Should you be juicing?

by Amy Renee
Should you be juicing?

So you’ve been hearing a lot about juice cleanses lately…

Juice detoxes are all the rage!

It seems like everywhere you look there is a new type of juice cleanse these days. You can even order them online or pick up your stash of fresh juices in stores. But what’s the truth behind the fad? Are they safe? And are they even necessary? Some physicians are adamant that they do more harm than good. So with all of this confusion I decided to do my own evidence-based research as well as give it a try myself.

Reasons you might want to do a “juice cleanse” or “juice detox”

  • You indulged a little too much this past weekend and you’re feeling overly bloated
  • You’ve been stuck in a rut and you’ve been eating too much refined sugar or fake sweeteners, processed foods, or even too much of something healthy (i.e., sometimes I go a little nuts with the nut butter and chocolate) and you need a diet reboot
  • You’re suffering from rebound headaches because you’ve been taking so much over-the-counter (OTC) pain medication – yes, that DOES cause rebound headaches my friends!
  • You’re having gastrointestinal (GI) distress from a week-long antibiotic regimen – ugh
  • Maybe you’re just feeling sluggish or run down and want to regain some energy back.
  • You are desperate to lose weight and are convinced this is going to be the answer

Whatever the reason may be, sometimes you just need to cut out the junk you’ve been feeding your precious body and give your digestive organs a break. Bring on the detox diet, a.k.a. fast a.k.a. cleanse…

So…what do I think? What was my experience like? Do I think this would be good for you to try?

Well, here’s my advice to you:

I have good and bad things to say about this whole “detox” fad. First of all, several medical professionals say that detoxes, fasting and so called “cleanses” are pointless because our bodies were already designed to do detoxify the “bad stuff” from our bodies already. Organs such as the liver and kidneys get rid of all of the “junk” that yucks up our system. But proponents argue that evolution has not occurred as fast as the invention of many toxins that are making us sick – many of which we consume every single day!

My first time every trying a juice fast

So after doing a TON of research on the benefits of juicing I decided to go ahead and take a leap of faith and get a juicer. Not just a cheapy, but a really, REALLY good juicer. I did my research on juicers too you know! I wanted to be sure that it would juice greens (spinach, kale, dandelion greens, beet greens, etc.) well, because that was one of the major things I wanted to do.

I ended up decided on the Hurom Slow Juicer. And I LOVE it! It makes delicious juice and I have even found ways to utilize the pulp – after all, that’s where most of the fiber is! So I made muffins and cookies and other things with the pulp. But let me tell you, a good juicer does not come cheap! They run around $350 so be prepared. You might be better off getting a high powered blender. They are just as expensive, but you can do more with them. And if juicing turns out to not be your thing at least you can make nut butters, hummus, vegan ice creams, smoothies, etc. with your expensive new AWESOME blender. That being said, I do love my juicer. 😉

Btw – the first time I ever juiced I went a little nuts. I thought I was going to starve even though I was only planning to do one day and ended up making WAY TOO MUCH juice. Well, believe it or not there was NO WAY I could drink all of it. Your tummy gets so full of liquid that you can’t possibly drink any more and I ended up wasting a bunch. 🙁 Oh, and be prepared to be running to the bathroom a lot. A LOT!

What’s my stance on juice cleanses now?

Well…I personally LOVE to juice one full day per month. Maybe it’s all in my head, who knows for sure, but I know this – it makes me feel sooooooo good. Amazingly enough I have loads of energy on the day I juice. I feel like my body is being replenished.

But that being said here are some important things to consider before you just go out and drop a few hundred bucks on a juice cleanse of bottled juices from some miscellaneous company.

  1.  Fresh juice or water fast is key: Antioxidants are very unstable and oxidize very quickly. For this reason you need to have the freshest juice possible. I recommend making it yourself. If you don’t have a juicer you can blend all of the ingredients and just pour the juice through a sieve to collect all of the pulp which contains most of the fiber. Any bottled juice you purchase has been sitting long enough that all of the antioxidants have likely oxidized already. Also, if the juice is pasteurized most of the nutrients have been lost so you are basically just consuming liquid sugar.
  2. If you have any medical problems at all, particularly type 2 diabetes or prediabetes I would NOT recommend a juice fast. Even though fresh juice contains a ton of healthy nutrients, there is also a lot of sugar (albeit the healthier kind) and since we are removing the fiber when we take out the pulp the sugar enters the blood stream very quickly. If anything I would recommend a water fast for those with insulin resistance. Definitely tell your doctor if you are planning a fast or detox of any kind! You might be better off with a simple “raw food” detox diet for a few days rather than a juice or water fast since it will not only be less taxing to you mentally than a water fast, but also less sugar than a juice fast. And a raw food diet can be very delicious as well as nutritious.
  3. You are probably wondering why the heck we would want to take the fiber away – isn’t fiber good? Yes, fiber is very important and in an every day type of diet I would recommend leaving the fiber (pulp) in your fresh juice, but on a “detox” or “cleanse” the idea is that removing the fiber (pulp) allows more of the nutrients to be absorbed since they will be absorbed more rapidly if they do not have to fight with the fiber for absorption.
  4. In my opinion one day is long enough to get rid of any cravings you might be experiencing and that is what I advocate and like to do myself. Whether or not it actually “cleanses” anything is a mystery. There’s not enough evidence to suggest it either is or is not beneficial. I have to say though – I do feel like I get a burst of energy and I feel very good on the day that I consume only juice.
  5. I DO NOT recommend a juice fast for weight loss. Although you are not consuming food, you are still consuming a good amount of calories, a lot of which is sugar. You may see an initial drop on the scale, but that is likely water weight. If you want to lose weight a healthy, plant-based lifestyle is key. A one-day juice fast is a great kick start since it can help you reset your taste buds – get rid of cravings for “fake” foods and other processed, yucky stuff.

