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The Dark Side of Juicing: How a Popular Cleanse Made a People Newspapers Reporter Go to the Emergency Room


Sarah Bennett, a reporter for People Newspapers, is a jolly person to be around. It made me sad to know she’d been violently ill after doing a Roots Juice cleanse for a story. Her article about the experience came out in the May 17, 2013 issue of Park Cities People. – Carol Shih

“Sleepiness, Sickness Ensue”

The juice cleanse; it’s a trend that’s been sneaking into shopping centers and workout studios for a while now, attracting females of the 20-to-40 age range. It finally caught up with me. The curiosity was seeded in the fridge at the back of my Pilates classroom, when I first picked up a grapefruit-and-mint concoction.

When I told my mother what I was doing, there seemed to be some generational gap. “No solid food for three days? So it’s like a voluntary stomach flu?” she asked. Correct.

Roots Juices recommends cutting meat a day or two in advance to prepare your system. Did I heed this warning? Nope. For my “last meal,” I chose Bubba’s. I figure after this, I’ll be on some sort of avocado-hugging health kick (for maybe a day), so why not go out with a bang?

Day 1:

The morning starts with carrot juice, which reminds me of my childhood. My mom went on that ’90s juice kick, so this is pleasant. By midday, I’m pretty tired, which must be the lack of caffeine. I miss my morning coffee ritual, and I need a nap. But the “refresh” juice — with cucumber, lime, and mint — is nice.

I unwillingly swig my beet juice (ugh), followed by a grapefruit juice two hours later. I rush to City Hall for a meeting, which runs unusually long. There goes the “green juice” waiting (and warming up) in my bag. I make a small spinach salad when I get home, which may be a “cheat,” but I figure it’s the same ingredients I missed.

Later, I sip the “health nut,” a combination of almonds, sea salt, and vanilla bean. I’ve been told it’s essentially the best thing I’ll ever taste, so my expectations are high. And the “milk” is good, but the best thing ever? Ehh. Too much hype.


Day 2:

Everyone tells me they’ve woken up with bounds of energy after their first cleanse day. I feel pretty much the same, but I have lost four pounds overnight. It reminds me why I used to have a smoothie for dinner the night before formals in college. While I know it’s just “water weight,”  I’ll take it as motivation to keep going for now.

When I get to the office, I see an editor standing in line for a coffee in the lobby. I wonder if she’ll just let me sniff it for a minute.

By the end of the day, my Pinterest boards are full of quinoa recipes. I miss roasting broccoli. I’ll eat healthy, I promise, just let me eat solid food again.

When I get home, disaster strikes. By 7 p.m., I feel faint, and by 10 p.m., I am hailing the Porcelain Throne — uncontrollably. My juice cleanse from hell ends at 3 a.m. with emergency medication from a nearby hospital.


My verdict:

Needless to say, I didn’t complete Day 3. Apparently, others have gotten sick from this cleanse. The graveyard-shift nursing staff even tells me a doctor was ill from it.

So the ultra-trendy juice cleanse isn’t my ideal road to health. I never was ultra-trendy, anyway. Maybe I’ll stick to roasting broccoli — once I’m back on solid food, that is.


UPDATE, 3:01 p.m.: Brent Rodgers, CEO of Roots Juices, sent this statement.

“The safety of our customers is always a top priority. We take our operations and quality standards very seriously to ensure our customers are satisfied. All of our juices are made with the freshest ingredients available from local Texas farmers, and a certified nutritionist has designed each Roots Juices Detox and Cleanse kits. As with any juice cleanse, following the recommended pre- and post- detox directions are vital to a healthy and effective cleanse. This includes drinking plenty of water and eliminating meat from your diet two days prior to beginning the juice cleanse. Some people experience headaches, dizziness, fatigue, and moodiness. This is completely normal and usually a sign that your body is detoxifying. We make this information readily available to our customers at the time of purchase and on our website.”