Juice Fasting - Is It Safe? Choosing the Right Cleanse for Your Body Type

Many of the detox programs out on the market right now focus on juice fasting, in which only fresh-pressed juices, herbal tea and water are consumed, or complete fasting, in which only water is consumed. According to Cherie Calbom, MS, in her book Juicing, Fasting and Detoxing for Life, benefits of fasting include: increased strength and energy, detoxification of cells and tissues, weight loss, improved mental clarity, restoration of alkaline balance, strengthened immune system, lowered blood pressure, lowered cholesterol, lessened aches and pains, revitalized organ systems, rests the GI system and increased ease of movement.

However, is it always healthy - or safe - to function without food for several days? (Cherie Calbom does indicate that many people wouldn't be candidates for juice fasting - anyone who is diabetic or hypoglycemic, anyone with anemia, aggressive forms of cancer, or eating disorders or anyone who is pregnant or nursing.)

According to the Ayurvedic perspective, the type of cleansing that is right for you depends on your constitution. If you haven't already, try this Ayurvedic quiz to determine your mind-body type (also known as constitution), and then read on to discover what type of cleansing is best for your type.

Vata
Vata-predominant people are the least suited to a juice cleanse or fast. Because they are sensitive, and usually of a thin, bony frame with a tendency to be underweight, they have a difficult time staying balanced through even a day without food. Vatas are dominated by air and space, and fasting increases these elements, which can result in even more spaciness, bloating, gas, anxiety, nervousness, low back pain, weakness and fatigue. In general, "reducing diets" throw Vata off balance. The traditional panchakarma cleanses, in which a simplified diet of kitchadi is consumed, is most suitable for Vatas because it is grounding. I do not recommend Vata-predominate people, or people with a Vata imbalance, even add juices to their cleansing protocol because of the cooling nature that further exacerbates Vata.

Pitta
Pitta-predominant people are more sturdy than Vatas, but their extreme appetite and, um, shall we say crankiness when skipping a meal means that it is very difficult for Pittas to fast or cleanse using only juice. If you are someone who gets irritable when skipping a meal, or even eating later than usual, you likely have never felt inclined to try a cleanse that involves not eating. I can relate to this (I'm a pretty strong Pitta!). Again, the traditional kitcahdi cleanse is a good fit for Pittas because they can get a very complete cleanse and still be able to eat three meals each day. However, because Pittas are very "hot" by nature, fresh pressed juices are an ideal cooling addition to a cleanse for Pittas.

Kapha
Kaphas by far have the most stamina of all the types and are the most suited for a fast or juice cleanse. Because Kapha is dominated by earth and water, these types tend to feel "heavy" when out of balance. The lightening effect of a fast or juice cleanse is helpful for Kaphas wishing to regain balance. This can be done on its own, or for a few days in the middle of a more lengthy cleanse. However, diabetes is a condition of excess Kapha. In this case, because juicing or fasting can complicate any blood sugar-related conditions, Ayurvedic Cleansing would be more appropriate.

Juice Cleansing Vs. Ayurvedic Cleansing
While juice cleansing has many benefits, there are many benefits an Ayurvedic Cleanse offers that juice cleansing does not, and are completely unique to this method. Some of these are:

  • Strengthening digestion - the Ayurvedic Cleansing method has specific protocol for improving digestion after the cleansing period is over so that you are able to digest difficult foods again - such as gluten or dairy.
  • Balancing blood sugar - whether you are dealing with diabetes or hypoglycemia, the Ayurvedic Cleansing method supports the body in balancing blood sugar levels by training the body to burn fat for fuel, rather than relying on sugar (which results in the spikes and dips).
  • Oleation - or, simply, "oiling" - the process of removing fat-soluble toxins by surrounding the fats cells with oil.
  • Emotional clearing - as the fat soluble toxins are released, so are old emotions and patterns. Further, as blood sugar levels become more stable, so do emotions.
  • Improving our inherent ability to detox daily - the Ayurvedic Cleansing method not only clears out but also resets the body's main detoxification pathways (the liver and the lymph) so that, after the cleanse, the body is able to release toxins daily, as it is intended to do.
  • Stress Management - because self-care practices, breath work and yoga are equally important as diet in the Ayurvedic method of cleansing, we are also learning more skillful ways of dealing with stress.

One of my past cleanse group participants really summed it up in her testimonial of her experience:

"The biggest change I notice is my intestinal blockage is so much better! I feel light and my appetite and bodily knowledge and trigger for when to eat seems to be back on track, which is huge for me. My senses are heightened and I lost some weight that I wanted to lose. But that only scratches the surface of the changes! I felt supported and like I was in good hands the whole time. Words can't describe how much has shifted for me: mentally, physically, emotionally. I feel ready for a new outlook and rhythm for my life. Thank you so much!" - Leoni