Ultimate Guide to Juicing and Smoothies for Chronic Illness
- Cold-pressed juices and smoothies, with leafy greens, nutrient-dense vegetables, low-sugar fruits, and boosters, can play a key role in any healing protocol. They’re quick, easy, healthy meals or sides that give the digestive system a break from harder-to-process, heavier foods.
- For those who struggle with digestive disorders, like IBS, SIBO, or Crohn’s, a high-mineral, enzyme-laden 100% vegetable juice is a wonderful choice. Reach for freshly-pressed juice after a sauna, post-coffee enema, or for a quick boost of energy without the jittery effects from caffeine in coffee.
- For those looking for a filling drink, more stable blood sugar, or a three-minute meal to make on high-fatigue days when the kitchen seems daunting and exhausting, blending up a smoothie might be a good option.
- Instead of sugar-laden fruit smoothies, reach for lots of fresh vegetables and a bit of healthy fat. Sugar can feed disease, cancer, and parasites in the body, so avoid (or use very small amounts of) fruits like peaches, bananas, red apples, mango, and other sugary options. Instead, choose lemon, lime, green apple, or berries, along with a few handfuls of vegetables.
- Some excellent choices for a juice full of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, include kale, chard, celery, fennel, parsley, cilantro, lemon, ginger, turmeric, and cucumber.
- It’s important to buy organic produce whenever possible to reduce the burden on detoxification organs. Conventional produce can contain up to 67 pesticides, chemicals, and herbicides. Local produce is even better, because there is less risk of disease, mold, and spoilage. Organic produce puts far less of a burden on a chronically ill body than conventional produce. In fact, organic fruits and vegetables are alkalizing and very healing.
- When choosing a juicer, pick a masticating style, which slowly crushes the fruit and vegetables. A centrifugal juicer, though often much cheaper, uses a fast spinning blade to almost blend the juice, generating heat and oxidizing the nutrients. This makes the juice much less nutritious.
- Certain lifestyle hacks, like chewing your smoothies and sitting down to drink them (rather than drinking on the run) can help make your new juicing and smoothie habit as beneficial and healing as possible.
Juicing vs. Smoothies
One of the biggest debates in the nutrition field revolves around smoothies versus juicing. But it doesn’t have to be a knock-down, drag-out battle where only one winner rises to the top. There’s room for both in your diet, and when you’re dealing with chronic illness, it’s an especially quick and easy way to consume a bunch of organic produce.
Juicing removes the nutrients and water content of fresh produce while discarding the fiber. This means the end-product is a super-concentrated liquid rich with enzymes, vitamins, and nutrients that will be absorbed quickly in the bloodstream, while giving your digestive system a bit of a break.
With smoothies, you’re blending the entire fruit or vegetable, skin and flesh, meaning your drink will be laden with that digestive-healthy and filling fiber. This means the nutrients will release more slowly, since your body has to work harder to digest the fiber, keeping blood sugar steady.
They’re both helpful in healing from chronic illness, for different reasons. When to choose juice? If your illness is digestive in nature (Crohn’s, IBS, SIBO, ulcerative colitis, etc.), juicing can alleviate symptoms and allow the digestive system to have a bit of a break from processing heavy, solid foods like meat. After a sauna or coffee enema, reach for cold-pressed juices to restore some of the lost nutrients quickly. Juices also give a quicker burst of energy, so if you’re looking to give up your morning coffee habit, green juice may be the way to go. According to research studies, 100% vegetable and fruit juice offers an immediate boost in memory and cognitive performance, too.1 Additionally, there are preliminary studies finding that certain juices, like pomegranate, can be chemo-preventative for cancers like colon cancer.2
When are smoothies a better option? If you have unstable blood sugar, low-glycemic smoothies are a fantastic dietary choice. And if you’d like to work on hormone balancing, healthy fats, and upping your protein, smoothies are much easier ways to add healthy boosters, like maca powder and chia seeds—ingredients that don’t juice. Blending is also faster and requires less prep work, if you struggle with extreme fatigue or standing. You can prepare “smoothie bags” in your freezer, full of the greens, veggies, and a small amount of fruit, throw them in the blender in the morning with some liquid, and you’re all set and ready to go! Smoothies typically provide more filling, sustained satiety, so if you want to replace a meal or have a liquid breakfast, smoothies will be the most satisfying. Smoothies containing fresh or frozen blueberries can increase polyphenols like anthocyanins, which are protective against many diseases.3 And since berries do not juice well, sometimes a smoothie is better because it can accommodate a wider variety of ingredients.
