How a Master Cleanse Is Supposed to Work

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The Master Cleanse, also called the Master Cleanser or the lemonade diet, is a liquid diet created in the 1940s by self-taught alternative medicine practitioner Stanley Burroughs. The book The Master Cleanser was published in 1976.

According to the book, a cleansing diet is a necessary part of the treatment of any health ailment. The Master Cleanse was primarily used by people who wanted to detoxify their bodies of chemicals and toxins. Its popularity has grown by word of mouth and Internet testimonials.

Why Is the Master Cleanse Popular?

While the Master Cleanse is still used by people wanting to improve their health, it has also become popular in recent years with people wanting to lose weight quickly.

Several celebrities have publicly stated that they've tried the diet. For example, singer and actress Beyoncé Knowles announced on Oprah that she had lost over 20 pounds on the Master Cleanse to prepare for her role in the movie Dreamgirls. Robin Quivers, Howard Stern's co-host, said that she lost a total of 73 pounds on the diet.

What Do You Eat on the Cleanse?

The Master Cleanse is a liquid diet. It involves drinking 6 to 12 glasses a day of a lemonade concoction containing lemon juice, maple syrup, water, and a little cayenne pepper. The total daily intake is roughly equivalent to the juice of 3 to 6 lemons per day and 3/4 to 1 1/2 cups of maple syrup per day.

Other than the lemonade drink, a herbal laxative and a salt water drink are recommended as part of the daily regimen. Colonics and enemas are not typically recommended on the Master Cleanse.

Why These Ingredients?

According to the book, lemons and maple syrup are used because they are readily available and are a rich source vitamins and minerals. Lemons are also considered a cleansing, healing food in alternative medicine.

While lemon juice and maple syrup do contain some vitamins and minerals, however, many other foods have the same or more amount of vitamins and minerals. For example, one of the supposed benefits of the lemons is the potassium, however one banana contains about the same amount of potassium as all of the lemon juice consumed each day on the Master Cleanse. Also, maple syrup is high in sugar.

How Long Does the Master Cleanse Last?

The book recommends people go on the diet for 10 days or more and says that the maximum duration is 40 days. It suggests people can go on the Master Cleanse three to four times a year.

Most nutritionists and health professionals advise against prolonged fasting (more than several days), particularly as a way to lose weight, due to the possible health risks.

What Happens Afterward?

After the cleanse is over, there is a recommended procedure for breaking the fast. The first day after the cleanse, only orange juice is allowed. The second day involves more orange juice and possibly vegetable soup. On day three, vegetables, salads, and fruit are allowed. Normal eating is usually resumed on the fourth day.

How Do People Feel?

Many testimonials are on the Internet by people claiming that the Master Cleanse has diminished their symptoms. Some say they have better energy and mental clarity during and after the cleanse. For others, there is a spiritual or psychological effect, which may have a positive effect on health.

Some people, however, feel dizzy, faint, or extremely hungry and say that the Master Cleanse is difficult. Loose stools and diarrhea are common on the diet, due mainly to the herbal laxative and saltwater drink. Frequent bowel movements are encouraged on the diet because they are believed to aid in the elimination of toxins.

Safety Concerns

Most nutritionists advise against a prolonged fast or liquid diet. One of the most common concerns is the lack of nutrients, protein, and calories in the diet. Having six glasses of the lemonade beverage provides 650 or so calories. According to the book, weight loss of two pounds per day is typical. One of the potential side effects of rapid weight loss is the formation of gallstones.

Can Anyone Go on the Master Cleanse?

Although the book says anyone with an acute or chronic condition can use the Master Cleanse, most medical experts disagree. People with diabetes, cancer, anemia, intestinal obstruction, gallstones, or people who are underweight or who have a history of eating disorders are just some of the people for whom this diet isn't appropriate. If you're considering using the diet, make sure to consult your physician first. Self-treating a health condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.

Children or pregnant or nursing women shouldn't try this diet.

The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstance or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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Article Sources
  • Burroughs, Stanley. The Master Cleanser. Burroughs Books, 1976.