Juice Fasting: An unconventional liquid prescription

It’s not every day that a conventional medical doctor walks into a naturopath’s office and asks to go on a juice fast.

But Dr. Douglas Hendren, a retired orthopedic surgeon, did last December.

Conventional medicine, or “mainstream Western medicine” as it is often referred to in natural healing circles, is leery of any kind of fasting.

While advocates of juice fasting say it’s one of the best things you can do for your health, the American Dietitian Association and many medical doctors are critical of juice diets. Claiming that juice fasts may result in vitamin deficiencies and muscle breakdown, they have sounded the alarm over possible risks from lengthy or repeated fasts.

Given the controversy, it was a little surprising when Hendren and his wife, Nancy, showed up in Dr. Steven Bailey’s office saying they wanted the naturopath to supervise their juice fast in preparation for a weeklong trip to Ecuador’s rain forest.


Green smoothies are basically any dark leafy vegetables blended with water and fruit.

These recipes are from Victoria Boutenko of the Raw Family
website. She recently released a green smoothie iPhone app that contains many more recipes.

Basic Balance Green Smoothie

1 mango
1 cup kale
1 cup water
Blend well. Yields 1 quart

Rocket Fuel Green Smoothie

1 cup green or red seedless grapes
3 golden kiwis, peeled
1 ripe orange, peeled and de-seeded
1 small leaf of aloe vera with skin
5 leaves of red leaf lettuce
2 cups water
Blend well. Yields 1 quart

“I was curious. I’m a conventional doctor but I certainly know thoughtful, intelligent people who make a habit of fasting from time to time for a few days or a few weeks,” says Hendren.

The Case Western-educated doctor says he’d seen friends use fasting to help reverse serious illness. He had heard about Bailey’s work and thought he would check out fasting for himself.

“We did what was considered a minimal fast, a 10-day program, and we didn’t have any particular complaints.” says Hendren, 60. “It was more of a (health) maintenance thing. The surprising thing to me was that it was quite easy.”

“Some of my friends have gone outside of the recommendations of their physician and gone on very strenuous fasts under controlled circumstances. And they have basically been cured of conditions that otherwise would have required surgery.”

“I can’t explain it from the basic science we learned in medical school. But the book of what we don’t know is the biggest book out there. We discovered in the last decade, for instance, that the nervous system has a basis for regeneration and plasticity that we were told 10 years ago just didn’t exist.”

Though it’s difficult to find American research on the effects of juice fasting on human health, Hendren points to research out of Washburn University in Topeka, Kan., that suggests that zoo animals that fasted one day a week experienced dramatic improvements in health. (A 2003 European university study showed that juice fasting reduced overall cholesterol levels by 8 percent among participants who juice fasted for eight days).

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