For many years I’ve been against the idea of juice cleanses. I don’t believe that in three days you can truly make lasting changes to the body. Let’s face it, a crappy diet or lifestyle isn’t going to be fixed in three days. If you truly have issues with junk food, or even issues with food, a three day juice fast will only drive you to binge by the end. It’s the same as the bodybuilding diet. It creates the feast or famine mentality. Gorge before you cleanse, binge when you’re finished.
So let’s start with the first fact: there is no scientific research or medical practitioner, holistic or otherwise, I can find, to tell me why this is a good idea.
The body needs to chew food to stimulate the digestive enzymes, which in turn stimulate the metabolism. If you stop chewing, your body thinks it’s shutting down to starvation mode. Roll on your slowed down metabolism…
Fact two: the body detoxifies itself; that’s why we have our liver, kidneys and bodily excretions (sweat, poop and pee to be precise). If your body is not naturally detoxifying, you need medical support, NOT a three day cleanse. I say this as someone who has a diagnosed “lazy liver” and “lazy intestine” so can say, there actually are people who need help. Three days of juicing is NOT going to fix this. The key is to bolster the body’s own means of detoxifying, not imposing a very limited procedure to try and bypass the fact things are not working properly.
The only evidence I can find to support anything is an article in the Daily Mail, where Tom MacDonald, professor of immunology at Barts and the London Medical School, says
the cells lining our intestines, the villi, have a very high turnover rate and can be replaced every two to three days, constantly under attack from corrosive properties such as stomach acid. He also claims the mucus barrier which also protects the intestine, breaks down quickly, meaning the cells here renew every three to five days.
But let’s get back to some other points. If we are truly to ‘detox’, then that means stopping putting the chemicals on your skin, washing your clothes in chemicals, living around wifi and other forms of radiation, living in cities, commuting, stopping using the medications and supplements (including the likes of protein shakes), exercising more, sleeping more, drinking less booze, and the list goes on. Many of us live in an environmentally toxic environment, so there are multiple factors at play here.
Let’s call this perhaps a time to rest the gut and digestive system, but let’s not be as naive to call it a detox. I’ve been on a hugely comprehensive detox programme in Thailand, at Kamalaya. There, we ate real food, every day, but did a whole host of holistic treatments around it from colon cleansing to carefully crafted supplementation through the day, we meditated, we practiced yoga. Each day was full of actions which aided this process. And it doesn’t happen overnight. I was there a full 10 days undergoing the process. There is no quick fix, and even when I left, this continued.
A good diet year round, high fibre, probiotics, regular exercise; isn’t this the better way to try and maintain a more positive state of health?
Interestingly the detox diets will tell you the headaches are your addiction to caffeine and withdrawal symptoms, while Precision Nutrition says there is more to it than that. “Many detox juices incorporate lots of celery and beets. Normally, we don’t consume such high quantities of these. Many detox juices are rich in nitrates, which promote vasodilation. Dilated blood vessels can lead to some pounding headaches.”
And how in fact do you cleanse, if your fruit and vegetables have been juiced of most of the fibre? “The fruit juices used for many detox diets contain very little fibre. Fibre is a cleanser. It’s like a street sweeper for the GI tract; it slows down digestion and aids absorption of nutrients. There is no credible information saying that the GI tract does better when it doesn’t get solid foods (unless the GI tract is damaged). Instead, the gut does well with pre- and probiotics, glutamine from protein-rich foods, and fibre. You’ll struggle to get all of these on a cleanse.” (Precision Nutrition)
So after all of this, you may ask why I went to the trouble of doing this. I decided to do a cleanse purely for my own curiosity, that’s all. I wanted to give my gut a break, firstly. I’ve felt inflamed with a sluggish digestion and wanted to have a short rest. It was a mindful decision. In addition, I wanted to explore my relationship with food and eating, on a deeper, more psychological level. Primarily, I wanted it to be a short experiment for me with my mind, that’s all.
What did I discover?
I had more time: I definitely had more time, when not having to prepare my food, which mostly I do at home myself, eating out as little as I can.
I had less energy: Sluggish is an under statement. I am sure those people saying they feel revitalised while doing this, are not still training and are perhaps seeking to feel this a little more, so there is an element of placebo effect.
Food is social: I definitely realised how social food is. The usual, ‘hey, let’s meet up for a quick coffee’, was not on the cards.
There is such as thing as drinking too much: When you’re peeing all the time, all the good nutrients go too. This definitely happened. And for the sake of transparency, I had the UTI to prove it. If I still haven’t put you off this crazy nonsense, at least bolster your system with a good probiotic each day.
My digestion was in fact more sluggish: Surely a detox will mean the body expels all the nasty toxins in this process somehow? Well, I didn’t even go to the toilet every day and certainly didn’t feel any digestion benefits during this time.
I missed my coffee: I have one coffee a day. I’m not an addict, I just appreciate a functional cup of the good stuff before I train or practice yoga. I missed the beans and won’t lie.
How hungry are you? I was certainly not as hungry as I thought I would be but had to stop training properly as it was killer on day 1 to not be able to refuel after training. I ‘cheated’ and ate two dates after training on the first day as I felt weak.
My relationship with food: Did I learn anything about this? Did I have any spiritual enlightenment? No. I realise I eat a great, balanced diet, which of course sometimes is less healthy than others, but do I need to do this? NO. Does anyone? NO.
They’re expensive: Ranging from Dh100 to Dh300 per day ($30-90). This is a lot of money, even if it’s organic. I buy organic and it doesn’t cost that much any more.