You may associate spring with cleaning your apartment or house. But, this is a great time of year to internally cleanse or detox your body too. One of the best ways to detox is by doing a juice cleansing fast. Never juiced before? Read our tips below then experience firsthand the benefits of going on a detox diet.
Why do a Juice Fast?
Fasting, which is an integral part of many religions like Hinduism and Buddhism, has been practiced for centuries. In modern times, periodic fasting is recommended to remove toxins we’re exposed to in our environment and that we ingest from the foods and beverages we consume on a daily basis.
Dietary and lifestyle toxins include the obvious such as alcohol, nicotine, caffeine and sugar. Other foods such as dairy, wheat, peanuts, and soy promote an allergic reaction in certain individuals.
Environmental toxins include pesticides, antibiotics, hormones in food, chemicals from food packaging (e.g., BPA), household cleaners, detergents, food additives, heavy metals, pollution, drugs and cigarette smoke. Many of these toxins are stored in fatty tissue and their long-term effect on human health is debated.
Think you live in a relatively toxic free environment? Think again. On a daily basis, we’re exposed to a wide range of environmental toxins which are released from fabrics, vehicle exhaust, plastics and filtering systems in our phones and computers. This interactive graphic tool gives you an idea of the large number of toxins leaching from your home.
This point was driven home by author David E. Duncan. He used himself as a guinea pig to test the amount of chemicals in his body. Researchers tested for 320 toxins and detected 165 in his body including high concentrations of flame-retardants, pesticides and PCBs. Duncan wrote about his experience and the implications to human health in “The Pollution Within”, an article that appeared in National Geographic magazine.
How are Toxins Removed from the Body?
Despite what late night commercials want you to believe, our colon is not filled with pounds of waste! In fact, we have wonderful innate systems for removing toxins from our body. These include the respiratory (lungs, sinuses, nose), gastrointestinal (liver, colon, GI tract), urinary (kidneys, bladder), skin (sweat and sebaceous glands) and lymphatic systems. Each day, these systems work efficiently to neutralize, transform or eliminate toxins in the body.
Critics of fasting argue that the body does a good job eliminating toxins and a detoxification program is not necessary. Proponents of fasting say it is necessary. We think it’s a bit of both. Indeed, the human body does a remarkable job to remove its toxic load. However, our diet, lifestyle and environment is dramatically different than that of our ancestors. With the increased chemical burden on our bodies, the need for a periodic detox seems prudent and beneficial.
Signs that you Need to Detox
A number of symptoms may indicate that your body would benefit from going on a detox diet. Telltale signs include headaches, poor concentration, low energy, congestion, aches and pains, bad breath, indigestion, constipation or other digestive problems. If your skin is breaking out from an acne or eczema flare-up or your allergies, arthritis or asthma seem to be bothering you more, this may be an indication of an increased toxic load. To determine if you need to detoxify, take the Detox Diet quiz.
The Congestion Continuum
Mucus production, congestion and post-nasal drip are often a reflection that your diet is not ideal. An acid-generating diet promotes congestion whereas an alkaline (basic) based diet does not. The pH scale measures how acidic or basic a substance is. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14. A pH of 7 is neutral; a pH less than 7 is acidic and a pH greater than 7 is basic (or alkaline).
Acid forming foods include animal proteins, hard cheese, breads and baked goods, refined sugar and carbohydrate products, saturated and trans-fats. On the other end of the spectrum are alkaline forming foods such as green vegetables, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds and beans. A primary goal of a detox diet is to reduce acidity and mucus in the body and create a more alkaline environment. Here's a great resource that provides the acid/base balance for 114 foods.
What are the Benefits of Juice Fast?
After completing a juice fast, you may notice that your symptoms such as congestion disappear. Other benefits include improved energy, clearer skin, bowel regularity and improved digestion. Many people often remark that they feel more focused and better able to concentrate after a juice fast.
Speaking of mindfulness, a juice cleanse is not designed for weight loss. If you lose a pound or two it is due to water or muscle loss. However, a fast should help you to become more aware of your eating. Fasting teaches you to pay more attention to physical cues such as when you're hungry and when you're full. Fasting also helps you to realize how much food you need to sustain health and wellness. Typically, it's much less than you think. Once you complete a fast, it can be easier to transition to a health-promoting diet which features fruits and vegetables.
Who Should Not Fast?
