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The Master Cleanse originated by Stanley Burroughs sheds those gdam pouns. Every morning you have to do a salt water flush The cleansing liquid consists of grade B maple syrup or blackstrap molasses,cayenne pepper, and lemons or limes. Most people undertake a 10 day cleanse, but you can go for the cleansing and detoxification for as long as sixty days. Detox in style, mates!

Home / Health  /
Mastering A Master Cleanse

Wringing yourself out only requires a few ingredients but a lot of commitment

In 1863, in an essay entitled Concerning Spiritualism And Materialism, Ludwig Andreas Feuerbach wrote that "man is what he eats."   Sixty years later, nutritionist Victor Lindlahr expressed that "ninety percent of the diseases known to man are caused by cheap foodstuffs.  You are what you eat." That five-word phrase has since never gone out of fashion.  

It's widely accepted that scoffing processed chocolate bars and pizzas isn't going to infuse your body with the same vitality as fresh fruits and vegetables.  And despite the diet to health relationship being acknowledged, albeit grudgingly much of the time, it is by no means universally accepted that a detoxification regimen on an occasional basis is advisable to correct for the less-than-optimal foods put into us the rest of the time. In Britain, Sense About Science makes an annual effort debunking the entire idea of a detox.   Sense About Science could just about be any mainstream organization in any developed nation, proclaiming that detox products don't work and/or are a waste of money and that our bodies are already designed with the ability to handle whatever we pump into them.  In 2007, CNN wrote up an article "Deconstructing 'detox' diets." Their verdict: detoxes longer than 3 days can rob the body of vitamins and nutrients;   the best way to detox the liver is to limit exposure to toxins;   lymphatic drainage on a healthy person is impossible because there's nothing whatsoever to drain; and a box of high fiber cereal is equivalent in health benefits to an expensive colonic irrigation.

If our marvelous bodies were capable of handling whatever garbage we dump into or onto them, then nobody should be toxic.   Our efficiently-designed bodies would eliminate all the toxins.  Yet when a journalist had himself tested for 320 substances for a National Geographic feature in 2006, he tested positive for chemicals and toxins he was exposed to decades before, such as DDT and PCB's. Most of us won't or can't shell out US$15,000 to get such comprehensive work done, but what makes any of us think we'd test negatively for similar toxins?   We consume meat laden with hormones, vegetables doused in pesticides, and use household cleaners, cosmetics, creams, and lotions containing ingredients we can't pronounce.  Some common food additives don't exist in nature, so our bodies don't know how to effectively process them.  Think of hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, and the artificial sweeteners found in soft drinks and sweets. If the body could handle whatever we threw at it, vegetarians should suffer from colon cancer - indeed, all cancers - at the same rates as carnivores, yet they don't.

When you ask an expert about something, the true expert can answer you with authority only if he's used or has wide experience with those who've used that something.  The unique thing about the anti-detox brigade is the fact that none of them has ever undergone a serious detoxification. Detox detractors smear cleansing in a very simplistic fashion. They:

Master Cleanse  Highlight a widely recognized ineffectual detox protocol and use that as an example to cast doubt on all other detoxification programs.

Master Cleanse secrets  Point out the extreme dangers a detox protocol could bring about if practiced by an idiot.  This would be akin to someone calling vegetarian diets dangerous because they could lead to anaemia.

Notice the way CNN "deconstructs" a detox.  They say that detoxes longer than 3 days can rob the body of vitamins and nutrients, not that they will.  This all depends on what you're doing during your program - are you crash dieting or juice fasting?  The conventional American diet robs one's body of vitamins and nutrients, but you never see the conventional media ever commenting on those dangers. CNN's advice to detox the liver by limiting exposure to toxins is tantamount to saying that you could improve your chances of not dying in a car accident by limiting your exposure to cars.  It's useless advice.  

Unlike the so-called experts, I feel I can offer some basic detoxification and cleansing advice because I've actually done several detoxes.  My initial cleanses/detoxes were multi-day juice fasts.  Later, I performed two five-day water fasts.  Two-and-a-half years ago I went on a two-week cleanse.  One week consisted of no eating, herbs, psyllium and bentonite, and colonics twice a day.  I can unequivocally say after the experience that a box of high fiber cereal won't clean out your intestines the same way a well-performed colonic will.  

