They're called many different things like Juice Fast, Detox, and Master Cleanse. Believed to rid the body of toxins and impurities left behind by a normal diet, these juice fast programs replace food with juices for an extended amount of time, typically 3-7 days. Some swear an occasional detox is the way to feel healthier, more energetic, and jump-start weight loss. I've been doing juice fasts myself for over 10 years, and it wasn't until I spoke with my own doctor and did a little research of my own that I realized the labels on the fasts or a blip on the internet don't tell you everything.
Debating the pros and cons of fasting aside, there are some actual biological responses your body has to these regimens that you may not know about, or may not be addressed in literature that accompanies a detox diet. Here are five facts you should know about what a juice fast does to the body.
From the first sip, you're only tricking your brain
The fructose or other simple sugars in a fast are telling your brain that you are full and trigger your pancreas to increase insulin production, causing rapid spikes in your blood sugar. Veggie based juices are just as bad. The fast is really only programming your body to function on the glucose schedule it's providing. Be aware of this if you are at risk for diabetes, as dramatic shifts in blood sugar can be dangerous.
You can start to lose muscle mass after just two days
As you burn through your immediate energy reserves on a juice fast because you aren't getting enough calories, your body starts to burn its glycogen stores. It starts to burn fat cells such as triglycerides, but pretty quickly heads straight for the protein in your lean muscle mass, causing you to lose muscle. Even if you keep working out every day during your detox, your body will still burn muscle mass to stay nourished.
Lack of protein during detox can also trigger depression
If you're being treated for or suffered from depression in the past, you might want to check with your doctor before embarking on a cleanse. Juices do not contain the protein and amino acids necessary to keep the neurotransmitters nourished to balance your mood. Starving these transmitters can trigger depressive symptoms or mood swings.
Fasting is hard on your kidneys
As the energy stores in your body are broken down for energy, chemicals like uric acid and ammonia enter your blood stream at higher levels, requiring your kidneys to work harder to filter them out. This can be dangerous to those who have had kidney problems in the past, and can also trigger sever kidney problems for those who may not know they have issues.
Detoxing can cause intestinal issues to flare
Diarrhea is a major side effect of fasting, which can lead to intestinal issues and dehydration. This is caused by the extra carbohydrate load creating more water to enter the intestines, as well as the smooth muscle of the small intestine beginning to atrophy as the body becomes depleted. If you suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Crohn's Disease, or other intestinal issues, you might want to see your doctor before trying a fast.
It's always best to be as informed as possible about a detox or juice fast program before you begin. As with any new diet or fitness program, it's always a good idea to check in with your doctor and get the 'all clear' to make sure you don't experience any adverse side effects. There are risks and benefits to a detox plan, but it's important to know what's best for you.
Also By This Contributor: