A juice cleanse is a type of diet that involves consuming only juices from vegetables and fruits.

Fruit and vegetable juices are high in nutrients and can play a crucial role in balanced diets. Some people believe that only consuming these juices for a period can help “cleanse” the system and provide various health benefits.

Key points about juice cleanses:

  • Advocates claim that juice cleanses can help remove toxins from the body and aid weight loss.
  • There is insufficient evidence to support the benefit of juice-based diets.
  • Research has linked liquid diets with an increased risk of serious health complications and eating disorders.

Juice cleanses usually involve consuming only juice for a certain period. Many juice-based diets last less than 2 weeks. However, some programs may last longer.

However, regardless of length, juice diets are dangerous, and a person should only consume a liquid-only diet under medical supervision.

This article will discuss the science behind juice cleanses.

Eating disorders can severely affect the quality of life of people living with these conditions and those close to them. Early intervention and treatment greatly improve the likelihood of recovery.

Anyone who suspects that they or a loved one has an eating disorder can contact the National Eating Disorder Association for advice and support via:

  • phone or text at 800-931-2237
  • online chat, by going to this link

These services are only open during specific hours. Someone in crisis can text “NEDA” to 741741 at any time to get support from a trained volunteer at Crisis Text Line.

Alternatively, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) run a Disaster Distress Helpline that people can contact on 800-985-5990 for 24-7 support.

Many other resources are available, including:

There are several risks linked to juice cleanses, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.

  • Cleansing diets are usually low in calories. A reduced calorie intake may result in temporary weight loss, but this change is rarely long-lasting.
  • Consuming an insufficient number of calories can cause a person to experience symptoms relating to low blood sugar because the body does not have enough energy. Examples of these symptoms include fainting, weakness, dehydration, headaches, and hunger.
  • A person on a juice cleanse may not consume enough proteins or fats. Both of these are crucial to physical health, healing, and brain function. Eliminating food groups for extended periods may also lead to malnourishment.
  • If a person consumes juices that are unpasteurized or have not had another treatment to remove bacteria, they are at greater risk of illness. This is especially true for very young and older people as well as those with weakened immune systems.
  • If a juice cleanse includes laxatives or other methods of bowel stimulation, a person could lose too many nutrients in their stool. This can lead to dehydration and imbalanced electrolytes.

A person should also be wary of pre-packaged juice cleanses that promise significant results, such as reversing diseases or providing dramatic health benefits. There is usually a lack of research to support these claims.

Kidney health

Many fruits and vegetables are rich in nutrients that can assist in the good working of the kidneys. Increasing fluid consumption can also be beneficial for kidney function.

However, some foods are high in oxalate, a compound that can increase a person’s risk of kidney problems when consumed in high quantities. Foods high in oxalate include spinach and beets.

People living with chronic kidney disease may be at risk of oxalate nephropathy. In rare cases, healthy people may also be at risk of this.

Oxalate nephropathy is a condition in which the body cannot excrete enough oxalate through urine, causing it to build up in kidney tissue. In rare cases, this can cause kidney failure.

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Advocates of juice cleanses claim that they can help remove toxins from a person’s body and aid in weight loss. Toxins are harmful substances, such as pollutants and synthetic chemicals.

Weight loss

Studies have shown the weight loss from juice-based diets to be “physiologically harmful” to participants. Researchers have also observed links between liquid diet trends and eating disorders.

In a 2017 study, researchers asked 20 healthy participants to consume only six bottles of different juices a day for 3 days. The juices contained various ingredients, such as greens, apples, cucumbers, lemon, cayenne pepper, and vanilla bean.

After the fast, the participants lost an average of 1.7 kilograms (kg), or 3.75 pounds (lb). At a follow-up 2 weeks later, their weight remained 0.91 kg, or 2.01 lb, lower on average. The participants did not report increased well-being levels at the end of the 3 days.

However, a 2017 review found that while juice cleanses may cause initial weight loss due to calorie restriction, they will lead to overall weight gain once a person resumes a full, healthful diet.

Gut bacteria changes

A brief juice cleanse can affect the bacteria levels in a person’s digestive system.

In the same 2017 study, researchers also found that the juice cleanse increased the amounts of Bacteroidetes, bacteria associated with weight loss, and decreased amounts of Firmicutes, bacteria associated with weight gain.

While these substances can harm health, the human body is adept at removing them naturally. There is insufficient evidence to support the use of detoxification diets in eliminating toxins from the body, according to a 2014 review.

Detoxification

Advocates of juice cleanses often claim that the programs can help remove toxins from a person’s system.

An increase in fluid consumption can help kidney function, and some nutritional compounds may help in the removal of non-organic waste products in the body. However, there is insufficient evidence to suggest that juice cleanses or other detoxification diets impact the ability to remove toxins.

Consuming a balanced diet and drinking plenty of fluids is the best way to support the body’s natural detoxifying functions.

A person should only adhere to juice cleanses, or restricted liquid diets, under medical supervision.

Juice cleanse supporters may recommend different types of programs, such as:

  • drinking only juices and liquids for several days
  • consuming juices in combination with dietary supplements
  • combining juices with procedures that “cleanse” the colon, such as enemas or colonic irrigation
  • drinking juices alongside specific diets as a means of promoting weight loss

Examples of some of the juice blends that the Scientific Reports study used include:

  • apple, cucumber, celery, romaine lettuce, lemon, spinach, kale, and parsley
  • apple, lemon, ginger, and beet
  • apple, pineapple, lemon, and mint
  • filtered water, cayenne, lemon, almonds, dates, sea salt, and vanilla bean

Drinking six of these juice combinations daily provided an intake of 1,310 calories per day.

There is insufficient evidence to assess the efficacy of juice cleanses. Someone wishing to lose or maintain a healthy weight and support their body’s natural processes can try the following alternatives:

  • Intermittent fasting: This involves abstaining from eating for limited periods and eating a regular diet at other times. Reviews have linked intermittent fasting with weight loss and improvements in insulin sensitivity.
  • Balanced diet: Eating a balanced diet and staying adequately hydrated are the best ways to maintain a healthful weight and support the body’s removal of toxins.
  • Plant-based diets: Based on minimally processed foods, these diets are naturally rich in fruit and vegetables and are associated with reduced body weight. With good planning, a plant-based diet can provide all the nutrients necessary for good health, may lower the risk of heart disease, and typically has a lower environmental impact than diets including animal products.

Learn more about nutrition and diets here.

Juice cleanses are controversial in the medical community because they do not usually offer long-term weight loss or wellness solutions. Most experts will recommend a balanced, healthful diet instead.

The evidence to support the possible benefits of juicing tends to be anecdotal. There appears to be more evidence suggesting that a juice cleanse can negatively impact the body, for example, by reducing kidney function.

Before starting a juice cleanse, people should speak with their doctor to find out if they need to amend their juicing plan in order to protect their overall health.