The best way to look at a cleanse is not as a detox binge, where you go back to abusing your body once it's over, but as a springboard to a lifetime of better nutrition, said Dr. Alan Weiss, founder of Annapolis Integrative Medicine.
"The biggest mistake is when people go back to what they've been eating, because they're going to get themselves right back in the same boat," Weiss said.
If you want to try one
Consult with your doctor before beginning a cleanse. Once you do, here's a guide to a gentle, diet-based whole-body cleanse, drawing on advice from Spar and Weiss. It's optimal to do the cleanse for three or four weeks, but if you're struggling, try it for a minimum of one week.
Leading up to the cleanse
Identify what will be the most difficult things to give up (usually caffeine or sugar), and have a slow weaning-off period.
Be mindful of why you're cleansing and get excited about it. Do it with a friend.
Know that it will get worse before it gets better. People often feel sick during the first few days of a cleanse because they are withdrawing from chemicals and the release of toxins can cause skin breakouts and other unpleasantness.
During the cleanse
Remove foods from your diet that increase inflammation: alcohol, caffeine, sugar, processed food, artificial ingredients, corn, soy, gluten (wheat, bran, rye), nightshades (eggplant, bell peppers), eggs, dairy, cheese.
Eat a balanced diet consisting of organic fruits and vegetables, organic poultry, wild fish, quinoa, brown rice and healthy fats such as avocado, olives and canola, coconut and olive oils. Drink a lot of water.
Take supplements to aid your digestive and detox systems, such as fiber, probiotics, green powder (which consists of ground fruits and vegetables with minerals and antioxidants), green tea cathechins (antioxidants) and milk thistle (liver aid).
Fast for 12 hours daily, between dinner and breakfast.
Don't stop taking any prescription drugs, but avoid taking over-the-counter medications.
Exercise moderately, get massages, do saunas and scrub your skin with a loofah.
Coming out of the cleanse
Add foods back into your diet slowly so you can gauge how your body reacts. You could discover a food allergy or that certain foods don't sit well.
Take an inventory of what has changed in your health. Now you know what ailments could be related to your diet.
If you lost 10 pounds during your cleanse, the only way to keep them off is to make healthful diet choices.
Plan to do the cleanse every six months, or at least once a year.
Cleanses to avoid
•The "Master Cleanse," a 10-day diet of lemon water, maple syrup, cayenne pepper and laxatives, because it doesn't give your body fuel for detoxifying and it's unsustainable, Spar says.
•Juice-only cleanses, because they can be high in sugar, Weiss says.
•Water fasting, because the lack of nutrients puts a lot of stress on your body.