The Truth About Juice Cleanse for Gut Health: Benefits and Risks

The concept of the juice cleanse for gut health has become an increasingly popular option for improving gut health. But are juice cleanses healthy, and are juice cleanses good for other conditions? Those questions are important to answer before trying one. In this article, we’ll answer questions like “Are juice cleanses good for you?” and highlight what medical science has to say. Use this information when asking your doctor, “Is a juice cleanse good for you?”

Understanding Gut Health

Gut health is a more complex subject than you might think. That’s because few people understand what happens in their stomach and intestines and the different elements that help produce a healthy digestive system. Let’s take a deep look at the importance of gut health and the microorganisms (yes, they live inside you!) that help with it.

Why Gut Health Matters

Your gut health is critical not just for your digestion but for your overall physical and mental well-being. For example, an unhealthy gut can make it harder for you to digest the food that you eat. Unfortunately, this may result in poorer overall nutritional health, as well as decreases in mental health caused by decreased vitamin and mineral levels.

Furthermore, poor gut health can also cause problems like indigestion, upset stomachs, and other health concerns that may linger for years to come. Many people live with an unhealthy gut for years without ever managing it and may experience severe symptoms. Furthermore, they may not fully understand the critical nature of microbiomes in their overall health.

Why Gut Microbiomes Matter

Gut microbiomes are the bacteria and microbes that live in your stomach and intestinal tract to help digest your food. There are an estimated 100 trillion microbes throughout the human body that help with your overall health, with many of them found in the digestive system. Unbalanced microbiomes can cause digestive problems and trigger stomach health concerns.

Furthermore, healthy biome levels may boost your immune system, enhance cognitive health, and even improve functioning in your heart, liver, and lungs. As you can imagine, that makes strong balance a critical thing. Thankfully, a juice cleanse for gut health might help you here, depending on your overall health and other types of factors.

A woman tries a juice cleanse for gut health

What is a Juice Cleanse?

A juice cleanse for gut health is a type of detox diet that focuses heavily on consuming vegetable and fruit juices for a short period. Typically, most last between 1-3 days, though some people try them for up to seven. You’ll only drink this juice during the diet and typically eat no solid food. Later on, we’ll answer, “Are juice cleanses healthy?” but for now, let’s just focus on how they work.

The idea here is that these healthy juices provide you with the vitamins and minerals you need to be well while not upsetting your stomach with heavy foods. As a result, your microbes should increase because they’ll feed on the juice without having to break down unhealthy, dense foods. Foods used during this period include raw and unpasteurized ingredients like:

  • Vegetables, including celery, kale, carrots, cabbage, spinach, beets, and leafy greens
  • Fruits like apples, peppers, oranges, pears, and other healthy types
  • Milks, such as various almond, cashew, and coconut milk
  • Other ingredients, like whole grains, soy products, beans, and legumes

Note that no animal products are eaten during a juice cleanse, such as meat or eggs. As a result, you have to avoid dairy foods like milk, yogurt, and other ingredients. Fish and poultry are out, as are any drinks with caffeine or sugar, as well as fried foods and alcohol. It’s a very restrictive diet, so make sure that you’re prepared for that before trying one.

How to Do a Juice Cleanse

A typical juice cleanse for gut health only lasts 1-3 days but requires some preparation before jumping into it. This simple plan can help you try a juice cleanse and minimize your potential risks and give you the high-quality support that you need to thrive:

  • Day One: Slowly eliminate things like coffee, nicotine, dairy, wheat, alcohol, refined sugar, and meat products from your diet.
  • Day Two: Increase your fresh vegetable, fruit, and fluid intake while continuing to slowly eliminate foods from day one.
  • Day Three: Continue day two’s plan and increase your fluid intake even more while cutting your solid foods down to a bare minimum.
  • Day Four: Start your cleanse with eight ounces of green vegetable juice, eight ounces of almond milk and berry smoothie, a further eight ounces of green veggie juice, eight ounces of veggie broth, and eight ounces of carrot, apple, and beet juice.
  • Day Five: Drink two meals of eight-ounce veggie juice, an eight-ounce coconut milk, and pear smoothie, an eight-ounce ginger, cucumber, and apple smoothie, and a small salad without dressing along with carrots and celery.
  • Day Six: On this post-cleanse day, gradually add back solid foods over several days, including on day seven and beyond.

Note that this is just one way that you can approach this process. Other plans include eliminating toxins and processed foods for 1-5 days, moving to a plant-based diet for 1-5 days, cleaning a fridge before eating, and drinking a juice every 2-3 hours while chewing sugar-free gum to help with any oral fixations. You can adjust your process to suit whatever method works best for you. Also, make sure you talk with your doctor before changing your diet.