Certain individuals should not fast including pregnant or nursing women and diabetics. If you have a heart or other chronic condition, check with your doctor before trying a juice fast. If you’ve just had a surgical procedure, you should not fast. In fact, your body’s requirements especially for protein are higher following surgery to help repair injured tissue. If you’re already obsessive-compulsive about eating or have an eating disorder, a juice fast is not recommended.
What’s the Best Approach?
You might associate fasting with just drinking water and clear, hot liquids. The Master Cleanse or Lemonade Diet uses this approach (lemon, water and cayenne pepper). This type of fast is very difficult to maintain and doesn’t provide sufficient nutrients.
Instead, we recommend a juice fast. This approach is less rigid and maintains your energy levels better. Juicing also provides the vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients your body needs for detoxification. With a juice fast, you can also add in vegetable broths or miso soup provided that they are low in sodium.
In terms of timing, we recommend a short fast – over the weekend starting either Friday night or Saturday morning and breaking on Monday morning. The day before you start, it is ideal to wind down from heavier to less heavier foods (elimination of alcohol, sugar, dairy, wheat, animal meat, eggs). You should also be drinking liberal amounts of water during the fast (around eight 8-ounce glasses per day) to help flush out toxins.
What Type of Juice?
You can buy juice or make your own with a juicer. Green vegetable juices contain chlorophyll which is exceptionally good at supporting the detoxification process but virtually all vegetable and fruit juices are ideal. The main criterion is that your drink organic juice which has not been overly processed and doesn’t contain any added sugars, colorants, etc.
Good brands include Naked, Perricone, Bolthouse Farms, Odwalla, Noble and Evolution. Most conventional grocery chain stores and natural product stores like Whole Foods carry these brands. You can also purchase unfiltered apple juice in most grocery stores (looks cloudy with bits of sediment floating around) but be sure that the apples used are organic.
Some companies offer pre-packaged detox juice products such as BluePrint Cleanse. BluePrint offers three types of cleansing programs and for $75.00 plus shipping, you can get the bottles delivered to your door. Their maintenance programs cost $85.00 plus shipping. With organic, fresh juices widely available, this seems like an expensive route to take.
If you have a juicer, you can make whatever concoction you like. If you don’t already own one, then I would not purchase a juicer unless you plan on using the appliance on a regular basis. If you opt to invest in a juicer, Acme Juicer is a good brand that we use. Here’s a sample of some great juicing recipes (compliments of Apfel Juice & Smoothie in Redondo Beach, CA):
Up & Adam - Carrot, apple & fresh ginger
Mister Popeye - Carrot, apple, spinach, beet, blueberry, strawberry, pineapple & lemon
Olive Tropical - Orange, celery, raspberry, mango, pineapple, peach & honey
Fresh 9 - Orange, carrot, beet, ginger, cucumber, celery, parsley, spinach & kale
Green Diet - Cucumber, celery, parsley, spinach, kale, lemon, apple & ginger
How Often do You Drink?
A great way to start your morning cleanse is by having a cup of hot water with lemon juice (1/4 segment) and a dash of honey. If you’re accustomed to drinking coffee in the morning this will help. A great alternative to coffee is Celestial Seasonings Roastaroma Herbal Tea. This tea which tastes a lot like coffee is made from roasted barley, roasted chicory, roasted carob, cinnamon, allspice and Chinese star anise. Roastaroma is also caffeine-free.
After your morning hot beverage then you can have juice in the morning, for lunch, late afternoon and at dinnertime. Aim for 8-12 ounces per serving. Drinking non-caffeinated teas during the day will help to keep you warm (ginger tea, herbal detox tea). You should also be drinking 8 to 10 glasses of filtered water each day to help filter and remove toxins from your body. Adding a tablespoon of ground flaxseed to one of your daily juices will boost your fiber intake and facilitate elimination.
What About Grapefruit Juice?
The fruit and the juice of grapefruit contain naringenin, a flavonoid that can hinder several forms of prescription medications by interfering with enzymes that metabolize the drugs, increasing their circulation. These interactions should not be taken lightly as the results can cause potentially dangerous health conditions. Refer to the Mayo Clinic's website for more information on specific drug interactions.
What Can I Expect While Juicing?
