Juice cleanses: whether or not you're converted to the supposed benefits of ditching food for days on end, in exchange for liquid fruit and veg, one thing that's for certain is our fascination with them. We grilled Dr Andrew Thornber, Chief Medical Officer at Now Patient, with over 20 years’ experience, as to whether or not going on a juice detox diet is really a good – or safe – idea, and if it's a successful way to lose weight. Here's what we discovered...
What is a juice cleanse?
A juice cleanse is where a person commits to not eating solid food for a day, or multiple days, at a time in order to gain supposed health benefits – your calorie intake will be well below the Recommended Daily Allowance, too. PRESS London say their juice cleanses are a great way to break bad eating habits and kickstart a healthier lifestyle, while boosting energy levels, skin and offering positive weight loss for some. "We believe they're the perfect reset and chance to flood the body with nutrients," says George Phillips, Operations Manager at PRESS London.
"Many detox or juice diets are also based on the idea that toxins build up in the body and can be removed by eating, or not eating, certain things," explains Dr Thornber. "However, while there's no evidence that toxins build up in our bodies, juices could help improve digestion by introducing healthy enzymes that make the gut work more efficiently." He says they're safe to do for a day or two, but he doesn't advise sacrificing solid food for any longer than that.
And the medical verdict on the weight loss front?
"Juice diets may lead to short-term weight loss, but by restricting calories you’re limiting certain nutrients, which isn’t good for your health. They are basically like a short term fast," says Dr Thornber, whilst stressing that those with kidney disorders ought to steer clear of drinking large quantities of juice, as they may contain oxalate (an acid that can contribute to kidney stones and other problems).
How long should you go on a juice cleanse for?
While many juice cleanse companies sell packages ranging from one day up to a week, Dr Thornber advises no more than two days (and if you have any concerns at all, consulting your own GP beforehand).
Will juice cleansing help when you're sick?
It's probably not a good idea to do a cleanse when you’re ill. "Your body needs all its energy to heal itself and a cleanse doesn’t do this," explains Dr Thornber. "If you do, it could take longer to recover, leaving you feeling sluggish and tired."
Can you exercise while on a juice cleanse?
Both Dr Thornber and PRESS London say that gentle exercise is okay, but taking a HIIT class mid-cleanse is not advisable. "Exercise can kickstart the natural detox process as it flushes out the lungs and cleanses the skin as we work up a sweat," says Dr Thornber. "Swap running for a low impact walk and take it easier in the gym than you usually would. However, if at any point you feel dizzy or weak, listen to your body and stop." Noted.