For those committing—or recommitting—to a healthy diet and lifestyle, detoxing (often used interchangeably with cleansing) is an increasingly popular first step on the path toward better health. From liver-flush products to dedicated weeklong spa retreats, there’s no shortage of options for people looking to press the reset button.
Juice fasting is one effective approach, according to fasting and detoxification expert Reverend Steven Bailey, N.D., author of Juice Alive (Square One Publishers, 2010) and The Fasting Diet (Contemporary Books, 2001). Bailey has practiced naturopathic medicine at his Portland, Oregon clinic, Northwest Naturopathic Clinic, since 1983, and leads several group juice fasts each year. His two-week program starts with a three-day, pre-fast (or bulking) diet to prepare the body, followed by a five-day regimen of highly nutritious, organic juices and smoothies. The final phase is a gradual reintroduction of foods.
“I consider fasting one of the most—if not the most—reliable and safest tools for reversing ill health and promoting a pathway to good health,” Bailey says. He stresses that a true fast should have no starvation component, which can actually slow down metabolism. “A fast done appropriately will increase your metabolism and won’t leave your body feeling like it has to store up for the next famine,” he explains. Bailey doesn’t advocate fasting for pregnant and breastfeeding women, and he cautions that diabetics and people on a high number of prescription drugs should seek professional assistance as they fast.
While the practice of fasting was traditionally reserved primarily for spiritual purposes—back when the human diet was made up of organic foods, there was far less pollution and people were much more physically active—the stresses our bodies endure in the modern world have made it a useful tool for enhancing physical and emotional wellbeing.
“Today we’re exposed to a profoundly greater number and magnitude of toxins, and we’re consuming foods that are less varied and nutrient-rich,” Bailey says. “Most people don’t have enough energy to digest, maintain upright functioning and catch up with the body’s needs for detoxification.”
There are various types of fasts, but Bailey’s number-one choice for the average person is the fresh-juice variety. “A quart of vegetable juice will give you the micro-nutrition of two-and-a-half quarts of whole food,” he says. Fresh juices also provide nutrients needed for proper functioning of liver detoxification pathways, which can be depleted in unhealthy and overmedicated people.
Another benefit is that enzymes (the “work crew”) in fresh juices have already been liberated from their whole foods to deliver important nutrients into the body, freeing up the 30 percent or so of energy typically required for digestion, Bailey explains. That extra energy can then be applied for the benefit of the whole system: reducing inflammation, promoting normal cellular repair and rejuvenation and pulling out and excreting toxins through elimination.
As a result of reduced inflammation, fasters tend to report fewer gastrointestinal, arthritic, and dermatological complaints post-fast. And participants typically feel healthier and more energized afterward; often, they’re inspired to return to a healthier diet and lifestyle. Many experience better mental clarity for weeks or months after completing the program.
Bailey’s program is also designed to allow for accurate diagnosis of food sensitivities or allergies. And, perhaps most appealing of all, taking part in one of his groups (lucky Portlanders, including this writer) or following his program on your own needn’t interrupt career and family life.
“I call my program the ‘working-class fast’ because the vast majority of people that I’ve taken through it have been able to work full-time, keep their families together and have more energy than normal.” A fresh start, indeed. nwnclinic.com