Master Cleanse lemonadeMost recently, I subjected myself to the Master Cleanse. The Master Cleanse diet consists of a   simple concoction of 210 ml (14 tbsp) of fresh squeezed lemon or lime juice, 210 ml of Grade B maple syrup or blackstrap molasses, a teaspoon or two of cayenne pepper, and enough water to top it all up to about 2.5 liters of liquid for daily consumption.  The cleanse isn't new.  It's been around since the 1940's.  My father e-mailed me the recipe more than a decade ago.  What got me interested in finally trying it out was the fact my brother had just come off a 60-day Master Cleanse and said that it was both easy to stay on and yielded excellent results. A very appealing aspect of the Master is that there's no proprietary blend of special herbs and nutrients you need to buy at inflated prices from one company.  No one has a vested interested in you doing the cleanse except yourself.

Master CleanseIn the ten years I've known about the Master but not done it, it's gone more mainstream due to the celebrity contingent discovering it and popularizing it.  The pop starlet Beyonce went on it for two weeks to quickly lose weight for her role in the movie Dreamgirls.  Beyonce's involvement brought the Cleanse a lot of press, good and bad.  On the bad side, more detractors stepped forward to talk about the Cleanse's "dangers" on conventional health web sites.  In a fifth season episode of The Office, one character goes on the Master in a bid to rapidly lose weight and winds up in the hospital.  But bad press and TV show mockery in spades aren't enough to diminish the public's fascination with celebrity emulation.  When Anne Hathaway goes on a half-assed Master for just two days, hundreds of thousands know about it and a percentage of that huge number are bound to mimic her.  Suffice it to say, I found out about the Hollywood bangwagons involvements after I'd already committed to doing the cleanse.

Getting all the necessary ingredients presented a minor problem.  Grade B maple syrup is the type most highly recommended.  Over here in Thailand, Grade B isn't available, and the sweeter Grade A comes in 250 ml bottles and costs between US$15-20.   A cleanser would consume almost one bottle every day.  At those prices, I'd be spending more per day on my cleanse than I would eating and drink to my heart's content.  The best things in life may be free, but health isn't.  I was able to procure an Australian brand of blackstrap molasses in 550g jars for US$6.50/bottle.  Each of these bottles lasted 2 1/2 days.  The luxury grocery store which sells the molasses never stocks a lot at once.  There's little market for it.  I'm actually surprised there's any market for it.  I started gradually stockpiling the molasses a month before I began the cleanse.  

Cayenne pepper was available only at the same import grocery store.  Thais use fresh birds-eye chilies in their food.  They have little use for powdered cayenne pepper.   My brother in California can get organic cayenne in twice the quantity as I pay for run-of-the-mill cayenne here.  Later, I realized the Thai chili powder, which looks similar to the cayenne but is much spicier, would work just as well. The spicy pepper powder is meant to scrub out your intestinal tract, and any powder of sufficient spice strength will do the job.

Lemons?  Lemongrass is what's popular in Thailand, not lemons. As far as citrus fruits go, limes are what you see plentifully in the market year round.   Hence, my version of the lemonade consisted of molasses, limes, and the cayenne.  The recommended senna laxative tea, to be taken every night, was not available anywhere.   I tried the finest luxury supermarkets in Bangkok.  I guess rich Thais aren't in the habit of detoxing.

Master Cleanse day 2I had every intention of doing 40 days or more and of starting as soon as possible.  The big question mark was time.  If you set yourself a workout regimen, you don't necessarily have to work out every single day.  On the Master, however, you must make your lemonade drink fresh daily and drink only that.  There are no breaks.  Being away from home for an extended period or putting yourself in extremely social situations, like a wedding, is not conducive to success.  My first projected commencement date was on September 1, immediately after I returned from Indonesia.  I ran that proposed date by my girlfriend for conflicts.  She had a small window of vacation days she wanted us to use to get dental treatments in Bangkok. Going to the government and culinary capital of Thailand and being forced to watch her and her son eat scrumptious Middle Eastern or Korean or Indian food didn't make much sense.  I postponed the cleanse until our return.  At that point, I realized that we were set to go on a vacation to Thailand's south on the evening of October 9.  October 9 emerged as my immutable fasting termination date.  That left me with 33 days to cleanse with.

