Juice cleanses seem to be all the rage these days, especially with celebrities like Beyonce, Demi Moore, Ashton Kusher and Gwyneth Paltrow touting them. A patient of mine recently sent me an article from The New York Times titled “The Juice Cleanse: A Strange and Green Journey”. She was asking my opinion about juice cleanses, and because they’re so popular I thought I should write about it.
First things first. I feel that (organic) vegetable juicing is by far one of the most health-giving ways that we can support our body and mind. Drinking fresh, live vegetable juice offers the most efficient way I know of getting an enormous amount of natural vitamins, minerals, enzymes and phytonutrients into our body. The healthiest way to go is with “green” juices, as they contain the most chlorophyll, calcium, magnesium, and other supportive and detoxifying nutrients and antioxidants. Therefore, they’ll help build blood, bone, and other important tissues in addition to helping detoxify and regenerate the liver, colon, kidneys, and just about all the organs and cells of the body. So as far as drinking vegetable juice – I’m ALL for it! What about juice cleansing though?
Juice cleanses will obviously offer the body all of the great nutrients and benefits mentioned above. However, there can certainly be (and more likely will be) a drawback for most people. The problem often arises when we consume ONLY juice in a single (or several) day(s). That problem mainly relates to the lack of other macronutrients, with the primary one being a lack of protein. The effects of going without protein for days (or even a single day) can be very detrimental. How (if at all) detrimental it is will certainly depend on the individual and his or her state of health, and also how the cleanse is actually done. The other issue that arises is when a person attempts to detoxify while their organs of elimination (liver, kidneys, intestines, lungs, skin, and lymphatic system) are not “up to par”.
Several problems of going without protein include severe blood sugar fluctuations and resultant spikes in insulin and stress hormones. See my articles on insulin resistance and blood sugar regulation to get more specific information on this. Additionally, without eating protein, your body will begin to break down muscle in order to get the protein it needs to survive. Blood sugar fluctuations or imbalances and/or a lack of protein and muscle mass are the cause of many people’s symptoms and disease to begin with. Therefore a juice cleanse can make a person even more imbalanced and unhealthy. And let’s not forget that protein is absolutely necessary in order for the body and especially the liver to properly detoxify in the first place. I’m not saying the answer solely lies in protein intake, because you may also need other supportive nutrients to support the organs of elimination while detoxing.
That said, here’s my take on some of the comments in the NY Times article. Here’s the first comment in the article that I’d like to touch upon: “As Mr. Glickman explains on his Web site, if you experience symptoms like cravings, fatigue, irritability, headaches, pains, nausea, vomiting, hot bowel movements (!) … congratulations! That means you were supertoxic, and the cleanse is working.” OK – this statement may be true, as those symptoms can definitely result from going on a juice cleanse. HOWEVER, if a person does in fact experience these symptoms, I would not say “congratulations”. These symptoms are actually the result of faulty detoxification pathways. Many people might call this a “healing crisis” and say “the cleanse is working. The reality is that the toxins are being released from the cells and tissues, but in fact NOT being released from the body. This is a classic example someone who needs support for their detoxification organs, as the organs can not keep up with amount of toxins that are being released. In a case like this, I’d support a patient with supplements (usu. herbal or homeopathic) that would help to actually get the toxins completely out of their body. Without support to help the drainage of these organs, people that undergo this type of reaction are most definitely simply transposing the toxins to another area of their body. And if they have a “leaky” blood-brain barrier, they can cause some serious harm by allowing chemicals/toxins to be deposited in the brain. In a sense this type of reaction is diagnostic that the detox organs aren’t up to par. Well, you say, isn’t that why we are detoxing, because the detox organs aren’t up to par? Sure, but if the above mentioned symptoms occur, without specific support to the detox organs (which would prevent those symptoms), you are likely doing more harm than good. So it may be OK to go ahead with the cleanse, but the appropriate support/drainage remedies need to be taken as well.
