The idea of a fresh start for a new year, particularly when it comes to your health, almost makes the idea of nutritional cleanses seem like a given. Cleanses have been promoted for everything from detoxing your system to losing weight to having more energy. But before you grab the kale and your blender, consider these tips.

A cleanse does not
always have to mean juicing or fasting

Many nutritional professionals suggest avoiding any fasting cleanses completely, especially if it is your first time. Ryan Diener, the director and co-founder of Frederick’s Holistic Health Associates, said there is one master cleanse involving only hot water mixed with lemon, maple syrup and cayenne pepper. He does not recommend it and called it “too harsh for the majority of people.” He continued that if someone is looking to lose weight, most people who do a fasting cleanse end up putting weight back on quickly.

He and others made the point that a cleanse can mean making what seems like a smaller diet adjustment. Devin Marcello, a wellness buyer with the Common Market in Frederick, said a cleanse could be an elimination diet like no sugar or caffeine, choosing to eat more greens, or drinking a tea that supports your liver function. For people who are looking for something more intense, Common Market offers some liquid and liquid/capsule combination cleanses. They also have numerous juices and smoothies, which Marcello recommends as a way to eat less, but still feel like you’re not just living on water.

Avoid starting during extreme weather

While many people think of “new year’s cleanses,” Diener said any kind of temperature extremes may not be the best time to make drastic diet modifications — especially in the type of conditions that plagued the area earlier this month when it was below 10 degrees. He said your body is already working harder than usual to adjust to something it isn’t used to, so spending a period of time living on juice could stress it out even more. This is especially a shock to the system shortly after holiday eating and drinking.

Diener instead prefers making smaller healthy decisions in January, and then building up to a cleanse in March or April. He said the same is true with extreme summer heat, so he tends to promote his master cleanse program in the spring and fall.

Nutritious eating is
key for good results

Eating while cleansing will not necessarily hurt your results, as long as you are eating foods that your liver doesn’t struggle to process. Hailey Leishear, a success coach at Frederick’s Complete Nutrition, said she recently did one of her store’s two-day cleanses that involved a 4-ounce drink, twice a day. They also offer a bacteria flushing seven-day cleanse. During this time, Leishear ate mostly her usual diet involving lots of vegetables, seeds, unsalted nuts, oatmeal, gluten-free toast and hummus. She also drank a lot of water throughout the day.

“You don’t want to eat less or more through a cleanse,” she said.

All foods that support liver function are beneficial for cleansing, said Diener, who listed dark greens, herbs, celery, carrots, apples, pears and fresh berries as foods that support liver function. He said a good goal is to try to drink half of your body weight in water each day.

Common Market wellness manager Jen Young said fiber is also important during a cleanse because it “keeps things moving,” which is essential for eliminating toxins from your system. This could be in the form of chia or flax seeds blended into a smoothie or sprinkled over food.

You may not feel
great right away

If you’ve started a cleanse and can barely make it out of bed, it doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong. Marcello said eliminating sugar, processed food or caffeine from your diet can almost be like quitting smoking, so be prepared for a rough week or two. Some side effects could include headaches, fatigue, nausea or even a fever. This is why it’s important to get a lot of rest and to stay hydrated during a cleanse.

The withdrawal period is why Diener suggested making small changes for a few months leading up to a cleanse.

“[Side effects] become a deterrent from doing these things in the future,” he said.

Anyone who is chronically ill, generally not in good health or pregnant should avoid cleanses altogether, he said.

It’s about your body learning to work more efficiently

Diener sees cleanses as less about big changes, right away, and more about having the confidence to know that you can eat better. He personally has done cleanses once or twice a year for the past 20 years, and said it took him a while to actually enjoy them.

Leishear said the first thing she noticed was that she was going to the bathroom more regularly and that she eventually stopped craving sweets. Leah Fleming, the manager of Complete Nutrition, said this is the idea since cleanses are helping your body get rid of items that are usually tough to process.

“Your body goes ‘OK, I don’t actually need this,’” she said.

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