We put so many things in our body. Some we put in there purposefully, such as food and drink, but many things sneak in without our knowledge. Many experts say our modern environment is toxic: off-gases in our homes; exhaust and smoke in the air; chlorine in our water; and various pesticides, hormones and antibiotics in our food. We take prescription drugs, caffeine and alcohol. And then there is mad cow disease. So what is one to do? Paying attention to your environment and watching what you eat offer a good start, but there are many who advise a juice fast for quicker detoxification of your body.
Why Fast? -- There is a long tradition associated with fasting. Different faiths encourage it to focus one's time and energy on more spiritual (and less material) pursuits; health aficionados praise it for its quick ability to detoxify and cure the body of ills.
Brightspirit, the president of the board for People for Environmental Action and Children's Health (PEACH), has practiced short-term fasting for 20 years. She follows Dr. Richard Schulze's recommendations quite closely. Schulze is a renowned medical herbalist and natural doctor, who firmly states that juice fasts are one of 20 main steps toward a healthier life. He believes that "toxic pollutants are everywhere" and that it is necessary to cleanse one's liver.
"Living in this time in history, we have more industrial toxins entering our body -- our bodies have become a chemical soup," says Brightspirit. "Juice fasting helps to get rid of these toxins and improves our health." She believes that fasting is "a piece of the process toward individual wellness." She recommends fasting four times a year using the Dr. Schulze method.
Jari Serra, a local registered dietician with a holistic approach, agrees that juice fasts cleanse the body and can promote healing. She states that even the average person is toxic and can use the detoxification that a juice fast will provide.
Day One -- It begins. I am trying to do the Dr. Schulze method juice fast. One day of raw foods, three days of juice and one day to finish of raw foods again.
My simple breakfast was quite enjoyable. I left the house with a kick in my step and full of determination. Lunch went by without a hitch: a big salad with apple cider vinegar, sunflower seeds, avocado and carrots. All seemed to be going well when someone threw one of those godawful plastic meals in the microwave. The smell of roast beef and mashed potatoes with gravy wafted up to my office... and that was it. All I could think about was food. I ate dinner too late, but once I did (a repeat of my lunch menu), I felt much better. I thought, 'Hey, maybe I can do this after all. Maybe I'll actually make it to the end.' Lesson learned: Eat more creatively and frequently on the raw food day.
Who Shouldn't Fast -- There are certain people who shouldn't do a juice fast. Serra recommends that if you are underweight, undernourished, anemic, have digestive problems, are diabetic, hypoglycemic, or pregnant or nursing you should not undertake a fast. Before setting out on a fast of more than three days, one should consult a doctor. Serra warns that fasts can affect the potency of prescription meds. She also said -- as did others -- that she would never recommend a water-only fast.
However, there are those who wouldn't recommend fasting to anyone. "A fast seems like an extreme resort to try to make up for the fact that one is not eating enough fruits and vegetables," states Craig Hunt, a dietician working in the Spokane area. He says that even though the nutrients in homemade juice are excellent, "to deprive your body of slow-burning fuel can wreak havoc with blood sugar and mood." He believes that our bodies rely on protein on a regular basis.
As for the detoxification claims that people make for juice fasting, Hunt asks, "Where is the background evidence that this really cleanses the body of toxins? Fasting actually brings up more toxins than it takes out. It breaks down muscle and fat tissue -- our bodies store toxins in fat tissue -- releasing these toxins into the bloodstream. But are they actually going out of the body?"
Day Two -- Felt great this morning. I had a big glass of homemade juice: apple, orange, lemon, ginger and beets. It was really good, and I almost felt kind of high afterwards. Seems to me that ginger makes almost anything palatable. I haven't been getting too hungry; when I do, I just drink more juice or water.
I find myself fantasizing about food far too much. Funny what this does to you. Maybe fasting, in part, is helpful in overcoming our feelings toward food, our wants and uses, our tendencies to overdo it. Oops, off to the bathroom again...
Lesson learned: Drink more water.
Let's Do It! -- The main thing that Schulze and Serra recommend is making sure that the ol' bowels are working properly before undertaking a fast. That means at least one bowel movement a day. All those toxins have to get out somehow and if they don't, a killer headache will result. It is advisable to have regular movements for at least a week before fasting. Some things that help are a small amount of Epsom salts, or Traditional Medicinal's Smooth Move Tea.
Timing also plays a major role in one's success at a juice fast. Schedule your fast when you are not overly busy, maybe during the summer when there are lots of fresh fruits available. Serra also advises that you ease your way into the fast, cutting back on sugar and caffeine ahead of time to avoid those caffeine headaches.
As for the fast itself, it's preferable to make your own juice and to drink as much of it as you can. If you don't have a juicer, places like Spike downtown, Jamba Juice in Coeur d'Alene and Huckleberry's on the South Hill make juice. Brightspirit recommends adding Dr. Schulze's Super Food, which contains minerals, vitamins and amino acids, to your juice. PEACH sells it in bulk. If you get hungry, drink more. Drink as much water as you can, more 32 ounces a day. Have a couple of cups of herbal tea. Detoxification can be felt in headaches, funny bodily smells, strange tastes in mouth, fatigue, sinus pain, and irritability.
When you break your fast, be careful not to eat too much too fast. Eat slowly in small amounts, and listen to your body.
Day Three -- OK, so I had a breakdown last night. I got home from work at about 5:30, made a big jug of juice and really didn't feel like drinking it -- but I still did. I got a terrible headache. I was really cold and couldn't warm up, my skin felt like it was crawling, my mouth tasted terrible, I felt weak and tired and a bit depressed, there was this light fur all over my teeth, and I wanted to eat a pizza really badly. Every ad that came on TV was for Domino's. I started thinking about food and what its role is in our lives. I love food, I really do. I love creating wonderful delicious meals. I love eating with friends. I am realizing how this fast is almost more psychological for me than physical. I feel slightly out of my body and not in a positive way. Could all this agony be worth the supposed benefits of fasting? Could this be doing me harm? How could one day of juice fasting do this to me? Will I ever want to drink juice again?
I Can't Do This! -- Fasting is hard - there's no doubt about that. And it is likely that it's not for everyone. If you're having a hard time, Jari Serra has a few ideas for healthy ways to modify your juice fast to fit your (hungry) style a bit more.
"Some people can't tolerate a fast. Many people are undernourished and don't realize it. And some people really need protein added," she says. Start by adding protein powder to your juice, or try a barley drink. She advises taking 2 tablespoons of oils a day, like olive, coconut, flax or cod liver. If you are really weak, add some easily digestible foods like avocado, banana, miso soup, or bone broth and maybe even cottage cheese.
According to Serra, the amount of detox you receive depends on the amount you fast, so eating a little bit that is easy to digest won't cause too much of a problem, still focusing most of that digestion energy elsewhere.
So I only made it three days -- two days of actual fasting. Maybe I am one of those people who needs more protein. I probably could have made it had I talked to Jari Serra before I quit. I could have modified my diet a bit to work for me. But one really good thing that came out of the fast is that I am well on my way to quitting coffee. My skin seems healthier and I feel more inclined toward eating healthily than I did pre-juice fast. As far as detox goes, who knows? Maybe feeling a bit better now is all about detox; then again, maybe it's all about eating glorious food again.