The next comment I’d like to make is in regards to these statements by the author: “By the third day I felt great in the way I’m told that the imminently drowning feel great right before they give up and inhale that last mouthful of water. My juice-aficionado friend Gilly told me I was on an endorphin high”. If you’ve ever been on an “endorphin high” you’d know that it doesn’t feel like “giving up” and inhaling a mouthful of water before your ultimate death. It may feel like you’re floating a bit, perhaps related to lightheadedness or dizziness, but not like you’re about to drown. The feeling the author is describing sounds more like both, a severe blood sugar imbalance with concomitant stress hormone and adrenaline (stress neurotransmitter) release, while the body is freeing up toxins into the bloodstream but not able to get rid of them. Adrenaline and stress hormones are catabolic, meaning they actually assist in breaking down the body, instead of building it up. That said, I wholeheartedly agree with the following comments made in the article by Dr. David Colbert: “That giddy feeling you get is what diabetics get when your body runs out of sugar and starts using other products for energy“.
Lastly, I respectfully disagree with these comments made from Dr. Colbert: “You have to ask yourself this question: With a juice cleanse, what are you really cleaning? Really, nothing. The bowel self-cleans. It’s evolved over millions of years to do this.” Here’s my response to that. The bowel will self-clean but more often than not, it does need a cleanse or specific dietary changes and/or supplements in order to do so well. To elaborate, consider these points. The entire body is meant to detoxify chemicals, metals, etc.. However, day in and day out I see patients whose complaints are directly related to an inability to detoxify these substances – therefore, some of us have “lost” this capability. The body was meant to produce a proper amount of thyroid hormone, but in many cases it doesn’t (for many reasons); and hypothyroidism is rampant despite our evolution. The female hormonal system is meant to self-regulate through feedback loops as well, but PMS and a grueling, symptomatic shift into menopause for many woman seems to be the norm. The body is designed to “self-defend” via the immune system, but so many people are afflicted with acute and chronic bacterial, viral, fungal, parasitic, etc. infections. So even though the body is designed to function a certain way, that doesn’t mean it will. And even though the bowel “self-cleans” as Dr. Colbert points out, that doesn’t mean it will efficiently and effectively. The body doesn’t always work the way it was designed to. Believe me, I wouldn’t have a practice if it did. If the body did everything it was “supposed” to do, we wouldn’t have such a huge health crisis with rampant degenerative disease and illness.
In conclusion, juice cleanses can be done safely, and you don’t necessarily need to avoid consuming food while attempting to detoxify. Your best option is to find a practitioner that can monitor your progress in order to make sure it’s going safely and you achieve the benefits you set out for.
Dr. Robert D’Aquila – NYC Chiropractor – Applied Kinesiology
What would you recommend one eats while on a juice fast? And how long would you recommend to go on the juice fast?
I know above you indicate that you can detox with juice without fasting. But I still would like to modify my diet at the same time. Is there a specific protein intake you suggest? -TT
Dr. Rob D'Aquila
I would recommend small portions of lean protein like chicken – no eggs or dairy because of the possibility of a sensitivity that one might not be aware of. Also, raw or steamed vegetables, but no fruit simply because the fructose can feed any potential gut pathogens (e.g.: yeast) that the cleanse is trying to get rid of.
As far as detoxing with juice, without fasting, that’s what I mean, simply consume lots of fresh, raw vegetable juices, but eat lean protein and veggies. I’m not opposed to red meat, but when attempting to detox, it’s best to avoid large quantities of fat that “clog up” the liver. Some fat is important however, because you need it to stimulate the release of bile (which contains toxins and can also get rid of excess cholesterol). Good fats would be unheated olive and coconut oil – again, just don’t overdo it. These oils are relatively stable and thus you avoid the problem of ingesting rancid fats.
As far as daily protein intake – see my latest article on that subject here – http://robdaquila.com/2010/10/08/dailyproteinrequirments/. It’s the most up-to-date information on protein intake that I’ve come across. BTW – I’m brainstorming a new theory that osteoporosis is actually a protein deficiency more so than a calcium deficiency. Thanks for reading!
If good fats are unheated, than eating lean protein isn’t a good idea. If memory serves, you have to heat chicken.
Dr. Rob D'Aquila
Ideally fats should be consumed unheated, that is true. And many health experts would even say that most foods should be eaten raw and uncooked – something hard to deny.
