The Spring Equinox officially starts in 5 days on March 20, and many of you might be thinking of whether you should be doing some kind of “Spring Detox”. I’m all for a good occasional internal clearing out, and while a “juice cleanse” or “fasting cleanse” might be beneficial for some people, for many others, you might actually be doing more harm than good with a super harsh detox like a juice cleanse or fast.
The idea with any detox is to bring the body back in balance again by reducing the toxic load on it. Fasts or juice cleanses broadly work on the premise that the body spends a large part of its energy digesting food, so giving the digestive system a break results in your body being better able to focus its attention on other things like clearing out the build-up of toxins and increasing cell turnover to produce a stronger, healthier system.
Why a hardcore detox (involving little or no food) is NOT for you:
1. You’re Looking To Lose Weight Quickly
Too many people use a “juice detox” as an excuse to crash diet and lose weight fast. Call it what it is: a crash diet. And crash diets are not great for your long-term metabolism and hormonal health.
While you might lose a few kilos now, you’ll pack them back on when you go back to eating regularly again. Even worse for some people who are genetically predisposed - because your body thinks you’re in a “feast or famine” situation, it will more readily store fat just in case you stop eating again, to tide itself over during “the famine”.
If you’re consistently feasting then starving yourself in a ‘yo-yo diet’ pattern, your metabolism will struggle to keep up, eventually slowing down over time, leading to easier weight gain and more problematic long-term hormonal issues between thyroid, adrenal and reproductive systems. 
2. You’re Currently Stressed Out
There are mental and emotional aspects to detoxification that many people overlook which can have a profound impact on the physiological effects of detoxification. A detox simply isn’t only about “remove these foods” and “eat these foods”. It goes much deeper than just what you eat and drink. The environment you're in, your emotional and mental states all impact your stress and detoxification functions.
The “toxic load” we’re clearing can come from external triggers (eg. stuff you eat like alcohol/ sugar/ caffeine, etc.), but it can also come from internal triggers (eg. excessive stress hormones production like cortisol and adrenaline when you’re highly stressed). When highly stressed, more energy's going to be spent producing stress-related hormones than all your other hormones, throwing off your internal balance.
If you're unable to take timeout from what's currently stressing you out or be in a physical environment that supports your emotional wellbeing, you might want to rethink any kind of “hardcore” juice detox that might overload your system further. You won’t be giving your liver any chance to properly “detox” from its excess toxic load that it’s trying to deal with in the first place if you continually pour excess stress hormones in. It’s like trying to bail water out of a boat with holes in its hull.
3. You’ve Got A Slow Metabolism
You know the signs - constantly tired, put on weight easily, get cold easily, no energy to do anything. Most juice detoxes tend to be quite low-calorie, and adding a super low-calorie diet to a sluggish metabolism is more likely to slow it down even more. (A total fast is not to be confused with an intermittent-fast which has the opposite effect on metabolism - but that’s a different topic for a different time).
If you suspect any thyroid issues/ have a family history of thyroid or autoimmune conditions and have physical signs of a slow metabolism, you should first see your healthcare provider and try to figure out what the root cause could be. Any kind of fast or juice cleanse may negatively impact someone with a sluggish metabolism, as your liver may become even more overloaded trying to deal with it.
4. You’re Chronically Constipated
First, let’s define how often you should be pooing. If you’re not going at least 2 - 3 times a day, you’re not breaking down and moving food through your gut as quickly as you should be, which means it’s getting stuck somewhere along the digestive process causing bigger detoxification issues. And yup, that means you’re constipated.
The colon is one of your detoxification organs (along with the liver, kidneys, skin, lungs), and the longer the contents in your colon sit there, the more likely the stuff that’s meant to be on their way out, eg. excess toxins/ hormone metabolites, etc. will be reabsorbed again. This causes a vicious cycle where the rest of your detoxification organs need to work harder to remove the ever-growing circulating toxins, which can’t be excreted fast enough.
Needless to say, if you’re on a detox - you want to get the excess build-up in your system OUT. If you’re already constipated, removing all fibre through fasting or juicing will not help - you’re literally causing more of a backlog on your detoxification systems. (!) First, you want to ensure you’re able to excrete on a regular cycle before you start on any kind of detox. That’s already a “detox” in and of itself!
Alternative to a Detox - Add More Veggies to Your Diet with Green Smoothies
A good alternative to a detox is simply to add more vegetables to your current diet - and green smoothies are the fastest, easiest way to get your greens hit. Get my 7-Days of Green Smoothies Checklist - add one green smoothie to your daily routine. It automatically increases your daily veggie count. And no, it’s not green smoothies all day only for 7 days - you get to eat and live as you usually do, just add a green smoothie once a day to your daily routine. Easy!
Feel free to comment below if you want to know whether or not a Spring Detox could be helpful or harmful for you.
If you liked this, you might also like these other resources:
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Download your “7 days of green smoothies” checklist (tips, recipes, shopping list).
In the meantime, you might also be interested in these previous blog posts:
Longo VD, Mattson MP (2014). Fasting: Molecular Mechanisms and Clinical Applications. Available: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3946160/.
Hess ME, Brüning JC (2014). The fat mass and obesity-associated (FTO) gene: Obesity and beyond? Available: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0925443914000337.
Hooper LE, Foster-Schubert KE, Weigle DS, et al (2010). Frequent intentional weight loss is associated with higher ghrelin and lower glucose and androgen levels in postmenopausal women. Available: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2992868/.
Ranabir S, Reetu K. (2011). Stress and hormones. Available: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3079864/
Lam M, Lam J, Lam D (2015). Liver Health and Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome – Part 1. Available: https://www.drlam.com/blog/liver-health-afs-part-1/7851/.
Cespedes, A (2016). Does Fasting Speed Up Metabolism? Available: http://www.livestrong.com/article/394573-does-fasting-speed-up-metabolism/.