Juice therapy involves the consumption of the juice of raw fruit or vegetables. A person may drink juice preventively to stay healthy, to treat a medical condition such as cancer, or to produce a certain outcome, such as strengthening the immune system. Three widely practiced juice therapies differ primarily in the amount of time that a person is involved in the therapy and whether other items are included in the person’s diet. For some people, adding fresh juice to their daily meal plan is sufficient. Others will embark on a juice fast for several days to cleanse their systems. Juice is also a major component of the so-called Gerson therapy diet that is used to treat cancer. This therapy usually starts with a stay of three to eight weeks in a clinic. Then therapy continues at home and may continue for years.
Research has shown that a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables reduces the risk of such chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. This diet is also believed to reduce the risk of developing cancer. Furthermore, raw vegetables and fruits contain vitamins, food enzymes, minerals, amino acids, and natural sugars. Some of those nutrients are altered or lost in commercial juices sold in stores because, with few exceptions, these juices must be pasteurized (heat treated) to prevent spoilage. According to juice therapy advocates, however, the benefits of fresh juices extend beyond their nutritional content.
Proponents of juice therapies continue to study its benefits. In 2002, a physician reported to the American College of Cardiology that two cups of orange juice daily significantly lowered the blood pressure of hypertensive patients. A British study in the same year verified the positive effects of cranberry juice on urinary tract infections.
Juice is used in Ayurvedic treatment for such conditions as arthritis, anemia, and constipation. Juice is also a component of naturopathy, which is also known as the ‘‘whole body cure.’’ A naturopathic doctor may prescribe a juice fast as part of treatment for arthritis, cancer, or AIDS. Supporters of juice fasting believe that the process releases a hormone that helps the body fight disease so that a juice fast strengthens the immune system. The fast also allows the naturopathic physician to identify food sensitivities (allergens) as the patient begins eating food.
Juice fasting is also a part of detoxification therapy. It is part of the Gerson diet, a cancer therapy said to eliminate the build-up of toxins in the body by stimulating enzymes, improving the digestive system, and providing the correct balance of vitamins and minerals.
Juice therapy can be as simple as extracting the juice from raw produce or as complicated as the Gerson diet. The therapies vary in the amount of commitment involved and the cost. Whether a therapy is covered by medical insurance will depend on the health plan. The costs of juicing or fasting at home are generally not covered. A juice fast administered as part of another treatment by a doctor or other health care provider might be covered. For Gerson therapy, some companies pay for part or all of the costs, according to the Gerson Institute Web site. Individuals interested in therapeutic juice fasting as part of treatment for a specific disease should check with their insurance company about coverage.
The Gerson therapy treatment was originally administered at a Gerson therapy clinic. Today, the institute does not operate facilities; instead since 1999, it has licensed such facilities as the Oasis of Hope Hospital in Tijuana, Mexico. The Gerson therapy treatment is based on drinking freshly pressed vegetable and fruit juice every hour. During a typical day at a Gerson clinic, a person would drink 13 glasses of raw carrot/apple and green-leaf vegetable juices. Vegetarian meals of organically grown food are served. During treatment, the patient receives coffee enemas during the evening to detoxify the blood and tissues. A stay at the Oasis of Hope is quite expensive and may not be covered by medical insurance.
A juice fast can be undertaken at home with no professional guidance or under the direction of an alternative medicine practitioner such as a naturopathic doctor. The fast could also be part of the program at a retreat center. Another juice therapy option is a short-term cleansing diet lasting two to three days. One popular fast involves consumption of fruit and vegetable juice for several days. In some plans, herbal tea and broth are allowed. Another variation is the raw food diet, which involves eating uncooked fruit and vegetables. Advocates claim the diet is useful in treating such conditions as heart disease and arthritis.
Juicing involves the extraction of juice from raw fruit or vegetables. An extractor, fresh produce, and a commitment of time to juice the items are required. A blender is not strong enough to juice produce. Juice extractors are priced from about $120–$2,000. Juice should be consumed as soon as possible after extraction. When it is stored, juice loses some of its nutritional value.
BENEFICIAL JUICES. While most people know that orange juice is rich in vitamin C, the juices of other produce are believed to provide other health benefits. The wide selection of juices offers benefits that include the following:
- An 8-oz (240 ml) glass of carrot juice contains more than 10 times the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C.
- Fresh fruit and vegetable juices, including wheatgrass juice, are consumed for ulcers. Ulcer remedies include raw potato juice for peptic ulcers. For a duodenal ulcer, raw cabbage juice can be mixed with carrot and celery juice.
- Cranberries help prevent and treat urinary infections.
- Beet juice can be diluted to stimulate the liver.
- Garlic lowers the blood pressure and cholesterol.
- Cantaloupe juice can be consumed for stress.
Individuals should consult a doctor or nutritionist before beginning a fast or treatment such as Gerson therapy. The medical professional can determine whether it is safe for the individual to undertake the fast, and recommend duration for the fast. The individual should also discuss with his or her healthcare provider any warning signs that indicate health problems are developing from the therapy. Prolonged fasting can be dangerous and knowing the signs of a possible problem can help prevent serious health consequences.
Some precautions should be taken with each form of juice therapy. Juicing removes much of the necessary dietary fiber found in fruits and vegetables. Since an adult diet should contain 20–25 g of fiber per day, a person relying heavily on juice should find other sources of dietary fiber. Another caution is that carrot greens, rhubarb greens, and apple seeds can be toxic and should not be juiced.
Some health professionals advise against fasting, a process they say can produce weakness, fatigue, anemia, and other conditions. Other health professionals believe that fasts are safe, but should not be undertaken by pregnant women, people who are diabetic, and those who have ulcers or a heart condition.
In some cases, the doctor or practitioner may advise a supervised fast. Another potential problem with juicing fresh fruit and some vegetables is that it can lead to the intake of considerable amounts of sugar. In some people, the sugar produces a quick rush of energy followed by a ‘‘crash.’’ Although drinking juice can help individuals ensure that they get the recommended amounts of fruit and vegetables each day, consuming large amounts of fruit juice can lead to excessive sugar intake which can cause weight gain and increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Critics of the Gerson diet say that it has many dangerous side effects, including dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, constipation, infection, poor resistance to disease, excessive weight loss, inflammation of the colon, and in some cases even death. A person diagnosed with cancer should never undertake Gerson therapy instead of conventional cancer treatments such as chemotherapy. As of 2008, there were only two licensed Gerson centers in the world—a 10-bed center in Tijuana, Mexico and a 3-bed center in California.
The side effects of fasting can include weight loss, mental confusion, fatigue, electrolyte imbalance, constipation, diarrhea, and dehydration. In Gerson therapy, diarrhea and nausea are considered part of the healing process. During the treatment, a person may experience flu-like symptoms, loss of appetite, weakness, and dizziness. Other side effects may include fever blisters, perspiration and body odor, intestinal cramping, and a painful feeling in tumors.