Green juice is all the rage and all I ever hear about is detox fasts with liquified veggies. In the film Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead the main character, Joe Cross, drinks nothing but juice for 60 days and loses a lot of weight and calms down his autoimmune skin condition. I think his results are wonderful but I think someone can get similar results without being hungry and drinking only juice.
When people start juicing they often report a feeling of euphoria and many find their poor health symptoms (such as rashes, bloating, constipation, gas, acne) are quickly alleviated. I believe this is because when people go on a juice fast they eliminate all the possible food allergens that they were previously consuming.
Most people are sensitive to dairy, wheat/gluten, soy, corn and other grains. People are also very often poisoning themselves with new substances like soybean, canola, and corn oil found in processed foods and at most restaurants. The removal of these food toxins will dramatically improve someones health, which is the same thing that happens on a juice fast along with some other unintended consequences.
Here are some common juicing pitfalls I see with my clients:
Blood Sugar Swings: Many people drink green juice as a meal replacement which may be okay if it is only done for one day as a temporary cleanse. The problem is that skipping fat and protein rich meals causes toxic blood sugar highs and lows. Blood sugar regulation is key to avoiding diabetes and may even be linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
Fruit Overload: Many people get carried away with fruit when they are juicing, which creates a concentrated source of sugar. Most juicers remove the pulp and fiber which speeds the delivery of the glucose and fructose. These juices made with carrots, pineapple, mango, papaya and bananas, for example can create a sugar rush. When the blood sugar crashes several hours later people are likely to search for more sugary treats defeating the purpose of the juice cleanse/fast in the first place.
Goitrogen Gangbusters: When certain raw vegetables are squeezed into juice some of their compounds can concentrate. When vegetables like kale, spinach, cabbage and collards are cooked some goitrogens are reduced. A overload of goitrogenic vegetables can interfere with iodine absorption and slow down thyroid function. If you eat these veggies in their whole form (not juiced) you will most likely not be able to consume massive quantities because the fiber will slow you down and fill you up.
Protein Priority: If you drink a green juice and have two eggs fried in grass fed butter with it, it will probably be fine, but that is not what I usually see my clients doing. Many people drink a green juice for breakfast then wonder why they couldn’t resist getting a burrito at lunch. The reason is this person didn’t actually have breakfast. Green juice is usually a combination of water, sugar, and some minerals and vitamins but it is lacking the protein and fats needed to feed our cells and make hormones. If you are in a rush add some protein to your juice with this great protein powder.
Forgotten Fiber: The fiber from green vegetables can feed the beneficial bacteria which helps motility. When someone is juicing most of the fiber is removed so they may miss out on some of the benefits. Some people keep the fiber when making green drinks such as in a Vita-Mix but that can cause problems too. Many people with compromised health like IBS or IBD are better able to digest well cooked vegetables in broth and soups like on the GAPS Diet and SCD diets.
Downstream Digestion: Digestion begins in the mouth when food is mixed with saliva, and some say it starts just from smelling/seeing food. Chewing cues stomach acid production and peristalsis. When someone is only having liquid food they may not send the right signals downstream to start digestion off right. If stomach acid is not released in sufficient amounts food will not get broken down and nutrients won’t be absorbed.
Unstable Moods: Skipping meals by only drinking juice can make people feel moody, tired, and hungry often sabotaging good dietary intentions. If we do not have the right fuel we will feel tense and irritable. Our brain needs plenty of protein for our neurons to make chemical endorphins that make us feel calm and happy. Blood sugar irregularities from a lack of quality animal protein put the body into fight or flight mode increasing depression and anxiety.
Acid/Alkaline Balance: You can’t talk about juicing without hearing about acid and alkaline balance. One of the main reasons people are acidic is that they eat too much sugar. It is not imperative to mainline juice to achieve an alkaline balance but it is important to reduce or eliminate inflammatory, hard to digest foods like grains/gluten, vegetable oils, pasteurized dairy, legumes and fructose. When people have a good proportion of leafy and crunchy vegetables, grass fed meats, fish, eggs and healthy fats they easily achieve alkalinity.
Critical Co-factors: Fruits and vegetables come in whole forms for a reason and they have evolved certain nutritional profiles that we have barely begun to understand. Why mess with perfection when we have no idea what we are doing? I just think when a vegetable is pulverized and the pulp is removed from the water there may be certain phytonutrients or natural co-factors that we will be missing. This is similar to the way we now understand that isolated and/or synthetic vitamins are not replacements for healthy foods.
The big reason I am a proponent of a Paleo diet is that it removes the common allergens that most people have problems with. These are same foods that most people eliminate on a juice fast which is why they see great results. By eating grass fed meats, pastured poultry, or wild fish and organic vegetables at every meal people can stabilize their mood, stamina and energy while allowing their body to heal and detox. If you decide to juice use it as a complement to your meals not as a replacement.
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