Juices and VeggiesA juice cleanse is a type of detox diet that aims to cleanse your body of toxins by consuming only juice for a set period of time. Detoxification diets are nothing new and, as the Mayo Clinic notes, they have become quite popular.

Despite their popularity and laundry list of touted benefits, detox diets such as a juice cleanse come with potential side effects. It is highly recommended you clear a juice cleanse or other detox diet with your doctor before giving it a go.

How does a juice cleanse work?

Although specifics for each juice cleanse regimen may vary, the overall premise remains the same. The cleanse often kicks off with a period of fasting where you eat no food whatsoever, followed by a set period of drinking only juice.

Some juice cleanses may focus on specific juices, such as those containing certain ingredients or a certain brand purchased as part of the overall juice cleanse plan. Choices can include fruit juices, vegetable juices, or a combination of the two.

The overall cleanse may also contain herbs or supplements aimed to speed up the detoxification process. A juice cleanse usually lasts at least several days, giving your body time to thoroughly kick out the built-up toxins in your system. Additionally, Women’s Health magazine reports  that juice cleanse regimens generally contain fewer than 1,000 calories per day.

What are the touted benefits of a juice cleanse?

The highly restricted calorie intake during a juice cleanse often results in quick yet temporary weight loss. The detoxification process during a juice cleanse often gets credited for producing a wide range of health benefits, although Harvard Medical School’s HEALTHbeat notes few of the benefits are scientifically proven.

Juice cleanses and other detox diets have been said to increase energy levels, improve concentration, and boost your overall mood. They also sometimes get credit for alleviating a wide range of conditions that may include everything from joint pain to depression, and from bloating to fatigue. Some may even get the nod for helping chronic conditions, such as fibromyalgia or arthritis.

What are the potential drawbacks of a juice cleanse?

A juice cleanse’s highly restricted calorie count can result in quick weight loss, although your body quickly adapts to the severe dip in calories and can go into starvation mode. Your body can start to lower your metabolic rate in a quest to conserve energy, thereby reducing the overall amount of calories you actually burn.

The juices usually contain loads of fruit and vegetables but little or no protein. They may also contain a number of other essential nutrients. The lack of protein can leave you sleepy and lacking in energy while an extended lack of nutrients can lead to deficiencies of vitamins and minerals.

If your chosen juice cleanse happens to contain a colon-cleansing element, such as a laxative tea, you can be increasing the risks even further. Colon cleansing can result in bloating, nausea, and vomiting. A daily or repeated colon-cleansing ritual may even mess up your normal digestive or bowel functions.

The risk of dehydration can also kick in, depleting the levels of your body’s fluids as well as your electrolytes. If you make juice-cleansing and colon-cleansing routines a regular habit, you increase your chances of a condition called metabolic acidosis. The condition is marked by an imbalance of bases and acids in your body and excessive acids in your blood. The second worst-case scenario of metabolic acidosis is slipping into a coma. The worst is death.

What happens to your body during a juice cleanse?

Even if you don’t suffer from the worst-case scenarios from a juice cleanse, your body is affected by the change of diet on a daily basis. The first and early days of the cleanse can leave you dizzy, both from the high sugar content of fruit juices and lack of overall calories you’re used to.

After about the second day, your body already realizes it’s not getting adequate calories to sustain itself and it can begin to feed on stored supplies. It takes energy stored in your fat cells, but it also starts to take protein stored in your muscles. This results in a decrease in muscle mass, weakness, and even irritability.

By the third day, your body’s consumption of a liquid-only diet can lead to diarrhea. By day four, your small intestine’s lack of activity due to lack of solid foods can increase the severity of diarrhea and increase your chances of dehydration.

By the time you’ve gone seven days without solid food, your body is already programmed to exist on a lower amount of calories. When you resume a solid food diet, your decreased muscle mass burns fewer calories than you used to, and your excess calories have a great chance of being converted right into fat.

Rather than feeling good and losing weight after a juice cleanse, you could actually end up gaining weight and suffering the consequences of a week-long stretch of inadequate nutrition. Long-term weight loss and overall good health are more effectively achieved through nutritious eating and regular exercise than they ever may be with a quick-fix juice cleanse.