When I initiated the cleanse on September 7, 2009, I had in my mind the goal of doing the Master for 30 days and easing out in three, unless I lost weight too rapidly, in which case I'd shorten my time frame.  I needn't have worried about rapid weight loss.   The Cleanse's originator, Stanley Burroughs, and plenty of his advocates insist that weight melts off, sometimes at the rate of 2 lbs (1 kg) per day.  Yeah, maybe if you're 100 kg overweight.  Anyone not waddling from one place to another will lose weight at a much more moderate rate.  My brother observed a half pound a day of loss on his cleanse. I noticed the same.  

Master Cleanse day 12My first few days were the hardest.  Hunger wasn't the problem.  Sure, I craved food, and if I smelled the aroma of delicious cuisine, I'd want to dig in.  What sane man wouldn't?  But craving food isn't the same as being hungry for it.  Too often in our culture, we eat out of boredom, addiction, or for social affairs .  Giving up my typical diet, I suddenly had no reason to dine out with my girlfriend and her son or meet a friend for dinner or for a coffee.  My social life ground to a near standstill,   as it fully dawned on me that every time I went out, it would involve me having to watch other people eat or drink.  

You come to appreciate the difference between eating out of hunger and eating for eating's sake, and 90% of the time, it's the latter.  Drinking 2 to 2 1/2 liters of lemonade sweetened with molasses isn't difficult but nor is it a stroll in the park.  Any monotonous diet takes its toll.  I was able to meet my quota by drinking 1 ice-cold liter shortly after I woke up in the morning.  As the day progressed, the lemonade went down slower and slower. When you drink this amount of liquid in a short period of time, it makes you feel bloated.   There's no room left for hunger.  Nevertheless, when my girlfriend brought home a take-out one night of Thai broad noodles and fried morning glory, I still wanted some, even though physically, I wasn't hungry for it.  

I came down with a fever and sore throat soon after I began, and I attributed this to my body busy at work on its cleansing process.  Once the body is no longer forced to expend its energy on digestion, it can proceed with the work of healing.  In retrospect, I'm not sure if this was my body cleansing or if I just inconveniently caught a bug early on.  

During my early days of the cleanse, particularly during my illness, I was on the internet regularly, reading forums about other peoples' experiences.  This required wading through plenty of rubbish, as many so-called cleansers are actually dabblers who re-invent the cleanse to suit their fancies and others' pocket books.  One person has written up a guidebook with "secrets," such as food you can eat without cheating, and is hawking this new-and-improved cleanse for over $30. Some "experts" are advising honey instead of the maple syrup. Who cares that cleansing founder Burroughs expressly warned against using honey?  One lady said she was taking the lemonade along with a little bit of grilled chicken salad and an occasional bacon-cheeseburger.  It again seemed irrelevant that Burroughs' admonitions were that the lemonade mixture and the laxative tea are all that are to be consumed during the cleansing period.  

Master Cleanse salt water flushBecause one only consumes liquid during the Master and no fiber, natural eliminations of waste do not occur.  It becomes necessary to clean yourself out each morning with salt water flushes, a mixture of one liter of warm water and 2 teaspoons of sea salt.   Since salt water cannot be absorbed by the body, all of it will be expelled along with any waste.  You can try to imagine these salt water flushes are fine wines or Arabica coffees, but unless you're a brilliant method actor, in the end, it'll still taste like a liter of salty water.Bathroom attacks strike within fifteen to forty-five minutes of ingesting a salt water flush drink.   I'm still not sure if having to pound down a liter of warm salty water or expel it is worse.

When I did my psyllium-bentonite double daily colonics on a Thai island two-and-a-half years ago, I eliminated rubbery mucoid plaques.  One resembled a large piece of dried beef.  If it were beef, it would have been in my system for over 12 years, since I've not consumed any beef since January 4, 1995.  On the Master, I saw none of these dramatic eliminations.  Everything came out as dark black or dark brown rear-end piss, smelling of a dirty marina.  This concerned me since comments from other posters said they were shocked and amazed at what was coming out of their system.  I received little guidance from internet posters, and that's when I e-mailed my brother and asked him about his toilet escapades on the Master.   He, too, had experienced rear-end urinations.  

