the spiritual power of juicing, cleansing and probiotics

“Why are you eating all your make-up?” asks the joke. “Because I want to look beautiful on the inside.” Today’s cold-press juices, nut milks and probiotic supplements promise not only glowing skin, but also a path to enlightenment. Here’s how to find...

by Dean Kissick
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Jan 6 2015, 9:55am

These are spiritual times. Just the other day a 14-year-old pop star told the world, and the infinite cosmos too, that "breathing is meditation; life is a meditation. You have to breathe in order to live, so breathing is how you get in touch with the sacred space of your heart." A fascination with spirituality is also sweeping the fashion world, again, but today the search for enlightenment takes us not to holistic rainforest retreats or glacial spas, but rather to the nearest Whole Foods.

The latest trends in food and drink are intended to make us beautiful on the inside. Probiotic supplements, nut milks and cold-press juices are ubiquitous in fashion. At Christopher Kane's autumn/winter 14 show the audience was treated to small bottles of Plenish Cleanse - I chose a concoction of raw cashew milk and Himalayan sea salt - which aren't so much a non-dairy breakfast drink as a way of being. The company offers three ascending stages of juice cleanse - "harmony" and "clarity" and "purity" - and sells a seven-day cleanse for £550. That's a pretty expensive juice habit.

Our bottles of goodness, contain a spark of 'life force' which transforms how you look, feel and behave.

At this autumn's Frieze Art Fair another futuristic juice bar, Purearth, offered some of the most unforgivingly healthy drinks ever dreamt up. I almost threw up when I shared a super green smoothie with my mum. That's sort of the point though, this isn't about pleasure, rather it's a process of purification, like supping a shaman's brew (but without the hallucinatory journey).

Purearth offer a 10-day Emotional Release Cleanse for £680 and, even more enticing, a 14-day Ultimate Restoration Cleanse for £910. These include all sorts of things I've never heard of, mysterious things that sound like magical items in a fantasy video game: a "range of elixirs" alongside "beautifying super-foods" such as Reishi Mushroom, Purple Corn and Bee Pollen, and green alkaline water and bentonite healing clay, and even an "enema kit".

"Our bottles of goodness," they say, "contain a spark of 'life force' which transforms how you look, feel and behave," and who wouldn't want a bottled potion of life force? Possibly this is what we've all been searching for, and even if it isn't, it's probably better than a can of Coke and a bag of Haribo. Such a life force is what Willow and Jaden Smith were just philosophising about in their discussion of prana (the Sanskrit word for "life force") energy and childhood...

Willow: When they're in the stomach, they're so aware, putting all their bones together, putting all their ligaments together. But they're shocked by this harsh world.
Jaden: By the chemicals and things, and then slowly…
Willow: As they grow up, they start losing.
Jaden: You know, they become just like us.

Super-foods have become synonymous with ideas of spiritual, holistic living, but do they actually work? My flatmates and I keep the Gwyneth Paltrow cookbook in our kitchen, but none of us have ever cooked any of its recipes. Since one of my flatmates moved to Paris, no-one will touch her pot of horrible chia seeds.

Today the fashion is for cold-press juices, for exotic brews of beets, kohlrabi and micro-algae. A "cold press" is a process of applying tremendous amounts of pressure to squeeze out the sweetest nectar; it's cold because there are no swirling blades that heat up, oxidising nutrients and killing enzymes. The idea is that these juices are very fresh, and as full of nutritious and immunity-boosting ingredients, and living enzymes, as possible.

It's known that the mind affects the gut, as anxiety can cause nausea and depression can change your appetite, and now it appears that the gut can affect the mind too.

Probiotics, likewise, are based on the idea that good bacteria live in your body and help to boost your immunity, break down your foods and absorb your nutrients. If you would like to live a Goop-like Gwyneth Paltrow lifestyle you're going to want a lot of probiotics. Actually, according to what a stylist's assistant told me yesterday, you'll want to take at least 30 billion live organisms every day; and that's only a tiny fraction of the 100 trillion good bacteria that should be hanging out in your happy intestinal tract as you read this. There are all sorts of designer strains to choose from too: Yakult has created Lactobacillus Casei Shirota, Activia has created Bifidus Regularis. (Over the course of writing this article I've been drinking Activia non-stop, and I'm feeling good. I think about yoghurt all the time now.)

That's not all though. About 90 percent of our cells are bacterial, and our bacterial genes outnumber our human ones 99 to 1, and because of this probiotics are seen as the future of beauty - they can reduce our skin's redness, irritation and inflammation - and even psychiatry as of late.

It's known that the mind affects the gut, as anxiety can cause nausea and depression can change your appetite, and now it appears that the gut can affect the mind too. Recent studies have suggested that psychiatric disorders such as obsessive-compulsive and attention-deficit can be successfully treated by targeting the digestive system with probiotics. That certainly seems possible. In his novel London Fields, Martin Amis writes of a feeling, "coming from the gut, where all morality comes from." Think, for instance, of feeling butterflies in your stomach before a night out.

But how has cleansing become so entangled with our dreams of enlightenment? As it happens it's not the first time that biological processes have been equated with godliness, and comparisons might be made between the role of fermentation in the Dionysian mystery cults of Ancient Greece and the role of digestion in modern-day spirituality.

However Dionysian rites and juice cleanses have some similarities, most notably that they desire a return to nature, an escape from the ways of living of their times.

The ecstatic cult of Dionysus - the god of wine, sex and the arts - arrived in Greece with the importation of wine, and was all about the induction of a trance-like state through wine, music and dancing. Like a rave, it offered transcendent moments of freedom. At the time the fermentation of the wine was seen as a process of escaping from its body, its grapes, and the intoxicating effects of wine were interpreted as god's spirit entering you.

Thus, to become drunk was to become possessed by god. Today however, in our post-Galliano's-rant days, drunkenness is ungodly and spirituality is associated with pure bodily processes, with juices rich in enzymes and supplements rich in probiotics. Now we're using microorganisms in other ways, to cleanse us of our sins and make us healthy and beautiful.

However Dionysian rites and juice cleanses have some similarities, most notably that they desire a return to nature, an escape from the ways of living of their times. Moreover many of the most nourishing juices taste disgusting, which is unusual for a non-intoxicating drink. These are drinks offering a bodily experience rather than a tasty flavour. Lastly what companies like Purearth are effectively offering is a universal remedy, a cure for all life's woes; and that's another idea that comes from Ancient Greek mythology, and the goddess Panacea.

@deankissick

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Text Dean Kissick