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.” 


  • statethoamas

    i love juicing. always always prepare for a cleanse! they’re tough. i would never never never eat fast food before a juice cleanse 🙂 that’s a recipe for disaster.

  • Brent Dudenhoeffer

    Let’s distill it. “I didn’t follow directions and got sick.”

  • GIGI

    there are a lot of fake and new cleanses w/o any research whatsoever. if it had been properly researched, you would have not experienced any of those symptoms. Bubba’s doesn’t help at all….try The Blue Print Cleanse out of NYC next time for maximum results.

  • MLR

    Eat a clean vegan diet consisting of organic vegitables and you will always have energy and never need a dangerous cleanse.

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  • Jeffreyweissdmn

    sigh. Why would eating meat yesterday make you sick today after eating this sludge? Occam’s Razor suggests that having eaten meat may not be needed to explain the illness.

  • ChapaOmd

    There is a reason why you should consider doing a detox/juicing/etc after speaking to (and working with) a physician. No disrespect intended, however keep in mind most Medical Doctors have very little real nutritional training. It is best to work with a team, including but not limited to an MD, Chiropractor, OMD (Oriental Medical Doctor) and even a Registered Dietitian.

    It is not safe to play doctor. Simply reading an article on the internet or something you find online does not make you an expert.

  • Dr. Carlos Chapa, L.Ac, OMD Ph.D

    By the way, Detoxing is an excellent option for many people. However, not everyone will benefit and not everyone is ready to do a detox.

    Once again, talk to your doctors first!

  • Bev Garvin

    Interesting, but what causes some people to react so adversely?

    Is that due to lack of proper preparation, that some people just aren’t good candidates for this or does it trigger something in a small percentage of people that can actually be very harmful?

    • lissathecocoa

      It triggers ketosis…because you are not eating! Juice doesn’t provide enough nutrients and calories that a person needs during the day, and all it does is release water weight that you gain back immediately. It has zero health benefit.

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  • Stacey Copeland

    The Ka Formula is a safe healthy way to “clear the toxins” in your body without depriving yourself of the nutrients you need.

  • Stacey Copeland

    The Ka Formula is a safe way to “clear the toxins” from your body without depriving yourself of the nutrients your body needs.

  • MCA

    I had a similar experience with Roots Juices (violent illness on night 2). Cleanse seems like an unnecessarily drastic marketing/packaging gimmick. Never again!

  • louisefeelgoodstore

    I’m sorry to hear this. Juicing has done me and my family a lot of good but this whole article is right. You have to be well informed when juicing. Our health is our wealth and we have to be very careful at all times.Big part of juicing is also the juicer that you will use. You have to make sure it is safe,easy to use and easy to clean.I have been using Juicepresso and it has worked really well for me. It may be worth checking at

  • Jonathan

    I did a Roots Juice Cleanse two weeks ago. Unknown to me and at the the time my step-mom did one as well. We both got violently sick just like Ms. Bennett experienced. My step-mom started one day before me and got sick one day before me. We had the exact same symptoms. We both believed that there was something in the juice that made us sick as we hadn’t been in contact with each other for at least a few weeks prior to the incident.

    We did contact Brent at Roots and he did issue us both refunds on our 3 day juice cleanse. Interesting to see that other people are getting sick as well.

  • primi timpano

    It is even less safe when a juice company plays doctor. This juice/cleaning fad is complete bullshit.

  • Promit Pattnaik

    Hi, this is a great post, lots of excellent information here. Well done. For anybody who wants more info about a 7 day cleanse, then check out this post at There is loads of information in the ebook including menu plans and shopping lists, plus phone and email support to make sure you finish the cleanse and hit your targets. Highly recommended!

  • lissathecocoa

    No, juice cleanses are BS and are basically a starvation diet.

  • coreystefan

    I juice sometimes becuase its tasty and helps me get my vegetable fix for the day. I don’t really understand “juice cleanses” though. You don’t have to do a three day starvation juice cleanse diet, just drink it as a snack or replacement for a meal or two! Its also a good as a pre-workout.

  • DrPetya1965

    Ketosis takes a lot longer than two days to occur..stop acting like you know it all. Because you failed at it does not mean everyone does, it is very hard to do it and stick with it.