The Side Effects (and Benefits) of Juice Fasting

*Edited and Reprinted with permission from the Boozy Gardener. Originally published February 2018. As we often say in class, before implementing any major changes, it's a good idea to talk to your doctor first.

I have finished my three-day juice fast, and I thought I would share my experience. From the get-go, I want to say that I am not a medical doctor, nor did I consult one while doing this fast (I mean, other than Dr. Oz). What follows is simply what happened to my body and how it helped me accomplish my personal goals.

Why did I do this? 

I went out to watch basketball with some high school friends yesterday, and instead of ordering my normal beer and wings, I ordered water, no ice, and carrot sticks (which are allowed on the fast).

My poor waitress had to fill this sucker up three times.

My friend who invited me to the shindig had thought I was joking about the fast, and at least two other friends (including my 9-year-old niece) asked, "Why?" Why was I doing this?

While I ultimately do want to lose weight, the goal of this juice fast was to reboot my body and get back to the healthier diet I used to follow. Not that long ago, I would treat myself to an occasional burger, fried food, or burrito, but mostly eat vegetables and lean meats. On top of that, I would run or do yoga for at least an hour, sometimes two, every day. I felt amazing.

In the past three years or so, eating crappy food and being largely inactive has become the norm. I could reason away WHY this was happening, but that doesn't matter. What matters is I want to go back to feeling good. I've had a number of health issues in the past year, and I know my crap diet is the culprit. I saw this juice fast as a way to break the habits of caffeine and processed and fried foods.

Post-purge, I hope to cut out caffeine, simple carbs, red meat, and dairy. All of this stuff is terrible for you and leaves me, personally, feeling bloated, tired, and crappy (a medical term). I feel much better when I eat a largely plant-based diet.

Day 1: I'm not a happy camper. 

I kept prodigious notes throughout all three days of the cleanse, but what follows is a (believe it or not) briefer, more coherent summary.

The Joe Cross juice cleanse that I posted above recommended starting the day with warm lemon water (I had green tea and honey to fight the inevitable caffeine withdrawal headache I would get), five juices, a dinner that included only fruits and vegetables, and a nightcap of herbal tea.

By late afternoon, I had only managed to drink three of the juices (I was supposed to be four down at this point). Perhaps it's because I'm used to a largely liquid-based diet (I'll be here all week, folks), but I found the juices to be really filling.

Day 1 was the worst of my emotional side effects of the juice cleanse. I won't lie, I was cranky, but I honestly think that was because of the caffeine withdrawal. You see, you're supposed to ween yourself off caffeine and booze for at least a week prior to the cleanse. As you can imagine, I didn't do that.

Sleep deprivation was the other issue leading to my crankiness. I had not been sleeping well the previous week, and had only gotten about six hours the night before because I had been up late making all these damn juices.

While I wasn't hungry at all during the three-day fast, I did spend a lot of time fantasizing about food, particularly on Day 1. I missed chewing, which is odd. How often do you normally even think about chewing?

I'm happy to report that all of these food fantasies were about healthy foods, and I made a shopping list for next week that included fresh vegetables and lean meats.

Day 1: Evening

Once I got home from work, I realized there was no way I would eat, so I finished about half of my fourth juice and saved the rest for the next day. Other than my carrots and celery on Saturday, I didn't eat anything solid over the course of three days.

That night, I also noticed the most unpleasant, though thankfully short-lived, side effect of the juice fast. I felt bloated, and my gut looked as if I had been on a nine-day bender. I panicked and took to the Interwebs to figure out what the hell was going on.

Bloating and gas are totally normal side effects. While the science on why you experience these various side effects is a bit lacking because doctors in the States are just now studying fasts, the answer to combating these side effects is clear: drink more water. Your body is working overtime to flush toxins out of your system, and it needs water to aid in the purge.

Day 2: Water does help.

I woke with a barn-burner of a headache but felt better after I drank some water, which seemed to confirm my research from the night before.

After that, I felt fine all day. I was only able to get through 2 1/2 jars of the juice, which led me to think part of my bloating could have had to do with drinking too many the day before. I had a slight headache throughout the day, but noticed that I felt better whenever I drank water.

I want to pause here and say that, throughout the cleanse, I went to the bathroom to urinate more often than normal (probably because I was chugging lemon water by the liter), but my "movements" (that word cracks me up) were totally normal.

Day 3: I am tested. 

As mentioned above, some friends of mine from high school wanted to get together on Saturday to catch up. I worried that once I smelled french fries, the whole damn experiment would crash and burn, but I also wanted to see my friends.

Before starting my day, I had half a juice (and had another half later--that was the only juicing I did on Day 3). During lunch, I had carrot sticks and celery, which are technically allowed on the Joe Cross diet. While I did momentarily miss dipping them in ranch dressing, it felt good to be chewing something again!

I made it through lunch with no problem, but later that night, my niece made some popcorn, and the buttery, salty smell was so amazing, I feared for a moment that I was going to wrestle her to the ground for a few kernels. I behaved myself, though, and made some herbal tea.

Side Effects

I've already mentioned a few above: bloating, crankiness, an on-again, off-again headache. I had four other symptoms that really started to appear on Day 2. I'll warn you in advance, some of them are gross.

So.... cold: I was freezing, particularly on Days 2 and 3. I'm always cold, but I was REALLY cold. My boss kept coming into my office, and commenting on the fact that I was wearing a coat and gloves (I'm gaining the reputation around the office of being a nut, which I love). If you decide to do a juice fast, bundle up. Most people seem to think this is because, since you're getting such a limited number of calories, your body is having a tough time keeping up.

Discolored tongue: My tongue was a whitish/yellowish color, which I first attributed to the kale in my juice. So naive. A group of Chinese researchers found that this happens because your body is secreting proteins and sulfur through your tongue, and the bacteria living in your mouth are basically having a feeding frenzy. Eat up, little guys.

Stinkiness: I didn't have massive BO, but I noticed that I was stinkier than normal, even with my routine showers. From what I've read, it's because your body is eliminating toxins, and they're doing it through the skin (which is our largest elimination organ).

Acne: I noticed a slight redness on my face and a scattering of body acne (all of which have subsided as of this writing, dear readers). If I was fasting in the summer I might be self-conscious, but honestly it was no big deal. Like body odor, most believe this happens because your body is eliminating toxins through the skin.

The Results

While weight loss was not my ultimate goal of the juice fast, I did lose three pounds and half an inch from my waist and hips.

More importantly, I seem to have kicked bad food cravings (other than the unfortunate popcorn incident). As I get to eat today, and right now I'm fantasizing about salads and maybe some vegan chicken cooked in cilantro. I also feel no desire to drink caffeine or booze--caffeine being the biggie (we all know I'm going to be drinking by the week's end).

Finally, I slept like a baby throughout this experiment. It's probably because my body was putting in OT on limited calories, but I don't care. I haven't slept over eight hours a night in a long time, so it felt great.

Should you try it?

I don't know. I'm not your doctor. All I can say is that if you're looking for a relatively easy way to kickstart a new way of eating, it's worth a shot. However, if you have a medical condition, such as diabetes, you'll definitely want to okay it with your doc first.

Do you have an experience with a juice cleanse? If so, feel free to comment below and tell your story.