The Potential Benefits of a Juice Cleanse

With all that said, are juice cleanses healthy, and are juice cleanses good for you? That all depends on a few factors. Generally speaking, a juice cleanse can be a healthy option if you work with your doctor and prepare one that meets your health needs. Just as importantly, you need to understand what medical science has said about this topic to ensure you don’t experience any health concerns.

For example, various health studies have examined the potential benefits of juice cleanses and found that juice cleanse healthy benefits do exist. Each of the advantages discussed in the following sections has been confirmed by multiple studies, meaning that there’s some scientific proof that they provide real advantages that may help you stay healthy.

Immune System Support

Juice cleanses include various phenolic compounds, which have antioxidant compounds that can help boost your immune system. They also have antibacterial properties that make them a great option for people who struggle to stay healthy and fight diseases.

Blood Pressure and Cholesterol Reduction

In other studies, it was found that fruit and vegetable juices can reduce blood pressure and manage cholesterol levels. They were particularly effective when they were mixed together, as this increased the amount of nutrients they provided.

Anti-Inflammatory Help

If you’re suffering from inflammation problems, vegetables, and fruits can help reduce blood clotting and manage your inflammation quickly and effectively. While juicing and cleansing work well for this treatment, you can also eat solid fruits and veggies for the same results.

Weight Loss Help

Healthy levels of gut microbes have been linked to helping with weight loss, and studies have found that juice cleanses help. They not only improve your gut health balance but can reduce your calories temporarily and help you eat a healthier diet after your cleanse is over.

Detoxification Benefits

While many people do a juice cleanse to detoxify the body, some medical experts believe that the actual benefits are limited. Most research that does highlight detoxification with juice cleanses comes from animal studies, which is not a suitable source of information for human diets.

Skin Health Improvements

Various citrus-based juices and juice cleanses may help reduce oxidative stress in the skin, which may reduce aging symptoms. Note that studies on this subject have been done mostly on animals, which does limit their usefulness for human-based work a little more limited.

Gut Health Enhancements

In more than one study, it’s been found that a juice cleanse increases the number of Bacteroides in the stomach and intestines while decreasing firmicutes. These microbes not only help manage weight more effectively but promote digestive wellness and minimize negative health problems.

Juice for a juice cleanse for gut health

The Risks and Considerations

While it’s true that a juice cleanse can provide many health benefits when done properly, there are some considerations and risks that you have to understand before trying one. These are things that your doctor may bring up when discussing cleanses, and they’re critical to understand if you’re interested in a juice cleanse. Here are a few things you need to keep in mind.

Low Protein Content

Protein is an important part of your daily diet, but juice cleanses typically have very low protein levels. While a small amount of protein for three days isn’t going to threaten your health that severely, some people may react poorly or even get sick with these low doses. They may also be short on other types of nutrients, like fiber, so be careful when trying them.

Very Low-Calorie Levels

Typically, you consume only 800-1,200 calories every day on a juice cleanse. Unfortunately, 800 calories are far too low for most people and can actually cause your body to conserve calories by slowing your metabolism. As a result, it’s important to pay close attention to your caloric level when enjoying a juice cleanse and to make sure you get enough to stay healthy: over 1,200.

Some Ill Feelings

It’s common for many people to feel headaches, difficulty thinking, stomach pains, mood changes, hunger pangs, and fatigue while on a juice fast. Other people may even develop irritable bowel syndrome, bad breath, and even diarrhea while going through one. These symptoms typically go away after the fast is over but can be very uncomfortable while they persist.

May Be Expensive

Some people struggle to afford a juice cleanse, especially when buying an official cleanse packet. While you can do one relatively cheaply if you just buy fruits and vegetables yourself, this process takes more time and could be frustrating. It’s the kind of luxury diet that many people may not feel comfortable paying big money for if they’re on a limited budget.

Precautions and Recommendations

  • Try to avoid a juice cleanse if you are pregnant or have other persistent health issues
  • Follow the instructions carefully to ensure that you do it properly
  • Don’t do a juice fast if you’re under 18 or over 65
  • Always talk with your doctor before changing your diet significantly

Sean Byers, MD

Sean Byers, MD

Sean Byers is currently a Resident in the Internal Medicine program at UTMB. He studied at the University of Queensland School of Medicine as well as received his Master’s in Public Health with a focus in epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Southern California. His background is in biology, computer science, public health, and internal medicine.

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