Flooding your Body with Nutrients
Diet is a vital part of healing from any kind of illness, disease, cancer, or even acute sickness like a cold or flu. When you’re not experiencing optimal health, your immune system is probably overloaded, your drainage organs like liver and gallbladder might not be functioning well, and your body is crying out for vitamins and minerals.
I like to think of juicing and smoothies as the easiest way for my clients to flood their bodies with nutrients. With a small, upfront investment buying the equipment, it just takes a few minutes of time to pack in multiple servings of leafy greens, vegetables, fiber, enzymes, and protein.
To get the most nutritional value out of your smoothie or juice, include as many superfoods as you can. Here’s a handy list of some of the best produce and add-ons to add to your Vitamix or Blendtec, and why.
–Greens: Greens, like kale, chard, collards, spinach, lettuce, mustard greens, turnip greens, and beet greens contain a large number of minerals, sterols, vitamins, fiber, and other nutrients.4
–Ginger: Ginger is great for digestion, nausea, and anti-inflammatory effects.5
–Turmeric: Turmeric, a close relative of ginger, is high in antioxidants, heart-protective, and helpful for reducing joint pain and arthritis. Combine it with black pepper and coconut oil for increased bioavailability.6
–Lemon: Lemons help with hydration, contain high levels of vitamin C, and and help digestion. Even more anticancer and antioxidant benefits are found in the peels if you can stomach them in your blended drink or juice.7
–Cucumber: Studies show cucumber could help control blood pressure since it contains potassium, magnesium, and fiber, plus they’re low in sodium.8 Cucumbers can protect against constipation, also, with their high water content.
–Parsley: Parsley is antibacterial, antioxidant, and could also protect the liver, kidneys, and bladder.11
–Cilantro: Cilantro, or “Chinese parsley,” can help the body clear out heavy metals, lower blood sugar, and improve sleep.12
–Watercress: Watercress, an aquatic plant, contains high amounts of Vitamin K, and it can also reduce oxidative stress and damage from free radicals.13
–Fennel: The calcium in fennel can strengthen bones, and it’s also high in potassium, of which we’re supposed to consume nearly 5000 mg a day (that’s about seven sweet potatoes!)14
–Cauliflower: Cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable, full of phytochemicals, and has been shown to reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease.15
–Zucchini: Zucchini is teeming with antioxidants, immune-boosting vitamin C, and fatigue-busting B vitamins.16
–Beets: Beets are very supportive of detoxification, blood purification, and lower blood pressure.17
–Green apple: While lower in sugar than their red counterparts, green apples are full of flavonoids, fiber, antioxidants, and heart-regulating potassium. They’re also beneficial for overall cardiovascular health.18
–Berries: Commonly praised for their high antioxidant levels, berries also contain resveratrol, a superfood phytonutrient also found in the skin of red grapes. They’re low in sugar and high in bioactive compounds and fiber. In fact, just one serving of blueberries protects the body against DNA damage in less than one hour.19
–Avocado: Avocados are a healthy fat powerhouse, containing primarily monounsaturated fats (the good kind), and also full of fiber, thiamine and other B vitamins, and many additional nutrients.20
–Coconut oil: Though coconut oil has come under fire recently from the Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Disease advisory due to its high saturated fat content, it still contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which can possible increase metabolism. The truth is, according to studies, these MCTs can actually help prevent weight gain and also prevent thickening of arteries.21 In our eyes, coconut oil still deserves a place on your plate—and in your smoothie.
–Chia: Chia seeds are a fantastic source of omega-3 fatty acids, which raise the “good” HDL cholesterol in your body. They’re packed with a bit of protein, too—about 6 grams in a serving.22
–Hemp: Hemp contains fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants.23 Because it’s made from ground hemp seeds, it’s a really natural way to add protein to your smoothie.
–Camu Camu: This powder is a great addition to your smoothie if you’re fighting any chronic or acute illness, because it’s made from an Amazonian berry with extremely high Vitamin C levels, which is great for the immune system and the adrenals.24
–Maca: Maca is related to the mustard family, but has been shown to be effective for naturally balancing hormones and aiding in reduction of menopausal symptoms.25
–Aloe: Aloe is a soothing ingredient for the digestive system, providing relief from constipation, improved wound healing, and a multitude of enzymes and fatty acids.26
–Spirulina or chlorella: These two ingredients are algae-based powders that help bind to toxins, chemicals, and metals. Spirulina is very high in B12, protein, and amino acids. Chlorella works similarly, supporting elimination of mold in the body and purifying blood, the digestive system, and liver.27
–Bone broth protein: Another easy way to add some protein and collagen to your diet is through bone broth protein. Collagen and gelatin are extremely healing for gut and skin health.
Slaying Your Sugar Dragon: Why You Shouldn’t Overload Your Smoothie with Fruit
Many people are used to fruit smoothies, perhaps with banana, berries, orange, cherries, and a number of other sugar-filled ingredients that taste great. In fact, it’s very easy to grab a smoothie like this on the go, since most fast food chains and coffee shops offer smoothies as an option. But those smoothies are far from the superfood blends you should be making at home. Well-known “to-go” smoothie franchises might use real fruit, but they also scoop in sherbet or frozen yogurt, meaning a large might easily contain more than 100 grams of sugar. Alarmingly, other cafe smoothies contain a fruit base, which is concentrated grape juices and pureed banana, added to yogurt and blended—no real, whole fruit or veggies to be seen. Still other coffee chain smoothies add whey protein and fillers, stabilizers, and emulsifiers, like xanthan gum and soy lecithin.
You’re much better off making your own smoothies, where you can control the sugar content—and where you know you’re not getting unwanted, surprise additives.
When making smoothies for chronic illness, you want to avoid sugary fruits, because they can feed cancer cells and parasites, along with wreaking havoc on your blood sugar and energy. Sugar is not only bad for our oral health, but it also stresses the liver, creates inflammation, and might prompt insulin-resistance and negatively impact cholesterol levels and heart disease risk.
While fruits like bananas and peaches might give you an initial boost of stamina and alertness, it won’t be long until you’re crashing and looking for another quick fix. When we eat sugar (of any kind), dopamine releases in our body, known as the reward chemical. This is very similar to how the body becomes addicted to cocaine and other drugs, because your brain signals that you need that next “hit.”
Instead, reach for lower sugar fruits like lemon or lime, or half of an organic green apple. You’ll get used to the lesser amounts of sugar, and soon enough, you’ll probably be craving all the nutrients in your daily green juice.
You might be wondering—isn’t whole fruit better than eating cake and cookies? Yes and no. While it’s absolutely vital to avoid processed foods and refined sugars, like high fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, corn sweeteners, and dextrose, it’s still best to keep sugar out of your diet as much as you can while healing from any type of chronic ailment. And that’s advice that even the healthiest person should follow!
Healthy Fat: The Perfect Smoothie Addition to Keep You Full
Instead of sugary fruits, instead, find ways to include healthy fats into your smoothie. Not only will these keep you satisfied, they also help you with absorption certain nutrients in your drink. Vitamin D, A, K, and E are all fat-soluble, so healthy fats like coconut oil, avocado, and coconut milk help your body utilize those vitamins more. Vitamins C and B, on the other hand, are water-soluble, meaning they dissolve in water.
How does this affect your smoothie? Greens, like kale for example, provides Vitamin K, A, C, and various B vitamins, copper, manganese, fiber, calcium, iron, magnesium and more. By adding a fat to your diet, your body can utilize those fat-soluble vitamins (A and K) more easily.
