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A cranberry juice detox is any one of a series of fasting plans in which individuals consume only — or at least mostly — cranberry juice and water for a number of days in a row. It isn’t really a diet, though some people do use it for weight loss purposes; more often, though, the goal is to purify the body, to cure or prevent infection, and to restore overall health. The strictest detox plans allow participants to drink only unsweetened cranberry juice and water, though there are a number of variations that permit certain high-fiber foods and powders. People who intend to stick with the plan for more than a few days usually have to take vitamins or other supplements in order to get the basic nutrients they need. Cranberry juice is normally considered very healthful, but it isn’t usually enough to sustain a person, at least not for long.
There are a number of reasons why people participate in cranberry detoxification plans, but curing urinary tract infections and ridding the body’s dependency on drugs and stimulants are two of the most common. Cranberries are a rich source of antioxidants as well as vitamins C and A, and they are generally very acidic. This gives the fruit a distinctive tart taste, but also helps it flush out harmful bacteria and buildups from the body by creating essentially hostile chemical environments. When eaten, the focus is primarily the digestive tract, the kidneys, and, ultimately, the urinary tract. Eating raw cranberries can be somewhat unpalatable, which is why many people turn to juice.
People usually participate with a particular goal. Sometimes this goal is very specific, like curing an infection or preventing a condition like chronic kidney stones, but it is sometimes also undertaken simply as a way to maintain good health and optimal digestion. People who are trying to wean themselves off of stimulants like caffeine or tobacco or who are trying to give up drug addictions sometimes try this as part of a holistic healing plan. Benefits extend beyond basic detox, too; participants often remark that the restriction makes them calmer and improves their mental focus and outlook, and many also report clearer skin and better sleep.
The most traditional cranberry juice detox forbids the consumption of all food, as well as sugar additives in the juice. People are generally permitted only unsweetened juice, water, and certain vitamins and capsule-based supplements so long as they contain no or only very few calories. Detoxes usually last anywhere from three to 10 days; less than three and there isn’t often sufficient time to flush toxins out, but more than 10 and people sometimes begin experiencing adverse effects from such limited exposure to nutrients.
Not all regimens are so strict. Some permit limited quantities of low-calorie foods as long as salt, sugar, saturated fat, and excess carbohydrates are excluded. It may also be possible to combine the juice with other natural digestive cleansers, particularly the fiber found in wheat germ, flax, and psyllium husk. Adding these sorts of nutrients can help people feel full, which can make the detox less of an exercise of will, and they can also make it safe to stretch beyond 10 days, often taking it up to several weeks.
Red meat, caffeinated beverages, and alcohol are generally avoided in any version of a cranberry juice body cleansing ritual. Some people believe that red meat makes the digestive system sluggish, while caffeine and alcohol frequently add agitation and interference with digestion. These substances are also antithetical to the principles of the cranberry juice detox, which generally celebrates the lack of stimulants and embraces a calmer mind.
Why it Works
The chemistry of the cranberry is believed by many nutritional experts to be ideally suited for cleansing the colon, liver, lymphatic system, and kidneys. It has been a part of drug detox programs for years because it soothes the anxiety of abstaining from drugs while reportedly helping to distill narcotics from the body’s systems. The juice is touted with killing bacteria associated with urinary tract infections because it contains high levels of vitamin C, which creates an acidic environment where the offending bacteria cannot live.
Restricting the body to only cranberry juice — or even just mostly cranberry juice — is also believed to concentrate its effects. People often get some good results just by incorporating the juice into their ordinary diet, but when it’s basically the only thing being consumed it typically works faster and more completely. Depriving the body of other nutrients, the theory goes, will force the body to draw more from the juice, which can amplify its potency.
Medical professionals often warn people against doing extensive detox diets, whether cranberry or otherwise, since juice alone cannot provide the balanced diet people need for optimal health. It’s often a good idea for people to take vitamins and supplements along the way, and anyone who begins feeling faint, dizzy, or light-headed on the plan should usually stop and eat something substantive. The benefits are usually lost or at least outweighed when extraordinary hunger sets in.
It’s also generally smart for participants to reintroduce substantive food slowly so as not to shock the body. Experts usually recommend that detoxes end with a period of phasing in light, healthy foods in the final days so that the digestive system can begin re-acclimating. Jumping right in with a full meal after fasting can often cause a person to become sick.