TO JUICE OR NOT TO JUICE
Over the last couple years, juicing has become very popular. Traditionally, juicing has been done to cleanse and detoxify, not for weight loss. And while it has many benefits, it is not a cure-all as many people seem to believe. So assuming you are not looking to lose weight so much as to feel more energetic and clear-minded, would a juice cleanse be beneficial for you? Maybe … and maybe not. I’ll explain.
Ayurveda’s Take On Juicing
Ayurveda is clear on one thing: nothing is all good or all bad for anybody all of the time. And so it is with juicing. It can greatly benefit some people at certain times, and be absolutely detrimental to other people at other times. The way Ayurveda looks at individual constitutions as well as the qualities inherent in food and the seasons further supports this idea.
Juices by their very nature are cold, light and dry (no fat). Depending on whether you have more air (vata), fire (pitta), or earth (kapha) in your individual constitution, those qualities may or may not agree with you. On the plus side, juicing is a great way to provide your body with mega-doses of vitamins and nutrients, in an easily absorbable form. It will also give your body a break from digesting foods that are heavier and denser, so it has more energy to heal and repair itself.
In terms of energetic effects, juicing is:
- Energizing (at least initially)
But are those the qualities you are in need of? If you are feeling congested, mucous-y, foggy and uninspired, then most likely yes. But if you need more grounding, warming, nourishing foods to feel good, proceed with caution. You can still juice now and then, but it has to be at the right time, and for a brief period of time. Done for too long, juicing can easily be depleting, because of the absence of protein and fats in juices.
Juicing and YOU
If you don’t already know your mind/body type, take this quiz to find out.
- If your constitution is Vata, or you are experiencing several of the following symptoms: restlessness, fatigue, anxiety, dry skin/nails/hair, constipation, difficulty falling asleep at night…. Then juicing is not for you right now. Wait until the weather really warms up. And even then, I suggest no more than one juice a day with 2 solid food meals. You’d be better off doing an Ayurvedic cleanse (more on that below.)
- If your constitution is Pitta, or you are experiencing several of the following symptoms: heartburn, any type of inflammatory condition (skin, gut, eyes, joints), anger, profuse sweating, bad breath, loose stool…You’ll benefit from juicing in moderation. Your constitution will likely welcome the cooling effect of juices but you still have to be moderate. Pitta types tend to have excellent digestion and a fast metabolism. Going on a “liquids only” diet can leave this type feeling ravenous and extremely irritable! Two juices a day with one large solid food meal should keep you satiated and pleasant to be around.
- If your constitution is Kapha, or you are experiencing several of the following symptoms: recurring colds and sinus congestion, fluid retention, feeling foggy and uninspired, excessively oily hair and skin, difficulty waking up in the morning even after a full night sleep… Bingo! You are the best candidate for a juice cleanse. A 2-5 days juice-only diet should perk you up nicely.
Those are general guidelines. Try juicing if you are so inclined and pay close attention to how your body and mind respond. Trust what you feel and become the expert of yourself. Don’t just follow the trend! Only by investigating honestly, with an open mind, can you figure out how much juice (if any) you can enjoy without upsetting your internal balance.
Also know that having only juices for a while…
- Will lower your digestive fire. You can mitigate that undesirable effect by sipping on ginger tea in between your juices. Ginger is known to kindle the digestion.
- Can leave you really hungry. If so, add coconut oil. This healthy fat will add “weight” to your juice, for a more grounding and nourishing effect.
- Can leave you feeling chilly all the time. Be sure to drink your juices at room temperature only and alternate with hot teas. Preferably wait for the weather to be warm.
- Can give you a sugar high…and a crash. Some fruits and even vegetables contain a lot of sugar (beets, carrots, grapes). And because juicing gets rid of fibers, sugar rapidly gets into your bloodstream to give you a quick energy boost but potentially also a quick crash. To avoid the high/low energy levels, favor green juices and low-sugar fruits and vegetables such as apples, grapefruits, lemons, celery, greens, cucumbers.
The Ayurvedic Cleanse
Fortunately there are other ways to detoxify our body than juicing. Solid foods can actually be used for that purpose! Ayurveda recommends doing periodic mono-fasts. This consists in eating a simple diet of whole foods, cooked with the right spices, and eaten at specific times, along with lots of hot water and herbal teas. Coffee, alcohol, sugar, dairies, processed and fried foods are not to be consumed. Herbal formulas are often used to support the liver and colon. When we cleanse, we want to circulate the energy and release toxins, many of which are stored precisely in our fat cells. However, when you are starving, as a survival measure your body will drastically slow down its metabolism to hold on to whatever fat/energy reserve it already has. Balance, consistency, and knowing your body are the keys to cleansing.
Are you ready?
Spring is a time of renewal and an ideal time for cleaning both our external and internal environment. The benefits of a cleanse are much more than physical. A cleanse is an opportunity to re-assess our eating habits and not just look at what we eat, but also how, when and why we eat. Tendencies such as eating when not hungry, until full, eating fast, when upset, sad or bored are magnified in the process of doing a cleanse. This greater awareness goes a long way to help us adopt healthier habits.
To be truly effective any cleanse should include lots of quiet time, deep breathing, meditation, gentle yoga, walks in nature, proper sleep. Fasting from electronic devices is also highly recommended, at least for a few hours every day.
If you feel ready, or not quite, and are looking for guidance, support and motivation, join me here at Swanand Yoga on April 6th, 13th and 20th from 3-5PM each time. I’ll share with you a ton of information on how to:
- Improve your digestion (and reduce/eliminate bloating, constipation, gas)
- Upgrade your diet, according to the season and your unique mind/body type.
- Gently cleanse with a simple diet, the right spices and detoxifying tea.
See you soon!