Juice Fasting: Controversial Cleansing

A juice fast is considered an extreme form of detoxification because no solid food is consumed. More moderate detox methods, such as detox diets, include solid foods. Although they've been around for years, there's been renewed interest in detox diets in the past few years, in part because some supermodels and celebrities have used them to trim down for the runway or the red carpet.

The Pros of Juice Fasts

Proponents of juice fasting claim the process gives the body a much-needed spring cleaning, allowing it to take a break from the laborious process of digestion. They claim juice fasting assists the immune system in clearing out dead, diseased, and damaged cells.

At the same time, the many natural nutrients found in fresh juice revitalizes the immune system.

Some advocates of juice fasting claim it's the most important thing you can do for improved health. They credit juice fasts with fading age spots, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, and making skin and hair look healthier. However, there are no studies proving these anecdotal findings.

The Case Against Juice Fasts

The American Dietitian Association and most medical doctors are not enthused by the latest juice fast diets, especially those that are ultrarestrictive and have you drinking jacked-up lemonade for weeks at a time. As juice fasts have become increasingly popular among celebrities, medical professionals have sounded the alarm over possible risks from lengthy or repeated fasts.

They claim juice fasts may result in vitamin deficiencies, muscle breakdown, blood-sugar problems, and frequent liquid bowel movements. Because juice fasts are skimpy on solid foods and fiber, those using them are urged to “move things along” by using daily enemas and laxatives and staying close to the bathroom.

Beyonce Knowles made a commercial juice fast called Master Cleanser a household name, consuming nothing but their jacked-up lemonade for 10 to 14 days to lose 20 pounds. Anne Hathaway resorted to a 48 hour detox diet that also revolves around a lemonade mix. Megan Fox cleanses her body and system with an apple-cider vinegar and water cleanse.

Crash diets also take a toll on your body chemistry, lowering your blood sugar levels and depleting your body's supply of important minerals necessary for maintaining normal electrolyte balances.

If you're suffering from a chronic disease such as diabetes, cancer, or a heart condition, you're particularly vulnerable to changes in body chemistry, so don't embark on a fast without your doctor's approval.

Because of their low nutrient value and potential dangers, fasts and detox diets are not recommended for children, pregnant women, seniors, and those with digestive conditions.

According to the American Dietetic Association, long-term fasts lead to muscle breakdown and a shortage of many needed nutrients. In addition, depriving the body of the vitamins and minerals you get from food can actually weaken the body's immune system, not strengthen it, as juice fast advocates claim.

Types of Juice Fasts

There are many detox diet guides, each with its own magic formula for helping you cleanse your body of unwanted toxins and excess weight.

Some have you drinking nothing but lemonade, fruit juice, or purées, claiming this will help flush out environmental or dietary toxins. Others instruct you to eliminate entire food groups, such as dairy and meat products or even all solid foods, in an effort to purify your system.

Despite their claims, most are so dangerously low in calories and nutrients that they can lead to serious imbalances in the body.

Going on juice fasts or very low-calorie diets often takes a big toll on your health and may lead to lethargy, grumpiness, joint pain, and many other symptoms. Because these diets often require that you also use laxatives, enemas, and colonics to cleanse and flush out toxins, they can strand you in the bathroom and lead to chronic dehydration.

Juice Fasts Aren't Necessary

According to experts at the Mayo Clinic, your body is already well-equipped to flush out toxins via your kidneys, liver, and skin. Cleansing diets that claim to remove “bad” toxins from your system may remove or even deplete your intestines of healthy bacteria required for healthy functioning.

While some people lose weight quickly on juice fasts, the vast majority regain all the weight they lose, according to the American Psychological Association. And while people may lose 5 to 10 percent of their weight in the first few months of juice fasting, two-thirds of them regain even more weight than they lost within five years.

You're Not Cleansed, You're Starving

Proponents claim they feel lighter and more energetic after fasting; in fact, studies of starvation show the longer you fast, the more lethargic and less focused you become. And because most of these diets contain very little protein, it can be difficult for the body to rebuild lost muscle tissue.

Also, medical experts attribute the “high” you feel not to cleansing, but to the body kicking into starvation mode.

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