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 natural 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.
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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.
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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, 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?
A number of companies offer supplements that help with the detoxification process. Some of the more well-known brands in this category include Nature’s Secret, Enzymatic Therapy and Renew Life. VitaMedica’s LeanBiotics Cleanse is a supplement that works as a cleanse and supports healthy digestion.
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.
Some cleansing supplements require a large number of tablets/capsules be taken on a daily basis. And, a number of the ingredients act as laxatives so keep an eye on the total amount that is provided in each dose. Each two Vcap serving of LeanBiotics Cleanse is formulated with just 250 mg of cascara sagrada. This amount has a mild laxative effect but won’t cause you to rush to the bathroom every five minutes!
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.
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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). In fact, “souping” is the new juicing because soups are more filling than juices and have a much lower sugar content than fruit juices.
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 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.
Last updated February 29, 2016
David H. Rahm, M.D. is the founder and medical director of The Wellness Center, a medical clinic located in Long Beach, CA. Dr. Rahm is also president and medical director of VitaMedica. Dr. Rahm is one of a select group of conventional medical doctors who have education and expertise in functional medicine and nutritional science. Over the past 20 years, Dr. Rahm has published articles in the plastic surgery literature and educated physicians about the importance of good peri-operative nutrition.