Why we have been approaching cleansing all wrong


Juices have been getting a pretty bad rep recently, with the popularity of juice detoxes and cleanses diminishing after countless stories about their sugar content, negative effects on our stomachs and productivity all started to put people off the celeb go-to diet. But the founder of one of Sydney’s most successful natural health and wellness brands says we’ve been getting it all wrong – and here’s why…

When I first got in touch with Kirsten Shanks, Founder and Creative Director of Orchard Street, one of Sydney’s most successful wellness stores and brands, I was in what could be described as a health slump.

After an unfortunate surfing accident had left me in hospital and then stuck in bed in a state of post-op recovery, I was feeling jaded, unfit and fairly unhealthy. To give the bones I had broken a chance to heal, I was on what can only be described as a blanket exercise ban, save for walking.

As I am normally a fairly active person, I was doing as much walking as I could, but it wasn’t enough. My forced inactivity led me to search for ways to not only keep my body healthy, but my mind healthy too, without putting on too much weight in the process.

Choosing a juice detox

I wouldn’t call myself a seasoned ‘juicer’, not by any stretch, but having embarked on a couple of three day juice cleanses and detoxes before, I felt like I knew what I was in for when I signed up to a five day juice cleanse with Orchard Street. I was wrong.

Described on their website as, “a premium organic juice detox of high vibe juices, deeply nourishing smoothies, cleansing tonics and adaptogen-rich nut mylks” the one, three or five day cleanse options promise, “to support your return to radiant wellness.” Radiant wellness sounded good, I wanted to return to radiant wellness please.

However, after electing to go all in with a five day cleanse, I was met with a barrage of concern and questions from friends.

Had juice detoxes and cleanses really built up such a bad reputation over the last few years that people no longer trusted or understood their potential benefits?

“Juice cleanses should be viewed only as a short-term opportunity to kick-start weight loss or wellness endeavours, particularly indicated for those who are struggling to break a strongly habitual way of eating or pinpoint the source of digestive discomforts,” Kirsten explained.

Kirsten describes the criticism of juicing as an ‘incomplete diet’ as a, “common, understandable, misconception.”

“While low-fructose juices are a nutritious adjunct to a healthy daily diet, juice cleansing is not a diet or a long-term proposition. A juice cleanse is a nutrient dense fasting programme, undertaken for up to 5 days, to provide the body with easily assimilated sustenance needed for a short period of respite.”

How the juice cleanse really works

Orchard Street offers two different cleanses. The Naturalist, which Kirsten describes as, “a great entrance level cleanse, as it’s a bit sweeter (tastier) with fruit in the smoothie/juices and a cacao nut milk to end the day” and The Purist, which unlike The Naturalist is made up of drinks with minimal fructose. This one is definitely more of a challenge, but with greater challenge comes greater reward.

Each cleanse involves six different drinks a day – a smoothie to start, three juices, a detox tea or purifying tonic, and a milky drink to end the day on and ensure your stomach feels full and satisfied before you go to bed.

I had a mix of the two cleanses over my five day detox – starting and ending with The Naturalist and pacing myself through The Purist in the middle.

Worried that my biggest struggle would be feeling hungry and trying to resist the temptation of eating food, I was actually surprised to find the opposite true – I was struggling to get through all six drinks. It’s a lot of liquid!

The results

However, I persevered, and by the end of cleanse, I felt lighter – both mentally and physically. Not having to think about what I was going to eat or cook every day was brilliant and made me confront how much mental energy I have previously dedicated to food. Even though it’s not meant to be about weight loss, I had also dropped over 2kg just by drinking the juices and trying to hit 10,000 steps on my pedometer every day.

Things that I thought would be a challenge, such as forgoing my daily morning coffee, weren’t as difficult as I thought they would be, especially as the juices are formulated to energise and fuel you throughout the day. While I was looking forward to actually eating a meal by the end of the five days, I also didn’t find myself craving food during the cleanse either. If you feel you need something to keep you going, a list of suggested foods such as avocado, banana and pears is provided at the start of the cleanse.

One of the lasting benefits of the cleanse is said to be an improved relationship with food, which I can definitely see to be true. Where your daily routine and habits may have been defined by food before – what and when you have lunch and dinner, the after work snack in front of the TV or wine and chips with friends – the detox resets that routine, forcing you to asses when in the past you were eating because you were actually hungry and when was just habit, emotion or boredom.

“We all have unique emotional connections to food,” says Kirsten. “For many, the insight a juice cleanse provides in that rare ‘pause’ from eating can provide an instrumental shift in dietary habits, others however may need to be more cautious of overeating when the cleanse stops.”

Benefits of a juice cleanse: What the expert says

Kirsten, a Naturopath and the founder of Orchard St., details the main benefits of embarking on a juice cleanse below:

Improved digestive function – As the stomach and lower digestive tract rest from constant digestion, and potentially irritating foods and substances are avoided, bloating, gas and discomfort naturally reduces.

Clarity of mind – Perhaps the most noticeable benefit for many is the ‘fog lifting’ on day 2 or 3 of a cleanse, drawing attention to how strongly our state of mind is linked to the gut.

Energy levels – Cleansers experience a natural energy and lightness of being, waking up fresh and full of vitality without caffeine.

The ‘glow’ – The reason so many brides-to-be and celebrities love to cleanse before big events, is that they have the ability to reduce fluid retention around the face, bring a luminance to the skin and a clear sparkle to the eyes!

Mindful eating – The long lasting awareness that comes with this conscious pause from eating of how, what and why we consume the foods we do.

Juice cleansing is not recommended for anyone with a disordered approach to eating; a time when gentle whole food nutrition is essential. Cleansing also isn’t for the young or elderly, pregnant or breastfeeding. If any doubt or concerns around whether a cleanse is right for you, always seek medical advice from your health practitioner.