Additionally, according to studies, a higher-fat meal can affect physiological hunger markers, meaning you feel fuller, longer.28 Especially if you’re planning to use smoothies as a meal replacement, you should add in some healthy fat so you’re not hungry a half an hour later.
What Produce to Use?
Organic, local produce is best when juicing or making smoothies. Visiting a farmer’s market down the street will help you choose in-season, freshly picked veggies, loaded with nutrients.
If there is no market by you, it’s okay to visit the organic section of your local grocery store. Have fun experimenting with new vegetables in your juice and smoothie recipes.
With chronic illness, many are dealing with a challenged liver and troubled kidneys, which have to filter out all the chemicals, pesticides, and herbicides in your food. Conventional produce will just increase the burden on your body, while organic will lessen it, allowing your organs to focus more on healing than constantly filtering out ingested toxins.
Choosing a Juicer or a Blender
If you don’t already own a juicer or blender, it can be overwhelming to decide which one is best. There are countless models, types, price-points, and sizes.
If you’re in the market for a juicer, be sure it’s a slow masticating juicer. This kind of juicer, also known as a cold-press juicers, uses a slow rotation auger to almost chew up the fruits and vegetables, extracting the juice. If you’re planning to juice leafy greens, like kale and chard, then you must get a masticating juicer, which can extract more enzymes and minerals. Other kinds of juicers cannot handle leafy greens well.
Centrifugal juicers are more similar to blenders, in that they have a high-speed blade that extracts the juice and separates it from the fiber. This type of juicer is much cheaper, but it also doesn’t create juice with the same nutrient-profile as masticating juicers. This kind of juice gets heated in the process, which destroys enzymes and nutrients.
If you’re looking for a blender, plan to spend a few hundred dollars for a good-quality one to handle all your concoctions. The two top names in blenders are Blendtec and Vitamix, if you’re looking for a blender that can process greens. Other, cheaper blenders often leave your green smoothies with large chunks of spinach or collards leftover, rather than a smooth, fully-blended end product.
If you’re just starting out, any inexpensive blender or juicer is better than nothing. The travel-sized blender cups could be a good start, especially if you’re planning to travel and want to take your new green smoothie habit on the road with you.
Sample Smoothie and Juice Recipes
Here are two basic recipes to try, one for your blender and one for your juicer. Once you get comfortable, you can experiment and try all kinds of new combinations. Remember to always choose organic produce when possible to limit your exposure to toxins, herbicides, and pesticides.
Powergreen and Avocado Berry Smoothie
-3c coconut water
-handful frozen mixed berries (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries)
-2c mixed powergreens (kale, chard, spinach, collards)
-1 inch ginger
-2 stalks celery
-1 lemon, peeled and seeds removed
-2T chia seeds
-2 scoops vanilla bone broth protein
-handful of ice
Tart and Spicy Green Lemonade Juice
-bunch of kale
-3 stalks celery
-1 green apple
-2 whole lemons
-1 inch ginger
-1 inch turmeric
-1 medium cucumber
-¼ bulb fennel
-handful of parsley or cilantro
Mix and Match: Build Your Superfood Smoothie with Confidence
Smoothies are the easiest way to pack in the nutrients without spending all day in the kitchen. It’s important to know what fruits, veggies, and fats are best to add to your daily smoothie, so use this graphic as a guide. Then mix it up daily so you don’t get bored! Your body will appreciate the vitamins, minerals, and enzymes provided by healthy smoothies and fresh juices, giving your digestive system a break and supporting your immune and lymphatic health.
Start with a Liquid
-full-fat coconut milk
-nut milk (cashew, almond, hazelnut)
Add Leafy Greens
Load in the Veggies
Choose a Booster
-bone broth protein
-bee pollen (one granule at a time to gauge reaction. Do not use if you have allergies to bees or are sensitive)
Include a Low-Sugar Fruit (Optional)
-very sparingly (high in sugar): melons, pear, peach, orange, kiwi, banana, pineapple
Top it Off with Healthy Fat
For juicing, skip the liquid, boosters, and fat. Choose from the leafy greens, vegetables, and some of the fruits (berries don’t juice well, but citrus, green apples, and other harder fruits do).
