Juice Cleanse Benefits (and Risks)
If you’re considering a juice cleanse for health or weight loss, then there are some risks and benefits you need to know. This article shares some of the most important juice cleanse benefits including easily absorbed nutrition and enhanced weight loss. Learn everything you need to know before starting a juice cleanse.
A juice cleanse is a program where you consume only juiced vegetables and fruit for a period of time.
The length of your juice cleanse and the guidelines vary depending on the person, and on the program you’re following. Some programs advocate for a 2-day cleanse, while others promote a 5-day or 7-day cleanse.
However, you don’t need to follow a specific program or buy a product to have an effective. While it can take some time and effort, you can create your own juice cleanse plan and juice your own veggies and fruits in the comfort of your own home.
Potential Benefits of Juice Cleanse
There are a lot of claims about the benefits of a juice cleanse and whether or not it can be part of a healthy lifestyle. There are some valid benefits that actually have science behind them, but be wary of claims that sound too good to be true or sound “sales-y.”
You’ll also want to make sure that you are at a good point in your health journey before embarking on any kind of cleanse, detox, or fasting protocol (see my related post on the risks of intermittent fasting for women).
Here are five potential benefits of a juice cleanse.
1. Supports the immune system via fasting
When you consume only juice and avoid solid foods, you’re likely in a fasted state. Fasting has a host of benefits, but one of the most notable ones is immune system rejuvenation.
In a fasted state, your body begins to deplete glycogen stores. The biochemical processes involved in using stored glycogen promote healing throughout the body. In addition, fasting could signal the body to rid itself of damaged cells and produce new ones.
In this way, doing a juice cleanse can help mimic the fasted state and, therefore, can help boost the immune system.
2. Promotes a healthy gut microbiome
If you’ve paid attention to the wellness space over the past couple of years, you’ve likely heard how important it is to have a diverse microbiome and overall healthy gut.
One study showed that a three-day vegetable and fruit juice-based diet led to significant improvements in the gut microbiome, due to the fermentable fiber found in juices.
You don’t necessarily have to do a juice cleanse to get the benefits of these fermentable juice fibers. Just adding in fresh vegetable juices to your diet can help add diversity and strength to your gut microbiome.
3. Supports detoxification
A juice diet can support your detox pathways twofold: by fasting and by providing antioxidants and nutrients.
When you fast by consuming only juice and no solid food matter including whole fruits, you are allowing your digestive system to take a break. Your body can then focus its attention on removing stored toxins instead of metabolizing food.
Fruit and vegetable juices are also rich sources of antioxidants, which help fight free radical damage in your body.
4. Provides the body with easily-absorbed nutrients
Juicing eliminates most of the fiber from fruits and vegetables, which allows for quicker absorption of nutrients including antioxidants. Many people also find that they can consume more fruits and veggies in juice form.
This study specifically showed the potential for fruit and vegetable juices to improve cardiovascular health due to the increase amount of antioxidants. The scientific evidence seems to show that consuming juice can be helpful to prevent heart disease.
5. Weight loss
The potential for easy and fast weight loss is a common sales point for juice cleanses. A juice cleanse won’t make you drop twenty pounds in one week (not that you’d want to anyway!) but many report weight loss as a benefit of juice cleansing.
The weight loss from juicing likely comes from a restriction in calories and loss of water. Or, weight loss during a juice cleanse may from the loss of “inflammation weight.”
This quick weight loss is not necessarily a sustainable or necessarily healthy way to lose weight. Depending on your personal viewpoint, weight loss on a juice cleanse is either a benefit or a risk.
That said, even drinking more water has been shown to help with weight loss. So, even if you don’t do a full juice cleanse, you may want to consider hydrating more. See my recipe for Cucumber Ginger Lemon Water.
Potential Risks of Juice Cleanse
Just as there are plenty of claims about the benefits of a juice cleanse, there are plenty of potential risks to consider as well. Filtering out the extremes of both sides is important when making your personal decision about juice cleansing.
Here’s six real potential risks of a juice cleanse.
1. Blood sugar instability
Juicing fruits and vegetables strips them of most of their fiber, leaving mostly nutrients and sugar behind.
