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What my experience with the bodily phases of a juice cleanse was like, no details spared

By Harriet Piercy

May 8, 2021

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We’ve all, or at least the vast majority of us, had a day where our bodies just weren’t feeling ‘quite right’, and the temptation to start a full cleanse of the system beckons. In some cases, it is needed. That being said, you can do it very wrong and in turn hurt your gut. Our bodies are already cleansing, naturally detoxing machines, so with that in mind, let me tell you more about the benefits of cleansing when done the right way—or at least one that worked for me when I needed it. Bonus, I’m also here to warn you of what you need to be careful of when trying out a juice cleanse.

What is a juice cleanse, exactly?

Juice cleanses are a type of diet that involves you consuming just the liquid (juice) from fruits and vegetables for a few days—a lot of the time, the pulp (the fibre) is removed from the juice too. This means that all your energy is derived from the carbohydrates and sugars that remain in the juice, and that the nutrients flow straight into your bloodstream. This process has many pros and cons, and some of the cons completely weigh out the benefits.

Your body goes into fasting mode when there is a lack of external energy input. The reason behind many juice cleanses existing is to (bumper sticker alert) ‘lose weight’, ‘detox’ or ‘reset’. Effectively, this is correct information because your body will be burning off all that is already in your digestive system, especially during the first day—the first day will probably do you some good in this very measured sense. However, by fasting a little longer than needed, your body will slam the breaks on the pace of your metabolism (which is the process by which your body converts what you eat and drink into energy). This is not much of a good thing.

To first answer the questions that might be lingering: yes, you will lose weight (water weight at first, fat later), and yes, you will detox and reset your body, but timing is absolutely everything here. There is a function for fat in the body, and we need it, otherwise it would not exist. If you starve yourself of energy, which is exactly what a juice cleanse will do if you don’t do it properly by ingesting the nutrients your body needs, you will go into what is like hibernation in animals. Your body will store and ration the fat (which is energy), to keep you alive: survival mode, basically.

Maintaining a healthy and functioning metabolism requires our bodies to, for lack of a better word, ‘trust’ us. This can be a trigger topic for many people, so take this as my word of caution before I continue.

A juice cleanse is akin to yo-yo dieting, or starving yourself of nutrients and then bingeing later out of (I’m avoiding the emotional side to this) pure hunger. Through this starve/binge cycle, if done frequently enough, our bodies will lose trust in us. Fueling our bodies with energy is a pattern: ‘eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full’. A consistent pattern creates a smooth metabolism pace relating to energy burn (which happens when our bodies see fat as excess energy to burn off as not necessary storage space, as it expects more energy to be ingested later). So, as I said, timing is everything. A day cleanse is usually enough to reap the benefits without upsetting our metabolism, and what types of juices you consume have different purposes too.

In the next section, I will cover the different types of juices and their purposes, as well as my own experiences. There is space here to say that you must always, always consult a professional before you embark on any kind of ‘cleanse’, especially if you have underlying health issues. An influencer will probably have no substantial education on the whys or hows of physiology.

Different kinds of juice cleanses

Fruits and vegetables are high in the vitamins and minerals that our bodies need to survive, and juices are a great way to ingest these beautiful things. However, an apple juice for example, is pure sugar when stripped of its fibre (roughage). Fibre fuels digestion, providing regular bowel movements, but it also feeds your gut bacteria (and also forms short-chain fatty acids), which is arguably one of the most important systems in our body. These pre-biotics (fermentable fibre), meaning the food that feeds your pro-biotics (the bacteria), is fundamental to nourishing your colon wall, also known as your gut.

Celery juice on the other hand, with the pulp contained—essentially like a smoothie—is a great way to get in this dose of much needed fibre. Aloe vera juice (pulp always included please) also provides an incredibly gut-healing benefit. It is hydrating, but it also calms inflammation, which is a common root cause for all gut and health issues. A sunburn is inflamed skin. You’d typically slather aloe vera gel onto your skin. Drinking it does the same to soothe the inner inflammation too.

Deep leafy greens such as chard, spinach or kale just to name a few obvious ones, are a must include in a juice cleanse. They are full of antioxidants, but don’t remove the fibre. If you need sweetness, add blueberries, carrots, and if really needed: a sugary fruit for taste. Drink, (and generally as a rule of eating) the rainbow. Include every colour, they all have a different health target within our bodies. You can’t really go wrong if you drink and eat the rainbow.

That being said, keep the liquid fast to just one day, or even a morning. Our bodies naturally fast overnight, that is our regeneration and detox period already embedded into our lives. If we’ve had a boozy and heavy couple of weeks, it’s okay—eat breakfast a little later than normal, and eat supper a little earlier than normal for a couple of days, this is generally enough for our bodies to balance out again. If you do however want to incorporate juices, as they are easier to digest as it is simply a liquid, swap a breakfast with a rainbow juice (and pulp), and dinner for an unstrained and warming soup or broth.

So, as you can tell, I am not an advocate for juice cleanses, and there is not enough scientific evidence to support their benefits. Fasting for just a little longer than our eight hour resting time on the other hand, has been around for centuries, and it is mostly safe to do. That all being said, every few months or when I feel necessary, I myself will do an Aloe vera juice ‘cleanse’, for no longer than a day. Sometimes, this simply means drinking fresh Aloe vera alongside my normal meals. I feel it decreases any irritation in my digestive tract, soothes any pain or discomfort, and plugs any holes in my gut lining—otherwise known as leaky gut.

We have an extensive intestinal lining that covers more than 4,000 square feet of surface area—amazing, I know. When functioning properly, it forms a tight barrier that controls what gets absorbed into the bloodstream. An unhealthy gut lining may have large cracks or holes (leaky gut) which allows partially digested food, toxins, and bugs to penetrate the tissues beneath it, which results in an array of health problems. Make sure to, alongside soothing juices, eat as much fermented foods as you can. Your bacteria will be cleansing at the speed it needs to when fed with the good stuff. Trust them.