To Detox or Not to Detox... Just Don’t
Note: Detox and cleanse are interchangeable. Any variation of these words that you have seen all generally mean and intend on doing the same thing, no matter how complex they appear or claim to be. If this is a point of debate then it is a topic for a different time and place. Enjoy!
Q: Would you recommend a juice cleanse to people? Why/why not
A: If the goal is to starve for days, pay for extremely over-priced juice, experience wild hormonal mood swings, abnormal sleeping patterns, strange bowel movements, and lose a ton of water and muscle without any of the benefits that it claims to have then yes, I would highly recommend this diet to them (just kidding!). It appears that most juice cleanse programs come from claims that it is a great way to "cleanse" or "rid" the body of "toxins" and clear up any "junk" in your system. That just simply isn't the case, and it certainly isn’t that easy either. The body has an amazing system that does this already and, believe it or not, it comes free when you’re born! I'm talking about the LIVER. The organ that filters the alcohol that we drink, since it doesn't get utilized by the body whatsoever, is the same organ working diligently to keep you alive if you accidentally drink contaminated water or chemicals. This organ works double-overtime, 24/7, to keep you free of any toxins floating maliciously in your blood. So a "juice cleanse" is essentially assuming someone's liver isn't functioning correctly, because we apparently have “so many toxins”, in which case it is a much safer, and smarter, decision to go to an emergency room. Well then how about claims that it can clean up junk in the colon? Want to know a cheaper and more efficient solution? High fiber, low GI veggies and grains! They are much more efficient in providing and promoting gut health and are relatively inexpensive. This solution also applies to tea cleanse, pill cleanse, [insert next popular diet craze/fad] cleanse, etc.
Q: What are some negatives to juice cleansing
A: To start, they really aren't high in calories at all. A major goal of such a low daily calorie intake of liquids is to obviously cause weight loss, which can and will much happen, but this isn't the weight loss most people are looking for. It is very easy to lose water weight, which is essentially losing muscle if done for too long. Unfortunately fat loss is a much longer, arduous process. This is why dieting to lose fat takes time, because it is a very METABOLIC process. Take this for example, let's say hypothetically you need to consume about 2000 calories to maintain your weight for the amount of daily activity that you do. Most juice cleansing programs would only provide a fraction of those calories. By doing this cleanse, your metabolism will take a toll. It is comparable to driving 60 mph and suddenly stepping on the brakes to a mere 15 mph. Your metabolism will be taking a HUGE hit from that drop in calories. Likewise, what do you do when your boat starts to sink? Natural instinct says you toss the easy-to-access items overboard, while keep the essentials to keep you afloat long enough until you reach land. Physiologically, my analogy is referring to losing muscle and water (from using up all your glycogen stores) and preserving the more sustainable energy to survive, which is fat. This is why losing fat is such a metabolic process. Your body is trying to survive. Sure, you might lose a few pounds from doing this but you still won't look the way you want and you're sure as hell aren't going to feel better by the end of it. To make matters even worse, when you come back to reality and begin introducing normal food again, your weight will come right back. Any “positive” effects you may believe you're feeling are most likely a placebo effect or a misunderstanding of your body’s natural warning signs (hormonal imbalances, insomnia, loss of appetite, etc).
Consuming such a low daily caloric amount of nutrients also means you'll be pretty deficient of essential nutrients you would otherwise get from eating a normal balanced diet. People struggling with diabetes, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and other food/health related issues would suffer even more possibly life-threatening and irreversible damage from such a diet/cleanse (if it is prolonged). It's bad enough that a majority of the average American diet is somewhat deficient in essential nutrients, a prolonged cleanse would only exacerbate the problem. Other issues including hormonal mood swings, abnormal sleeping patterns and bowel movements are signs of a larger problem (such as ones I had just provided above). Some cleanse programs require you to buy their products, but let's say you buy your own products (fruits, veggies, etc) and do it yourself. That's absolutely fine, but if that is all you will be consuming you still run into the same issue of an extremely underwhelming amount of calories that you would still suffer from one of the issues listed above, in some way shape or form of it.
Remember the last time you had a shake and it gave you a stomach ache? Liquids are very easy to consume and pass through the gut quite fast. Food and liquids that do not get absorbed properly and pass through the colon too quickly will result in a watery bowel movement, also known as diarrhea. Although a simple remedy would be to slow down your consumption, your chances of diarrhea (which in all cases is harmful to the body) does increase if liquids are the only food consumed, especially over time.
Q: Why is it so popular/why do people think it's such a good idea?
A: It comes down to false medical/scientific claims, convenience, advertisement, and ignorance. A product appears much more trustworthy and effective if it is endorsed by Dr.[insert possible German last name] and celebrities, backed by “transformation photos”, and the fact that it is super convenient (because who wouldn't want to just drink their way to a perfect body without having to take the time to actually watch what they are eating, or even chew for that matter). I invite you to ask someone who has “cleansed” before on how their experience was. If you listen very closely to them I guarantee you, somewhere deep inside the dark abyss of how amazing the cleanse "worked", is a very faint yet audible cry for help. Or a giant SOS smoke signal. One of the two...
Q: What are some alternatives besides a juicing detox diet
A: At this point it seems like I strongly oppose cleanses. I do... but hold on! That's not to say that the most general idea of it can't be broken down and made useful in some form. So long as it coincides with a full and balanced nutrition, some juice recipes can be used as great nutrient boosters for those lacking in vitamins and minerals (think V8 juice). There's absolutely nothing wrong with drinking homemade juice from blended veggies and fruits that you bought and prepared from a local produce market to add to your diet. I’m against the idea that you'd be living on a scientifically unproven approach of consuming ONLY potentially expensive cleanse products for days, with the intention that it's going to solve and rid all your problems, ailments, and toxins. There are no alternatives to a bad idea if it all points to the same direction. The best alternatives will always be effective methods of developing strong food relationships and habits, utilizing daily guidelines and information based on scientifically proven results, and simply putting the hard work into what really matters: Progress.
Written by:Schweitzer Hsu