What are the Risks & Benefits of a Juice Cleanse?
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 also discusses who should not do a juice cleanse.
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.
What is 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 two-day cleanse, while others promote a seven-day cleanse.
However, you don’t need to follow a specific program or buy a product. 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.
There are a lot of claims about the benefits of a juice cleanse. There are some valid benefits, but be wary of claims that sound too good to be true or sound “sales-y.” Here’s five real benefits of a juice cleanse.
1. Supports the immune system via fasting
When you consume only juice, 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.
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.
3. Supports detoxification
A juice cleanse 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, 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. Many people also find that they can consume more fruits and veggies in juice form!
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 inflammation weight, and is not 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.
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 sugar from 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. This sugar is quickly absorbed into your bloodstream and can cause a dramatic increase and drop in blood sugar levels for some people.
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.
3. Foodborne illness from unpasteurized juice
Bacteria and pathogens are a risk when consuming unpasteurized 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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. My favorite juicer for all kinds of fruits and vegetables is an Omega masticating juicer. And, here are my favorite juice recipes:
- Beet Juice
- Carrot Juice with Orange & Ginger
- Celery Cucumber Green Juice
- Celery Juice
- Detox Veggie Juice
- Lemon & Ginger Green Juice
Or, see my round-up of the best juicing recipes for beginners.
Can a juice cleanse help you lose weight?
Yes and no. It could either help you lose weight or gain weight, depending on your approach and your unique bioindividuality. 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!
Is it good to do a juice cleanse?
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 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.
And, as always, please do consult with your healthcare provider before juicing or making any changes to your diet.
What are the benefits of a 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! 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.