Whether you’ve been over-indulging and are ready to get back on track or are looking to kick-start a new healthy routine, a juice cleanse can be a significant first step toward a much-needed reset. To help those who might be considering embarking on a juice cleanse get set up for success, we asked Virginia Beach-based holistic nutritionist Jennifer Van Horn to outline the benefits, describe what to expect, and offer advice for how to make the most of the experience. Here are her recommendations.
Know the reasoning behind the reset. “It’s really all about your liver,” Van Horn explains. Too many cookies or cocktails can keep your body from functioning efficiently, which can lead to weight gain. To combat this, a juice cleanse can unclog your system and promote cellular regeneration. In addition, while you’re on a juice fast your body doesn’t have to work as hard to digest, allowing the nutrients, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals to get right to work healing and lowering inflammation.
Preparation is key. “It’s really important not to jump right into a cleanse after days of bad eating habits,” Van Horn stresses. While it might be tempting to immediately follow a bender with a juice-only diet, she suggests the following pointers before beginning a cleanse:
- A few days before your cleanse, switch to a plant-based diet and eliminate gluten, dairy, and alcohol.
- Start to increase your water intake in the days leading up to your cleanse (you should be aiming for two to three liters a day). In addition to being crucial to flush out toxins that will leave your body as you detox, drinking plenty of will help you avoid “die off,” that yucky feeling associated with cleanses.
- Schedule a massage for day two or three of your cleanse to help move your lymph system along and speed the elimination of toxins.
Plan your cleanse carefully. Determining how long you do a juice fast is a personal decision. Most cleanses are three, five, or seven days. While Van Horn says a seven-day cleanse can offer a number of benefits, she notes that a mini jump-start of three days can also be very beneficial. You can usually find a local juice bar that will offer juice cleanse plans, but many companies deliver nationally, and you can even make the juices yourself. No matter what you choose, Van Horn says to make sure the juice is 100% organic and cold-pressed so it retains the powerful enzymes. She also notes that you should not embark on a cleanse if you are pregnant or under a doctor’s care for extreme adrenal exhaustion.
Get down to business. While on your cleanse, Van Horn says you will be drinking multiple juices a day, which should be heavy on veggies and light on fruit (too much fruit means you’re consuming excess sugar, Van Horn explains, which defeats the purpose of a cleanse). If not having a “meal” feels too daunting, then substitute out a juice at dinnertime for a smoothie bowl or a pureed veggie soup. “You’ll want to drink a juice every two to three hours,” she says. “Don’t wait four hours or you’ll be starving and it will be difficult to get back on top of that hunger.” Van Horn stresses that staying hydrated is key, so remember to drink lots of water. She also recommends ending your day with a homemade nut milk, which comes with most cleanses, as it feels like a treat and is very satisfying. In addition, Van Horn says herbal teas are fine to sip between juices, but you’ll want to limit your coffee intake to half a cup (if any), and only drink it black.
Listen to your body. While your body resets, Van Horn says you may experience unpleasant symptoms, such as headache, body ache, and fatigue. She recommends drinking water to help mitigate these responses, as well as taking a bath with Epsom salts and getting a massage, and taking a walk during your usual dinner hour to help keep cravings at bay. Van Horn also says you may have to adjust some of your routines during your juice cleanse. “If your Vinyasa yoga feels too intense, maybe it’s time to try Yin yoga,” she suggests. Consider this an opportunity to take a little bit more quiet time for yourself. On the plus side, according to Van Horn, by day four or five, you will likely find that your skin looks better than it has in ages, your eyes are bright, you have abundant energy and generally feel good.
Ease off. As strong as the temptation might be, Van Horn advises that you not jump right back into old habits upon finishing your cleanse. Instead, she recommends that your first meal should be a smoothie or warm veggie broth, and says you should stick to a plant-based diet as long as you can. Stay away from dairy and meat, but especially gluten. “Gluten is glue,” Van Horn says. “It will inhibit all the great things you’ve done.” And as for that glass of wine with dinner? Go ahead and pass for at least three days.