You or someone you know has likely tried a juice cleanse. Some consider them a fad diet, while others believe they provide several health benefits. These conflicting views can make it difficult to know if they are worth the effort and cost.
A juice cleanse is a strict diet that consists mainly of fresh juice from fruits and vegetables.
In some cases, a particular juice cleanse will allow for certain fresh foods like salads and raw veggies, whereas others require a person only to drink juices and water for several days.
Those who advocate for juice cleanses believe that by only consuming fresh juice, you can cleanse your body, remove toxins, and assist with weight loss. Though a health professional may recommend one, many juice cleanses are part of programs. These programs are created by juice companies or health and fitness companies and can cost hundreds of dollars to subscribe.
Despite being pitched by televisions doctor Dr. Oz, the general consensus among medical professionals is that juice cleanses are not healthy. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, juice cleanses have several risks.
The Health Risks Associated with Juice Cleanses
Many juice cleanse programs and products make bold claims that lack scientific proof. As a result, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has taken action against several of these companies as they were making false claims or contained potentially harmful ingredients. The pre-made juice cleanses that consist of 3, 5, or 7 days of juice blends often haven’t been pasteurized and are at risk of containing harmful bacteria. This bacteria can cause severe illness or death in an individual with a weak immune system.
Weight loss is what attracts many people to start a juice cleanse, and although they may see the number on the scale go down, it’s not that simple. When your calories are only coming from juice, they are likely under your recommended amount of daily Cals. A review in 2015 stated that “detox” diets were good for weight management; however, the NCCIH felt the review was low quality. Two years later, another review was published that stated that although it can cause initial weight loss, these individuals tend to gain weight as soon as they are off the cleanse and resume their diet.
When a person consistently lacks enough calories, they will experience low blood sugar, and energy will decrease. As a result, they may also experience headaches, fainting, dehydration, and weakness. Juice cleanses also lack many macronutrients. Although you may receive a high level of certain vitamins, juice doesn’t contain the necessary amount of fat and protein your body needs. Fat and protein are critical for physical health and brain function, and when you consistently lack them, it can lead to malnourishment.
A juice cleanse can also put your kidneys at risk. Kidneys play a vital role but can become damaged by ingesting too much of certain substances such as oxalate. Foods like beets and spinach contain high oxalate levels, which is a compound that increases your risk of kidney problems, like kidney stones, when consumed in high amounts. Those with pre-existing kidney issues or chronic kidney disease are at greater risk.
Lower blood sugar may be your goal, but too low and it becomes a health risk. Because a juice cleanse is low in calories, it can cause your blood sugar to drop, which is especially dangerous for those with hypoglycemia and diabetes.
These risks are significant, but it doesn’t mean you can’t complete a juice cleanse safely. Before beginning one, it is crucial to speak with your doctor, who is familiar with your medical history. They will be able to advise if you are at risk. You should also be wary of pre-packaged cleanses that make big promises and dramatic health benefits. Most of the time, these products don’t have the research to back up their claims and aren’t as healthy as they may appear. They are often more expensive too! Buying a juicer and fresh fruits and vegetables would be safer and more affordable.
How to Safely Complete a Juice Cleanse
As mentioned, your first step should be speaking with a healthcare professional. Once they have given you the O.K., you can decide how long you want to do the cleanse. Most cleanses are between 3, 5, and 7 days.
Next, you will need to determine the structure of your juice cleanse. For example, will you only drink juice for several days, or you will drink juice and have a combination of supplements like a multivitamin, magnesium glycinate or Omega-3.
To receive any health benefits from a juice cleanse, you need to drink fresh juice that contains various health-boosting ingredients. Unfortunately, fruit punch, apple, orange, and grape juice found at your local supermarket won’t cut it. These juices are full of added sugar, synthetic flavors, and artificial colors. Instead, look up homemade juice recipes that contain both fruit and vegetables. For example, you can combine apple, celery, lemon, kale, parsley, and spinach. You should also mix up your juices throughout your day. Add in nuts, seeds, or dates for added nutrients.
Keep in mind you will need to drink 5 to 6 large juices a day to get enough calories. This can be very challenging to do! Your body will miss the food, and by the third day of drinking an apple, lemon, beet, and ginger juice, you may no longer want it. Yet, you still need to ensure you are getting enough calories.
A popular way to approach a 3-day juice cleanse is with the 7-day diet. Before starting the 3-day juice cleanse, you will follow a diet that gradually cuts out wheat, alcohol, dairy, and refined sugar. By day 3 of the 7-day diet, you will only eat fruit, vegetables, and fluids. You will ease back into your regular diet following the cleanse, starting with fruit and vegetables. Continue to avoid sugar, wheat, processed foods, dairy, and caffeine until a few days later.
When doing your juice cleanse, you will likely find you don’t have the same amount of energy you usually do. It is best to tailor your exercise routine and go easy. Try doing light physical activity that helps boost blood circulation. This is also a great time to let your mind rest. When you feel up to it, try meditation and gentle yoga. Even if you don’t usually nap, you may feel extra sleepy during the day. If you really need to, take a 20-minute nap on your buckwheat pillow but don’t sleep too long, or you could disrupt your sleep cycle.
If you start to feel unwell during your cleanse, reach out to your healthcare provider for guidance. A mild case of brain fog, lethargy, or headaches is typical when you cut out caffeine and reduce your calories; however, you shouldn’t dismiss it. When you complete a juice cleanse safely, there are potential health benefits.
Potential Benefits of a Juice Cleanse
As mentioned previously, a juice cleanse can help kickstart weight loss, but you must be careful. In 2017 a study had 20 participants drink six bottles of juice a day for 3 consecutive days. These were fresh juices that contained an assortment of ingredients such as cayenne, cucumber, lemon, greens, and apples. Following the 3 days, the participants had lost an average of 3.75 pounds. Two weeks later, they remained 2.01 pounds lower, on average. Though this loss is significant for someone trying to lose weight, it can be harmful. In addition to the risks listed above, liquid diets have been linked to eating disorders. This same study found that the juice cleanses increased a bacteria associated with weight loss called Bacteroidetes and decreased a weight gain bacteria called Firmicutes.
The juice itself is very healthy. It is rich in anti-inflammatory compounds, minerals, and vitamins. The nutrients can improve health and strengthen immunity. The 2017 study found that participant well-being scores had also increased after 3 days, and the researchers believed this was due to the positive change in the gut microbiome.
The leading reason many choose to do a juice cleanse is for its detoxification benefits. Those who believe in and advocate for these cleanses believe that you can remove toxins that build up in the body by only having these juices. Currently, there is insufficient evidence to show that juice cleanses detoxify the body; however, an increase in fluid consumption will boost kidney function and remove non-organic waste from the body. There is also the added benefit of stopping your intake of refined foods, caffeine, sugar, and substances that can cause inflammation, weight gain, and sluggishness. After starting the cleanse, many feel sluggish but following the juice cleanse, many people report an increase in energy levels. This is believed to be from the increase in nutrients and decrease of substances like caffeine and refined sugar.
If you are considering a juice cleanse, you will need to weigh out the risks and benefits. Unfortunately, there is no quick fix to health. However, a balanced diet, taking a multivitamin, and getting 8 hours a night on your buckwheat pillow will help you maintain your weight and bodily function.