Juice cleanses: The bizarre side effect

By Raffaella Ciccarelli

Could a cleanse really affect oral contraception and result in an unplanned pregnancy? Photo / Getty
Could a cleanse really affect oral contraception and result in an unplanned pregnancy? Photo / Getty

Love or hate the concept, there's no denying that detoxes and cleanses are the health movement's buzzwords of the moment.

It seems that everywhere we turn we're faced with a new brand, or product, that's designed to flush the gunk out of our digestive systems.

When I was researching the benefits of a cleanse, one less-than-fresh Monday morning, I came across a concerning blog post that discussed oral contraception.

It told the story of a young woman the authors knew, who got pregnant after taking the morning after pill.

They claimed she got pregnant because she was on a juice cleanse. They explained that the diarrhoea produced by the detox flushed the pill straight out of the poor woman.

While the benefits of detoxing are touted by indoctrinated wellness gurus, far and wide, no one is discussing whether a cleanse could really affect oral contraception and result in an unplanned pregnancy.

So could this be possible?

Dr Beverley Vollenhoven, Associate Professor at Monash University in the Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, said it absolutely could.

She told news.com.au, "Contraceptive pills can be affected by detoxes, yes. We're talking about pills that combine oestrogen and progesterone hormones. All of those pills are metabolised by the liver, and all of those pills depend on absorption by the bowel for them to work.

"If you have a detoxing agent that causes diarrhoea then it will affect the absorption of the pill. If you have an agent that's going to increase liver enzymes, and I can't think of anything natural that would actually do that, then the pill will be broken down more quickly," she explained.

Dr Vollenhoven was quick to point out this isn't limited to just oral contraceptives.

"There are wider health implications with this. If someone was taking tablets for their blood pressure, or taking something like Warfarin for their heart valves, and they did a cleanse, that could have potentially fatal consequences," she said.

Many companies that produce cleanses don't advertise the full risks. Photo / Getty
Many companies that produce cleanses don't advertise the full risks. Photo / Getty

Despite this scary interaction many companies that produce cleanses don't advertise the full risks. Often, no reference is made to diarrhoea despite the fact it can be a side effect. And when it's mentioned, its impact on medication isn't explained.

When it comes to provided warnings, customers are usually prompted to seek out their doctors for advice.

Jacqueline Forth, founder of the Pure Glow Cleanse, said: "We are not doctors, we never give out medical advice of any kind; it's just not what it is about for us. We know it can affect some medications, so we always advise people to check with their doctors. The nitty gritty of it is, it's in our terms and conditions, and people have to agree to the terms and conditions before purchasing. It's kind of the standard that everybody does across these types of health and fitness industries."

Dr Vollenhoven is adamant that the current warnings are not enough.

She said, "Just because something is natural, doesn't mean that it's safe. I think that like drugs, natural products should be subjected to scrutiny. There needs to be more of a scientific understanding, and testing process behind these products. They should have a warning saying that, in the instance of diarrhoea this may affect not just the contraceptive pill, but the absorption of all tablets."

However, Miss Forth points out that there's a distinction between the type of cleanses that people can take. She believes that adding a warning could ultimately deter people from undertaking a cleanse.

"The thing with our cleanse is that it's very rare somebody has a side effect, because it's designed to be a very gentle detox. We focus on nourishing the body rather than having everything come out. If customers want something more potent, that's where they go and get a guided detox from a trained professional like a naturopath. Tea detoxes have become a big thing recently, and a lot of them contain potent herbs like Senna which does help you body expel things. I think that's the difference: if it's something where you're having a lot of flushing happening, it's better under the guidance of a professional," she said.

"To be honest I feel like in general the ownership always comes back to the person. The downside I could potentially see from trying to put it out there in a bigger way is, it's such a positive thing for people to do and to falsely scare them away from making what could be a positive change for their lives, would be unfortunate. But I think that it's important that everybody knows that their health is real, and they should always be looking out for any potential issues - especially if they are on medications. I guess it's definitely the responsibility of the company to make sure it's written somewhere; that people can access it easily and if they get any questions that they're clear," Miss Forth added.

They key takeaway here is: if you're contemplating a cleanse and are currently on the pill or other oral forms of medication, seek out your doctor's advice beforehand. And, should you be on the pill, go double dutch - unless you want to risk an unexpected pregnancy that is.

- news.com.au

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