The Master Cleanse involves eating no solid food and drinking a mixture of fresh lemon juice, cayenne pepper, and grade B maple syrup for a minimum of ten days, although it is not uncommon for people to stay on the cleanse for longer periods of time. In addition, to help elimination, cleansers drink a cup of herbal laxative tea each evening and a saltwater drink or another cup of laxative tea each morning.
Recently, the cleanse received media attention as a result of being embraced by some celebrities. The singer/actress BeyoncÃ© did it for 10 days and lost 22lbs (9kg) for her role in the 2006 movie Dreamgirls. Howard Stern's cohost Robin Quivers claims to have lost 73lbs using the Master Cleanse.
Some critics cite a lack of nutrients as a possible drawback to the cleanse. Other authors assert the benefits of fasting are related to its lack of nutrients. Such people as Socrates, Plato, Hippocrates (the Father of Modern Medicine and originator of the Hippocratic Oath, which is still taken by our modern medical doctors) and Dr. Herbert Shelton all recommeded fasting for various physical conditions.
One critic of the Master Cleanse has pointed to an "alarming lack" of essential nutrients, citing a deficiency of protein, vitamins, and minerals such as calcium. As a result of these deficiencies, individuals on the diet may experience dizziness, delirium, and fainting in the short term, with possible damage to the body ocurring in longer-term applications. Dr. Fuhrman, on the other hand attributes these effects to detoxification, which he says passes after the toxins are eliminated. People with intestinal conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome may experience added discomfort. Furthermore, there is a risk that the saltwater "flush" may remove both beneficial and harmful bacteria from the body. Finally, a no-food diet may cause the gut to stop passing food, resulting in constipation, or may make the consumption of food immediately after the fast painful.
One problem with the Master Cleanse is that it is sometimes recommended primarily as a proven weight loss program. BeyoncÃ© herself denounced the cleanse when used simply as a weight-loss program, stating, "I wouldn't recommend it if someone wasn't doing a movie ... there are other ways to lose weight." Medical authorities say that those who try the Master Cleanse to lose weight will simply gain it back in time. Proponents of the cleanse do not recommend it solely for weight loss, focusing instead on its detoxifying properties.
Dr. Sunil Patel of Halifax's Queen Elizabeth Health Centre suggested that it operates solely as a placebo and has no other health benefits. Others have pointed out that one possible benefit of the Master Cleanse is that it helps patients re-examine their lifestyle and embrace healthy eating.
Glickman, Peter (2005), Lose Weight, Have More Energy & Be Happier in 10 Days, Clearwater, Florida: Peter Glickman, Inc.. Burroughs, Stanley (1976), The Master Cleanser, Reno, Nevada: Burroughs Books.