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Juice Cleanses: Detoxify or Big Lie?

in YD News


Uh oh. Before you drop another month’s rent on a juice cleanse, you might want to watch this video. Juice cleanses are all the rage lately especially with the wellness/yoga lot, and it being spring and all, everyone wants to purge their toxins by stopping eating all together and consuming only liquified produce. Some may say this is a healthy time out, while others may say it’s a mask for an eating disorder. Now, hold on green police, juices, in and of themselves aren’t so bad — they can be super yummy and nutritious, unless you’re piling on lots of fruity sugars — but what about this detoxifying cleansing thing? Do you really rid yourself of toxins this way? What are those toxins, anyway? Is cleansing healthy? Sarah Court wants to clear that up for you.

Sarah is a IAYT Yoga Therapist and yoga teacher working towards doctorate in physical therapy. She appears to be a what we’d call a body, movement and nutrition nerd who enjoys learning the ins and outs of our humanness. What she has to say about juice cleansing may shock some of you, frustrate others, and confirm for others, still, what their inner skeptic has been hinting at all along. What’s the deal with juice cleanses? Detoxify or big lie?

Sarah’s final advice? Take the hundreds or thousands of dollars you would have spent on a juice cleanse and go see a registered dietician or nutritionist who’s studied science and biochemistry, not at Jamba Juice University, and work together with them to figure out the best plan for you. Eat whole foods and make healthy choices on a regular basis. Also, move around. A lot. And sometimes just eat the damn cookie and have a good time. Or, hey, just eat ice cream for a week.

Here’s some further reading on the subject:

[Via Fascia Freedom Fighters]

image via The Blonde Vegan



23 comments… add one
  • Scott

    Just my $0.02, but it seems to me Sarah is saying that she can’t think of a reason a juice cleanse would work, and cleansing is going on with or without juice, therefore it’s not doing any good.

    I think people, aside from wishful thinking (and being gullible, as in following a trend because everyone else is doing it), tend to be fast and loose with language. So, one might experience something from taking juice for a while, it feels great, they feel like they’ve been cleansed, and so that’s what they call it. Then a skeptic like Sarah comes along, addresses the specific claim of cleansing, and finds it lacking as an explanation, without really addressing why the person feels so good. And of course if this doesn’t make you feel really good, I don’t know why someone would do it.

    For example, I’ve taken a 36 hour fast (Saturday night to Monday morning) every week since 1989, with only a few exceptions. I feel cleansed, and also like my body has had the opportunity to do repairs that it couldn’t normally since it was putting so much energy into digestion. Back in the day, people at work on Monday morning would comment on how radiant I was. But, I have no data or information whatsoever as to what’s really going on , I only know I feel great afterward. It just feels healthy. So if someone comes along and points out how my explanation falls flat, does that mean I don’t feel more healthy? Or that nothing is happening? If I’m as detached and objective as possible, and I still see a solid benefit in how I feel, is disproving my own explanation a reason to give it up? I dunno.

    Why would anyone spend $1,000 on a juice cleanse? I’ve made my own juice for breakfast most days since 1985. Is it cleaning me out? I don’t know, but I’d guess that I’m getting a lot of nutrition with minimal expenditure of energy by my digestive system. Empirically, it seems to do something constructive.

    I guess at some point, we have to balance information with our own experience, until the day comes when our scientific understanding can cover all the variables, including our own response.

  • I agree! There’s nothing wrong with adding fresh juice or smoothies to your diet (and in fact can be really beneficial) but I’m always wary of any fast fix. If you want to lose weight in 10 days, cut out the processed junk, add in more fruits and vegetables, and get plenty of exercise. If you want to detox, focus on a clean diet, your environment, massage, lots of water and again, exercise! Our bodies are incredible machines – the only help they need from us to “detox” is to not fill them with so much unhealthy stuff to begin with. Any weight you lose on a detox like this is going to be gained back shortly afterward when you go back to whatever eating habits that made you want to do the detox in the first place.

