Throughout the many years of my wellness journey, I’ve juice fasted numerous times with varying intentions. To be transparent, when I was going through a time of life when I was struggling with body image issues and my relationship to food, I would use juice fasting as a quick way to lose weight and look “skinny” before events or beach trips. This is the INCORRECT way to juice cleanse. Juice cleansing with this intent only worsens your relationship with eating and your body as you inevitably gain the weight back and build a restrictive and fearful relationship with food.
Done correctly, however, a juice cleanse may have many incredible benefits for your body. Keep reading to get an overview of how you should go about cleansing.
What Is A Juice Cleanse
A juice cleanse is a temporary diet in which you only consume vegetable and fruit juices. It’s important to note that juicing different from blended drinks or smoothies. Juicing involves separating the fruit or vegetable juice from the pulp. In smoothie drinks, all edible parts of the plants are consumed, including the pulp or fibrous portions.
The past two times I juice cleansed, it was in preparation for a series of colon hydrotherapy sessions. I was fasting to give my digestive system and colon a break so my colonics would be more effective.
Juice cleanses can be done for a varying number of days, but the most common range is between three to 10 days.
Benefits And Risks
Benefits of juice cleansing may include:
- Flushing your system with bioavailable nutrients as juices are extremely high in vitamins and minerals
- Introducing extra nutrients into the body to boost overall health
- Weight loss
- Increasing amount of good bacteria in your gut and lowering amount of bad bacteria
- Reducing inflammation
- Boosting your immune system
- Increasing your energy levels
- Removing toxins from the body
- Better skin complexion and tone
- Improving your digestion by introducing enzymes that help your gut function more efficiently
But, as with any diet, there may also be certain risks that I must disclose:
- Drinking a high volume of juices may be harmful to those with kidney disorders. Certain juices contain oxalate, an acid that may promote kidney stones or other issues
- Greater risk of illness if you consume juices that are unpasteurized or have not had another treatment to remove bacteria
- Some juice cleanses include laxatives or other means of bowel stimulation, in which case you’ll be using the restroom quite often. This may lead to dehydration or imbalanced electrolytes if you aren’t making sure to stay hydrated
- Consuming such a low amount of calories may lead you to have very low blood sugar and as a result feel low energy, weak, dehydrated, hungry, have headaches and even faint
How To Do A Cleanse
1. Calendar Your Cleanse
You’ll have a better cleanse experience if it’s schedule at an opportune time in your life. You’ll want to avoid cleansing at a time in life when you’re really busy or maybe have a lot of big projects and deliverables due at work since it’s possible you’ll feel low energy or not as sharp during your cleanse. In my experience, my best cleanses have been when I have a moderate amount of things to do. I want to stay busy, so I’m not sitting around thinking about food, but I also don’t want to cleanse when I need to be on it and have a lot of responsibilities.
If you’re new to cleansing, I would recommend you start with a 3 day cleanse. Once you’ve become more experienced and know what to expect, you can look to increase the days in future cleanses if that makes sense for you and your life.
2. Build In Buffer Days Before and After
The few days before and after a cleanse you’ll want to ease yourself in and out of the fast. I recommend trying to eat a mostly vegetarian or plant-based diet the 2-3 days before and after a fast to allow your system to slowly adjust. Look to eat whole, natural foods, avoiding alcohol, processed or refined foods, dairy and gluten.
3. Select Your Juices
If you’re new to juicing, you’ll likely want to work with a shop or company to build your juice program. There are a TON of juice programs out there, so as you do your research, here are a few things to consider:
- Find out how fresh the juices are. You want your juices to be as fresh as possible. The fresher the juice, the more nutrient dense it is. Overtime, all food loses it’s nutrient content so if one of the main benefits of juicing is to flush your system with nutrients, you’ll want to make sure you’re getting super fresh juices
- Look at how many juices your will be drinking a day. In my experience, you should be drinking at minimum six juices a day. But, I recently did a cleanse with eight juices, and I found I was far less hungry throughout the day. In fact, I actually had a surplus of juice at the end of the day. This was also more emotionally fulfilling, rather than feeling like I had to ration my juice intake throughout the day.
- Review the juice contents. The majority of your juices should be vegetable based with maybe one fruit ingredient. While fruits have many incredible health benefits, juiced fruits are very high in sugar. You’ll want to avoid drinking lots of fruit juice as this will send your blood sugar into a tail spin leaving you feeling extremely hungry and likely cranky.
- Understand the order of juices. While every body is different, I’ve learned and found that this order of juices tends to work best for most. Start your day with some celery juice or light green juices. By lunch time you’ll want to have a juice with a higher sugar content since you’ll be getting hungry and your blood sugar will be low so you may also feel tired. Post-lunch you’ll go back to some variety of green juices or other ultra-hydrating juice. The last juice of the day is usually something that’s a bit creamier with an alternative milk base. This last juice helps to cut all the acidity from the day’s drinks, settles your stomach, and also helps you feel a bit more “full” so you can go to bed more easily.
- Select juices in glass bottles or BPA-free plastic.
The most recent times I cleansed, I worked with Juice Wave in San Diego and had an incredible experience. The owner, Arleigh, is super, super knowledgeable and experienced in the food industry, and especially with juicing. She makes all the juices right before you pick them up for your cleanse, nails the order of juices, uses cute glass bottles and even checks in with you throughout your cleanse to see how you’re doing! If you’re considering a cleanse (or just want to pick up a yummy juice or acai bowl), I’d definitely recommend supporting this small business!
4. Start the cleanse!
Now that you’ve done all the prep and research, it’s time to start the cleanse!
In my experience, the first day of a cleanse isn’t too difficult. The middle days tend to be a bit harder since you’ve now gone a full 24 hours without any solid food. But, by the end, you’re feeling empowered, energetic and glowing!
Can you workout while on a cleanse?
It depends. You’ll need to really tune into your own body and understand what is best for you. I’ve done juice cleanses where I’ve felt extremely depleted, like there’s no way I could even go through a slow yoga class. But, I’ve also done cleanses where I’ve had a tone of energy and even went to spin class (crazy, I know). Make the choice that is safest for you. If you’re feeling a bit weak but still want to get some movement, a long walk is a great option. If you do workout, make sure you hydrate more than usual after since your body will already be running low on electrolytes and sweating will cause you to lose even more electrolytes.
Can you drink coffee?
If you drink coffee daily and the idea of giving it up sounds insane, then I’d say allow yourself to have some black, organic coffee. Whether or not you drink coffee also depend on how purist you want to be about the cleanse and what your original intent was for even starting the cleanse. When I was cleansing for my colonics, I did allow myself to have black organic coffee and even keto coffee (black organic coffee with pure fat like coconut oil or mct oil) to help me stay satiated. If you drink tea, you may consider mixing in some ginger tea or other digestion boosting tea to enhance the effects of your cleanse.
What do I do if I’m hungry?
If you’re hungry, you can try drinking water, adding in another juice or even working in some keto coffee. It’s completely normal to feel hungry on a cleanse, and we should allow ourselves to feel hunger now and then. It’s ok. Just try to keep yourself busy and your mind occupied so you aren’t focusing on food. It helps to also avoid situations or places that will make the fact that you can’t eat harder on you. For example, don’t go into the cafeteria at work or sit around people who are eating. Realize though, if your level of hunger starts to feel unsafe or if not eating is emotionally triggering for you.