Some may do fine with the natural sugars found in fruit and vegetable juices, but it’s important to be mindful when consuming juices. You’re consuming sugar and carbohydrates in the absence of adequate fiber, protein, or fat.
These natural sugars are quickly absorbed into your bloodstream and can cause a dramatic increase and drop in blood sugar levels for some people.
One way to get around this it to consider adding protein to your juices. You can blend in any of the protein powders on my list of the best paleo protein powders to help add a more balanced profile to your juices.
You’ll get the benefits of the antioxidants in the juice, but you’ll also get protein to help slow down the absorption of the natural sugars.
2. Improper fasting
Fasting is not for everyone. If you’re on a juice cleanse for the purpose of fasting, be mindful of your body’s unique stress response and reactions to energy restriction. Moreover, fasting with juice may not be the best way for some people to fast.
If you experience blood sugar swings and low mood, consider other methods of fasting that don’t involve juice. Or, you may not want to fast at all when doing a juice cleanse.
Instead, drink your juices with a balanced meal. You don’t have to go 100% juice and no food. You can likely still get health benefits from eating a clean diet and adding in fresh vegetable juices (see my healthy grocery list if you need more ideas on what to eat).
3. Foodborne illness from unpasteurized juice
Bacteria and pathogens are a risk when consuming unpasteurized raw juice.
Always follow proper food safety tips when preparing and consuming unpasteurized juice to help reduce your risk, and be extra cautious if you have an already compromised immune system.
If you are immunocompromised, you may need to skip unpasteurized juices and only drink pasteurized juices instead. Ask your doctor if you have questions about your personal situation including pregnancy.
4. Lack of fiber in the diet
Because juicing fruits and veggies rids them of most of their fiber content, you may not be getting an adequate amount of fiber to support your long-term health while on a juice cleanse.
There is the potential for constipation or other digestive issues when you don’t consume enough fiber on a daily basis.
One way to get around this is to add smoothies into your cleanse where you are getting all the fiber in addition to the antioxidants.
5. Difficulty managing weight
Liquid foods like juices and smoothies make it difficult to gauge your caloric intake. A large volume of food can be condensed into sixteen ounces of liquid, or you could accidentally underestimate the volume of food in your juice. In addition, liquid calories may not satiate you like solid food.
The act of chewing and slowly eating a meal is necessary for proper digestion and hunger signals. If you severely restrict calories for too long, you will slow your metabolism and then potentially gain weight when you begin eating a proper amount again.
If you find yourself losing or gaining weight too quickly when doing a juice cleanse, then you should likely consider ending the cleanse and going back to eating a more balanced diet with whole foods.
6. Potential for oxalate poisoning
Certain fruits and veggies like spinach and berries are naturally higher in oxalates, which are crystalline molecules that can cause issues like kidney stones when overaccumulated.
You’d need to consume a large amount of high-oxalate foods very often to see an issue, unless you have a genetic predisposition interfering with oxalate metabolism. Please be sure to consult with your healthcare provider for more information.
One way to get around this is to avoid high oxalate foods like spinach and beets when juicing.
Who Should Not Do a Cleanse
Pregnant women, children, elderly people, and those with compromised immune systems are not good candidates for doing a juice cleanse.
The FDA recommends against juicing for children, elderly people, pregnant women, and those with compromised immune systems due to the risk of foodborne illness from unpasteurized juice.
Additionally, it’s good to be cautious of a juice cleanse fast if you fall into one of the following populations:
- You’re a woman with hormonal imbalances or you’re trying to conceive. While fasting can have great benefits for some women, if you’re dealing with hormonal issues or trying to conceive you may want to avoid it. Fasting can be stressful for the body, and as women’s hormones are more sensitive to stress, fasting can exacerbate hormonal imbalances and even make conception more difficult. See my related articles on how to reduce estrogen dominance or the best fertility diet recipes.
- You’re an athlete or very active person. Fasting can impair recovery and performance due to underfueling your body. If you want to do a juice cleanse, take those days off from physical activity.
- You have blood sugar regulation issues. While on a juice cleanse, you’re consuming pure sugar and carbohydrates without fat, fiber, or protein to slow its absorption into your bloodstream. If you are sensitive to blood sugar spikes and drops, it’s best to avoid a juice cleanse.