  • Steve

    I have yet to meet someone spending thousands of dollars on juice cleansing, and I meet almost a thousand people a year doing just that.
    I think Sarah makes broad brush strokes in her argument…generalisations and simplifications.
    Hardly any ‘health practitioners’ take into account that each one of us is different and has different needs.
    A little bit of plastic wrapped around food?
    And the clothes we wear that constantly leech these petro chemicals into the skin and dump them in an already over taxed liver?
    And Fukishima?
    According to this video it is assumed that most people are having a fairly healthy lifestyle and fall victim to the odd ice cream?
    What about the 50% of Americans who are on pharmaceuticals?
    How about the 37 year old who has just had a double mastectomy?
    I would agree that suddenly switching to juicing can be too immediate for some.
    The 21st century is an extreme place to be and we may need some ‘extreme’ measures, or what many would perceive as being extreme to counter them.
    Lucky you if you have the odd cookie! Tut, tut, naughty, naughty.
    One flapjack , a ‘healthy alternative to chocolate’, ‘handmade’ full of oats and raisins can contain 8 teaspoons of white, refined sugar.
    Most women I meet are on the spectrum of ‘eating disorder’, wether it is too much, too little, calorie counting, calorie burning, worrying about, confused about, all the way to anorexia, bulimia and obesity.
    People are confused, addicted, diseased, spiritually bereft and desperate.
    I have seen literally thousands of people who have broken addictions, come off medication, lost more than half their body weight, fought and won over cancer, diabetes and a whole plethora of disease by juicing.
    I can hardly keep up with the testimonials.
    I have seen people consume in just one juice more vegetables than they might usually have in a month.
    History shows that many intelligent cultures ‘fasted’ for many different reasons.
    Science shows that it is an invaluable way for the body to heal.
    There is no right or wrong, it is only our approach which makes it so.

    • Megan

      Well said Steve .. This women Sarah has no idea.. I can’t believe the rubbish she preaches. Ice cream and cookies !! promoting white sugar. I’m still shaking my head !!

  • Sarah Court

    Just a few thoughts I wanted to add that I didn’t cover in the video:

    The euphoria that many experience on juice cleanses is an experience that those of us who have struggled with eating disorders are familiar with (and part of what makes it so alluring). While the science behind it is still being studied (and I have read both that reduced caloric intake increases glucose to the brain, and separately, that it stimulates brain substrates associated with reward), you would certainly get the same effect if you were eating the same amount of calories from other sources (in other words, it’s not because of the juice). Extended periods of time, and by this I mean longer than a day or two, on a caloric reduced diet is going to result in weight loss, which for some may be appropriate; however, healthy behavior requires paying attention to all aspects of our lives, instead of going on a quick diet. Incorporating juice into a varied diet is certainly not a problem, as I state in the video.

    When people are exposed to toxic materials (and let’s keep in mind, toxic means poison, not just poor nutrition choices), such as radiation poisoning, heavy metals, or cholera, the body is not generally capable of processing these materials. What often happens in less extreme cases is that the adipose tissue stores the toxic material away from the daily metabolism of other cells. At that point, if I want to rid my body of this material, I will have to use something that would have an effect on my fat cells, along the lines of turpentine. Juice will have no effect on my exposure to radiation.

    As a nation, we have a confused relationship to eating, nutrition, and health. The coercive language of commercial long-form juice cleanses that are making unverifiable claims are only adding more confusion to the conversation, and shockingly, can be extremely expensive. I believe that as with most things, health is a longer-term undertaking than a week of ‘detoxing.’ With that said, I’m off to get a green juice!

    • Abby


      Everything you have said is logical and based in science. People in the yoga community embrace fads and are quick to jump on the pseudoscience bandwagon. Also, many in the yoga community suffer from eating disorders, particularly orthorexia, and will cling to whatever practices justify their disordered eating. We need more people like you who know about the science to dispel the myths.

  • Dude

    Probably the worst article I have read on the internet, ever.

    It is a shame that anyone can shove an antenna up their bum & call themselves a channel these days!

    • Laffs

      Ha! Agreed 🙂 This woman goes on to endorse an ice-cream cleanse. ROFL. Maybe she’ll encourage a KFC cleanse next?

  • Elise Collins

    I would agree that eating a healthy diet and gradually reducing toxins and processed food is much better than a binge cleanse. Sarah doesn’t address the practice of cleansing as a spiritual or simplifying act. I have done numerous cleanses over the past 20 years and all have helped me find mental and spiritual clarity. Cleanses have been a part of many spiritual traditions for this reason. I don’t like the blanket statements about cleansing even if she is talking about juice cleansing. Science and physiology are helpful tools but there is a lot that science has not yet studied. It takes 5-10 years to undertake a scientific study and I am not going to wait for science to validate cleansing as I have found it works for me, my life and my body.

