The right kind of juice cleanse has the potential to transform your health on a mind, body and soul level. The wrong kind of juice cleanse however will set you up for problems. Unfortunately, all too often I see juice cleanse blogs or news which describe how someone did a juice cleanse, and how they then felt bad and/or didn’t get the results they wanted. Usually reading their blogs I see at least a few if not all of the following mistakes in how they did their cleanse. It is no mystery to me why this person had the experience they had, and yet a bad experience can deter someone from juice cleansing all together. But fear not! These common mistakes are ones you can correct and alleviate most of the common complaints of juice cleanses.
1. Not Drinking Enough Juice
Most cleanse programs hover around 2 liters of juice, with some including less and some recommending more. The truth is, that amount is not chosen for any particular reason; it just has become somewhat of the default. Our bodies can always benefit from more juice, because more juice means more nutrition and more building blocks and support for the body to do its house-cleaning.
You can get beneficial physical results from drinking a small amount of juice, aka juice fasting, but you will likely feel less balanced at various points throughout than if you drink more juice (juice feasting). There’s nothing wrong with juice fasting; I have seen and coached hundreds of people through juice fasts where they drink 1-2 liters of juice, and these people have seen amazing changes from it. But because juice fasting involves taking in so little juice, you’re much more likely to feel hungry, tired, and spacey. Juice fasting on so little juice is often most doable at a retreat center dedicated specifically to facilitating this like the one that I worked at for 5 years. Many centers will make all of your juice for you, your day is filled with yoga classes and naps and maybe a massage, and you take time off work, family care and whatever other responsibilities in your normal, day-to-day life. So, if you are hungry and tired it may not be as big of a deal in this setting.
However, for most of my clients, they want to juice cleanse while they are working, going to school, taking care of family, and maintaining their daily responsibilities. And so, many people are concerned about feeling spacey and tired and hungry—understandably.
Drinking enough juice can allow you to feel energized, focused mentally, and often my clients reach the point where they are not hungry at all. My recommendation? Drink 3 liters at the bare minimum per day, and preferably drink 4 liters. Many of my clients drink even more than 4/day!
2. Drinking Too Much Fruit Juice
Fruit juice has many wonderful vitamins and minerals, and for most people is fine to have on a juice cleanse—within reason. Most of us would prefer to do a fruit-centric juice cleanse as fruit juices taste better to most people than green juice. However, it is a notable correlation I’ve seen that the more green juice one does and the less fruit juice, the better results they get on a cleanse. This is partly because we so badly need the nutrients and chlorophyll specific to green juice, and also because most people struggle with various sugar-related physical issues such as high blood sugar, hypoglycemia, candida overgrowth, and more. All these are created by cheaper and more unhealthy sweeteners like sugar and high fructose corn syrup, etc., but lots of fruit juice can still slow the healing of sugar-related physical issues.
Solution? I recommend aiming for at least 70% of your juice per day coming from low-sugar produce including most vegetables as well as low-sugar fruits like cucumbers, tomatoes, bell peppers, lemons and limes, and 30% or less from higher-sugar fruits as well as higher-sugar veggies including carrots, beets, and sweet potatoes.
3. Not doing water-based colon cleansing.
Bear with me here. Many people are intimidated by the idea of getting professional colonics or doing at-home enemas, but the doing them can majorly improve the results of your juice cleanse. Why? Water based colon cleansing helps remove the old, impacted fecal material which nearly everyone has some amount of, and that old stuff causes skin problems, extra weight, digestive issues, and much more. Some of it will come out just because of the juice you’re drinking, but you will get out significantly more with the help of water-based colon cleansing. Also, all the toxicity your body is trying to get rid of during a cleanse—chemicals, plastics, heavy metals, bacteria, yeast, and more—all is directed to your colon to be released. So, with the help of water on the other end, more of that will also release.
