Does Juicing Help or Hurt IBS?

It isn't completely clear whether juicing might be of help for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Juicing is enjoying some buzz lately, due in large part to the supply of juicing equipment and to the documentary on the topic, "Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead."

There is no research to date on the effect of juicing on IBS. So the discussion is limited primarily to the theoretical impact of juicing for IBS, including benefits and 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. Juicing is the process of extracting the juice from a variety of vegetables and fruits. In a typical juice recipe, the ratio would be 80% vegetable to 20% fruit.

Juicing is not the same as making smoothies. Juicingrelies on a juicer, which extracts the juice from the fruits and vegetables. This juice contains vitamins, minerals, soluble fiber, and phytonutrients from the plants, but excludes the insoluble fiber. Smoothies are usually made in a blender. When you drink a smoothie, you are ingesting the entire plant, including its 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 faster than you would be able to by eating them. Juicing can also be 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, the research doesn't support and benefit of juicing beyond eating whole vegetables and fruits. It doesn't mean that there isn't a benefit—it just means that research has not affirmed these claims.

Juicing Precautions

In general, juicing can be a healthful addition to one's daily diet. But you need to take some precautions. Harmful bacteria can grow on spoiled produce, sometimes rapidly. And juice can affect the way other foods or medications are absorbed in your body.

Be sure to:

  • Keep the fruits at the lower end of your vegetable/fruit ratio, or the calories could add up
  • Thoroughly wash all produce
  • Drink your juice right away, or refrigerate it only for a short time

If you're on any medication, you may want to check with your doctor to be sure that consuming higher amounts of certain vegetables will not have a negative impact on the effectiveness of your medication. For example, certain medications interact with grapefruit.

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 as a way to tackle a chronic health problem.

The thinking behind a fast is that by giving the body large amounts of 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. If you have IBS, you may need to start slowly with some juicing to see how your own body responds. It's possible that juicing might hold some benefit for IBS. Consuming only the insoluble fiber, rather than the soluble 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

Get our printable guide for your next doctor's appointment to help you ask the right questions.

Doctor Discussion Guide Man

Juicing Equipment

Juicing is best accomplished through the use of a juicer. High-quality juicers can be expensive but might be 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 a 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 through a strainer.

Another option is to use a high-powered blender. While this maintains the bounty of the whole plant, you may not find it to be quite as friendly to your IBS. However, 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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