“If memory serves” – what memory? You’re sounding a bit too emotional and semi-belligerent for my website. Please speak without said tone before posting a comment. Thank you in advance.
Look up “chicken sashimi”. Yes, raw chicken, consumable by humans with no ill effects. Do I promote it? Would I eat it? “No” to the former, “maybe” to the latter if I was in a very fine dining establishment.
Regardless, I don’t propose that one rely on chicken for “good fats”. Instead, consider high quality fish, krill, olive, coconut, borage, primrose, black currant and/or flax seed oil, in addition to chia seeds.
Additionally, dairy can be eaten raw and according to many health experts and the Pottenger cat studies, it’s probably best. Now, if you consumed factory-farmed raw chicken or raw milk, that may be a problem. Perhaps that’s why the “authorities” won’t recommend eating raw dairy. If you ate raw milk from a factory-farmed cow, you may get very sick, but not because of the inherent fact that it’s raw – but because the animals themselves and their milk is tainted with disease-causing microbes due to the way they are raised.
Also, I eat 2 raw eggs daily which is considered taboo – I’m doing perfectly fine and even better than when I ate cooked eggs.
Lastly, to be clear, I don’t recommend that anyone eat raw chicken, or “chicken sashimi” – however, it’s being done and without apparent harm if you look it up.
Read about it and perhaps create a new memory. But don’t rely on chicken for “good fats” – instead, go with foods that contain higher sources of omega-3’s and GLA.
Dr. Rob D’Aquila
But the idea of eating meat or poultry while detoxing sounds counterproductive. Wouldn’t you want to just get protein from a protein shake/powder? And spoon olive oil?
You can get protein from plant sources. And not just from beans and such. Greens have essential amino acids, which we use to form human protein. It’s a fact. People successfully get protein from plants. Why eat synthetic shakes when real food does nicely?
Dr. Rob D'Aquila
Yes, you can get protein from plant sources. You can successfully get protein from plants, however, the quantity you must consume is almost never sufficient. There is always an exception to the rule, but for most people, you simply can’t consume enough plant foods to meet the adequate amount of daily protein needs.
Additionally, the protein shake I speak of and use is not synthetic. It contains whole-food ingredients from a company that has it’s own farm and uses natural ingredients, not synthetic.
Thanks for the comment,
Dr. Rob D’Aquila
Forgive me for my tone. I didn’t realize it. Nutrition is a hot topic. 🙂
I agree that some people have trouble with a vegan diet. Usually because they aren’t doing it properly. However, I’m acquainted with physicians who run institutes that promote whole food, plant-based diets, and have created thousands of life-long vegans who are extremely healthy, and don’t suffer from all the chronic illnesses that people on a typicaly Western diet experience. I personally know many people who have been vegans for years, and when I myself cut out animal products my energy increases, my complexion improves, my allergies subside, and I even smell better. So your views don’t apply to enough people to justify taking such a definitive stance against a proper whole natural, plant based diet.
In addition, I find it impossible to honestly ignore the mountains of evidence linking the consumption of animal products, whether lean and low fat or not, to cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis, arthritis, diabetes, etc. It is an undeniable fact that animal products, whatever nutritional benefits they possess, also contain universally unhealthy nutrients. Animal fat, cholesterol (we have no need for dietary cholesterol), uric acid (associated with gout), and the animal protein itself, which T. Colin Campell, among others, have convincingly demonstrated is greatly associated with cancer growth. Animal products are clogging, toxic foods which detract from our health far more than they benefit it.
Regarding your diet, I’m sure it seems fine for now. You’re young. But the accumulation of those foods over decades is one of the greatest contributors to all those diseases.
And milk may be the most egregious of all. It makes no sense for us to drink the baby formula of another species. Even cows stop drinking their milk when they grow up, just as we are weaned from our own milk. And cow’s milk is designed to turn a small calf into a huge beast. In evolutionary terms, we haven’t even been drinking it long enough to adapt to its long term effects. And many studies unassociated with the dairy industry indicate that milk (and meat) actually LEECH calcium from our bones. As you know, our bodies strive to maintain a specific PH balance. Eating acidic animal foods cause our bones to excrete calcium to neutralize the acid. So while we’re consuming calcium from milk, we are literally peeing it out. Everything in dairy can be gotten from plants, without all the allergy causing, disease producing toxicity of baby cow formula.
