What to expect during your first juice cleanse
Five years ago, I was sick, tired, and run down. I was in constant pain, suffering from Fibromyalgia, chronic insomnia, anxiety. I’d get sick all the time – just recovering from one bug before the next cold or flu arrived.
I’d had enough. It was time to try something new.
Juicing was something I turned to after I’d been to countless doctors, natural healers and had tried every natural remedy under the sun to heal myself, only to find myself still as unwell, if not worse. Juicing was one of the biggest tools I implemented into my life which helped me go from sick to well.
I’d heard of juice cleansing and all the benefits but to be honest, I had no idea what to do or expect. The whole idea of not eating solid food for a week was daunting.
Fast forward five years and cleansing has become an ingrained and essential part of my healthy routine. I LOVE juicing and aim to do a short cleanse of around 3-5 days each month or so, alongside a longer cleanse every few months.
Here are some of the powerful tips and tricks I’ve learnt along the way of my juicing journey that may equip you to successfully complete one of your own.
Prior to cleansing – getting prepped
In the days leading up to a juice cleanse, it’s wise to keep your diet as clean as possible, with a focus on consuming mostly simple salads and fruit. Start cutting down on - or cutting out if you can - caffeine, sugar and meat the week prior. You’ll suffer less from detox symptoms and your body will benefit more if you can stick to light, mostly raw plant based meals in the days before a juice fast. As well, it’s important to start upping your water intake and helpful to introduce a juice or two a day to your system.
Decide whether you’re going to make your own or buy your juices. Although my preference is to make my own when I can, there are times when I’m super busy and find it’s much easier to use store bought juices. If that’s the only way for you to be able to do this, that’s perfectly fine.
If you plan to make them, you’ll need to equip yourself with a juicer (cold-pressed is best for better juice yield and to maintain high nutrient levels), buy your produce in advance, and allow extra time in the morning to juice! There’s nothing quite like the smell of fresh juice in your kitchen to make you feel healthy and alive. It’s one of my favourite ways to start the day.
Finally, it’s helpful to get crystal-clear on why you’re doing the cleanse. This is a helpful tool for staying on track – especially if you find it a little tough going and get tempted to quit. Having healthy, well-adjusted goals around your cleansing is a good thing. While there’s nothing wrong with wanting to shed a kilo or two, try and focus on how you want to feel internally and any longer-term changes you’re seeking.
During the cleanse – listening to and supporting your body
The cleansing experience is different for everybody. My very first juice cleanse was a mixed bag of roller coaster emotions, as well as a range of physical sensations. Let me share a little of what I went through so you can have an idea of what to expect.
The first day or two, you may experience some hunger. Your body’s used to being fed regularly and you may find it’s craving its usual fix of comfort food. Just bear in mind that we didn’t evolve with access to a fridge and an endless supply of food. Traditionally, our bodies knew there were times of feast and of famine, so it’s used to adapting to the seasons.
After 24 – 48 hours, the body’s digestive system will have slowed or shut down. Any feelings of hunger are more likely to be related to emotional cravings rather than true hunger. Without the ability to suppress emotions with food, you may experience uncomfortable feelings emerging that you may have been (unknowingly) avoiding. Rather than immediately turning to something to distract you, I’d recommend that you really tune in to the emotions that are coming up for you and examine their origins. Meditation helps, or simply focusing on your breathing as you ride through these bumpy patches. Just remember: everything is temporary.
Your energy may be a bit low on the first day or two, so take it easy on yourself and stick to low impact activities like walking and yoga. This will allow your body to conserve its energy and redirect it to the cleansing and healing process. I’d caution doing too much exercise, even if you feel good. The reason is physical exertion redirects your body's energy away from cleansing. You don't want to compromise on the outcome which is letting your body deal with many toxins and dumping them out as quickly as possible.
It's totally normal to feel up and down with not only with your energy, but also your emotions. Feeling like crap will come and go – mostly over the first two or three days.
Now - let’s talk about detox symptoms. These can vary wildly from one person to the next and can including mild to severe headaches, anxiety, sweating, bad breath, body odour, general aches, pains or flu like symptoms, mental fogginess and irritability. Personally, my entire mouth broke out in ulcers during my first cleanse. It was pretty painful to speak or swallow – so it’s lucky I wasn’t trying to eat at the time!
People have told me that they stopped a cleanse because they experienced one or more of these symptoms. Please know that, while unpleasant, these symptoms are actually a GOOD sign! When you experience detox symptoms, know that this is the toxic build up being released into your system. It means your amazing machine of a body’s doing the job it needs to of clearing out the junk from your cells.
If you want to support the clearing of toxins fast, here are some things that will help speed up the process:
Drink lots of water – yes in addition to all that juice. This will help your body to flush those ugly toxins faster. Adding chlorophyll to your water can assist with alkalinity.
Consider a colonic or two
Book in for an infrared saunas
Meditation and breath work
Dry skin brushing
Keeping the right mindset is really important during the process. I armed myself by watching documentaries to motivate me and remind myself why I was doing this. I’d highly recommend watching Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, a documentary made by Australian Joe Cross. The film tracks his 60-day journey across America drinking nothing but juice, healing his body of an auto immune disease and sharing his story to inspire locals along the way. For other suggestions to stay in the zone, check out my top five life changing books and films.
The turning point for me was on Day 4. By this point I was really enjoying the sensation of waking up with a lightness in my belly. I also felt emotionally stable in general.
However, Day 5 was (and still is on pretty much every day of my cleansing) the day of Hooray! Imagine walking around looking through the viewer of an out-of-focus camera - and then suddenly, whoosh! The lens is adjusted and everything snaps into focus. The world seems brighter, more colourful, and everything is clearer. I’m bouncing off the walls with energy and I feel on top of the world!
During my first cleanse, I felt so good I ended up continuing for ten days. Although my mouth was still healing from the ulcers, my body, energy, and mental clarity just got better and better. I thought, why stop? (I do recommend that you listen to and do what’s best for your body when it comes to when to stop your cleanse. The experience is different for everybody, so being attuned to your body’s feedback is an important part of the process).
Breaking the cleanse – a gentle return to a new normal
When you break your cleanse it’s advisable not to hit your gut with an avalanche of food. You will literally make yourself sick – and that’s not exactly the ideal welcome back to the world of eating! Reintroduce foods in small amounts and stick to foods that are easily digestible, especially on the first couple of days.
Papaya or watermelon are two great food to choose from as they are gentle on the digestive system. Pick one of them and eat slowly! Notice how rich the flavours are, enjoy the texture and the sweetness of the fruit. By the second or third day, you can start to add in soups or lightly steamed vegetables (if you want cooked foods). Keep your water intake up and avoid alcohol for a few days.
Take the time to reflect on how you feel – physically, mentally and emotionally. Consider how your relationship to food has changed, and which changes you want to embed into your lifestyle for the long term.
I’m happy to report that I’m now free from fibromyalgia, sleeping like a normal person (hallelujah!), and no longer suffering from anxiety. While there was more (which I will share about another time) to my recovery than just the juice cleanse, I totally credit it for kick-starting the journey and resetting my body.
Want more wellness tips? Grab a copy of my free e-book: 10 Tips for Optimal Wellbeing.