Starting a Juice Cleanse? 4 Things You Need to Know

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By Michael A. Gleiber, M.D.

Juices cleanses are a trendy weight-loss method. Proponents of juice cleanses claim you will lose weight and remove toxins from your body. Is it really healthy to only have liquids for as long as a week?

If you don’t get enough fruits and vegetables in your diet, juicing may help in that area. In most cases, a 3 to 5 day juice cleanse may not hurt you, but it won’t necessarily help your overall health very much either. Consider these 4 facts before deciding whether a juice cleanse is right for you.

1. We don’t really need a “cleanse” to remove toxins from our bodies.

Proponents of juicing often claim that these “cleanses” will remove toxins from the body. However, we already have a “cleansing” mechanism in our bodies — the liver, kidneys and intestines. The job of these organs is to filter out all of bad stuff from the things we ingest. If the “detox” part of the juice cleanse was a main selling point for you, you should probably skip it. No amount of juice is going to undo that double cheeseburger you ate last week. If you slipped up on your diet and overindulged, you just have to move forward and try to do better with your diet. Remember, being healthy is a lifestyle, not a week-long thing.

2. You could be missing out on important nutrients if you only have juice.

Fruits and vegetables in their whole state contain fiber, which helps to keep you full and aids in the digestive process. However, most juices remove the pulp and skins from fruits and vegetables, so you lose out on all of those nutrients. If you really want to “juice,” it might be better to blend your fruits and vegetables into a smoothie so you can keep the skin and pulp. You also need to keep in mind that if you’re only having juice during your cleanse, you won’t be getting any healthy fats or proteins, which your body needs to build healthy tissues. Depriving your body of these nutrients for several days isn’t going to do you any good.

3. Any weight you lose will be water weight.

If you only have juices for several days, you probably will lose weight because you are depriving yourself of lots of things; you are more or less starving yourself. The problem is, as soon as you resume your regular diet, you’ll gain all of that weight back. This deprivation-type of dieting can also cause dizziness, nausea, fatigue, and irritability. Is all of that really worth it just to drop a few pounds for a couple of days?

4. Juicing can be harmful to people with certain health conditions.

Although we think of fruits as healthy, they can contain a lot of sugar. This often translates into a high amount of sugar in juices, which can be problematic for people with diabetes. All of that extra sugar could cause the blood-sugar to skyrocket. Juicing can also be harmful to those with kidney disease; too much potassium can build up in the blood, causing symptoms like muscle weakness, fatigue, diarrhea, and chest pain. Patients undergoing chemotherapy should also avoid juice fasts. Juices do have high levels of antioxidants, but that combined with a lack of protein can be harmful to those undergoing chemotherapy.

The purpose of this article isn’t to discourage you from avoiding juicing altogether. If juices are the only way you get the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables in a day, then it’s worth incorporating into your diet. Depriving yourself of certain nutrients just isn’t worth it to drop a little weight. If you really want to make a difference in your health, think of food as part of your lifestyle, rather than a diet.

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