Does Juicing Help or Hurt IBS?

Walk into any home and kitchen supply store and you are sure to walk past a display of juicers. Juicing is enjoying some buzz lately, due in large part to the documentary on the topic, "Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead." Hearing about the health benefits of juicing may lead to a natural curiosity about whether or not juicing might be of help for IBS.

Unfortunately, there is no research to date on the subject. The current discussion is therefore limited only to a description of the types of juicing, the theoretical advantages of juicing for IBS, and any possible risks.

Happy woman putting carrots in juicer
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The Movie

The movie "Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead" chronicles filmmaker Joe Cross, a gregarious Australian, as he attempts a 60-day juice fast. Joe takes on this challenge because he is overweight and has been dealing with a serious autoimmune disease that requires him to take high amounts of steroid medications. Joe spends his first 30 days in New York City and then travels across America, interviewing people about their health and eating habits along the way. The film is captivating and inspirational, with a surprising twist. I am fairly certain that there has been a surge in the sale of juicers following the release of this movie.

Types of Juicing

Typically when we think of juice, we think of the juice extracted from a single fruit, such as apple or orange juice. In this context, we are talking about extracting the juice from a variety of vegetables and fruits. In a typical glass of juice, the ratio of vegetable to fruit would be 80% vegetable to 20% fruit.

Juicing can be contrasted with smoothies. Juicing is accomplished with the use of a juicer, which extracts the juice from the fruits and vegetables. This juice contains a large amount of the vitamins, minerals, soluble fiber and phytonutrients from the plants, but excludes the insoluble fiber. Smoothies are made with blenders and require some liquid as a mixer. With smoothies, you are ingesting the entire plant, gaining the benefit of the foods as a whole, but with higher fiber content.

Why Juicing?

The primary benefit of juicing is that it enables you to take in much larger amounts of vegetable and fruit nutrients than you would be able to just by eating the plants. Juicing is also a fun and easy way to "get in your greens" if you don't really like the taste of many vegetables.

Proponents of juicing theorize that juicing:

  • Boosts our immune systems
  • Improves our ability to absorb nutrients due to the removal of insoluble fiber
  • Improves digestion as a result of better access to digestive enzymes in plant foods
  • Reduces cancer risk

However, as of now, there is no research evidence that juicing provides any benefit beyond just eating whole vegetables and fruits. It doesn't mean that there isn't a benefit, it just means that research needs to be done to affirm these claims.

Juicing Precautions

In general, juicing can be a very healthful addition to one's daily diet. Be sure to thoroughly wash all produce and to drink your juice right away, or refrigerate it only for a short time, as harmful bacteria can build quickly. Also be sure to keep the fruits at the lower end of your vegetable/fruit ratio, or the calories could add up. If you're on any medication, you may want to check with your doctor to be sure that adding in higher amounts of certain vegetables will not have a negative impact on the effectiveness of your medication.

Juice Fasting

You can incorporate juices as part of your regular diet or commit to a juice fast. Juice fasts can range from one day to the extreme example of Joe Cross's 60-day regimen. People who go on juice fasts do so in order to "cleanse," "detox" or "reboot" their systems. Some people go on a juice fast to lose weight, while others try a fast in order to tackle a chronic health problem.

The thinking behind a fast is that by giving the body large amounts of — and only — plant-based nutrients, the digestive system is allowed to rest, and the body can heal itself. It also changes eating habits and re-sets taste buds that have been dulled by the standard American diet.

If you are thinking about a juice fast, check with your doctor to see if there are health risks. It's also essential to get support, either from a detox support group or a health coach, as the early days of such an endeavor can be challenging. 

Is Juicing Right for IBS?

This is totally uncharted territory. You may need to be your own scientist and start slowly with some juicing to see how your own body responds. As an educated guess, juicing might hold some benefit for IBS. Extracting the insoluble fiber may allow your body to take advantage of the healing properties of plants without having an "irritable" reaction to the insoluble fiber. If you are going to try juicing, I would suggest that you start slow, using only a few vegetables and fruits at a time, perhaps choosing those that are low in FODMAPs:

An even more challenging question is whether a juice fast would be good for a person with IBS. This would have to be a very individual decision, made only in conjunction with your personal physician. If you were to undertake such a fast, you could then be careful with introducing various food groups back into the diet after the fast was over to assess their effects on digestive functioning.

IBS Doctor Discussion Guide

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Juicing Equipment

Juicing is best accomplished through the use of a juicer. High-quality juicers can be expensive but are probably worth the investment if you think that you will be juicing on a regular basis. If you are not ready to make that full commitment, you can experiment with juicing through the use of a regular blender and a strainer — just don't burn out your motor by trying to blend any vegetable that is excessively thick. Put in your vegetables and fruits along with some filtered water or cooled IBS-friendly tea, blend, and then pour the results through a strainer.

As stated above, another option is the use of a high-powered (and high-priced) blender. While this allows for access to the bounty of the whole plant, you may not find it be quite as friendly to your IBS. However, this is pure conjecture. Only your body can answer that question.

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Article Sources
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  2. Juicing: Look great, feel energized, & crave healthy foods. Joe Cross Juicing Regimen.

  3. Axelrod CH, Saps M. The Role of Fiber in the Treatment of Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders in Children. Nutrients. 2018;10(11) doi:10.3390/nu10111650

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