Should I try a juice fast? Or a water fast? Or maybe just a raw food diet for a few days?

My Advice of what to do:

  1. Get rid of all the crap that’s making you feel like crap. Maybe you don’t even need to do a juice cleanse or detox or whatever the heck you want to call it. Maybe you have the willpower to just start living a cleaner, healthier life, RIGHT NOW! Simply get rid of all the junk you eat that’s in your cupboards and refrigerator RIGHT NOW! Seriously – GO DO IT RIGHT NOW! Processed, refined foods, packaged snack foods, sugary cereals, sugary sodas and store bought juices, candy, ice cream – or ANY dairy products for that matter…just get rid of it. If it’s not there you can’t eat it! Maybe even try to avoid caffeine and alcohol for at least a week or so just to give your body a break. Then, if you choose to incorporate it back in limit the amount you choose to consume to one serving per day.
  2. Fuel your glorious body with only good things and start to recognize how much better you feel mentally as well as physically. No bad stuff AT ALL! Eat as natural as you possibly can for at least seven whole days. Fresh fruits and vegetables, sprouted legumes, hummus, all the salad you can eat. Don’t limit how much you eat. Everything you eat is so nutrient-dense that you will feel full and satiated with fewer calories.
  3. Yes, you might feel like crap for the first day or two or maybe even three as your body goes through a sort of “detox” and gets rid of all of the addictions it has to the unhealthy crap you’ve been feeding it, but I bet by day four you will have more energy, be sleeping better, feel cleaner and lighter and just plain healthier! And your pants just might fit better too!
  4. Although this isn’t a “quick-fix” weight loss plan, in the long-term you will benefit because if you rid yourself of food addictions and start eating healthier and KEEP eating healthier after the detox, chances are you WILL lose weight in the long-term so you could be doing yourself a favor if weight-loss is your biggest concern.

So…which one do I try?

It depends on who you are, what your health status is…a lot of factors. I can’t tell you what to do without knowing specific individual facts about you. If you have a good juicer or a high powered blender such as a Blentec or Vitamix already and are in good health maybe give a one day juice fast a try. It’s only one day. The first time you do it you’ll probably think you are starving, but by the end of the day you’ll love how great it makes you feel. If a high powered blender is all you have simply blend all the ingredients together and strain out the pulp with a sieve.

Like juice fasting there is not much evidence on water fasting, but it could be beneficial to your health. See the videos below for more details. If you have health problems and want to give it a try PLEASE let your physician know what’s up!

The raw food diet cleanse is probably the best option for most people and I plan to have a 14 day cleanse complete with recipes available very soon. This will be simple to follow, healthy for everyone, and delicious!

Why did people start fasting in the first place?

Fasting has been a part of human life for a long, LONG time. Fasting has traditional religious and spiritual roots in nearly every culture and most have included fasting for health reasons as well. Many individuals believe fasting helps rid our bodies of toxins that have built up over the years. Our bodies are designed to eliminate toxins with the help of our liver, kidneys, lungs, lymphatic system, and colon and do so quite well in healthy individuals. However, the toxic chemicals of modern day are not as easily eliminated from our bodies. Our bodies simply have not evolved fast enough to learn how to get rid of man made toxins such as DDT and PCBs.

DDT (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane) is a synthetic pesticide that was developed to combat insect-borne human diseases and was also used to control insect infestations in crop and livestock production, institutions, homes, and gardens. It was banned in 1972 with increasing evidence of its adverse health effects and is no longer used today. PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) are man-made organic chemicals that were used in hundreds of industrial and commercial applications until it was banned in 1979. In addition to causing cancer PCBs also have adverse effects to immune, reproductive, neurological, and endocrine health. Research studies also showed adverse effects to skin, eyes, the liver, and elevations in blood pressure, triglyceride and cholesterol levels from increased serum PCB levels. DDT and PCBs are only two of many man-made toxins that tend to remain in the body for the duration of an individuals lifetime.

Toxins are generally stored in adipose (fat) tissue, thus when a person loses weight they could potentially release some toxins that have built up in their body. For this reason some researchers have studied the effects of fasting on removing toxins from the body. Although the evidence is limited and what is available is not strong there are some case studies, such as one provided by Dr. Jack Goldstein who fasted for six weeks and tested his own excrement (yeah, I know it sounds disgusting but just bear with me for me a minute) to see if any toxins were expelled. He found that toxins were in fact removed during his fast and wrote an entire book about his experience. It’s a shame that there is such limited scientific evidence involving fasting, both only with water as well as juice fasts.

