Should You Do a Cleanse After Thanksgiving?

Last Editorial Review: 9/20/2017

Ask the experts

I feel like I overdid it this Thanksgiving with food and alcohol. I've gained about four pounds and feel terrible! What's the best way to clean out my system? I've heard of different colon cleansing pills, but are there any natural ways to go about doing it?

Doctor's response

For most people, the turkey isn't the only thing getting stuffed at Thanksgiving. It's amazing how something that tastes so good can feel so bad afterward. The good news is that people do not need to take any herbs or supplements to "clean out the system." If you find yourself feeling uncomfortable after a lot of eating and drinking, you can adjust what you do with your food and activity and that will be enough to get your body, weight, and mind back in shape.

Most of the traditional Thanksgiving Day foods are high in fat and carbohydrates. If you are not used to eating a lot of carbohydrates (bread, potatoes, stuffing, sweets, dairy, and fruit), you could retain extra fluids and feel bloated because of eating this. The solution to this would be to cut back on your intake of starches and sweets and replace them with vegetables and fresh fruits. That will help with the bloating and cut back on calories to help with weight loss. There is also a chance that you could be retaining fluids if there was a lot of salt in the foods that you ate. Stay away from salty foods and keep your intake of water up to help with this. The final thing that would help when you are in a situation like this would be to increase your physical activity. If you consumed additional calories, there is no better way to get rid of them than to be physically active, especially with aerobic activities.

It's easy to go from one extreme to the other, but the last thing that you want to do is starve yourself and/or workout for five hours after overeating. Take a deep breath and know that some of the four pounds is water weight and that you will feel better in a day or two once you make the changes to your food and activity. You may want to consider planning ahead for the next holiday or social event so that you will not have to work so hard to make up for it afterward. Try to enjoy the holiday, have some good food and drink, and hopefully these tips will help you to feel good about it when it's over!

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Medically reviewed by Robert Bargar, MD; Board Certification in Public Health & General Preventive Medicine


"'Detoxes' and 'Cleanses'"
National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health
National Institutes of Health