Juice cleanses: What you should really know

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Juice cleanses are an increasing trend and a conversation starter among nutritionists. These cleanses require you to substitute meals for one to three days with juices that are dense in fruits and vegetables and low in sugars. They’re thought to detoxify your intestines and help aid in weight loss.

Are juice cleanses effective?

There are many signs that may lead you to think that a juice cleanse is working for you. You may notice weight loss by the third day, but this is just water weight. Unfortunately, you’re likely to gain this weight back just 72 hours after consuming your first solid meal. The loss may also be muscle mass. When you lose muscle mass, your metabolism slows down, leading to quicker weight gain. This may also put you at a greater risk for chronic diseases.

One of the side effects of participating in a juice cleanse is a lack of energy. The change in glucose and insulin levels from an incomplete diet may make you believe the cleanse is working, since you feel different. Juices are used to spike blood sugar when it’s dropping. This is why hospitals often give apple juice to patients. The key word is spike. By not consuming solid, nutrient dense foods, your body has no form of long-term energy, requiring you to drink another juice to get through your day. Juices are emptied out of your system within 15 minutes. This can be dangerous if you’re on medication that decreases blood sugar.

Juice cleanses are not for everyone.

It’s expensive. Typically, people spent around $50 a day for the right juices. Instead of purchasing bottled nutrients, the same amount of money can get you a week's worth of colorful fruits and vegetables to incorporate into your normal diet.

Aside from the cost, people with chronic diseases should avoid juice cleanses. The swings of blood sugar can be dangerous if you have diabetes or a heart or liver problem, and it could lead to future problems. Keeping a diet full of a variety of foods is necessary for many medications to properly digest and to avoid nausea.

You don’t need to do a juice cleanse to be healthy.

Juice cleanses are thought to be like spring cleaning your body from the inside out. It detoxifies your organs. Or at least that’s what people think. In reality, your body does this process on its own. You can naturally cleanse your intestinal tract by eating proper foods like whole grains, fiber, fruits and vegetables, and drinking plenty of water. When the body is filled with proper nutrients, it detoxifies itself through the liver and kidneys. Whether you’re drinking juice or not, these organs are cleaning without your consent -- that’s their job.

Natalie Stephens is a registered dietitian at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.