But with what little knowledge we DO have it would make sense that a juice fast would be as beneficial if not more than a simple water fast since it provides cells with a plethora of antioxidants to combat free-radical activity and micronutrients to replenish nutrient deficiencies. It should be noted however that as I mentioned above and will repeat again, a one-day fast or even a 3-day fast would not be sufficient in creating the fat loss necessary to eliminate toxins in this manner. I DO think though, that giving our digestive organs a break from having to work so hard, especially our poor livers that have to detoxify everything from the alcohol we drink to the medications we take and everything in between is good enough reason to take one day per month to drink only juice (or water). And if you don’t consume many fruits and vegetables in your normal every day diet you might want to consider adding one glass of fresh vegetable juice per day to help alkalinize your diet (more on alkalinization in another post). Or…maybe a green smoothie would be better if you aren’t planning on a whole day fast – substituting in a green smoothie (such as one made with banana, a bunch of spinach, almond milk, maca powder and maybe a little almond butter) in place of breakfast every other day would be a great way to get in some extra nutrients. Green smoothies are delicious believe it or not – you don’t even taste the greens!

But should the credit be given to juice? Or is it simply fasting that benefits health? Which is better – juice or water fasting?

I found this great video with Dr. Alan Goldhamer, an expert in water fasting and Dr. John McDougall an expert in eating a healthy plant-based diet. The two together are the perfect team to explain the benefits of such a simple approach to eliminating toxic addictions from harmful food chemicals . He talks about water only fasting for 5 to 40 days. WOW! Sounds extreme. Right? Well, yes I don’t think I would like to fast on just water for five days let alone FORTY! But then again when you think about triple bypass surgery, gastric bypass surgery, or other similar extreme surgeries with long-term, lasting adverse side effects not to mention the side effects of lifelong medications needed for chronic diseases that could easily be treated with lifestyle changes. I don’t know about you but I think I’d MUCH rather fast a few days than have major surgery and/or take pills with mega side effects for the rest of my life.

Here’s another video presentation of Dr. Alan Goldhamer discussing the benefits of water fasting. It’s a little longer, but I have to tell you I quite enjoyed it. Dr. Goldhamer is pretty funny! He’s a very entertaining presenter and this video is not only very informative, but fun to watch. Some of the slides are a little a blurry, but the audio is fine.

Are you ready to let go of awful food cravings, feel lighter, cleaner and less bloated? Are you ready to revamp your diet and start eating more whole, plant-based foods and clear out all of the junk? So maybe a 5 to 40 day all water fast is a little aggressive, but a one day juice fast doesn’t seem so bad, right? Or even a simple diet consisting of fresh fruits and vegetables and legumes and soaked grains (such as buckwheat or oats) for about one or two weeks would be a great way to clean out your system and start a new, healthier lifestyle.

Whatever you choose make sure you are healthy! Keep your doctor aware of what you are planning.

Thanks for reading.

References:

  1. DDT – a brief history and status. Pesticides: topical & chemical fact sheets. United States Environmental Protection Agency. http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/factsheets/chemicals/ddt-brief-history-status.htm. Updated on May 9, 2012. Accessed on April 3, 2014.
  2. Polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) basic information. United States Environmental Protection Agency. http://www.epa.gov/epawaste/hazard/tsd/pcbs/pubs/about.htm. Updated on January 31, 2013. Accessed on April 3, 2014.
  3. Health effects of PCBs. The United States Environmental Protection Agency. http://www.epa.gov/epawaste/hazard/tsd/pcbs/pubs/effects.htm. Updated on June 13, 2013.
  4. Goldstein J. Triumph Over Disease by Fasting and Natural Diet. New York, NY: Arco Publishing Company, Inc.; 1977.
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  8. Lee NL. Detoxing: the good, the bad, and the ugly. OneGreenPlanet.org. http://www.onegreenplanet.org/natural-health/detoxing-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly/. Published on April 14, 2014. Accessed on July 25, 2014.
  9. Myers W. A guide to common cleanses: cleansing fans say a few all-juice days can boost energy, help with weight loss and more – but some experts think the cleanse trend can damage your health. Everyday Health. http://www.everydayhealth.com/diet-and-nutrition-pictures/a-guide-to-common-cleanses.aspx?pos=2&xid=nl_EverydayHealthDietandNutrition_20140709#/slide-1. Updated on March 23, 2012. Accessed on July 10, 2014.
  10. Goldhamer, A et al, Medically supervised water-only fasting in the treatment of hypertension. J Altern Complement Med 8 2002 643-650
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  12. Kjeldsen Kragh, J et al. Changes in laboratory variables in rheumatoid arthritis patients during a trial of fasting and one-year vegetarian diet. Scan J Rheum 24 1995, 85-93
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    Okamoto, O et.al., Fasting diet therapy for chronic urticarial: report of a case. J Dermatol 19, 1992 428-431.
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