These aren’t my ideas. They comes from Neal Barnard, Joel Fuhrman, Dr Goldhammer, Dean Ornish, John Macdougall, Dr. Essylstyn, T. Colin Campell, and so on. These guys have been doing the science and then successfully implementing their findings for years.
Just as people eventually learned that smoking was unhealthy, they’re slowly realizing that animal products and processed foods are not conducive to long-term health.
Dr. Rob D'Aquila
Hi Michael, (sorry this comment is out of order)
Yes, nutrition is a very hot topic. Thanks, you are forgiven.
You’re right, most vegans probably do eat poorly and those must be the ones I see. And generally, patients come in with (many) specific complaints. Most patients don’t walk in feeling healthy.
Also, I don’t think everyone should be on the same diet. Personally, I like the Metabolic Typing Diet and the Blood Type Diet.
Just because I promote animal protein doesn’t mean I promote the typical Western diet, laden with garbage – it’s completely different.
There’s mountains of “evidence” promoting everything. And often, the interpretation of the research is key. Very often researchers find correlations and assume it’s a causative factor. I’m sure if you took the average American off their diet and turned them vegan, they’d do better. But are they doing better because they’re eating less meat? Or is it because they’re eating less garbage and they’re actually eating vegetables. That’s what I mean by correlation and causation.
And if you look at the mountains of evidence on how blood sugar imbalances negatively affect just about every function in the entire body, you’d understand why I promote eating the way I do. Will there be exceptions for some, of course.
There’s no such thing as an unhealthy nutrient. And no, we don’t need to consume cholesterol. But cholesterol is not the problem when it comes to heart disease, it’s WHY the cholesterol is high and WHY it’s getting deposited in arteries. The answer is inflammation. Inflammation from blood sugar imbalances, infections, stress, food sensitivities, etc.. The original study that found that cholesterol was deposited in arteries after animals were injected with it was flawed. There was a preservative in the solution. Another set of researchers did the same experiment, injecting animals with cholesterol – but this time without the preservative, just pure cholesterol and observed NO issues plaque in the arteries. No one hears much about that study unfortunately.
Of course, meat should be grass-fed, rich in omega-3’s and all animal products devoid of antibiotics, hormones, etc..
Dairy – no, there is no need for it, but good, quality, omega-3 rich dairy isn’t a problem if you’re not sensitive to it.
If you want to come from an evolutionary stand point, you should look into the paleo diet, which is similar to what I promote. We certainly didn’t get this far by eating whole grains (which are also THE most allergenic foods). If my memory serves me, the Egyptians were the first cultivators of grains and also the first society known to have heart disease.
This is a never-ending discussion. For me, it’s my patients’ health that matters. It matters subjectively – them being out of pain, and without a plethora of symptoms in addition to objective measures like blood tests. The vegans who walk into my office and NOT doing well and they’re not all starch and sugar junkies. Many eat seemingly well, but of course are deficient in protein and have many other endocrine and digestive imbalances.
Look into research and writing from Dr. Ron Rosedale, Dr. Gary Taubes, Dr. Joesph Mercola, Dr. Michael Eades, The Blood Type Diet, and The Metabolic-Typing diet.
The truth lies in the symptoms and the lab tests.
Good luck and good health,
Dr. Rob D’Aquila
Yes, the typical western diet is not the same as a varied one. Though I believe it’s the same difference as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day, or just half a pack. Half is better, but still too weak a change to prevent illness down the line.
Dr. Essylstyn, for instance, discovered that simply cutting back on animal products wasn’t enough to reverse heart disease. Only the patients which completely cut them out got the results they wanted – and needed.
The mountains of evidence I’ve encountered accurately predicted the effects of the diet it supported. I and many others put it into practice and experienced what was expected. That’s not absolute proof, of course. Just a direction. It’s hard to find absolutes in health. But even though causality doesn’t PROVE a connection, it does indicate one.
