How I Joined the Cult of Celery Juice (& Why You Should, Too)

A little after I moved to L.A. I started juicing — as one does when they move to L.A., I suppose. This is, after all, the world’s mecca for health fads. Since I started juicing a little over a year ago, celery has become a fixture of my everyday routine. As it has for everybody else, it seems, too.

On my twice-per-week restocking trip to the grocery store, I am find the celery section completely picked over. Often all that is left is a few stems and leaves, perhaps one pale green stalk hiding under the beets and broccoli.

“Yeah, everybody’s juicing celery,” the produce worker always says, with a hint of either bemusement about L.A. health faddists’s shopping patterns, when I ask if they have more celery in the back.

The “celery juice movement” is one of the latest health fads you might have recently seen touted by influencers and health-conscious celebrities on Instagram. First suggested as a beneficial healing practice by Anthony Williams, aka “The Medical Medium,” celery juice is now becoming a cult health practice. It is one that requires strict adherence to a particular set of cult-like rules: Celery juice must be drank fresh, not bottled, which requires purchasing a home juicing machine and hauling a heavy stalk of celery out of the produce bin and onto the cutting board first thing every morning. Celery juice must not be blended with any other vegetables or fruits — even a squeeze of lemon is strictly forbidden. And celery juice must be the first food item that hits your stomach in the morning, after which follows a mandatory 20-minute reprieve to allow the magical elixir to “do its work.” I have begun following all of these protocols with religious devotion for months now; obedient, diligent, converted.

A few weeks ago at the grocery store, a spritely woman in workout clothes behind me in the checkout line observed my enormous pile of celery bunches on the conveyor belt.

“So, is that for juicing?” she seemed to have heard about the movement online and was curious about actual humans in real life engaging in this curious practice. I told her it had been a miracle for rebuilding my immunity, and I heartily recommended it without thinking twice — until I realized that, like special beach spots and hiking trails, you don’t want to trumpet your dearest health practices to just anyone, lest they get overrun, as the local celery supply did seem to be in danger.

I came to celery juicing after various experiments over the years with a revolving door of dietary regimes that never yielded any real relief to my plethora of symptoms: low energy, digestive issues, food sensitivities, and chronic low immunity. Throughout college I would regularly arrive at the student health clinic seeking help for my all-to-frequent throat infections. Each time the nurse anticipated strep, but it never tested positive for strep, at which point the doctors routinely threw random antibiotics at it to suppress the symptoms. This was, of course, what their medical training prepared them to do when faced with a mystery strep-like throat infection. Overzealous antibiotic usage, of course, probably only weakened my system further, destroying good gut bacteria.

To try to tackle the ongoing problem on my own, I had a hunch diet might be at least partly to blame because of my lifelong sensitivity to dairy. I had previously tried: eliminating all forms of gluten, eliminating all forms of dairy, going sugar-free, nixing caffeine, macrobiotic, veganism, paleo, all of it. But still, if someone so much as walked past me with a mild head cold, I would be down the next week with a severe throat infection. One time, I shared a meal at a restaurant with my then-boyfriend — as in, we each ate half of the exact same plate of food, a sandwich and salad. The next morning I was up at 3 a.m., nauseous and rolling around on the bathroom floor with an abrupt and vicious case of food poisoning — while he slept in the other room peacefully like a babe (until I woke him up, forcing him to undergo the ordeal with me, of course). We had eaten the exact same food, but only I got sick. I was infuriatingly vulnerable to the same pathogens that others’ immune systems seemed to be able to handle with ease.

After I moved to New York City, I figured the reason I was (still) getting sick all the time was simply part of the “adjustment period,” when the immune system gets oriented to all the new germs of a new place. And there is probably no place germier than NYC, so I figured my system had an uphill battle ahead of it. A short while later I moved again, this time to Los Angeles, and I figured my system must still be adjusting, to yet another new environment. Not to mention, this was during the holiday season, when colds and flus are rampant. But one day while walking from the car to my apartment and feeling sniffly, I had this thought:

I wonder if all my immunity and digestive issues could somehow be related to having had mono as a kid?

Back when I was twelve I had a particularly gnarly bout of mono that took me out of school for about two months. Back then, the general talking point on “the kissing disease” was that once you had it, you could never get it again — your system would, going forward, be “immune” to it. But I couldn’t help but wonder if it had something to do with my ongoing run of symptoms, if mono had left me with some generalized weakness in my system.

