To Juice or Not To Juice?

A Juice Cleanse is your ticket to health! Or is it? Over the last few years juicing has become very popular. Everywhere you look someone is talking about the life-changing effects of juicing. Dr. Oz and Oprah have their favorite “green juice”, books on the subject abound, juice bars are popping up left and right and because many celebrities are caught “juice in hand” it’s got to be good for us too, right? Recently, I even received a 2 day juice cleanse deal on Living Social. I won’t name names but the company offering the deal advertises “lose 12 pounds in 2 days!” Now, come on. Does anyone still believe that? Cleansing is not to be confused with a weight loss approach. Traditionally juicing has been done to detoxify, not to lose weight. And while juicing has many benefits, it is not a cure-all as many people seem to believe. So, assuming you are not looking to lose weight so much as feeling more energetic and clear-minded, would a juice cleanse be beneficial for you? Maybe. Maybe not. :)  I’ll explain.

Ayurveda’s Take On Juicing

Ayurveda is clear on one thing: nothing is all good or all bad for anybody all of the time. And so it is with juicing. Juicing can benefit some people at certain times, and be absolutely detrimental to other people at other times. The way Ayurveda looks at individual constitutions as well as the qualities inherent in food and the seasons further explains this. Juices by their very nature are cold, light and dry (no fat). Depending on whether you have more air (vata), fire (pitta), or earth (kapha) in you, those qualities may or may not agree with you. On the plus side, juicing is a great way to provide your body with mega-doses of vitamins and nutrients, in an easily absorbable form. It will also give your body a break from digesting foods that are heavier and denser, so it has more energy to heal and repair itself. In terms of energetic effects, juicing is:

Lightening • Cooling • Clearing • Energizing (at least initially)

But are those the qualities you are in need of? If you are feeling congested, mucous-y, foggy and uninspired, then most likely yes. If you are like me and need more grounding, warming, nourishing foods to feel good, proceed with caution. You can still juice now and then, but it has to be at the right time and for a brief period of time. Done for too long juicing can easily be depleting, because of the absence of protein and fats in juices. In my late twenties I experimented with juicing. And yes I started to feel energized, light, clear. In fact so energized, so light and so clear that I only needed 5 hours of sleep and didn’t know how to occupy all my waking hours! I also lost a lot of weight (which I didn’t need to lose) and I still remember vividly feeling as if I could almost levitate, so light and buoyant I felt. I also began to feel spacey, chilly and unable to concentrate for long. Those attempts at juicing were inevitably followed by uncontrollable cravings for dense, starchy, fatty foods, to compensate for the depletion that had occurred. Oh, and did I mention I actually didn't enjoy drinking those juices! These days I can not imagine being happy and satiated on a juice-only cleanse for any amount of time. I will have a juice now and then, when the weather is nice and hot. And if it’s humid all the better. The heat and moisture in the air is what my (mostly vata) constitution needs to be able to withstand, and benefit from, the cooling and clearing qualities of juices.

Juicing and You

If you don’t already know your mind/body type, take this quiz to find out.

• If your constitution is Vata or you are experiencing several of the following symptoms: restlessness, fatigue, anxiety, dry skin/nails/hair, constipation, difficulty falling asleep at night... Then juicing is not for you right now. Wait until the weather really warms up. And even then, I suggest no more than one juice a day with 2 solid food meals. You’d be better off doing an Ayurvedic cleanse. (more on that below)

• If your constitution is Pitta or you are experiencing several of the following symptoms: heartburn, any type of inflammatory condition (skin, gut, eyes, joints), anger, profuse sweating, bad breath, loose stool…You’ll benefit from juicing in moderation. Your constitution will likely welcome the cooling effect of juices but you still have to be moderate. Pitta types tend to have excellent digestion and a fast metabolism. Going on a “liquids only” diet can leave this type feeling ravenous and extremely irritable! Two juices a day with one large solid food meal should keep you satiated and pleasant to be around :)

• If your constitution is Kapha or you are experiencing several of the following symptoms: recurring colds and sinus congestion, fluid retention, feeling foggy and uninspired, excessively oily hair and skin, difficulty waking up in the morning even after a full night sleep… Bingo! You are the best candidate for a juice cleanse. A 2-5 days juice-only diet should perk you up nicely.

Those are general guidelines. Try juicing if you are so inclined and pay close attention to how your body and mind respond. Trust what you feel and become the expert of yourself. Don’t just follow the trend! Only by investigating honestly with an open mind can you figure out how much juice you can enjoy without upsetting your internal balance. Also know that having only juices for a while:

Will lower your digestive fire. You can mitigate that undesirable effect by sipping on ginger tea in between your juices. Ginger is known to kindle the digestion.

• Can leave you really hungry. If so, add weight to your juice by adding coconut oil. You'll get a juice that is more grounding and nourishing.

• Can leave you feeling chilly all the time. Be sure to drink your juices at room temperature only and alternate with hot teas. Preferably wait for the weather to be warm.

• Can give you a sugar high…and a crash. Some fruits and even vegetables contain a lot of sugar (beets, carrots, grapes). And because juicing gets rid of fibers, sugar rapidly gets into your bloodstream giving you a quick energy boost but potentially also a quick crash. To avoid the high/low energy levels, favor green juices and low-sugar fruits and vegetables such as apples, grapefruits, lemons, celery, greens, cucumbers.

The Ayurvedic Cleanse

Fortunately there are other ways to detoxify our body than juicing. Solid foods can actually be used for that purpose! Ayurveda recommends doing periodic mono-fasts. This consists in eating a simple diet of whole foods, cooked with the right spices, and eaten at specific times, along with lots of hot water and herbal teas. Coffee, alcohol, sugar, dairies, processed and fried foods are not to be consumed. Herbal formulas are often used to support the liver and colon. Last week I did one such cleanse myself and after the initial resistance on day 1 - no chocolate :( - I happily surrendered to this new simple diet. I was able to continue teaching and seeing clients. I never felt tired, I never felt cold, I never felt deprived. The few times I felt hungry I had more food. Not to say you should eat like there’s no tomorrow, but from a physiological standpoint being hungry is not conducive to detoxification. When you are starving, as a survival measure your body will drastically slow down its metabolism to hold on to whatever fat/energy reserve it already has. Except that when we cleanse we want to circulate the energy and release toxins, many of which are stored in our fat cells.

More Than Physical

Spring is a time of renewal and an ideal time for cleaning both our external and internal environment. The benefits of a cleanse are much more than physical. My 5-day cleanse was a reality check in many ways, and an opportunity to re-assess my not-so-good eating habits. Like having chocolate every day, several times a day. Or eating fast, mindlessly and while playing with my phone (those often come in a package). Or again eating out a lot, instead of cooking from scratch. Tendencies such as eating when not hungry, until full or when upset, sad or bored are magnified in the process of cleansing. Great. This is where a shift in consciousness begins to happen, the kind that propels us towards healthier eating habits.

Happy cleansing,