All cleanses tend to have some kind of detox symptoms, as the body works to remove toxins and impurities. Liver cleanses, in particular, often include intense symptoms. Though the list is varied, side effects include headache, fatigue, irritability, and nausea. For some of these symptoms, steps can be taken to ease them, if only slightly. Others must simply be endured until they pass.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
Headaches may be the most common detox symptom of a liver cleanse, or any type of cleanse. Dr. Elson Haas, detox specialist, writes in his book, "The New Detox Diet: The Complete Guide for Lifelong Vitality with Recipes, Menus, and Detox Plans," that headaches are "not all that uncommon" during the first day or two of a cleanse 1. He recommends drinking more fluids in order to ease this particular symptom.
Fatigue is another common symptom of liver cleansing. This in part stems from a change in food intake and nutrient depletion, but according to Michelle Schoffro Cook, author of "The 4-Week Ultimate Body Detox Plan: A Program for Greater Energy, Health, and Vitality," can come from "diving head-over-heels" into liver cleansing without properly cleansing the kidneys and intestines first 2. She explains that toxins get backed up in the liver, which are then "dumped" during a cleanse into the urinary and intestinal tract where they can't be released, which has a negative impact on the body.
Irritability can be another side effect of a liver cleanse. Dr. Haas says that this is a normal symptom of detoxifying, and is a "sure sign" the metabolism is healing. He notes that this symptom, along with headaches, should pass within a couple of days, and that calmness and energy should take its place.
Some liver cleanses, particularly the ones that consist of drinking large amounts of olive oil, may cause nausea. Andreas Moritz, author of "The Amazing Liver & Gallbladder Flush," says that this is due to the gallbladder ejecting bile and gallstones "with such force" that the olive oil is shot back into the stomach 3. Moritz recommends properly cleansing the colon in the days leading up to the liver flush and the days following to eliminate this symptom.
- "The New Detox Diet: The Complete Guide for Lifelong Vitality with Recipes, Menus, and Detox Plans"; Elson M. Haas, MD; 2004
- "The 4-Week Ultimate Body Detox Plan: A Program for Greater Energy, Health, and Vitality"; Michelle Schoffro Cook; 2006
- "The Amazing Liver & Gallbladder Flush"; Andreas Moritz; 2005
- Marili Forastieri/Photodisc/Getty Images