Master Cleanse day 18Most Master Cleansers undergo the detox program for a ten day period.   On the eleventh day they drink fresh squeezed orange juice, and on the evening of the twelfth they revert back to cooked foods with freshly prepared vegetable soup.  By day thirteen, they're back on their normal diets.  Out of the piles of manure I read on the Net, one piece of advice resonated soundly with me and that was to go on a subsequent raw-food diet for 50% of the time you did the Master.   As my cleanse progressed and kilograms began to come off, my focus shifted from detoxification to weight maintenance.  I was legitimately concerned that my metabolism would slow down from the 600 calories I was consuming daily on the Master, and I would yoyo back up to my pre-cleanse weight and more after the detox was finished.  With 33 days at my disposal, I allocated 11 for a raw-food diet, half of the 22 I planned on the Master, to ease myself ever so gradually back to the rigors and pleasures of normal eating.  

My own raw foods diet was a springboard off Burroughs' initial suggestions.  Per the protocol, I broke the Master, on day 23, by drinking fresh squeezed orange juice.  Burroughs never specified how much OJ to chug daily, so I set the amount at 2 liters, slightly less than the lemonade mixture from the Master.  Instead of eating a freshly cooked vegetable soup the following day, I confined myself to only orange juice for the first 3 days of my raw foods diet and lost another 1.5 kg.  On day 26, I added salads to the diet and continued eating them until I ended the cleanse on the evening of day 33. The last 8 days on my raw foods diet I put back on 2 kg.  Net weight loss was about 7 kg.  

Hey, don't get alarmed out there!  Weight gain after a fast/cleanse/detox is inevitable.  Burroughs and his cohorts say that people typically gain back a third of the weight they lose.  Some of the Master dabblers gain it all back and add another chin and paunch on top. Raw food practitioners have you believe that you can pig out to your heart's content and actually lose weight doing it. Maybe that's true if you jump into a raw foods diet directly from a cooked foods one.  It ain't true if you're going raw after 26 days on a liquid diet.  Do the math:   you consume practically nothing for weeks, and then you start consuming something.  Something is greater than nothing, and eating something will put on more weight than eating nothing.

As I write this, it's been a month since I ended the entire cleanse, and I've put on an additional 2 kg.  OnMaster Cleanse day 23 my two week cleanse in 2007, I lost about 5 kg but gained it all back within 2 months.  I doubt the same thing will happen this time around because of my longer detox period and ease out.  The extended raw food diet for 50% of the Master's duration was the most sensible choice I made.  Plain and simple, it's just too easy to fantasize while on the Master about all the dishes you'll be sampling once the cleanse is over. In restricting myself to a raw foods diet immediately after the Master ended, I was prevented from leaping back into bad habits.  By the time the raw foods phase ended, I was no longer starved of food, so I didn't feel an urge to rush out to my favorite ice cream parlor or pour myself a vodka tonic. In fact, as I write this, I haven't had a drop of alcohol in two months.

They say you should never go grocery shopping when you're hungry. Go after you've eaten, and you'll only buy what you need.  Doing a long raw foods diet after the Master was like making sure I was full before visiting the grocery.  

A person on a cleanse is the least objective about it.   Feeling bad may mean your body's actually improving.   I snapped photographs of myself every morning, both frontal and side profile shots, and it was difficult for me to see any difference.  I didn't feel any better.  Mentally, the thought of having to drink more of the same old lemonade became more depressing with each passing day.  Then, factor in the fever I had early in and the chronic diarrhea. The payoff comes when others see you and notice the difference - that's more objective.  I cut off nearly all external social contacts whilst I cleansed. A friend came over to drop off a borrowed DVD after I'd been on the cleanse for 11 days and commented on my haircut, only I hadn't had a haircut.   Somehow, he felt I looked younger and wrote off my new look as a hair trim.   This comment was repeated by several others.  

