Guest Post from Naturopath, Karen Meier:
I recently watched Joe Cross’ documentary film: Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead and I loved it. I have always been a huge proponent of juice cleansing/detox programs and have personally tried all of the major players in the juice cleansing business here in Sydney. Now mind you, until now, I have not been too vocal about my passion for juicing. Perhaps as a slightly more conservative naturopathic nutritionist I fear the judgment that comes from those who think the concept lacks credibility because no matter which way you look at it 'cleansing' and detox programs have a tendency to get a bit of a bad wrap. It is for this reason that I really wanted to start my series on detox programs discussing 'juice cleansing' and break down some of the most common concerns that people have when it comes to not ‘eating’ for a few days.
A juice cleanse (or fast as some like to describe it, although it is not technically a ‘fast’) involves drinking raw, fresh vegetable and fruit juices for a short period of time (the length of time varies anywhere from 3 to 5 days, although people with serious disease and health ailments tend to go for longer periods of time).
Typical fruits and vegetables used in the cleanse include celery, cucumber, coriander, parsley, carrot, broccoli, ginger, cabbage, apple, pear, spinach, bettroot and leafy greens. The benefit of drinking freshly pressed vegetable juices mad water for a few days is that it enables your digestive system to have a rest from digesting large meals and spend more time ‘clearing’ or ‘detoxifying’ the body.
The benefits of a few days spent juicing are amazing. Clear skin, better sleep, increased energy, more efficient digestion and improved bowel movements. Not to mention normally the loss of a couple of kilos of water retention and bloating. Many people proclaim that one of the best benefits is its ability to kind of ‘reset’ the body. A period of time in which you become accustomed to not shoveling processed foods heavy in salt and sugar into your body, Coming off a juice cleanse can be the perfect time to really embrace some more healthful diet habits. At the very least, people become more likely to use the concept of ‘crowding out’ which means rather than engaging in prohibitive, restrictive eating, eat more healthful foods (this is a concept discussed in the documentary ‘Hungry for Change’ which is absolutely brilliant). Crowding out means loading up each meal with green vegetables, nuts and whole-grains (all of the healthful foods) so that you effectively ‘crowd out’ the less healthful foods.
I should note from the outset that my concept of juice cleansing does not involve using a $100 juicer from Kmart and pulverizing a whole heap of pineapple and apple into a galvanized liquid form of fructose only - no fibre here. My juice cleanses have always been outsourced and the ones that I have undertaken to do from home have been done using a Vitamix which is a very different species of juicer in that the whole fruit or vegetable goes in and comes out, galvanized into liquid but with the fibre still in tact. Do not underestimate this distinction. The first type of juice cleanse I described could send blood sugar levels soaring and in some ‘sugar sensitive’ people leave them feeling hungrier and worse than ever before. Using a whole juicer such as the Vitamix (or something similar) and using plenty of green leafy vegetables with some low sugar fruits such as pears, berries and apples thrown in to add some sweetness (but not too much - we are trying, amongst other things to retrain our taste buds) is where its at.
So, what are the most common reactions and questions that come up when it comes to juice cleansing?
Well, my favorite reaction often comes from the loudest critics of juice cleansing: people who cannot imagine starting their day without a double shot latte, have never gone more than three hours between shoveling some form of processed food into their mouth, and are unable to get through a 24 hour period without some form of sugar laden snack.
Their reaction goes something like this: Eyebrows raised and lips pursed (as though I had actually forced lemon juice into their mouth) ‘oh my god, that’s just ridiculous, not to mention unhealthy...’
Unhealthy? That is an interesting choice of words.
Taking in adequate calories in the form of nutrient dense vegetable juice in a manner in which the body can easily digest and assimilate for a day or a few days is unhealthy?
Have we really moved this far away from the concepts of healthy and unhealthy that people can actually convince themselves that drinking nutrient dense vegetable juice for a couple of days could attract status as ‘unhealthy’?
Do I really need to paint a picture of what actually constitutes unhealthy (or ‘less healthful’ as I like to phrase it) so that people are then able to discern the difference?
Apparently I do. (Warning - slight digression, as always): Less healthful food fare contains the following: trans fats, sugar, artificial flavors and colorings, additives, MSG, sodium benzoate, canola oil and margarine, frankenstein like products such as ‘I can’t believe its not butter’ (does anyone actually buy that?), anti-caking and anti-foaming agents: these are all ingredients commonly found in processed foods: the foods that the majority of Australians pump into the bodies each day while at the same time kidding themselves (and attempting to kid me) by exclaiming ‘I have a pretty healthy diet’. Hmmm...are you sure? I’m sorry but that sad piece of iceberg lettuce on your ham and salad sanger for lunch or the paltry serve of mixed frozen veg in your spag bol at night does not constitute a healthy diet. In fact, that type of intake, the type I repeatedly see in clinic, does not even come close to the amount of micronutrients that your body needs to be healthy and running optimally - the way it was designed to run.
End of rant but perhaps a good explanation of why I find it amusing that some people feel the need to exclaim that the concept of juice cleansing is ‘unhealthy’.
