If you are considering doing a juice fast because you have heard rave reviews from friends or been recommended this as a solution to get more energy, there are 5 key questions to ask yourself to make sure that doing a juice fast won’t make you feel worse! It’s all about understanding what actually happens in your brain when you stop eating solid foods for a number of days and only drink green juices, and/or ‘fasters smoothies’ which consists often of a bentonite clay, fibre like psilium and water.
Most people get told that they feel better after a cleanse because a number of hidden toxins that you can’t see or test for, have been excreted from the body. While there is no evidence that this is true, what we do know is that fasting can lead to you increased mental alertness and actually enhance your mood but it’s because of what fasting does to your brain! http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11916-010-0104-z
At a recent review of all the fasting studies done so far in humans has found is that fasting does actually change your levels of many neurotransmitters in the brain, including your brain’s happy hormone, serotonin. It has actually been used successfully to help treat patients with chronic pain syndromes, mood issues and fibromyalagia. There is also some evidence that doing a juice fast followed by eating a vegetarian diet long term may help rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune inflammatory joint condition. The mechanism is again thought to be related to anti-inflammatory effects that start in the brain! http://informahealthcare.com/doi/abs/10.1080/030097401750065256
We also have compounds that our brain produces naturally called endogenous opioids and endocannabinoids, meaning that they work the same way as drugs like morphine and cannibis. And cannibis is a really common substance to self medicate with for issues like chronic pain, mood issues and fibromyalagia, and it’s because it affects the brain’s reward and pleasure centres. So it’s pretty cool to know that your brain is actually capable of making these substances all on it’s own too given the right conditions!
Recent findings suggest that some of the beneficial effects of IF on the brain and the heart. IF is a typo of fasting where you eat less frequently, and there are 5 different types of IF, one typo is eating one meal only per day, and one type is where you pick one or two days each week where you do not eat, only drinking water or other zero calorie drinks.
A lot of this research has been done in rats though, and we need more human studies but the information so far is showing that in aminal models, both the cardiovascular system and the brain seem to get more resistant to stress and have less cellular damage after a period of IF and both these effects are mediated by brain-derived neurotrophic factor signaling in the brain, meaning changes is the brain which send different messages to yur cells and your heart. These in the brain and heart and blood vessel cells from IF are similar to the benefits from regular physical exercise. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S095528630400261X
So, that all sounds pretty awesome right!? The only issue is that going on a 7 day or even 3 day juice fast when you are alreadychronically stressed and putting your body and adrenals under constant demands can backfire, because your body is not in a state to be able to take advantage of these fasting benefits. So if you are not able to take time away from work and fast while you are doing notghing but R and R, you may end up feeling more fatigued and brain foggy from fasting, and often adding in a 10 minute meditation to decrease limbic system hyper arousal and cutting our refined carbs and caffeine is a better bet for those situations when you can’t take a break from work.
If you are underweight……
The other key juice fasting mistake that I see people make and then feel awful is doing hard physical exercise or difficult hard yoga asana during a juice fast to ‘cleanse the toxins’ Not only is this not necessary but it puts your body under unnecessary stress as it is trying to conserve energy due to the reduced calories you are taking in. This can lead to getting sick during a fast, feeling lighthreaded and even passing out and negate any benefits.
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