In the last few years, juicing companies have sprung up across Australia, and while many have added a cold-pressed veg juice to their morning routine, juice-only cleanses lasting several days have become popular too. Those in favour cite detoxification, weight loss, increased energy, improved digestion and clearer skin as some of the benefits of undertaking a cleanse, but as with any health-oriented diet, juice fasts have attracted their share of criticism – strain on the liver, high fructose and low fibre being the main concerns. So is going on a juice cleanse going to deliver what you need?
“A juice works to flood your system with nutrients, while giving your digestive system a break,” says naturopath, nutritionist and herbalist Kirsten Shanks from Orchard Street (orchardstreet.com.au), which supplies a range of naturopath-designed cleanses including juices, smoothies and kefir water. Shanks’ business uses organic produce and the cold-pressed method to extract its juice. “As there is no insoluble fibre in cold-pressed juice, this means your body doesn’t have to work as hard to break down the cellulose to extract the nutrients, thus the bioavailability of the nutrients is increased, so they then efficiently absorbed into your system,” she says. “A juice cleanse is not simply a quick fix, it goes hand in hand with a clean, healthy lifestyle.”
Naturopath Kelly Epskamp (earlyhealth.com.au) cautions that many juice-only cleanses lack the fat and nutrients our liver needs to do its job properly. “The liver needs nutrients to detox. It detoxes in two phases and it needs different vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, antioxidants, and amino acids – it functions better with food,” she says.
Common symptoms while on a juice cleanse can include headaches, diarrhoea, nausea, rashes, pimples, flatulence and bloating. These are a result of toxins stored in the system being released into the bloodstream. “Generally the chemicals we are exposed to are stored in our system in fat, sometimes for years, and yes they are released in a cleanse, but they are released in a rush. That is what causes the nausea. It’s good to support the liver but not in a rapid fashion. You can support it every day through food,” Epskamp says.
“Brief fasts done a few times a year are a great way to cleanse the body and improve overall health and wellbeing,” says Saimaa Miller from The Last Resort (thelastresort.com.au). Miller is an advocate for daily inclusion of vegetable juices so as to boost nutrient intake. “In this day and age where part and parcel of living in a city is running around like a head-less chicken, having liquids either as a meal-replacement or a snack is a great way to make sure you are not impairing digestion by guzzling your food down whilst on the run. If you suffer from digestive problems, it's likely you are not absorbing and assimilating nutrients from your food. Juicing is a fast and effective way to ensure your body still receives these essential nutrients as they are partially broken.”
Allowing your digestive system some rest is a good thing, however only existing on juices for extended periods can place other organs such as the liver under strain. As always, the moderate path is best: add fresh, cold pressed, veg-heavy juices into a healthy food-based diet and boost your nutrient intake.
“Start at the basics - it’s not sexy but it is how the body works. The liver needs fat, and in a juice-only fast there is no fat. Your liver needs good fats. Drinking two litres of water and eating your 2 and 5 is cheaper and a long term solution for your liver. It filters your blood – don’t stuff it around.” – Kelly Epskamp, Early Health
How to juice right
“Pack your juices full of vegetables. Dark, leafy greens first, then add veggies like beetroot, carrot, cabbage and celery. To avoid disrupting blood sugar levels choose fruits with low-fructose such as green apple, kiwi and pear. Throw in alfalfa, coriander, parsley, mint, kelp, ginger and garlic for their detoxifying properties. For an extra boost add oils such as flaxseed oil, omega 3 oil or Udo's oil blend. Psyllium husks are also a great way to add fibre to your juice to help clean the digestive tract and help build immunity.” - Saimaa Miller, The Last Resort