Final Tips for Beginners Making Juice or Smoothies for Their Health
–Keep the fruits and sugars low: Sugar has been proven to be more addictive than cocaine, according to many studies. It also feed pathogens, parasites, yeast, and cancer cells in your body. Avoid smoothies that are packed with sugary fruits, like peaches, mangoes, bananas, and fruit juices. Instead, if you would like to add fruit, reach for berries, avocado, lemon, or green apples.
–Buy organic produce: With chronic illness, it’s very likely your body already has less-than-ideal drainage, and perhaps impaired kidney, liver, and gallbladder function. These organs are responsible for processing and eliminating chemicals and toxins from the food you eat and air your breathe, so give them less to process by choosing only organic, spray- and pesticide-free produce.
–Add healthy fat: Fat is nothing to be afraid of, though we were led to believe this back in the 1980s. It’s important to choose the right kind of fat, though, like avocado, coconut milk, or coconut oil, for your smoothies. Healthy fats are excellent for boosting brain health, supporting metabolism, producing hormones, and keeping you full and satiated after your meal.
–Load up on vegetables: Smoothies are a simple way to add plenty of greens and other veggies to your diet, without much effort. Leafy greens, celery, fennel, sprouts, watercress, cauliflower, zucchini, and many other vegetables work well in smoothies without adding too much of a strong taste.
–Include boosters: There are numerous add-ons you can throw in the blender alongside your fruits and veggies, each with their own set of benefits. For example, aloe is great for soothing the digestive system, while Camu Camu boosts the vitamin C in your drink, and spirulina is an natural algae power that acts as a heavy metal binder.
–Choose a simple base: Unlike juicing, you’ll need to add some liquid (sometimes referred to as a base) to your smoothie for it to blend. The best choices include water, nut milk, coconut water, or coconut milk.
–Chew your smoothies: Often, with liquid-heavy diets, even if you’re getting proper nutrition, vitamins, fats, and proteins, your brain can still signal to the rest of your body that you’re hungry. Chewing relays to your brain that you’re eating something, which can help you feel satisfied later on. Note: It’s very important for digestion to chew ALL of your food well, so be sure to chew thoroughly when you’re eating solid foods, too.
–Slow down and breathe: Your body cannot digest well when you’re stuck in “fight-or-flight” mode, under chronic stress. Whenever possible, sit down to consume your juice or smoothie (or any other meal) slowly, mindfully. This will help your parasympathetic nervous system respond, shifting gears into “rest and digest” mode.
–Keep a positive mindset: Showing gratitude for the meal is a good way to foster a positive mindset. Rather than begrudgingly making a daily smoothie, feeling sorry because you’d rather have pancakes and waffles like everyone else, let it be something you look forward to. You can even say affirmations to yourself or out loud: “I am thankful for this opportunity to provide nutrition for my body. Thank you, immune system, for doing your best every day to help me heal.” Your intelligent body and cells are listening to your thoughts and feelings, and responding appropriately.
Some experts, like the medical staff at the Gerson Institute, believe that all chronic diseases stems from toxicity (parasites, heavy metals, viruses, pathogens) and nutritional deficiency. Combining juicing and smoothies with natural parasite and metals cleansing is a great start on the road back to optimal health.
When dealing with any type of chronic illness, whether it’s Lyme disease, cancer, adrenal fatigue, Mast Cell Activation, SIBO, or many others, nutrition is an integral part of the healing process. Your body is designed for balance and homeostasis, and it fights hard every day to help you return to optimal health. Fresh vegetable juice is especially helpful if coffee enemas or infrared saunas are part of your healing protocol, because the juice can help restore nutrients lost through sweat or through the enema. Juicing and smoothies are two ways to flood your body with nutrition, vitamins, minerals, and enzymes, giving your body the building blocks it needs to help your immune system fight.
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