Debunking the Master Cleanse

By Brandy Carrillo, UC Davis Nutrition Peer Counselor

With the warmer weather and blue skies, it’s common for many to enter a period of re-invention this time of year, through our own rituals of “spring cleaning” or starting new regimes to improve our health. With the ever-increasing rise of diet culture, advertisements for the latest fad diets are scattered all over the web calling for extreme restrictions and regulations and promises of fast and drastic results. Many are sucked into these empty promises and want to kickstart their newfound healthy routines with a period of detox or a cleanse, but are those actually as effective as the influencers claim?

On the surface, cleansing and detoxing seem beneficial and something that we should be doing daily. Detoxification is essentially just the act of removing harmful toxins from your body via excretion, urination or sweat. So if this all sounds so positive and helpful, why is it actually not such a good thing?

The main issue with most self-proclaimed detox regimes is that they claim to help eliminate this so-called build-up of toxins in your body to help rest its natural metabolic processes. Detoxes and cleanses often require participants to engage in some kind of calorie restriction, specific food elimination, supplement or herb use, laxatives, juices, or other drink concoctions all with the goal of improving one’s health in mind. In reality, your body is already doing this on a day-to-day basis via your liver, lungs, kidneys, and large intestine. Any supplemental means of “cleansing” or “detoxification” is unnecessary and in some cases, harmful to the body. Many of these cleanses make promises of weight loss, metabolism repair, body fat burning, reduced inflammation, and are marketed as an “all-around cure.” We know that while some detox diets may help users achieve some of the promised benefits, the results are likely unsustainable and are coupled with harmful effects and increased risks.

 How exactly does the famous Master Cleanse play into this?

The Master Cleanse also referred to as the Lemonade Diet, the Cayenne Pepper Diet, the Maple Syrup Diet, and even the Beyonce Diet, is a complete liquid fast with a primary goal of rapid weight loss. The detox regime was first introduced all the way back in the 1940s by Stanley Burroughs as a means of body reset, healing, and all-around “internal cleansing” prompting followers to drink at least 6 or more cups of only the drink consisting of lemon juice, maple syrup, water, and cayenne pepper for anywhere between 10 days to 2 weeks. The diet calls for users to only drink this concoction for the first 10 days along with a supplemental laxative tea for optimum “colon cleansing” and then to slowly reintroduce solid foods for the next few days. While testimonies have shown that the master cleanse does provide rapid weight loss, these results aren’t permanent or healthy. The Master Cleanse is simply another means of fasting, with the maple syrup the only real source of calories during the cleanse. This lack of essential nutrients (vitamins, minerals, fiber, etc.) and caloric substance can lead to a number of harmful effects on the body including increased fatigue, body weakness and achiness, digestive issues, loss of muscle mass, and many more.

At the end of the day, your body already has the set machinery needed for natural detoxification processes and there is no need to engage in any supplemental cleanses or detox diets. Focusing on eating a balanced plate and including a regular exercise routine in your life is much more sustainable and can provide the lasting effects these so-called detox diets claim they can provide.

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