  • Hfemme

    I’m a fan of this video as many of her points are based on actual medical science. Juicing is not medically proven to remove chemicals or toxicants from the body. Regardless of anyone’s “cleansing” experience or spiritual enlightenment, science is science. The benefits of intermittent fasting while under the care of a licensed MD is VERY different from extreme juice fasts or diets. And speaking of a person’s “unique experience of their bodies,” each individual should talk to their licensed, board-certified doctor before undertaking any sort of diet or regimen. Your favorite blogger (this one included!) probably didn’t go to medical school!

    In terms of eating patterns, she is advocating for balanced eating that includes fiberous foods, protein, and other key nutrients. Also – the comments here on the comment board about ice cream and cookies were taken out of context. She is not recommending that we all stick to diets heavy in refined sugars, but rather, that the occasional cookie won’t hurt.

    • Steve

      Once again sweeping generalisations doth not an argument make.
      It has been ‘scientifically proven’ that Coriander (cilantro) does pull Mercury out of the body, as does Chlorella which could be added to a juice.
      A major precursor to cancer is excessive estrogen.
      Raw sweet potato will pull estrogen out of the body, as does beetroot juice with some of the pulp blended back in.
      We are at a point now where many ‘board certified Doctors’ are being paid huge amounts of money to promote pharmaceuticals, it isn’t in their interests to promote anything deemed as ‘alternative’, even though the alternatives have been around for thousands of years longer than their chemical cousins.
      No one has died from a vitamin and mineral overdose….really, check it out!
      Tens of thousands die each year because of Doctor prescribed medicines.
      Our disconnection from nature ensures that we are the only animal that needs to be told what to eat.
      I don’t trust medical school to give me that information.
      We need to take our health back into our own hands.
      Of course there will be permutations of ‘juicing’, I think that is what hasn’t been addressed adequately in the video.
      An occasional cookie, an occasional ice cream, an occasional burger, pancake, chocolate coated cereal, blueberry muffin that has no blueberries, …frosted, concocted, luminous, dubious, homogenised, pasteurised…
      70% of the planet can’t get access to clean water and one good square meal a day while the rest of us are stuffing our faces with non foods and…starving to death!
      Does it really stop with ‘occasional’ for most people? Take a good look around you.

      • Abby

        Can you provide citations or links to the studies?

        • steve

          Hate to be facetious but were you asking me?
          Studies that show that as medical science improves more people are getting more sick?
          That we spend billions$ per year on ‘cancer research’ but now one in three are dying of it?
          That the chief executive of the cancer research CHARITY in the U.K. Receives $300,000 per year?
          Drive down town …the evidence of the studies are plain to see.
          Failing that check out people’s baskets at the checkout in the supermarkets.

          • Abby

            I was asking you about: “It has been ‘scientifically proven’ that Coriander (cilantro) does pull Mercury out of the body, as does Chlorella which could be added to a juice.
            A major precursor to cancer is excessive estrogen.
            Raw sweet potato will pull estrogen out of the body, as does beetroot juice with some of the pulp blended back in.”

            How do you know more people are getting sick? Maybe more people are getting diagnosed because technology and medicine have advanced and diseases can be detected now. Maybe people who would have died in infancy or childhood live into adulthood now and get diseases in adulthood. Maybe people live long enough to get cancer now.

            Just because we know more now and are able to detect and diagnose diseases doesn’t mean that people are contracting diseases with more frequency or at greater rates. People live longer now. People don’t die of infections and influenza like they used to. People get x-rays and MRI’s now that detect diseases.

            I am not arguing that we shouldn’t primarily eat whole, non-processed foods. I am not arguing that people aren’t dying from obesity related diseases. If one eats well most of the time, it’s not horrible to enjoy some birthday cake or french fries. Obesity and all its attendant problems is a class issue. Poor people have always had more health problems than people with money; today it’s obesity; 100 years ago poor people died of fevers and cholera.

    • Lola

      Board certified physicians know jack squat about nutrition. They like to prescribe pills for your ills though. Help yourself to relying on their “expert” advice.

  • Steve

    Unfortunately I really don’t have time for answering you in full or citing studies.
    Every week I see about 40 people.
    It is the end of another week and through the use of juices fortified with avocados, coconut oil, spirulina, wheatgrass I have seen severe psoriasis and other fungal conditions begin to dissolve, someone reducing their diabetic medication by 70% (he has been here 2 weeks), chronic migraines disperse for the first time in years..I am not exaggerating.
    This is evidence enough for me after 4 years that the medical profession whilst excellent in certain fields, is largely failing the mass of people.
    The people I deal with cut across all social strata. (as they did in the past)
    It isn’t class it is an epidemic of our industrialised age.
    We create the diseases, then the instruments to detect them and then the cures which create further disease, this is an economic cycle of work to buy ‘food like substances’ to get ill, to pay pharmaceutical companies. It is big business.
    I am having a discussion with someone who obviously has implicit trust in authority, our governments and the huge economies that keep those structures in place at the expense of our freedom, health and our lives. I don’t share that sentiment.
    I sincerely wish you the best. Good luck!

