Juice detoxes – are they all they’re cracked up to be? Advocates of juice fasts / detoxes / cleanses (whatever you wish to call them) claim that they allow for safe, effective detoxification, weight loss and improvements in an endless list of health ailments. Opponents state that they are unnecessary and can lead to nutrient deficiencies and potential health problems.
The idea of any detox programme is to eliminate from the diet foods that are unnatural, unhealthy or difficult to digest, whilst focussing on increasing nutritious, natural foods. As a result the body’s detoxification processes are optimised allowing for elimination of any toxins that have been stored in the body – these could be the result of environmental pollutants, chemicals in foods, alcohol and many more. Fans of detox programmes claim that result in a clearer, healthier complexion, more energy, weight loss (if needed), brighter eyes
and a stronger immune system to name but a few. Much the same as the positive effects of any healthy, balanced diet.
A juice fast takes the detox concept one step further by eliminating food altogether and relying on freshly made fruit and vegetable juices. It’s claimed that by taking work away from the digestive system for a few days, energy is instead directed towards purification of the system. Whilst resting the body from the digestive process you’re still supplying it with a regular supply of easily available vitamins, minerals and enzymes that promote the detoxification and healing processes.
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. A number of essential nutrients are missing from a juice detox – two of which are essential fats and protein. Protein is essential for the growth, repair and maintenance of every cell in the body and it’s essential for immune system function. Lack of protein can lead to loss of muscle mass, which in turn can lower your metabolic rate – the rate at which you burn calories – causing weight rebound following the detox. Juicing fruits and vegetables also removed the fibre. Fibre in whole fruits slows the release of fruit sugars into the blood stream, without fibre, fruit juice causes a sharp rise in blood sugar levels which, ironically, can lead to problems such as fat storage, fluctuating energy levels and food cravings to name just a few. Just the things you are trying to combat when undertaking such a regime.
So are all fasts an unhealthy waste of time?
Fasts may seem like just another celebrity / media driven health fad, but in fact, humans have been fasting for thousands of years. Many of the great doctors of ancient times and many of the oldest healing systems have recommended it as an integral method of healing and prevention. Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine, believed fasting enabled the body to heal itself. Paracelsus, another great physician, wrote 500 years ago that "fasting is the greatest remedy, the physician within." Ayurvedic medicine, the world's oldest healing system, has long advocated fasting as a major treatment.
Fast diets such as the 5:2 diet have been popularized in years months following Michael Mosley’s Horizon documentary in 2012 demonstrating the fast loss, anti-ageing and health benefits of fasting. Since then, many people have incorporated intermittent fasting into their lifestyle and are seeing and feeling the benefits of this.
My advice? Cleaning up your diet by removing processed, refined foods and adding in more nutrient dense, natural foods is clearly beneficial for everyone. It’s a lifestyle, not a quick fix. If you want to undertake some kind of fasting programme, rather build it into your routine and fast for one or two days per week rather than undertaking a quick fix juice detox then returning to your less than healthy ways.