That evening during a late night web search, Doctor Google confirmed that yes, mononucleosis (aka Epstein-Barr Virus, a strain of herpes) can indeed be “reactivated” after its initial appearance. In the slurry of internet articles related to healing EBV, various immune-boosting remedies were recommended. Suddenly I remembered that a few days before, I had a dream about turmeric; there was no plot or context around to the dream, just a pile of golden-orange ground turmeric sitting there in a little pyramid. It was a random enough dream that I remembered it and had written it down, but hadn’t thought of it again — until now, as turmeric was the top healing supplement mentioned.

Had my subconscious been trying to guide me to this information? Why, of course it had! Just you wait and see how it guided me to celery!

A few days later, I had mostly forgotten the turmeric dream and the Google search, and I was at a Christmas party. Gifts were handed out — the same gift, for everyone in attendance: a copy of the third installment of Williams’ Medical Medium book series, a book entirely devoted to the topic of the Epstein-Barr Virus. (It might seem an odd choice for a Christmas present, but this is from a health-oriented business owner). The book details how EBV first invades the body, how it can be reactivated, the huge list of chronic health conditions it is related to, and, finally, how it can be healed. (And yes, that’s “medical medium” as in “medical intuitive.” But, many of Williams’ observations about EBV are increasingly verified in the medical establishment’s ongoing studying and redefinition of EBV in traditional medical literature, and many M.D.’s sing his praises and incorporate his perspective into their patient care. I suppose you could wait for traditional medicine to catch up before believing all of it, or you could listen to the overwhelming anecdotal evidence of people Williams has helped and explore it on your own — that is, of course, the golden scepter of choice that is handed to each of us in the Age of the Internet.)

First the turmeric dream, then the question about mono popping into my head and the subsequent Google search (that I subsequently forgot), and now someone handing me a book, for free, about precisely that topic I had just searched. Celery juice had found me!

I read the book cover to cover in a weekend. There is nothing like finally encountering the puzzle piece that connects a litany of vexing symptoms — and points to the promise of a solution. Not only were my low immunity and digestive troubles explained by out of control EBV, but it was apparently also related to other symptoms I had no idea had anything to do with one another — including my reoccurring eczema and frozen shoulder. I remember first visiting a chiropractor for help with my neck and shoulder issues around age thirteen, within a year of my bout of mono; I had first had eczema as a baby and then after adolescence was prone to horrific breakouts on my hands on a regular basis. Also on my list of apparently EBV-related symptoms were depression and anxiety. I had always figured depression was simply part of my genetic, family inheritance, combined with circumstantial factors. And now I was coming to understand that was true, but there was another aspect to the “genetic” passing down of depression: the actual carrying on of viruses from one generation to the next and how it weakens the system overall, which tends to lower energy and makes one more prone to depression. The year I came down with mono, my mom was also diagnosed with discoid lupus; what probably happened is that we both had dormant strains of the virus in our systems, and we both were probably exposed to the same environmental triggers that manifested differently in each of our systems. Specifically, mold. I got diagnosed with mono and my mom got diagnosed with discoid lupus within two years after moving to soggy Portland, Oregon.

That was the biggest a-ha for me, and if any of these symptoms feel familiar to you, you’ll want to look around your dwellings and see if your environment is slowly poisoning you.Mold is one of the most common triggers for EBV flare-ups, and I had lived, worked, and attended school in mold-compromised buildings for my entire formative years and much of my adulthood in Portland, where mold is prevalent in Portland due to the damp climate. Right before leaving Portland for New York, I found out the apartment I had been living in for the prior three years was infested with a twenty-five foot section of toxic black mold across the ceiling. During the time I lived there (this was when the mysterious food poisoning happened), I was traveling regularly, keeping grad school hours, and dealing with significant ongoing financial stressors that had been simply part of my existence for years. Williams emphasizes that any time you are under stress in your life, EBV takes its opportunity to further invade and attack your immune system, strengthening itself on the adrenaline and cortisol constantly secreted by heightened stress levels. This is how life stress and existing viral overload create an ongoing cycle; each time we’re stressed or weakened, the virus takes root a bit further, leaving our system constantly preoccupied with trying to combat yet another assault from the viral overload, which stresses us out and zaps our energy, weakening us yet again.

