I have mentioned “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead” before in blog posts. If you have not seen the film, you can watch it at this link.
Joe Cross, who made the film and offered himself as a guinea pig for getting well from his own diseases by drinking raw juices, has his own huge online community offering support and recipes for juicing.
I decided after New Year’s to try a mini juice fast myself. We have toyed with juicing or fasting in this house before. Jim has done 24-hour distilled-water fasts. The only time I have ever fasted is when I’d had the flu and could not eat, or was on chemo and again, could not hold anything down. These were illness or medically induced fasts. Nothing I did at will, and never anything I linked to something pleasant.
Ever since watching Joe’s movie though, I thought maybe a juice fast might be something to look at for restorative purposes, or as he likes to say, a “reboot.” We’ve been eating plant based for almost a year, but there have been occasions, particularly this winter when the weather turned colder, for me to experience minor RA flares, particularly after any sodium or sugar binging on top of trying to exercise and maybe pushing too hard, or not exercising at all. And remember, we just finished the Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year eat-a-thon, and too many tempting, sugary sweets invaded my otherwise plant-perfect world.
In addition, the fewer raw vegetables I ate and more cooked vegetables I consumed as the weather turned colder, the more prone I seemed to be to having these mini flares at night after I’d settled into the couch for a long sit to watch TV. I’d say on a pain level of 1-10, with 10 being the worst, the worst of these moments was a 4 or 5, so I credit the plant-based life for at least keeping pain to a low roar. It felt just like how the commercials describe “restless leg,” a wiggly, uncomfortable feeling in my legs like I’d overstretched every muscle in a workout.
It wasn’t even an everyday occurrence. More often, the flares were just a level 2 or 3 and confined to my hand joints and knees, and always at night. In short, nothing like I’d had in 2008, but enough to be an annoyance. The good news is the pain would vanish once I’d walk around, or after sleeping and getting up the next day — as the blood circulated the aches would vanish as mysteriously as they appeared. Again, I think that’s a credit to our plant-based meals. In 2008, if I had pain like this, it would ramp to a 10 and stay there until I took Prednisone, which was the only pain reliever that worked for me after a point.
All the medical texts I’ve read kept mentioning a subset of RA patients who saw symptoms vanish in short order through fasting. Maybe not every patient, but too many not to discount the possibility of it actually working. They would either go on water or juice fasts and see their joint issues resolve within days. I’d always kept it in the back of my mind as another possible tool for me to turn to if necessary.
So … this week I reconsidered the benefits of a juice fast and did one for one day. Going into it, I had not cheated with sugar or salt for 24 hours, so the fast went pretty well. I went with his 3-day plan at this site and juiced up apples, carrots, lemons, kale, you name it. The blends tasted good and, had I kept juicing the day long, I could’ve kept it going for awhile.
What I would do differently next time:
- Have most of my fruits/vegetables prepared in pre-cut bundled sets the day before. Heading into the kitchen to start from scratch each time seemed labor-intensive, but having the items ready ahead of time takes the constant recipe-checking and chopping out of it. I did do the shopping the day before and at least HAD the items I needed, so I had that going for me. (See Mimi Kirk’s video below for more ideas on how to solve this issue.)
- Not deviate from the recipes. I tried to improvise with some and then had to overcompensate with fruit to make up for too many bitter greens. When I stuck to the recipes, they came out great. These recipes are not suggestions, they really are what you should follow.
- Have some juices made in advance: Turns out I needed the juice as fuel a lot more often than I imagined. It’s a drag to constantly be juicing, so any make-aheads probably will be a good idea, as long as you keep it refrigerated and don’t wait more than 2-3 days to drink up. Beyond three days, toss it out.
For juicing it’s trial and error. As you go along, you will find taste combinations you like better than others (I don’t like a lot of cucumber, for example.) Look for blends that include mostly fruits and vegetables that you like. If a dominant ingredient is, say, cucumber, and you don’t like cucumber, chances are you won’t like that blend.
It’s also important to make your first juice day a “down” day. If you have never done this before, really keep the day simple without a lot of commitments. Chances are, you will be just fine and feel great. But if you are detoxing from caffeine along with this, keep the bed close by (and bathroom if this is your first juice fast and you are coming off the Standard American Diet) and make it a PJ day. This gives your adrenal and digestive system a rest and you can maximize sleep time.
The cleaner your diet and the more you do this, the less shock to the system it becomes. Many people juice and keep up normal activities. It seems days 1-3 are the worst for most people, depending on how your diet is currently. Most people, at or after day 5, feel fantastic.
I would suggest trying mini “fasts” before launching into this to see how your body responds (juice through the morning then switch to solid food, for example, after noon), and check with your doctor if you have pre-existing medical conditions, ESPECIALLY if you are on medications.
Let me know how it goes if you try this! Like I said, I did one day of juice fasting and that was enough correction I needed. My annoying aches went away and I had good energy and mental clarity, just as people describe who do this. I will say, though, I also slept 12 hours after completing it with some of the deepest sleep I’d had in awhile!
The next day I did not fast but ramped up my raw vegetable intake and had two huge salads, plus a green smoothie and a juice later in the day. I have to say today I woke up without any hand pain and my joints feel great — and I walked 1 mile yesterday and did 20 minutes of yoga. Really. So there may be something to this!
My conclusion is I’m going to start adding fresh juice, probably one of Joe’s recipes, to my routine every day, with a 12-24 hour fast if I ever go through a “flare” cycle again.
Finally, if you need more inspiration, watch this:
And watch this from Mimi Kirk, who rocks it with her raw refrigerator storage system: