Juicing and IBD
“Man, you know what your problem is? You got no juice.” (“Juice”, 1992).
With IBD (Crohn’s and Colitis), often it is difficult to eat enough vegetables or fruits; the fiber can be killer during a flare up. Even when we are symptom-free, we can be more sensitive to fiber from fruits and vegetables than gut-normal people. So what do we do? Most of us stay away from those foods (at least for a while), or limit our quantities.
But our bodies need them. We need the vitamins; we need the minerals; we need the enzymes; and we need the calories. So, what do we do?
One alternative you can use is to lightly or moderately steam your vegetables, and lightly cook, peel, and puree your fruits. This breaks down the fiber matrix and makes them more easily digestible. I did this during the first few months of the SCD, and it helped me to be able to eat a wider variety of vegetables (leafy greens like spinach, and hard vegetables like broccoli, carrots, and beets; good fruits like apples, peaches, and pears). However, when we are healing, we often need a larger quantity of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and nutrients for rebuilding, than we would if we were well.
What else can we do to get the valuable nutrients and healing properties of vegetables and fruits?
Juicing has lots of benefits, and only a few of the usual caveats for people with IBD. It is my goal in this post to outline why juicing (vegetables, especially) can be beneficial for people with IBD, the healing properties of certain juices which I consider important for folks with IBD, and my recommendations for buying a juicer (if you decide to start juicing).
Juicing & Nutrition
Note: In my opinion, pureeing is not juicing. The juicing process that I refer to in this post refers to the process of separating nutrients and water (juice) from fiber (pulp). The juicing process breaks the cell walls of the plant material and encourages it to release the contents into your glass. Therefore, in this post, when I refer to juice, I mean fresh, homemade juice that contains little to no pulp (plant fiber).
The biggest benefits you will see from juicing are from better nutritional intake. You can drink more vegetables than you can reasonably eat, and with the fibrous pulp removed, the fruit or vegetable is in its most accessible form, ready to be absorbed by your body. Start slowly, and build up your intake to about 8 or more ounces per day. The reason I say to build up slowly, is that, as with everything new, you must test it to make sure it does not increase your symptoms. With that said, many people, even gut-normal people, experience a loosening of stools during the first 1-3 days of juicing. Be prudent.
When you begin juicing, you should notice a difference in your energy pretty quickly. The combination of natural sugars, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, chlorophyll, and natural blood sugar modulating compounds will increase and level your energy throughout the day. For this reason, I like to drink my glass of juice in the morning with breakfast.
Absorption rate and efficiency will be determined by your own gut. If you have active diarrhea, rapid transit times could hinder your absorption. Likewise, if you have active inflammation in your small intestine your absorption rate will be effected. This is true for all foods, and the point here is to increase your nutritional intake of vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial substances from plants. Juicing does that by turning the plant into what is essentially an elemental nutrition drink which will require little digestion, and will be absorbed as easily as possible.
Can’t I just buy V8 or something?
Fresh, homemade juice is worlds above store-bought juice. Juice from the grocery has been pasteurized, which means it has been heated to 140 degrees Ferenheit or more to minimize the chances of bacterial contamination. This heating process destroys essential but fragile enzymes you would otherwise get from fresh plants. The pasteurization process also destroys fragile vitamins, such as vitamin C.
Vitamins and minerals are often added ex post facto to the juice before packaging. As a consumer, you have no idea where these added vitamins come from, what form they are/were in, and how they were added. Often, for example, added vitamin C is in ascorbic acid form (which often contains a starchy carbohydrate, and is illegal for SCDers), instead of the gentler mineral ascorbate form. Ascorbic acid can increase diarrhea in people with IBD.
The aging process also breaks down the juice; light, heat, and oxygen break down the nutritional contents such that in many juices, you’re just getting sugar-water and vitamin additives—Oh, and do not forget the preservatives the companies add.
The goal here is THERAPY. And if food is your therapy, it needs to be fresh, fresh, fresh. There are two undying principles to food as therapy: (1) Quantity matters; 400 mg of vitamin C, for example, is not a therapeutic dose. (2) Quality matters; organically grown vegetables from the store (better, organic veggies you grow yourself) are more nutritionally valuable, and contain fewer pesticide residues. Studies show that rinsing alone is not effective at removing pesticide residues. The best method is to scrub your vegetables, if you must buy commercially grown produce. But let me ask you this: How do you effectively scrub broccoli or baby lettuce?
Organic vegetables are also better for juicing for some of the same reasons they are better for fermenting (see my post on fermenting foods): They contain low to no pesticide residue and they are typically grown in more mineral rich soils. If it is not in the soil, it will not be in the plant.
Juices for IBD
Before I launch into specific vegetables, let me outline some general principles for juicing as it relates to IBD.
First, for IBD, minimize your intake of fruit juices. The sugar content is just too high, and too much could cause you gut problems. For that reason, I focus here on vegetable juices. If you simply must sweeten your juice with fruit, use half- to a quarter of a pear or apple.
Second, most vegetable juices are at least half carrot. The carrots mellow the flavor of other juiced vegetables, which can often be quite bitter. So plan on 50-60% carrots in any one batch of juice. Carrot juice is also high in sugars and the same caveat should apply for carrots as applies for fruit: be careful with quantity. You can also sweeten juice with beets, but be careful, they are potent, and can cause symptoms if you drink too much.
Third, make only what you are going to drink at that moment. Don’t make juice for the day or the week. Some sources say you can save juice for 4-6 hours if you immediately keep it cold and dark for that time. But not everyone agrees on that point.
Wheatgrass and Barley Grass:
I’ll start with the most nutritionally therapeutic, wheat- and barley grass. Interest in these grasses and their healing properties started in the 1930’s when some dairy scientists at the University of Wisconsin noticed that the nutritional value of milk produced by cows in spring and summer was much higher than milk produced in the fall and winter. They tested this observation on lab animals, and found that they thrived and gained weight on the spring/summer milk, but got sick and lost weight on winter milk. Some even died. The difference was in the grass the cows ate. Milk was richest and most nutritious when the cows were eating the fresh, quickly growing grasses of the spring and summer.
The person who has done the most to popularize the use of wheat- and barley grass is a woman named Ann Wigmore. Ann grew up in eastern Europe in the early 1900’s watching her grandmother use fresh, green wheatgrass and other wild plants to heal ailments in WWI soldiers. She was later diagnosed with colitis and began chewing and juicing wheatgrass (not as a therapy, per se). Soon she was healed of her colitis.
In 1968 she founded the Hippocrates Health Institute in Boston, Massachusets. There, she treated the sickest of the sick. Doctors in the northeast U.S. would send her their terminally ill cancer patients, those with chronic autoimmune diseases, those with IBD. She treated them all with great success rates using a regimen of wheatgrass, diet, and rest.
Don’t take my word for it, though. Read Eydie Marie Hunsberger’s, How I conquered Cancer Naturally. She was near death when she went to see Ann.
Suggested Use: Start with 1-2 oz. freshly juiced wheatgrass 1-2 times daily. The maximum upper limit on a therapeutic dose is argued, but most experts agree that 8-10 oz. per day is a good dose to use. Ann Wigmore regularly used wheatgrass enemas as a part of her therapy. She claimed that it was difficult to ingest by mouth that much wheatgrass juice. She also believed that colon and liver health were paramount to overall health. Wheatgrass enemas are absorbed quickly into the hepatic portal vein, and they encourage detoxification of the liver.
Tips: Buying fresh wheatgrass is very expensive ($5-6 per serving). You’d do better sprouting and growing your own grass. A pound of hard red wheat berries (don’t use the soft white berries) runs $1.34 at my local co-op grocery and gets me between 20-30 servings of wheatgrass. I’ll let you do the math.
Do use caution in starting a wheatgrass routine for two reasons: (1) Wheatgrass is rich, and can make people nauseous at first. I didn’t experience this, but others have. So start small. (2) Wheatgrass is a good detoxifying agent. Too much too fast can cause detox reactions.
You can also buy wheat- and barley grass in a supplement form if you like, but most have other products or fillers added that may or may not agree with your gut.