  • Really Steve?

    Really Steve? You encouraged a guy to cut his diabetes medication by 70% because you fed him juice for two weeks? Hope you enjoy that lawsuit.

    Look, nobody’s asking you for a dissertation here, and frankly if you had some decent evidence to offer for your claims you could have done it in a lot fewer words than you spent tooting your own horn.

    For example, look how few words it takes me to refute your claim that no one has died from vitamins or minerals: hypervitamnosis. Few deaths but about 60,000 each year end up in poison control centers.

    There are plenty of doctors interested in alternative and integrative medicine. As of this year, it is even an accredited speciality. I appreciate that there are many many things wrong with the American medical system, but it is disingenuous to use sweeping claims of medical incompetence to drum up business for whatever it is you do. After all, a great man once said, “sweeping generalizations doth not an argument make.” Oh wait, that was you.

    • Steve

      I apologise whole heartedly for causing any shift in paradigm!
      Firstly you are right, I should never have held that gentleman down and force fed him juices, that was irresponsible of me.
      Joking aside.
      He gradually reduced his medication of his own free will.
      On our first walk the day after he arrived he could barely leave the Retreat, one kilometre severely tested his energy and respitory system, severely.
      He would walk for 5 minutes and then have to stop and catch his breath.
      Just 4 months later he completed his first marathon.
      He isn’t on a juice diet. He decided to live on juices(and as I mentioned fortified with fibre, essential fats, blue green algaes etc) for a month because he was so ill.
      It turns out he was more ill from his medication than anything else.
      I swear to God that I have literally thousands of testimonials.
      The juicing was the incentive to radically change diet, lifestyle and even our perception of what is possible.
      It is not a ‘Magic Solution’. I always stress that point keenly. It is momentum.
      I see it happen on a daily basis and I work with the medical profession, for that reason I don’t have to prove anything to you and ‘toot my horn’ to a stranger.
      Search ‘death due to side effects of medical drugs’
      You will find that last year in the States 37,485 died.
      You are almost correct when you say ‘few died due to Hypervitaminosis’.
      The actual figure is NONE.
      Not one single person!
      Hypervitaminosis is a ‘condition’ where the body isn’t effectively excreting vitamin and mineral supplements and those found in Fortified foods.
      My argument would be that supplementation wouldn’t be neccesary with a lifestyle that included a ‘healthy diet’.
      I don’t mean to insult you but if ,as you say, you are trying to ‘refute’ me you should choose the way you use your words. ‘Few’ is not none, and I never once said ‘medical incompetence’ I actually said ‘big business’.
      All the best to you.

  • Steve

    P.s. Not once have I advertised where I work, nor have I filled in the ‘website’ portion of the address above.
    I have acted completely anonymously so therefore could hardly be accused of ‘drumming up business’
    In fact the place where I work, the retreat, is quite literally sold out months in advance, business doesn’t have to be drummed up. On the contrary we have had to erect tents for guests who are literally begging to be educated, to change their lives.
    Also I wasn’t making sweeping generalisations, I even said that the ‘medical profession was excellent in certain fields’

  • Wondering

    Any studies linking excessive juicing to one becoming uptight, aggressive and pompous?

    • Just wondering 2

      I love how reasoned discussion can easily turn into insult within these anonymous realms . As for your question I am not sure, Walnuts are seemingly good for the brain though, hope that helps you.

  • Maria

    Thank you Sarah for finally standing up for scientific reasoning! It saddens me to see so many people genuinely heart and soul believe in the value of cleanses when, as you suggest, they provide little more than intermittent starvation and the placebo effect (Yes they may add more vitamins if you currently only eat junk but why not promote the better alternative of a balanced long term diet of eating whole foods instead?!). I also appreciate your logical and simplistic argument and realise how difficult it is to argue against people who don’t believe in backing up known facts with any real evidence.
    You will get Internet haters but keep up the good work!!!

  • Lauren

    Did no one click on the ice cream cleanse link? Sarah did not write this article, YD News did. They added the comment about the ice cream cleanse, not Sarah (the lady in the video). Sarah never once promotes the ice cream cleanse, YD News does by linking to another article YD News wrote.

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