Cellular repair, cleansed colon, tissues and blood, balanced body ph level, release of bound toxins (like heavy metals), increase in energy levels and brain function, strengthened immunity, weight loss, enhanced liver function, shiny hair and clear skin, general feelings of revitalization & invigoration etc…are just some of the perks you can expect following a serious juice fast cleanse. I know, because I tout them all the time as a professional juicer and an avid health nut. But the reality is that the process of detoxification is far from revitalizing or shiny, and can have you lying with your pounding head in your hands wondering ‘why on earth did I decide to do this?’
The days on a juice fast can be some of the longest days of your life. Think elementary school math class, gawking at the clock, shifting in your not so ergonomically adjusted chair, multiplied by 5… and then squared. You’re just watching time go by wishing a sandwich would somehow magically materialize in your hands. The act of purposefully depriving yourself of solid warm food requires tenacious resolve and immense psychological discipline. Not to mention feels seemingly counterintuitive to one’s basal impulse to survive. And in truth, humans are supposed to eat; physically consume, masticate, and assimilate nutrients from live, whole foods. The process of eating ignites a slew of physiological mechanisms that both prepare and assist the body with gleaning nutrients, converting energy, and eliminating toxins. Saliva secretion stimulates digestion, which signals intestinal movement (aka toxin excretion via bowel movements) to make room for new food, and allows for the proper absorption of inward bound nutrient compounds into the bloodstream. Yet, by that same standard, humans are both built and made to fast also.
Fasting has a long history in our homo-sapien existence. Integral to our physiological design which caters towards a ‘feast and famine’ subsistence, abstinence from food is a custom readily encountered in ancient religious and medical works dating back beyond the oath of Hippocrates. Still today fasting maintains relevance in current medical practice, particularly in Ayurvedic and alternative medicine as a means of rejuvenating the body and human psyche. It has been deemed both therapeutic and healing, allowing the body to reset and cleanse itself. Metabolically, fasting enables the state of gluconeogenesis whereby glucose is made from our own body’s proteins, muscle tissue and fatty acids in order to maintain blood sugar levels during times of low carbohydrate intake (this is the idea behind the crazed ketosis diet). As fatty acids get converted and broken down, stored contaminants like persistent organic pollutants (POP’s) get mobilized and are given the chance to be eliminated from the body by the liver. FYI, our body’s store poisonous toxins in fat as a means of protecting us from their detrimental harm. The process of breaking down fat stores facilitates weight loss and lessens toxic body burden including the release of deep contaminants that have been stored within tissues for decades. Fat metabolism also increases human growth hormone (HGH) which is responsible for cellular protection (tissue and DNA repair) and skeletal muscle hypertrophy (body building). Fasting has equally been associated with enhanced insulin activity and the decrease of free radicals both which contribute towards the prevention of aging and disease.
So what’s the deal with juice fasting?
The idea is that withholding solid food from the body allows the digestive system to take a much needed vacation (Ola from Puerto Rico!) and to conserve vital energy which can be better rerouted to cleaning up damaged areas and eliminating wastes. Hours after a meal has been ingested, the human digestive system is still working fiercely at breaking it down, and distributing it’s compounds- meaning that if you are eating 3-4 meals/day, depending on what foods you are eating, your system could very well be slaving away for the entire day! Juicing-with fresh untainted fruits and vegetables-can compliment a fast by supplying nutrients and new energy to the body without dispensing any of the conserved energy! Due to a lack of fiber, fresh juices migrate directly to the bloodstream where they can be quickly picked up and utilised by the body in the form of vitamins and minerals-no breakdown required! Juicing also boosts immunity by providing a much larger influx of nutrients than you would normally intake in one sitting (you can drink 20 carrots but who the hell’s eating 20 carrots?!) which helps you stay healthy and feel vital!
There are many schools of thought and opinions surrounding the concept of juice fasting and the ideal length of time etc., which I won’t really get into for the purposes of this article. However I will say that even short duration juice fasts can offer benefits, be it even 1 day every 2 weeks! 24 hours is not enough time to really detoxify at the cellular level, but it does provide your digestive system some zen time and helps eliminate some unwanted impacted waste matter!
So if fasting and juice cleansing are so great for us, why do we feel like shit doing it?
Headaches, stomach aches, dizziness, brain fog, nausea, acne, body odor and bad breath, fatigue, coldness, irritability, diarrhea, constipation, and muscle pains…although this sounds like the onset of death, or at the very least an ad for some new fandangle pharmaceutical quasi-drug, it’s really just the list of potential ‘ detox symptoms’ juice fasting can reap on our bodies. Discomfort is a sign that toxins are being wrenched from their warm nestled homes in your tissues and organs, and being pushed into the bloodstream for elimination by the liver, kidneys, lungs and skin. In fact, the faster you experience detox symptoms, the more toxic you tend to be!
Mobilized and floating toxins put added stress on the body’s organs of elimination and are often accompanied by very unpleasant withdrawal symptoms that cause you to feel all forms of horrible. As your body systems slowly work to break down released contaminants, their presence in the body, albeit temporary, causes irritation and distress. It’s natural to experience cravings as your body yearns for substances that will put a stop to the detox. Much like how greasy food works to lessen a hangover, intake of craved food, for instance, will cause a detox to halt midway as energy gets prioritized towards digestion and new incoming toxins. For the record, and in this context, a ‘toxin’ is considered anything that provides no value, nutritional or otherwise, to the human body, causes potential damage, and/or requires the body to dispense precious energy to protect itself.
Once juice fasting begins, your digestive tract focuses on purging residual stool. Fresh juices act as natural laxatives, and you may experience diarrhea or expel built up mucous lining the intestinal tract. Increased mucous coating on our intestinal wall is associated with diets in refined inflammatory foods (pasteurized dairy, sugar, white flour etc.). Fun fact: dark, dense stool is a sign of toxicity! Hunger pangs can be an issue, as the digestion is still occurring to work out any lingering waste. For this reason, enemas are commonly performed in conjunction with a juice protocol. (Disclaimer-enemas are not for everyone, and need to be effected safely).
Acne is a common occurrence with juice fasting, and is basically a sign that toxins are being expelled through your skin. We tend to overlook the fact that the skin is the largest organ of elimination, and that acne can be a result of our bodies trying to lessen our inner toxic loads, rather than our exogenous ones. Bad breath and body odor work in the same fashion, signalling that contaminants, and their pungent fermented by-products, are working their way out through available orifices. Another major indicator of healing is muscle pain, which is associated with tissue repair. Fasting increases the body’s remarkable healing capabilities! The less energy expended towards the drudgery of digestion and assimilation, the more there is to be directed towards cellular repair! And in fact, this is the WHOLE point of why you would willingly and deliberately choose to endeavour a solid-food-free existence for any noteworthy amount of time…to trigger inner repair and boost vitality! But please!-understand that amid acclaimed promises of juice cleanse benefits (of which there are many), a purified body often comes at the unfavourable and momentary cost of feeling, and looking, like cr#%p!