My girlfriend was supportive of my cleanse from the very beginning, but because I live with her and see her all the time, she was unable to see any dramatic changes in my appearance from day to day.  However, one morning she started to rub my back and noticed that some pimples seen there only weeks before had vanished and my skin felt remarkably smooth.  Her attitude instantly changed from "This cleanse seems like a nice dalliance for others, but it ain't for me" to "I'd like to give this cleanse a spin myself for 10 days in the spring."

I doubt few others reading my commentary will be as motivated to follow in my footsteps   unless they were already two-thirds of the way interested in doing a detox beforehand.  My goal isn't to enlist converts.   I could do a dozen Masters and hail the benefits all over the internet.   A respected doctor could measure my triglycerides and cholesterol and blood lipids, do a before and after test, and document incontrovertibly that the cleanse has benefited me.  Such data wouldn't influence the anti-detoxification crew.  To them, my case and all the other cleansers' cases are unique.  The antis will tell themselves that if they eat 'right' and do a modest amount of exercise, their bodies will have no toxins to purge. I don't want to bother getting started on that debate, since it's of no concern to me whether they embark on a cleanse or an all-weekend bender.  

Master Cleanse day 29Without any question, this was the easiest detox/cleanse I've ever done. I could have stayed on it for twice the length without much extra effort.   When I did a five-day water fast on two occasions, I was exhausted by the end.  During my colonic and bentonite cleanse, I regularly experienced real hunger pangs.On the Master, I was never genuinely hungry as long as I was drinking at least 2 liters daily of the lemonade.  And I wasn't without energy either.  The limes and the molasses are nutrient dense.  On most days, I was able to exercise at the same intensity I would have on a normal diet.  It wouldn't be that farfetched to suggest that my lemonade could've packed in more nutrients than most peoples' typical diets.

Once the raw foods phase began, I was riding on Easy Street.  Others cringed when I told them I was on an all-uncooked food diet.   I'm already predisposed to eating salads.  Had I not been, even a salad would have been welcome respite after 22 days on lemonade and another 3 on orange juice. You're more appreciative of any food after 25 days without it.   Back in the world of edible cuisine again, there was enough variety in my diet to not get bored, and it was smooth sailing until I brought the cleanse to an end.

The Master truly changed my life, though not in the ways I was led to believe.  I did not lose my addiction to cooked foods.  I desired and enjoyed peanut butter, pizza, pad thai, a smoothie, and an iced coffee as much before the cleanse as I did after.  Were I on crap diet pre-cleanse, it's hard to accept that just being on the Master for an extended period of time would kill all urges to eat those same low-nutrient foods.   I expect most people go back to some semblance of the diet they were last on.  

My life changed for a very simple reason.  Before I'd done the Master, going on a cleanse was always an ordeal, and contemplating cleansing periods longer than 14 days was a challenge.  For three years, I've been wanting to lose a few kilograms, weight that was added to my frame after a year drinking fine wine and beer in "No worries, mate" Australia.  There's no major secret to weight loss.  You have to intake less food and/or increase your exercise activity.   Despite my regular exercise and diet, I was neither gaining nor losing weight.  Before I began the cleanse, I weighed approximately the same as I did when I weighed myself in Sydney nearly three years prior.  Much of this, no doubt, has to do with the slowing down of one's metabolism with age.  I knew the only way I was going to break through the weight floor was to do something drastic.

The Master Cleanse proved to be that drastic move, and yet it wasn't that drastic after all.   I ran into a colleague of my girlfriend's while we vacationed in the south of Thailand a week after my cleanse finished. This colleague remarked that I looked young and healthy now; before, I'd looked like an uncle, a term Asians use to describe those whose youth has given way to more paternal and maternal attributes (e.g. fatness).  Somewhere in me still lurks the fear of Uncle returning. I'll be more vigilant this time around, knocking off kilograms one-by-one as they're gained rather than having to lose a bunch at once. What I have going for me is the Master.  I'll probably restrict myself to 10-day Masters and three day ease-outs in the future.  If I do these three times per year, it wouldn't prove very difficult to keep my weight in control and my toxin levels within reason.  

There's some comfort gained in knowing I have a weapon at my disposal that's very simple to use. But I assure you I won't use this shotgun to knock off the next pizza deliveryman trying to harden my arteries. I'll take the pizza, tip the deliveryman, then do a Master Cleanse.

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