Some of my mentors in juice cleansing, including Gabriel Cousens, MD and David Rainoshek MA, share an observation I’ve also had: that you will get about the same results from a juice cleanse done with colon cleansing that you will in twice or three times as long of a cleanse without colon cleansing.
Additionally, most detox symptoms actually come from people doing cleanses and not doing colon cleansing along with it. So people who do juice cleanses and also do colonics and/or enemas typically have a lot more energy, less cravings, and less issues in the the way of headaches, nausea, spaciness, etc.
Options: a colon hydrotherapy session done with a certified colon hydrotherapist twice weekly for the duration of your cleanse, or one 5-minute home water enema per day during your cleanse. After about 3 weeks of a cleanse, these frequencies can reduce.
4. The Perils of Cleansing and Caffeine
Many people theorize that because coffee or caffeinated tea are liquids, they can have them on a cleanse. Well, you can… if you want significantly slower results. See, the tricky thing with caffeine is that even though it doesn’t take much digestion compared to food, there is a huge issue related to your body’s alkalinity when you have caffeine on a cleanse.
There are entire books written about the nutritional science of alkalinity and acidity in the body, also known as pH. The short summary is that most of our bodies are too acidic, a condition created by eating acidic foods (junk foods, sugar, fried foods, etc.), and acidic drinks. An example of an acidic drink? Anything with caffeine, with coffee being one of the most acidic things we can drink. Anything with caffeine turns our bodies more acidic.
It follows that most of us severely need alkalizing, and we can create a more alkaline environment in our body through minimizing all the acidic intake we are having, and increasing the alkaline intake. Examples of foods that increase our alkalinity are fruits, vegetables, seaweed, and sprouts. And so green juice is basically a nutrient-dense combination of the most alkaline things we can consume.
So when you cleanse with juice but you’re also consuming caffeine, you basically have what you’re drinking working against one another. Your green juice is adding alkalinity to your body, but your caffeine is turning your body acidic again. You then don’t experience the benefits of a better body chemistry, and you may be finishing your juice cleanse wondering why you didn’t get better results. For best results, gradually reduce your caffeine intake for the days prior to starting the cleanse, and by Day 1, be off it completely.
The good news, non-caffeinated, herbal tea will not interfere with physical detox and can be had on a cleanse.
5. Not Doing a Post-Cleanse Transition Back Into Food
When you do a juice cleanse, all your digestive organs go into restorative mode. They’re not resting on a cellular level—they’re doing a lot of housecleaning and rebuilding, but on a major level they are completely resting. They get a break from having to move food through your system, separate it out, absorb it, etc. A huge percentage of our body’s energy each day goes towards digestion, so this shift is pretty substantial.
When you return to eating without any kind of gradual transition, it is like a fire alarm waking up your digestion. It’s too abrupt, and it’s too much too soon. Though negative effects are unlikely to be very long-term, jumping right back into normal eating can cause short-term digestive problems and even slow down your metabolism. Again, not permanently, but it’s not something you really want. A juice cleanse does won’t inherently create slow metabolism or throw digestion out-of-whack, but bombarding your body with food mid-rest with no gradual wake up can temporarily slow down your metabolism and cause digestive inconsistencies that can feel uncomfortable.
The exact length and details for a proper transition depend on how long you are cleansing (ie. the longer the cleanse, the longer the transition), but typically you should do a Transition that is at least 1/3 the length of your juice cleanse, up to about a 6-day Transition if you did a month or more. A transition should still include juice, and will gradually introduce eating raw veggies and fruits, and then easy-to-digest raw plant fats later on, and gradually introducing the foods that require more energy to digest.
If you avoid these common mistakes, you are likely to get far superior results from a cleanse. And if you’ve done a cleanse before and been disappointed with the results or scarred from not having felt good during it, consider doing one again with these tips in mind—I think you’ll be amazed at how much better it goes. And if you need support or additional tips on how to get the most out of your cleanse, get in touch with me here on my site–coaching people through juice cleanses is what I do!