Nutrients (3.5g fresh): 1750 I.U. Vitamin A; 280mcg Vitamin K; 11mg Vitamin C; 1.1 mcg Vitamin E; 10 mcg Thiamin; 1 mg Choline; 71 mcg Riboflavin; 45 mcg pyridoxine; 1 mcg B-12; 263 mcg niacin; 84 mcg pantothenic acid; 4 mcg biotin; 38 mcg folic acid; 18 mcg Calcium and Phosphorous; 3.6 mg Magnesium; 2 mg Iron; 0.35 mg Manganese; 3.5 mcg Selenium; 1 mg Sodium; 17.5 mcg Zinc; 7 mcg Iodine; 19 mg chlorophyll; trace amounts of cobalt.
For more information on wheat- and barley grass, follow the link below
Or read: Wheatgrass Nature’s Finest Medicine: The Complete Guide to Using Grasses to Revitalize Your Health, by Steve Meyerowitz
Celery and Parsley Juices:
Celery and parsley are vegetables I juice as often as I can.
Celery juice is full of electrolytes (Careful! Too much can have a laxative effect), and is also reputed to be good for eczema and skin rashes, which can be a side effect of IBD. I have tried them for my rashes, and I did notice that during the time I was taking celery (and parsley) juice, I needed less of my prescription cream to get rid of a rashy spot.
As legend goes, King Henry VIII of England had terrible rashes (and a voracious appetite for adultery…karma anyone?). He ate pastries, drank lots of ale, and loved fatty, sugary foods (don’t we all?). The story goes that he was finally able to keep the rashes under control using celery juice from a peasant herbalist who was using it to successfully treat people from his home nearby.
Parsley juice is believed to be wonderful for all sorts of skin problems, especially those associated with allergy. To use it to treat allergy symptoms, juice 1-2 glasses of parsley and carrots every day for 2-3 weeks.
Other Green Juices:
These juices will increase your energy! Kale, spinach, collard greens, chard, dandelion, cabbage, are all vegetables that are great for juicing.
Green juices, including celery and parsley increase your mineral salts base, which your body uses to maintain blood pH (Ideally your blood pH
Juicing can be a fun and powerful way to increase your nutritional intake of vegetables. This is especially important for those with active diarrhea.
Buying a Juicer (Again, except for the Amazon affiliate links and the SCD Lifestyle link on this blog, I don’t receive compensation for promoting products. If I think a writing about a certain brand or product will help save you time or trouble, I mention it. If not, I don’t.):
There are more juicers out there than I ever imagined. When I first began looking for a juicer, I quickly got overwhelmed and had to put the project down for a few days. After some searching, I found a very helpful juicer site, which had videos, recommendations, and commentary on which juicers are good for which applications. I’ll let you do your own homework, but that site helped me a ton.
In thinking about a juicer, try and be realistic about how much you will use it, and what you would like to do with it. I typically use mine five or more times per week, so I wanted something that would last. The reason I consider use first rather than budget, is that I can always save and wait to get the right juicer; however, if I go cheap, then I could end up with something I do not like or do not use. That would be a real waste of money. So I find the juicer I will use first, then consider my budget. In considering cost, though, I first think of cost per use rather than the one-time purchase price.
For example, if you spent $100 dollars on a cheap juicer you may or may not like, that has a two-year warranty, you may use it once per week. Over the course of the year, that is about $1.92 per use. Over the life of the warranty, that is about $0.96 per use. If it breaks after two years, you will have to make that purchase again. You can see how the longer you own the juicer and the more you use it, the cheaper the cost per use.
Now say you spent $300 on a juicer you really liked, and could use for lots of things. It has a 15 year warranty. This juicer you love and use five (or more!) times a week. Over the course of the first year that juicer costs you $1.15 per use. Over the life of the warranty, your cost per use is about 7.5 cents. Paying more up front can save you money in the long-run.
I knew I wanted something that would last, something that had multiple uses in the kitchen, and I knew I wanted something that would juice wheatgrass. That’s why I went with an auger juicer. It was good for juicing fruits and vegetables, juicing wheatgrass, making baby food and nut butters, grinding coffee, and I’ve even ground sprouted wheat with it, though the grind is not fine enough to call it real flour. I ended up with the Omega 8006 and really like it.
Onward to Health,
Filed under: Diet
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