What Is A Cleanse, Anyway?

If you're planning on embarking on a juice cleanse, get ready to drink a lot of liquids.

Imagine a flat stomach, overall weight loss, clear headedness, great skin, a general feeling of lightness and well-being—all while purifying your body of decades of built-up toxic poisons. While this list may sound like a miracle recipe for every ailment under the sun, they are simply common results promised from a juice cleanse, fast or detox.

The basic idea of a juice cleanse is to relieve your body from the stress of digesting food, while consuming increased levels of vitamins and minerals from fresh-pressed fruits and vegetables.

Both Immediate And Long-Term Potential Benefits

Cleanse enthusiasts believe toxin overload is to blame for much of the stress our bodies face. From pollutants in the air to unfiltered drinking water, your body takes in harmful chemicals daily. While the body is an expert filtration machine, some hardcore cleansing gurus believe the kidneys, liver and intestines are overworked due to the increase of environmental toxins in modern society.

Their fear is that toxic build-up will lead to inflammation and a weaker immune system, making people more susceptible to chronic illnesses like headaches, arthritis, asthma, heart disease and cancer. Though there is significant debate over these claims and substantial controversy surrounding the efficacy of juice cleanses, a reasonable short term program is typically harmless.

General Recommendations

Cleanses vary by program (and there are several to choose from), but here are a few general recommendations to follow:

  • Although the benefits may seem like a saving grace whenever needed—especially after a night of heavy drinking or a long slog of holiday buffets—they are most commonly recommended in warmer weather or during seasonal climate changes, in order to regulate physiological changes with environmental ones.
  • Expect to drink around 64 ounces of juice per day, along with an equal amount of water.
  • Prepare to gradually enter and exit the fast by eliminating foods like dairy, grains and meat beforehand, and gradually introducing them back in afterwards. During the fast, expect to rotate between fruit and vegetable juices, though occasionally nut milks will be added for protein.
  • Most detoxes are less than a week, though some claim benefits can be achieved in as little as a day.
  • Put that OJ away! Citrus is not typically recommended for juice fasts, and grapefruit juice can affect certain medications, so it’s best to avoid them altogether.

You can expect to lose some weight by cleansing, but not for long. Most of the weight lost is water weight, which will return once you start eating full meals again, making it an ineffective crash diet. There are also some negative side effects, including hunger (duh), dizziness, fainting and serious medication interactions. Fasts should be completely avoided by breastfeeding and pregnant women.

Widespread Interest And Accessibility

No longer restricted to the spiritual domain of devout yogis, cleanses have become popular in mainstream culture, adopted by everyone from housewives to Hollywood starlets. Many celebrities turn to juice fasts for weight loss and other health benefits, and some even produce their own version; like Gwyneth Paltrow’s controversially successful Goop Cleanse, touted by physicians as having the efficacy of “snake oil.”

With its place secured among the masses, cleanses show no sign of fading away anytime soon. Whether or not they actually work, well, that’s for you to decide.

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