- You have SIBO or other gut dysbiosis issues. The fermentable fiber that is left over from juicing can exacerbate gut dysbiosis.
- You’re very stressed. Fasting and any caloric restriction will only exacerbate stress. Wait until a calmer period in your life to embark on a juice cleanse.
Alternatives to Juice Cleansing
If you’ve determined that a full juice cleanse is not right for you or doesn’t fit into your lifestyle, you can still reap the benefits of juicing! Here’s some alternatives to support your long-term digestive and cellular health.
- Intermittent fasting. This has become a trend recently, and for good reason. Intermittent fasting, when done properly, helps stabilize blood sugar, reduce digestive issues, and improve brain performance. There are several different ways to intermittently fast–choose what works best for you and your daily routine.
- Drinking juice 30 minutes before a clean eating meal or with a meal. Juicing isn’t all or nothing! You can still incorporate juices on a daily basis in order to get the nutritional benefits without the fasting. By drinking juice with or close to a meal, you blunt the blood sugar spike that could come with consuming juice alone on an empty stomach. One of my favorite juices is my celery juice recipe that I like to drink a few times a week.
- Smoothies. By blending fruits and veggies rather than juicing, you keep the fiber intact. A smoothie can be light enough for a snack or hearty enough for a meal, depending on your add-ins. A smoothie cleanse might be a gentler way to get the benefits of juicing without being as intense. See the Clean Eating Kitchen entire index of dairy-free smoothie recipes.
Recommended Juice Recipes
If you want to try a juice cleanse or simply want to add juicing to your routine, then here are some great recipes to check out.
- Beet Juice
- Carrot Juice with Orange & Ginger
- Celery Cucumber Green Juice
- Celery Juice
- Detox Veggie Juice
- Lemon & Ginger Green Juice
Possibly. A juice cleanse could either help you lose weight or gain weight, depending on your approach and your unique situation. Typically, you lose weight on a juice cleanse due to severe caloric restriction and/or water weight or inflammation loss. However, this weight loss is temporary and can have the adverse effect of slowing down your metabolism if continued for too long.
Rapid weight loss and caloric restriction also spikes cortisol, which signals to your body that fat should be stored rather than burned. On the other hand, if you are not inadvertently restricting calories on a juice cleanse, you may be overconsuming calories!
A large volume of food is condensed into a small serving that is consumed quickly, so you may be consuming a lot of calories, sugar, and carbohydrates without feeling satiated. This can cause you to overconsume in an effort to feel full.
Rather than considering juice cleansing as a quick weight-loss method, consider it as a digestive and hunger signal reset that can improve your metabolism and appetite in the long run. You might also want to check out this article on the best weight loss tips for women.
The benefits of a juice cleanse must be weighed against any potential risks. There is no blanket recommendation for juice cleansing–it is beneficial for some while it could be harmful for others. Certain populations of people including pregnant people should steer clear of juice cleansing.
If you’re unsure if a juice cleanse would be beneficial for you, you can work up to a full cleanse! Start by incorporating juice on a daily basis, and then slowly intermittently fast with juice. If you’re enjoying benefits from intermittent fasting with juice, you can proceed to a full day, then a few days, of fasting with juice until you feel comfortable with a full juice cleanse.
Many of the benefits of a juice cleanse come from fasting. Fasting can improve digestion, support the immune system, offer mental clarity, and regulate hunger signals.
Aside from the benefits of fasting, a juice cleanse also ensures you’re getting plenty of fruits and veggies in your diet and supplies you with essential nutrients and antioxidants. Taking a few days off from heavy digestion of solid food allows your body to focus on detoxification, especially with the help of antioxidants from the juice.
As with most health trends, there is some truth to the claims, but it’s not the whole story. A juice cleanse has a wide array of benefits for many people, including immune system support and better nutrient absorption. There are also a variety of potential risks, such as blood sugar instability and foodborne illness. You must weigh the potential benefits with the potential risks and determine if a juice cleanse is right for you.
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Note: this post is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your healthcare provider for recommendations related to your individual situation.