To Juice or Not to Juice?
Juice cleansing. Juice fasting. Juice feasting. Is it right for everyone?
Juicing is a centuries-old health practice that can be traced back to ancient cultures. Some sources state that juicing was even mentioned in the Dead Sea Scrolls that date back before 150 BC and over the last 10 years, the popularity of juicing has really soared.
So what’s the hype all about?
Juicing and blending provides an easy and delicious way of increasing the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables we consume each day. Fresh juice also provides the body with an easy way of absorbing all of the vitamins, minerals, enzymes and antioxidants contained within these foods. There are however, a few things one needs to consider before rushing out to buy a juicer.
Every single one of us has different nutritional needs based on our current state of health, stage of life and activity level. Whenever someone is looking to make a change to their diet, it’s wise to start with small changes and introduce new foods or ways to prepare food, in a slow manner. We never want to shock our system or quickly throw our bodies into detox mode.
Toxins, chemicals and heavy metals store and bio-accumulate everywhere in the body including the brain, bones, organs and fat tissue. Whenever one makes a dramatic change to their diet, like quickly moving to a raw foods diet or doing a juice cleanse, there is a possibility of toxins quickly releasing into the bloodstream. This can cause many problems and holds the potential to exasperate any health condition. One thing that isn’t mentioned too often in the juicing world, is the symptoms of detox and health complications related to detoxification. Those with cancer or autoimmune conditions should always use caution and consult a certified natural health practitioner before radically altering the diet or embarking on a juice cleanse.
Common Symptoms of Detox Include:
- muscle aches and pains
- mucus or other discharge
- skin rashes, hives, acne breakouts
- white coating on the tongue
- flu-like symptoms
- difficulty sleeping
- constipation or diarrhea
- digestive upset
1. Autoimmune Conditions
There are many factors which have been known to exasperate autoimmune conditions. For those diagnosed with an autoimmune condition such as Multiple Sclerosis, you are probably aware of how stress affects your condition. Any kind of stressor, whether it be nutritional, emotional, mental, physical or environmental can have a negative impact on MS. A sudden change of diet is no exception.
Myelin, the fatty covering the nerves is also a target site for toxin accumulation. Whenever the body begins to cleanse the accumulation of toxins in this area, the nerves may become irritated and trigger symptom flare-ups.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t start including fresh juices into your diet. It just means it’s best not to make any sudden or drastic change like doing a juice cleanse if you haven’t already cleaned up the diet, or if your condition is unstable.
My own personal experience in taking a holistic approach to managing MS is that I transformed my diet slowly, making small changes over the course of a year. It wasn’t until I was completely off of processed food that I started juicing. I wouldn’t say that I planned it that way, it’s just how my life and health transformation played out.
2. Diabetes and Blood Sugar Imbalances
Anyone with blood sugar imbalances should use caution when juicing. In order to avoid spiking the blood sugar, it’s best to juice more vegetables than fruit and to juice fruit in small amounts, sticking to those low on the glycemic index.
Do you have any of the following symptoms of unstable blood sugar?
- Are you cranky, irritable or suffer from headaches if meals are late or missed?
- Do you get light headed or dizzy if meals are late or missed?
- Do you often crave sugary snacks, carbs and caffeine in the afternoon?
- Are feelings of anxiety or nervousness relieved by eating?
- Do you often experience fatigue or hunger a few hours after meals?
If you have answered yes to any of these questions, you could be suffering from unstable blood sugar levels. In this case, it’s best to eat fruit and vegetables in their whole form, where the fiber is still intact. Protein and fiber is what helps stabilize blood sugar levels. When you eat the whole fruit with the skin, which contains the fiber, the natural fruit sugars are released into the bloodstream much slower, resulting in better blood sugar control.
3. Thyroid Conditions
No doubt cruciferous vegetables possess many antioxidant, cancer-fighting nutrients, but they also contain isothiocyanates, a compound which acts as a goitrogen. Goitrogens are naturally-occurring substances that can interfere with the function of the thyroid gland.
In healthy people who do not have a thyroid condition, these compounds will not cause a thyroid imbalance or negatively impact your health, but for those with a pre-existing thyroid condition, one should consider limiting their consumption of raw cruciferous vegetables. In studies, cooking has been shown to inactivate these goitrogenic compounds. As much as one third of this goitrogenic potential may be deactivated when foods are steamed and boiled.
For those with thyroid conditions, the following list of foods are best eaten cooked, not juiced or consumed raw.
Kale • Spinach • Collard greens • Swiss chard • Arugula • Watercress • Bok choy • Broccoli • Cabbage • Cauliflower • Mustard greens
4. Pregnancy or Breastfeeding
Juicing can be a healthy way of getting more nutrients to an expectant or breastfeeding mother, but it is not advised to quickly transition from a nutrient poor diet to drinking an abundance of fresh juice. Even a mild detox can release toxins to the fetus. Numerous studies have shown that breast tissue is a major site of toxic build-up and these toxins can be released into the breast milk. It is recommended that one cleans up the diet at least six months prior to becoming pregnant and it is not advised to practice a juice fast while pregnant or breastfeeding.
Take Home Message
It’s always best to make small changes to your diet slowly over time. Add one fresh juice a day, but watch for symptoms of blood sugar imbalance or any other symptoms related to detoxification listed above. Keep a food/symptom diary and write down how you feel, both emotionally and physically after eating. Record symptoms you experience after meals or when new food is introduced into the diet. Pay attention on how your body reacts to stress, food, sleep and exercise.
Learning to be in tune with your own body allows you become your own personal health expert!