses if you do take them.

      As Sarah points out, castor oil when applied topically or as a castor pack is absorbed through the skin into the blood and underlying tissues transdermally.

      Besides providing liver support and improving lymphatic function, castor oil packs are also very helpful for reducing inflammation and relieving pain.

      May 16th, 2013 2:46 pm Reply
  • Jerry | Simply Good Eating

    This is a great comprehensive article Linda. I’m interested in trying out the sea salt bath tip. Thanks for sharing and making this helpful article to everyone :)

    May 16th, 2013 11:04 am Reply
    • Patrick

      Yeah, I agree with you, Jerry.

      I like the last paragraph as well. There’s really no better way than to drink pure water to avoid detox symptoms.

      April 14th, 2014 12:28 am Reply

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