Why Juice Detoxes Don’t Work

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One of the diet trends I’m not a big fan of is the juice detox. I’ll explain exactly why juice detoxes don’t work shortly, but first up – if you feel a juice detox has worked for you in the past (although I rarely hear this from people!) that’s awesome, good for you! You do what feels right for your own body, but please read the rest of this blog so you can understand a little more about detoxification and a responsible way you can approach it. Specifically, this is exactly how the Reset Phase in the The Whole Food Guide program is designed (and why it’s not a juice fast) but based on whole food and smoothies (we do have some veggies juices in the meal plan, but they are more for enjoyment).

The Detoxification Process

First up, let’s get a little science-y to really understand the detoxification phases in your body! Every day your liver works away screening molecules in your body and transforming those nasty, toxic ones to less toxic, water-soluble compounds that can be eliminated safely. This is called Phase I of the detoxification pathways. There are a lot of enzymes that work to do this, but the main group are the cytochrome P-450s.

FUN FACT: Guess what over activates your P-450s? Coffee, alcohol, saturated fats and even exhaust fumes.

So you’re actually are detoxifying every day already. Cool, right? Some of these compounds that your liver made harmless go straight through to Phase III to be eliminated by your body through your kidneys, gallbladder and digestive system. The rest however are a bit trickier and need a second process, called Phase II. These intermediate compounds need to be bound to molecules like glutathione, glycine, and sulfate to create a nontoxic substance that can be safely eliminated in Phase III. This process also causes a considerable amount of free radicals (those things we always hear about causing cancer), which need to be balanced with antioxidants. So if Phase II is lethargic, it causes damage to your body.

Short story: You gotta actually EAT to detox!

All three detoxification phases in your body are supported by FOOD (hence why fasting, juice diets and drinking lemon and cayenne pepper drink are not great detoxes!). Here’s a breakdown of some foods that support each phase – Eat for Phase I Veggies: Broccoli / broccoli sprouts, brussel sprouts, spinach, kale, watercress, pak choy, bok choy, radishes. Herbs and spices: coriander, rosemary, turmeric, St. Mary’s thistle, milk thistle. Fruits: pomegranate, grapefruit, berries, cherries, lingonberry. Eat for Phase II B complex vitamins (especially folic acid, B12 and B6) found in fish, animal proteins and legumes. Zinc and selenium (think brazil nuts, almonds, walnuts and kelp). Protein food sources to get the necessary amino acids such as glycine, taurine, cysteine, glutamine etc… Eat for Phase III Adequate fibre and water intake to keep the bowels regular (a probiotic is good too). Help fluid keep moving with natural diuretics such as celery seed, dandelion leaf, asparagus. The 3 phases of detoxification Each phase requires specific nutrients from the foods you eat to activate and support it, and they need to work together in harmony or it all becomes a big messy imbalance. Phase I needs lots of veggies and fruit, specifically from the brassica family (which also include a bunch of fibre to help keep your digestive system moving to help out Phase III). Phase II still needs those veggie nutrients, but also requires the amino acids from proteins. Yup, protein. Most detoxes tell you to eliminate protein which means all those Phase I toxins back up in your system and cause all those horrible “detox symptoms” and leave you more toxic than before. Phase III is basically the waste transport part e.g. getting all those neutralised toxins out of your body via your kidneys, digestive system and even skin. Adequate water, fibre and some of the same amino acids that support Phase II are required. An easier way to explain the detoxification process, without getting all sciencey, is to compare it to taking out the rubbish. Phase I and Phase II occur primarily in the liver in, and then through the kidneys at Phase III.

Phase I – The kitchen bin gets full of rubbish, so you bag it up and take it to the big rubbish bin in your garage. Phase II – Then the big rubbish bin fills up, so you have to put it out on the curb every week. Phase III – Every week the rubbish truck arrives to remove the contents of the rubbish bin.

So, Phase I is of course the easiest part to stay on top of as we are simply dealing with the rubbish right in front of us. Our bodies remove this rubbish (toxins) to the big rubbish bin (liver) constantly. This can be done easily by fasting and those trendy (expensive!) juice “cleanses,” but the issues with these and other “detox-in-a-box” program is that they don’t support Phase II because they’re lacking those very important amino acids. They also can cause Phase I to occur in too short a time and your big rubbish bin (your liver) will be overflowing with rubbish (toxins) very quickly. Let me explain some other possible scenarios that will cause issues with the balance of detoxification in your body –

  • The rubbish bin in your garage isn’t big enough (poor liver function).
  • You’re making more rubbish than usual (excess toxin exposure from food, environmental, skincare, plastics etc…).
  • You forgot to take the rubbish bin out to the curb when the rubbish truck came to collect it (not properly supporting Phase II nutritionally – too common with dodgy detoxes, yuck!).

That’s where The Whole Food Guide is different. After you complete the 3 Day Reset, the program has the right nutrient and amino acid support in the meal plan during the Cleanse phase. This ensure that your body completes all three phases of the detoxification process and sets you up right for fat burning and optimal health!