From my research it doesn’t seem like enough time has passed for us to consume animal products as a staple. Even thousands of years of cooking meat is short, in evolutionary terms. Carnivores have very short intestines, designed to expel meat quickly. They also have an enzyme called uricase in their saliva that breaks down uric acid. We have extremely long intestines, which causes the meat to putrify before it leaves our bodies. Plenty of doctors have noticed the effects of impacted waste in our colons from meat and dairy. And the uric acid is toxic to us.
Regarding grains, my sources disagree about the negative impact. They empirically have found that most people do fine with some whole wheat in their diets, as long as they are consuming a whole natural, plant based diet. I find it unlikely that all the atherosclerosic plaque that millions of Americans have lining their arteries are caused by whole grains, rather than meat and dairy.
Since this is your field, I think you’d find it interesting and beneficial to look into this. Just to be safe. The China Study is a great book. So are books by Joel Fuhrman, Neal Barnard, and Dean Ornish. They’re careers are spent successfuly implementing vegan diets for their patients. It’s not a mystery. It happens a lot. Those books would be far more informative than I am, of course. I’m not suggesting this condescendingly. I think it would be useful.
And why would we want these veggies in juice form rather than whole? And how many times a day should you have veggie juice? Just one? Or 3-times?
Dr. Rob D'Aquila
Sure – I may have misunderstood you as wanting to eat “real” food while detoxing. In that case, I’d say clean, lean meats is fine. It wouldn’t be counterproductive if you eat small amounts, frequently. Otherwise, sure, a rice-based protein powder and spooning olive oil would be totally fine. And keep in mind that overeating (or too many juices) would be counterproductive.
Dr. Rob D'Aquila
You’ll absorb MUCH more of the nutrients in juice form! And it’ll be easier for your liver and intestinal tract to handle without all the fiber. You can take a separate fiber supplement to help detox even further.
How many times a day really depends. For a SERIOUS juice cleanse, I’d say 3-6 (10oz.)/day. I like to keep to juices at about 10 oz., because too much in one shot will be counterproductive. At some point a while back, I was taking in 6 – 10oz. green juices daily, taking an herbal cleansing supplement, along with an antioxidant supp., and fiber. I did however eat “real” food as well, even chicken. I did it for about 8 weeks, as this was really meant to be a cleansing program, not a fast. I felt great, and people looked at me and said “wow, you’re glowing”. I should do it again… But think about this: how often do you clean your house? Once a year, 4 times a year? We should be eating and living in way that is constantly “cleansing” and nourishing our bodies. Not just say “hey, it’s March, I’m gonna detox again” – which is fine, but the maintenance all year long will leave you much better off – and you can detox on top of that obviously.
Dr. Rob D'Aquila
One more thing – a key that your detox is “getting ahead you” is if you don’t have much of an appetite – that says your liver and GI tract are busy and don’t want to be bothered processing more food and toxins.
Dr. Rob D'Aquila
As I said, this can be a never-ending discussion.
There are healthy vegetarians and vegans, yes – I just have yet to see them in my office, that’s where I’m coming from. I understand it’s doable for some.
There are also valid criticisms of the China Study.
Best in health,
Dr. Rob D’Aquila
Of course. But if you are seeing failed vegans, I’d sooner wonder if they were doing it correctly (many do not) than just tell them not to be vegans, or near vegans. Since it does work for many people, it’s possible that those it doesn’t work for aren’t doing it properly. Either not eating enough variety, or enough bulk. It can’t be a coincidence that everyone I know and read about who eats a proper whole natural, plant based diet is succeeding.
Regarding the China Study, all books and approaches have valid criticisms against them from somewhere. But for the most part T. Colin Campell has very compelling, thorough, and sophisticated research that has been validated in practice. I’m not saying meat shouldn’t pass someone’s lips. It’s not like being kosher. However, given the damaging components of animal products, whether lean/low fat or not, and considering that nearly everything humans need for optimal health can be gotten from plant sources that are devoid of the toxic attributes of meat and dairy, it makes sense, if one wants long term health, to eat as little as possible (with exceptions, of course. There are always exceptions).