Mythbusters: Do juice cleanses actually work?

It’s been said (and disproven, in a previous issue of the Courier) that an apple a day keeps the doctor away. But, is the same true if you take an abundance of apples, juice them all up and then attempt to solely survive on their liquid for weeks at a time?

Dating back to around 150 BC, the process of juicing fruits has been around for quite some time. In its earliest form, people would crush-up the insides of pomegranates in order to provide them with a little extra strength. In contemporary society, however, juice cleanses are mainly used as an alternative to hard exercise and eating your veggies.

“Most juice cleanses on the market claim that they do wonders for your health, weight and sometimes even mental state”

Most juice cleanses on the market claim that they do wonders for your health, weight and sometimes even mental state, but is it actually true?

A typical cleanse normally consists of drinking an array of different juices over the course of three to ten days. In that time, you eat no solid food. That means no burgers, no crisps – no nothing. If that doesn’t sound awful enough, companies can charge up to £60 for a three day cleanse… That’s £20 a day to ingest nothing but juice!

Commercially, one of the main selling points to juice cleanses is that they rid your body of toxins, resetting your digestive system. Except there isn’t a great deal of scientific evidence that supports this claim. It is true that your body creates harmful byproducts (or toxins) on a daily basis. Ammonia, for example, is created when bacteria in the intestines break down proteins. But the body has its own neat filtration system that deals with toxins such as ammonia regardless of the quantity of bitter tasting juice you stick in your body. As ammonia is created, your liver and kidneys get to work, converting the toxins into urea which you then empty into the toilet. Drinking juice for a few days isn’t going to make your kidney or liver clear out anything extra in your body that it isn’t already doing on its own.

Another misconception about the human body often depicted in juice cleanses is that your digestive system is in dire need of a good cleaning out. They make your intestine sound like a blocked hoover pipe that can only be returned to its natural state through an intense week of diarrhoea washed down with a few glasses of water. But the human plumbing system doesn’t quite work like that. Waste constantly moves through a healthy digestive system in a process that can take between 24 and 72 hours. After your body is done absorbing what it can along the way, the rest ends up as poo. When you juice, the lack of fibre in your diet can leave your bowel movements… a little runny (pardon the image). But, that doesn’t mean it’s cleaning out a layer of gunk stuck to the inside of your body; it just means your body can’t take in any more of the nutrients you’ve given it and has to get rid.

Juicing can also lead to physical problems in day to day life. If you’re lucky on a juice cleanse, you’ll perhaps take in around 1000 calories a day. Often, however, you’re limited to far less than that amount. When juicing, the process of creating the juice removes fibre from the food that you’re about to put in your body. Fibre naturally slows the body’s uptake of sugar, meaning that your blood sugar level stays at a much more consistent level. The removal of fibre from your diet, paired with the low calorie intake that juicing encourages, can lead to dizzying blood sugar spikes followed by huge crashes that leave the body feeling exhausted. Whilst the claim that this low calorie diet can lead to increased weight loss can be true, you’re more than likely to pile back on the pounds when the juicing stops.

So please, take a minute to look at the science behind juicing before diving head first into a week of carrot juice induced cleansing. That way, you might not end up literally flushing a shit ton of money down the toilet for nothing.

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