Do juice cleanses work?

Do juice cleanses work?

Updated: May 24, 2024Veronika Larisova

Detoxification is a complex process that involves various organs, such as the liver, kidneys, and intestines, working together to eliminate toxins from the body. While some proponents of juice cleansing claim they support detoxification, the body already has natural detoxification mechanisms in place. 

These mechanisms primarily rely on specific nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and amino acids, to support enzymatic reactions involved in the detoxification process. Severely restricting calories and consuming only juices for an extended period can lead to inadequate intake of these essential nutrients.

In this regard, juice cleanses can actually be harmful as they do not provide enough cofactors to support detoxification, such as amino acids (protein). This can lead to a build-up of toxins which is the opposite of what you are trying to achieve.

Furthermore, periodically bouncing between a toxic diet and juice cleansing will not help you detoxify and might lead to even higher toxins build up. By a toxic diet, I mean consuming ultra-processed foods, food fried in seed and vegetable oils, fast food, food high in added sugar and regular alcohol consumption. 

A balanced diet free of ultra-processed foods is the best way to support the body’s natural detoxification. You can have all Chief products on your health kick, as beef, MCT oils and nuts contain compounds that are crucial for the body’s detoxification. 

What are some other downfalls of juice cleansing?

Some juices, such as spinach and beet, are high in oxalate.  Drinking large amounts of high-oxalate juice can increase the risk of kidney issues in susceptible individuals. High oxalate levels in the body may increase the risk of kidney stone development or worsen symptoms in individuals already prone to kidney stones. High doses of oxalic acid can also potentially interfere with calcium absorption and retention, negatively impacting bone mineral density.

Most juice cleanses contain lots of fruits, which are high in vitamins and minerals but don’t contain any fibre, as juicing removes it. So, you are left with highly concentrated sugar. Fibre helps slow down the absorption of sugar and provides a feeling of fullness.

Without fibre, the sugar in juice is rapidly absorbed, leading to blood sugar spikes and subsequent crashes. Although some experts promote juice cleanse as a tool to break unhealthy eating patterns or reset dietary habits, I’m not a fan. Due to the high sugar content, juice cleanses often cause sugar cravings and lead to overeating following the juice-only phase.

You might also lose some muscle while juice cleansing as the body breaks it down to obtain the amino acids necessary for detoxification. Muscle loss depends on the length of the cleanse and the level of physical activity during it.

Even when you can’t eat any solids for a period due to medical reasons, I would not recommend drinking only juices. In this scenario, I would suggest consuming a combination of vegetable juices, broths and soups, fermented drinks such as kefir and good quality protein drinks (i.e. collagen powder mixed in water) to cover your amino acids.

Lastly, juice cleanse is not fasting. Juices contain calories that break the fast. And even true fasting (drinking only water) is not a detoxification tool. The physiologic responses to true fasting include ketogenesis, hormone modulation, reduced oxidative stress and inflammation, increased stress resistance, lipolysis, and autophagy. 

Is there any place for a juice cleanse? 

To be fair, short-term juice fasting has some potential benefits, but detoxification is not one of them. For example, there is some evidence that a three-day VEGETABLE juice cleanses leads to favourable changes in the gut microbiome.

A well-structured three-day juice program, as a part of a holistic gut-healing protocol administered by a professional, can help ‘rest’ the body from the continuous burden of a poor diet, leading to inflammation and oxidative stress in the cells.

The phytochemicals can help to activate some key cell-protective genes. However, no changes will happen if you eat crap and then drink juice for three days just to return to your regular crappy eating. And even in the case of a medical juice program, the aim is not detoxification.

So, it depends on what you are doing the juice cleanse for. You are wasting your time if you want to detoxify from an unhealthy diet. Eating healthily and eliminating toxins is the only way to detoxify from an unhealthy diet. This can involve including some vegetable juices. 

    Veronika Larisova
    Co-founder, Nutritionist, Exercise Physiologist
    Follow Veronika on Instagram



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