Everyone is unique so your experience while juicing may differ from somebody else. Depending on your health and other issues, your experience may also change from time-to-time. Typically, the first day is the hardest especially if you’ve never juiced before. You may feel quite hungry but this seems to get easier the next day. As your body detoxifies, you tongue may get covered with a whitish coat. Headaches are commonly experienced by individuals who regularly drink caffeine. Other side-effects include tiredness, increased body odor, bad breath and feeling cold. If you don’t drink sufficient water, constipation can also be a problem.
What about Detox or Cleansing Supplements?
These supplements usually fall into one of two categories – detoxifiers or bulking agents. Detoxification supplements are formulated with herbs/botanicals that act as blood cleansers (dandelion, echinacea); laxatives (cascara sagrada, senna leaf, licorice); diuretics (parsley, uva ursi), skin cleansers (burdock, Oregon grape root, yellow dock) or anticatarrhals (eliminate mucus e.g., echinacea, goldenseal, sage, garlic). Bulking agents include fiber and other ingredients that help with elimination such as oat bran, flax seed, psyllium seed husks, pectin and aloe vera.
The downside of taking cleansing supplements is that they usually require a large number of tablets be taken on a daily basis. Perhaps, more importantly, taking them can make you feel nauseous. A number of the ingredients are laxatives and it is not uncommon to have diarrhea while taking these supplements. You also need to be on the program anywhere from 10 to 30 days. Physician formulated programs like Clean require a large number of products and are very expensive ($425).
By comparison, a 2-day juice fast is much easier. If you want to add extra fiber to your diet while on the fast, grind flax seeds and add a tablespoon to a juice beverage (like apple juice).
If you’re experiencing a break-out, I recommend taking our Healthy Skin Formula which is formulated with detoxifying herbs, requires just two capsules per day and doesn’t cause stomach upset. To enhance digestion, I would also recommend taking a probiotic like our Probiotic-8 supplement.
What about Colon Cleansing?
According to a new study, researchers found colon cleansing doesn’t work and may be dangerous. In the latest review, researchers looked at 20 colon cleansing studies that were published in the last decade. The authors concluded that the literature doesn’t support colon cleansing’s benefits and that there is a lack of sufficient evidence for most of its prescribed uses. More important, the literature noted a variety of adverse events from colon cleansing that range from mild (cramping, abdominal pain, fullness, bloating, nausea, vomiting and soreness) to severe (e.g., electrolyte imbalance and renal failure). Some herbal preparations have also been associated with a type of anemia and liver toxicity. Based on this information, our advice is to stay away from colon cleansing.
What Else Should I be Doing While Fasting?
In addition to restoring balance to your body, an aspect of fasting is to create mindfulness. The goal is to become better in touch with your body, your feelings, your relationship with food, etc. As a result, during a fast, you may want to spend the weekend catching up on sleeping and reading. A massage, aromatherapy bath or sauna helps to round out a cleanse. We recommend that you take it easy on physical exertion. Instead, it’s a good time to stretch or practice some yoga.
How Do I Break the Fast?
Whether you fast for one day or several, it is important to gradually reintroduce foods back into your diet. A good place to start is by adding broth based soups (provided that they are not too salty). Naturally, shifting from juices to fruits and vegetables is a great way to transition back to mindful eating.
The idea is to include foods in your diet that promote health and maintenance. Not surprisingly, these foods are fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, fish and poultry. Try to eat less fat and animal proteins and fewer refined and processed foods. Aim to drink more water while limiting your consumption of sugar-laden, caffeinated or alcoholic beverages. In adopting this health promoting diet, you will naturally support the detoxification process.
If fasting has helped clear up your congestion or mucus production, we recommend selectively adding back foods that promote allergies especially dairy, wheat, soy and peanuts. This will help to pinpoint the foods that are bothersome and that you may want to eliminate from your diet.
If you want to learn more about fasting, I highly recommend the book, Staying Healthy with Nutrition or The New Detox Diet by Elson Haas, M.D.. In addition to covering a wide range of nutrition topics. Dr. Haas devotes an entire chapter to fasting. You can also learn more about fasting and detox on his website.
Join Our Community!
As you can well imagine, it's much easier to go on a juice fast if you have the support of others. It's a bit tough to watch your significant other or kids chow down on food while you're trying to get by with a green juice! Try to enlist your significant other to participate. If he/she won't, then consider conducting a fast when you have a weekend alone. Or, perhaps get a friend to do it with you.
If all else fails, you have our support! Join me and our customer service team as we embark on a juice fast each Monday in March. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter where we’ll post and tweet our musings, trials and tribulations. We’d love for you to join in the conversation!