Williams’ favorite remedy for all of these issues is — what else?— celery juice. Though there are others, celery juice is the top protocol above all others for combating the deleterious ravages of EBV in the body. But while I initially absorbed all of this information, I couldn’t quite wrap my mind around the ordeal of making celery juice everyday — let alone drinking it. That sounded like a rather complex and difficult routine.

I started out by simply removing the foods Williams lists as especially appealing to the virus: dairy, eggs, pork (or any high fat meat), soy, corn, gluten, chemicals, and stimulants. Removing dairy wasn’t a huge deal because I had already been mostly dairy-free the majority of my life; I already knew dairy was in one way or another related to the horrific throat infections and stomach aches, so I was used to mostly avoiding it. But this new regime also meant removing one of my long-term dietary staples, eggs, which unto itself was a huge adjustment. I had long affectionately thought of eggs as my favorite “poor woman’s protein”; far cheaper than meat and significantly easier to prepare, they were a regular in my diet ever since I learned how to cook. I probably ate about ten eggs a week, minimum. (No wonder the virus had enjoyed free reign in my system for so long; in addition to environmental triggers and chronic stress, I was regularly supplying it with a bounty of one of its favorite foods).

It was important to go slow with each of these changes. Eventually, after a few months I had adjusted to the new regime, though from time to time I did allow myself a minimal amount of caffeine, alcohol, and sugar (I mean, a girl’s gotta live a little). With these significant dietary changes under my belt, I finally bit the bullet, bought a juicer, and started the celery juice routine.

A year later, by the end of 2018 I had gone an entire year without getting some kind of endless cold or debilitating flu — in contrast to dealing with one flare-up or another every other month or so. I successfully circumnavigated the month of October cold-free, which used to bring my annual hellish throat infection/flu, without so much as a sniffle. My digestion was better, and my sleep was improving.

One thing that happens as you begin to tackle a lifelong, insidious problem that has been zapping your energy and confusing your sense of trust in your own body is that you come to realize, in stages, how significant of a toll has been taken. Considering my lifelong symptoms, I have probably had a heavy viral load, like, my whole life. Now that my immunity is under control, the next round of healing is “thawing” my frozen shoulder and bringing my nervous system into balance.

But for starters, putting the brakes on getting sick constantly is a definite, tangible yield — and I have celery juice and the Medical Medium to thank for that. A solution to a nearly lifelong problem is no small thing. This is why, like the many people singing the praises of celery juice and the Medial Medium protocol, we are rather enthusiastic, to say the least. I want to shout from the rooftops and echo Williams’ message that anyone dealing with any of the “autoimmune” issues of any kind (fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, Cushing’s disease, endometriosis, shingles, etc.) would do well to take a look at how as-yet-undetected Epstein Barr might be an underlying factor in their condition.

Before you get too excited, though, let me remind you that the point of drinking celery juice is not because it tastes good. As a beverage it is, at best, tolerable. Celery juice is in your life for a utilitarian purpose only — to heal your body. And lest you want to decorate it and obscure the mildly bitter, vegetal taste with ginger, apples, or other fun fruits and veggies to make it more palatable, again, Williams counsels austerity; celery juice is best taken entirely by itself, to better let its mineral salts to go work on the liver and other organs.

To be honest, celery juice is just plain no fun. It doesn’t taste great, and making it every morning requires an involved amount of cleaning right after; if you don’t properly clean the basket of your juicer, the quality and quantity of the juice it yields will significantly decrease, and the basket will need to be replaced. (I’ve already been through one so far.)

As if you didn’t already have enough kitchen cleanup to deal with. I know. I don’t know you personally, but any amount of kitchen cleanup is already enough, for all of us.

Look, I’m just trying to be real with you here. It wouldn’t be fair to sing the praises of celery juice without preparing you for the reality of what you are about to take on. But if making a glass of celery juice every morning could completely turn your health around, would that little sliver of time and effort each day be worth it?

To the skeptics, I say this: We live during a time when the monopolization of the healthcare industry by pharmaceutical and insurance companies creates an increasingly profit-oriented approach to patient care. Medical research is often steered towards the new prescriptions the industry wants to push (as in, those that are highly profitable); I’m sure it will be quite some time before anyone puts millions of research dollars into celery.

Too, the medical industry tends to look past nutrition as the primary, baseline factor in creating or destroying health and wellbeing. Simple produce, which is relatively affordable, just seems too folksy, doesn’t it?

But sure, call it a fad. That leaves more celery at the grocery store for the rest of us.

To read more Kela Parker on Medium, click here.