Juice cleanses have become a popular way for people to detox their bodies and reset their digestive systems. By drinking only fruit and vegetable juices for a set period of time, the goal is to flood the body with nutrients while eliminating processed foods and other toxins. However, some people report experiencing constipation during or after completing a juice cleanse. This article will explore the reasons why juice cleanses may lead to constipation and provide tips on how to prevent it.
What is Constipation?
Constipation refers to infrequent, difficult, or incomplete bowel movements. Symptoms may include:
- Hard, dry stools
- Straining during bowel movements
- Feeling like you can’t completely empty your bowels
- Fewer than three bowel movements per week
- Abdominal pain or bloating
Occasional constipation is very common and usually resolves on its own. However, if you consistently experience constipation, it could indicate an underlying health issue. Some people are more prone to constipation than others due to factors like diet, hormone levels, and activity level.
Why Juice Cleanses May Lead to Constipation
There are a few reasons why exclusively drinking fruit and vegetable juices may cause or worsen constipation in some people:
Lack of Fiber
Fiber is the indigestible part of plant foods that provides bulk to stool. Soluble fiber absorbs water, while insoluble fiber helps move material through the digestive tract. When making juices, insoluble fiber is removed from fruits and vegetables. This means juice lacks the fiber needed to keep stool soft and support healthy bowel movements.
|Food||Fiber in Whole Food (grams)||Fiber in Juice (grams)|
As this table displays, juicing fruits and vegetables significantly reduces their fiber content. Without adequate fiber, stool can become dry and difficult to pass.
Lack of Solid Food
Chewing and swallowing solid food stimulates the digestive tract and promotes regular bowel movements. This “mechanical stimulation” is absent when consuming only liquids. Without solid food passing through, the colon has less stimulus prompting it to eliminate waste.
Not Enough Fat
While fruits and vegetables are very healthy, they contain little fat. Dietary fat helps stimulate the release of bile from the gallbladder, which acts as a natural laxative. Insufficient fat can therefore contribute to constipation.
Some people mistakenly assume that drinking juice provides all the hydration they need. However, the juicing process actually removes most of the water volume from produce. Further water is lost through frequent urination stimulated by liquid-based juice cleanses. Dehydration thickens the colon’s contents and makes elimination more difficult.
Tips to Prevent Constipation During a Juice Cleanse
If you want to try a juice cleanse but are concerned about constipation, the following strategies can help optimize regularity:
Include Some With Pulp
Opt for juices with pulp, like orange or lemon juice. The soluble fiber in pulp can help absorb water and soften stool. Avoid straining out all pulp.
Certain fresh herbs like parsley, basil, dill, and cilantro contain insoluble fiber that can ease constipation. Try adding a handful to your juices.
Drink Herbal Tea
Sipping on caffeine-free herbal teas like dandelion, fennel, peppermint, or chamomile can stimulate bowel movements.
Supplement With Magnesium
Magnesium relaxes intestinal muscles and draws water into the colon to soften stool. Take 250-400 mg daily in addition to juices.
Eat Some Fiber-Rich Foods
Incorporating a small amount of high-fiber foods like chia seeds, berries, avocado, or flaxseed can provide missing bulk.
Drink plenty of water, herbal tea, and juice to avoid dehydration. Aim for around 2 liters per day.
Physical activity stimulates the intestines and can counteract the constipating effects of a liquid diet. Aim for at least 30 minutes per day.
Foods to Avoid
Certain ingredients in juices may make constipation worse. Try to avoid juices containing:
- Apples or carrots – High in insoluble fiber that was removed via juicing
- Bananas – A binding effect due to high starch
- Mango or pineapple – Contains enzymes that promote digestion and can speed transit time
- Spinach or kale – Provides some insoluble fiber, but also contains oxalates that may irritate the GI tract
When to See a Doctor
Occasional constipation from a short juice cleanse will often resolve on its own once you return to a normal diet. However, if you experience persistently difficult bowel movements, you should see your doctor.
See a doctor immediately if constipation is accompanied by:
- Intense abdominal pain
- Bloating and inability to pass gas
- Blood in stool
These symptoms could indicate a bowel obstruction, which is a medical emergency.
You should also talk to your doctor if you experience chronic constipation that does not get better with lifestyle changes. An underlying condition may be causing your symptoms.
When Constipation Becomes Chronic
Doctors may diagnose chronic constipation if you have two or more of the following symptoms for at least 3 months:
- Straining during more than 25% of bowel movements
- Lumpy or hard stools more than 25% of the time
- Sensation of incomplete evacuation more than 25% of the time
- Fewer than three bowel movements per week
Testing may be recommended to identify potential causes of chronic constipation, such as:
- Slow colon transit time
- Pelvic floor dysfunction
- Obstructed defecation
- Not enough fiber in the diet
- Underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism)
- Medications like painkillers, antidepressants, iron
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
Based on test results, your doctor can recommend targeted therapies. This may include dietary changes, laxatives, probiotics, prescription medications, or even surgery in severe cases.
Juice cleanses lack the fiber, bulk, and fat needed to support regular bowel movements. While temporary constipation is common, make sure to stay hydrated, get some exercise, and include herbal teas or high-fiber foods. See your doctor if constipation persists after ending your cleanse, especially if you experience concerning symptoms like abdominal pain.
With some common sense tweaks, a juice cleanse can be a tolerable experience. Pay attention to your body and reach out to your doctor if problems arise after the detox.