Remember that “This Is Your Brain on Drugs” PSA? The Partnership for a Drug Free America really scared the crap out of us with that one.
Fast-forward to a very health-conscious twenty-first century, and prepare for a different — but just as terrifying — wake-up call. Turns out, juice cleanses — which are supposed to be good for you — might be doing more harm than you think. (Cue bloodcurdling horror-film screams.)
First…let’s take a look at your body during a juice cleanse. Your liver is a very important part of the process — after all, it is the main organ that flushes toxins out of your system (here’s a helpful list of detoxifying foods). But when you’re on a juice cleanse, your liver doesn’t get the nutrients it needs to do its job well. Additionally, drinking a large volume of juice — especially if it has a high fruit content — also causes your blood sugar to spike, and then crash. End result: you’re just going to be hungry, tired, and cranky.
But when you’re on a juice cleanse, your liver doesn’t get the nutrients it needs to do its job well.
“While a green juice every now and then (one made without fruit!) can be a nice nutrient boost, juice cleanses are just that: juices, and not real food, which can leave you feeling hungry and cranky,” says Dr. Frank Lipman, a New York Times best-selling author and expert on all things cleansing and detoxifying. (If you don’t trust our judgment, he even works with a ton of celebs, including healthy lifestyle queen Gwyneth Paltrow and Maggie Gyllenhaal.)
On a juice cleanse, your gastrointestinal tract will suffer from a lack of nutrition, too. Juices don’t provide fiber, which is necessary to clear out the intestines and bind toxins to promote their elimination. Nor do they give you the digestive enzymes and antimicrobials (substances that will fight the bad bacteria that might be in your gut) that you need to keep your digestive system firing on all systems. Basically, a juice cleanse is like a nutrition-sapping train wreck for your body.
“The purpose of a detoxification program is primarily to support these organs of elimination so that toxins present in the body can be metabolized and excreted,” Dr. Lipman says, who also manufactures his own line of detox products called Be Well Cleanse Program. “An effective detox must not only address the toxins we eat, drink, breathe, and put on our bodies every day — but just as important — it MUST contain the specific ingredients needed to neutralize or eliminate the internal toxins the body creates as it performs its normal everyday functions.”
One of the keys to a good cleanse, according to Dr. Lipman, is to lower the amount of bad stuff going into our bodies — this is the deprivation part that we always associate with a cleanse. Foods that can irritate your system, like gluten, dairy, alcohol, caffeine, sugar, and processed foods, are the worst offenders.
At the same time, a successful cleanse also increases our bodies’ abilities to eliminate toxins. This includes decreasing the amount of food we eat, as well as providing the body with nutrients from whole foods, the occasional vegetable-based juice or powders. But you also need to get the fiber, digestive enzymes, and antimicrobials that we mentioned. You can consult a list of high-fiber foods, and the good stuff for your gut can be taken in the form of supplements.
Above all, tweaking your attitude about cleanses might make a world of a difference: It’s not supposed to be torture, but rather, a welcome reset of your body that will leave you feeling more energetic and less bloated, on top of improving your skin, digestive system, and sleep cycle. You might even come out of it with a few less pounds. You can read more about his method on his website.
“Remember that a good cleanse is not about deprivation or starvation. It’s an active process,” Dr. Lipman says. “It’s not just about juices or powders or pills, but equally about supporting yourself with fresh nourishing food to replenish your system.”