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The Master Cleanse

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Updated May 16, 2014

Lemons
Inti St. Clair/Stockbyte/Getty Images

The Master Cleanse, also called the Master Cleanser or the lemonade diet, is a liquid diet created in the 1940s by self-taught healer Stanley Burroughs to treat health ailments. 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. See a sample of a Master Cleanse recipe.

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 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, but 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.

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.

What are the Potential 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 6 glasses of the lemonade beverage provides 650 or so calories. According to the book, weight loss of 2 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 a acute or chronic condition can use the Master Cleanse, this is definitely not true. 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. In fact, it's a good idea for anyone considering the Master Cleanse to consult their doctor prior to starting the diet.

The book says giving babies lemonade between feedings is acceptable, something pediatricians may advise against. Children or pregnant or nursing women shouldn't try this diet.

Sources

Burroughs, Stanley. The Master Cleanser. Burroughs Books, 1976.

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