Good Advice

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Are juice cleanses really healthy? Why some wellness experts worry

Papaya JuiceWe won’t beat around the guava bush: Juice cleanses are crazy hot right now. But are they really as good for us and our over-worked digestive tracts as they sound? Or is it a tad more complicated than that? We asked a handful of New York City wellness experts to weigh in.

The Nutritionists

“Most often, I find that people who gravitate to cleanses are seeking a quick-fix for weight loss, or they’re looking for a quick detox—a clean-up of their diets without having to think about it too much,” says Marissa Lippert, a registered dietitian and author of The Cheater’s Diet. The problem? Surprise! Most see a return of the weight when they re-incorporate carbs, even healthy, complex ones. “It’s essentially a false sense of security and weight loss for a very short period of time,” Lippert says.

True, seconds Cher Pastore, R.D. She says people absolutely should not expect lasting weight loss and should keep cleanses short: “I believe a one- to three-day juice cleanse can be a part of a healthy eating plan. Any longer, I wouldn’t recommend it.”

The Acupuncturist

jill blakeway yinova center

Jill Blakeway, founder, YinOva Center

Traditional Chinese medicine puts an emphasis on balance, so in general, we don’t use fasting medicinally, because it is considered extreme, says Jill Blakeway, M.Sc. L. Ac., clinical director of the YinOva Center. “However, there is an old Chinese saying: ‘Grains are for energy, meats are for strength, and vegetables are for keeping the body clean.’ So a short period of fasting using vegetable and fruit juices can be cleansing.”

Eating a simple diet gives your digestive system a rest, says Blakeway, but ultimately the job of detoxification is left up to specific organs. “I usually suggest acupuncture to support the organs of detoxification, such as the lungs, large intestine, bladder, and kidneys. Massage can also be helpful to enhance the flow of lymph, skin brushing is helpful to people who are cleansing,” she says.

The M.D.

Susan Blum MD

Susan Blum, M.D., founder of The Blum Center for Health

The thing is, there are toxins all around us, says Susan Blum, M.D., a specialist in Functional Medicine, and founder of the Blum Center for Health in Rye. “It’s the liver’s job to clear toxins out of the body. It relies on vitamins, nutrients, and amino acids to do that. So for one day, if you do a cleanse and rest your body of food—I’m fine with that. But you go to multiple days—three or five—and you hit the wall. You’re not giving your liver the amino acids it needs to move toxins out of the body.”

The other problem? Going with non-organic options. “You take all these greens, make a juice, and you’re also concentrating a lot of the pesticides, too,” Blum says. “You really run the risk of dumping a whole lot of toxins into the body.” Her advice is to pick an organic company, like Organic Avenue, and look into a liver supplement. Or better yet, work with someone in Functional Medicine who can help personalize a cleanse that’s gentle on your body. —Catherine Pearson

What do you think about juice cleanses? Tell us in the Comments section, below!

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