One of the other major criticisms of juice cleansing (and detox programs in general) is its necessity. Many will state: ‘we already have built in detoxifying processes and do not need to undergo official detox programs for this reason’. I will go into more detail on this issue in my general detoxification article but for now, I think it is suffice to say that our bodies do have built in detoxifying processes but our bodies were not designed to detoxify the amount of toxins that many of us are pushing our bodies to handle. Our modern life of stress and working long hours leads to eating meals on the run or ordering take away food instead of preparing healthful meals affects our bodies capacity to undertake its natural cleansing systems. To all those factors, add our consumption of caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, ‘party drugs’ and medications in an environment laden with smog, car exhaust fumes, and invisible chemicals means that the demands we are making on our bodies’ detoxification are just too much. It’s similar to the concept of the having too much garbage to fit on the garbage truck so you have no choice but to store some of it in the backyard until the garbage truck comes past for its next load. In much the same way, when there is too much detoxifying work for the body to handle at one time, toxins tend to build up in the body until the liver is able to deal with them. This toxin build up leads to liver dysfunction that presents with a range of symptoms such as, irregular bowel movements, acne rosacea (red pimples around the nose, cheeks and chin), bad breath or body odour, immune system problems (increased colds and flus), skin rashes, light colored stools, difficulty concentrating, feeling ‘foggy headed’, lack of appetite on waking, waking between the hours of 1am and 3am, distended abdomen or swelling under the right lower ribs, headaches, allergies, poor digestion and weight gain, an ongoing sense of fatigue, irritability (**** on the liver), coated tongue, and morning sickness or PMS symptoms. Still think your body handles all of its detoxifying work without needing some help occasionally?
The idea behind a juice detox is that everything you put into your body is rich in nutrients and enzymes (and if you are having your program supervised by a professional you can ensure that the appropriate herbs, fruits and vegetables are used to ensure that the liver is fully supported), it is simple to digest which means that it is easy for your body to extract the nutrients and enzymes and it doesn’t distract the body from getting on with its natural detoxification process (and clearing out the excess garbage that has piled up in the backyard).
For those of you wondering if you will damage your metabolism while juice cleansing for a few days, I suggest you read my previous article on metabolism (insert link) or at the very least go into Pubmed and do some of your own research on metabolism. For those of you too lazy to do that, let me break it down for you: research has shown fasting (which means no food) for up to 72 hours has no negative affect on metabolic rate (we only have research up to 72 hours so it is not that the metabolic rate drops at this point but that we are unaware of what happens due to the absence of scientific studies) research has also shown that there is even an elevation of metabolic rate after 36 hours of fasting so drinking nutrient dense vegetable and fruit juice that will generally meet most peoples caloric requirements anyway is not going to affect your metabolism in a negative way. As I have said before, if someone tells you that ‘doing x’ will ‘slow down’ or ‘affect’ your metabolism negatively ask them for the research behind their claims. They won’t have any because there isn’t any. Awkward.
Now I mentioned earlier that I have tried most of the major players in the juice cleansing business here in Sydney. For those of you interested, there is only one company I recommend here in Sydney and that is Schkinny Manning (link - http://www.schkinnymaninny.com.au/ (good news for Melbourne and Brisbane readers as they have recently also set up shop in your cities). In regard to quality, taste and customer service they are the creme de la creme. They have also launched a new concept - Juice til Dinner (for those of you who who cant bear the thought of going without at least one meal - or as a nice warm up to going a whole day with juices only). On my most recent cleanse I did a 5 day program over 10 days so that I was essentially doing juices on one day followed by a day on my ‘detox’ eating plan on my ‘off‘ day. I loved this approach and I have found that many of my clients are often much more receptive to this idea. It also takes the cleanse over a longer period which I think is a good thing.
Obviously, juice cleansing is not for everyone. If you are pregnant, have kidney problems or are a type 1 diabetic you really should have a chat to your doctor first. Catherine, owner of Schkinny Manninny has also canvassed the issue and in a recent blog post (http://www.schkinnymaninny.com.au/blogs/feeling-looking-being-fab/5847914-why-you-shouldn-t-do-a-juice-detox-with-us) provided a little checklist of who shouldn't do a juice detox (namely if you answer yes to any of the following).
• You can't drink vegetables in your juice - if you can't stomache eating or drinking your vegetables, and don't love the feeling of consuming freshly juiced healthy foods - don't cleanse with us.
• Will not eat food without some kind of chemical/additive to enhance the flavour - if you normally eat foods from a tin, bag, packet and can't picture in your head what each of the ingredients looks like, then don't cleanse with us.
• Only drink juice that you buy on the shelf (not the fridge) of your local supermarket - if you buy a bottle of juice with its main ingredient is "reconstituted" and you could not closely replicate at home with a home juicer or blender, then don't cleanse with us.
• Think the whole concept of raw food is just for hippies- if you think eating raw food, means "being hungry" or "eating rabbit food" then don't cleanse with us...
• But everyone else - Welcome aboard!!
In my opinion, undertaking a juice cleanse every three months for a few days is like routine maintenance for the body. Kind of like getting your car serviced. It just makes it run better.
Anyone who knows me will attest to the fact that I love good coffee and I love chocolate (no, not the ‘healthy’ dark kind either - the incredibly common and ladened with sugar white variety). But you know what? I also love my body and for that reason every couple of months I take a few days off to reward it for all of the amazing things it enables me to do by giving it a little break and clearing out the garbage. And if that’s someone’s idea of ‘unhealthy’, well then my grandma was right: the world truly has gone mad.