The first time I heard about the Master Cleanse (not to be confused with the Master Tonic) was while sitting on a bench at a playground over ten years ago. My oldest child was in Preschool at the time, and one of the Moms there was ecstatically describing to me how she wanted to try the Lemonade Diet, as the Master Cleanse is sometimes called, to lose weight and gain energy. Her husband was apparently already on it and dropping weight fast.
Intrigued, I asked her about the specifics of this wonder detox. As she described the ridiculously simple fasting regimen, I felt my eyes get so big that I’m pretty sure she must have thought they were going to pop out of my head.
How could consuming nothing but a mixture of water, fresh lemon juice, cayenne pepper and maple syrup 6-10 times a day for a recommended 10 days possibly be good for you?
Here’s the Master Cleanse three-phased program in its entirety if you are not already familiar (1):
- Ease-In and Ease-Out: 3 days before and after The Lemonade Diet that slowly removes or re-introduces complex, processed (C.R.A.P.) foods from your diet.
- The Lemonade Diet: “10 Days to Lose Weight Fast, and Feel Great At Last”
- Every Day Detox: Every day a Natural Detox Method must be engaged to eliminate waste such as an herbal detox tea, laxatives, or the Salt Water Flush.
While common sense is your first clue that the Master Cleanse is a very dangerous type of detox to consider if one’s long-term health is a priority (not just fitting into the skinny jeans as fast as possible for a weekend party), research will tell you this as well.
Oops, that is, if there was any research on the Master Cleanse!
You see, there is absolutely no scientific basis or legitimate research to be found on the detox cleanse and diet known as the Master Cleanse. A quick google of scientific literature sites will confirm this for you in a hurry.
What’s more, there is no traditional practice in ancestral cultures from around the world that mimics anything remotely similar. Given that there is no anthropological or scientific basis for conducting such a crazy, wild experiment on one’s biology, why do it?
Gentle Detox Sans the Master Cleanse
The most optimal and safe approach to cleansing and detox involves not just eliminating toxins. It also must include proper nourishment of the body while the cleanse is occurring, especially the liver which is the body’s main detoxification organ. A nourished body with a liver that is getting all the nutrients it needs is going to do an infinitely better job than a starved body and strained liver that is overwhelmed by fat-soluble toxins that have been released into the bloodstream in larger amounts than normal in a short space of time such as what occurs during the Master Cleanse.
Elimination of toxins rapidly in the absence of any nutrition is an incredibly stressful event. Because of this, proper nutrition must be included in any detoxification or weight loss regimen so that permanent damage does not inadvertently occur during the cleansing process. Gentle is a key aspect of any safe detoxification protocol, never starvation or deprivation (1).
Anything else and run for the hills!
While doing the Master Cleanse for 10 days will probably cause you to lose some weight because you’re getting so few calories, most of the weight loss will be water that you will gain right back when you start eating normally again (2). In addition, the physiological stress from the cleanse will likely skyrocket levels of the stress hormone cortisol which may actually cause you to gain weight back more rapidly (and then some) once the cleanse is over (3). What’s worse, you’ll also lose muscle and bone and possibly damage yourself in the process.
Worth it? Your call, but science and common sense would both say definitely not!
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
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