Beyoncé announced on the Oprah Winfrey show that she did it to drop more than 20 pounds before her role in Dreamgirls. Howard Stern’s co-host, Robin Quivers, did it to lose 73 pounds. Other celebrities are touting the healing or weight-loss effects of it. The “it” is the Lemon Cleansing Diet, also known as the Master Cleanse, the Lemonade Diet or the Maple Syrup Diet. Whatever you call it, the Lemon Cleanse is a short-term, liquid food diet that purports to cleanse your body of toxic build-up and help you feel better. Some use it to lose weight. As with any liquid diet, the Lemon Cleanse comes with some caveats, and might not be for everyone.
The Lemon-Maple-Cayenne Epiphany
With the idea that many bodily illnesses start in the intestines, Stanley Burroughs published “The Master Cleanser” in 1941 (see Resources). In the book, he described his radical liquid diet concoction, consisting of water, lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper, as well as the plan for administering the cleanse, which includes 10 days of fasting and purgatives to cleanse the digestive system.
New Studies, New Truths
While a liquid diet alone sounds crazy—who has the willpower to go without solid food for 10 days?–the number of positive testimonials makes you wonder.
More recently, Peter Glickman wrote an updated account of how to use the Lemon Cleanse based on modern health information: “Lose Weight, Have More Energy & Be Happier in 10 Days” (see Resources). He notes,
“The Master Cleanse is designed to do two things: first, to detoxify the body (remove toxins/poisons from the cells and organs in which they are embedded)–the Agitator–and then to eliminate these toxins from the body before they can be reabsorbed and poison the body once again–the Rinse Cycle. Just as a washing machine must incorporate both of these to be effective, so must any good cleanse.”
Although the Lemon Cleanse may have achieved some celebrity status, neither Burroughs nor Glickman spends a lot of time on the weight-loss potential of the cleanse, and instead, devote most of their attention to the health benefits.
Making the Spicy Lemonade Work for You
The overall plan of the cleanse is to consume nothing but the spicy lemonade, a purgative saline solution, laxative tea, water, and the occasional cup of mint herbal tea for a period of 10 days.
To make a one-day supply of the spicy lemonade, in a two-quart pitcher, add the following:
3/4 cup organic lemon juice (or lime juice)
3/4 cup Grade B maple syrup (do NOT substitute honey or agave nectar)
1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder
60 ounces filtered water (almost two quarts, or 7 1/2 cups)
Stir before drinking to distribute the cayenne evenly. Drink through a straw to help keep the acid drink away from your teeth (too much acidity can be corrosive on teeth). Drink as much of the spicy lemonade as you need, but at least 60 ounces per day.
Drink a cup of laxative tea before going to bed. Upon waking, immediately drink a quart of water into which you stir two teaspoons of non-iodized sea salt. (Note: I found this hard to drink—it felt like I was swallowing seawater. Hopefully, you will fare better.) Do not go anywhere for at least an hour afterward, as the urge to purge will be overwhelming.
Not for the Faint of Heart
Here are the most important warnings before undertaking the Lemon Cleanse: Do not use enemas or undergo colonics while on the cleanse; if you suffer from diabetes, cancer, anemia, intestinal obstruction, gallstones, being underweight or eating disorders, do not try the Lemon Cleanse. Should not be used by pregnant or nursing women. Do not give to children.
You will average consumption of 650 calories per day on the cleanse, and may temporarily lose up to two pounds per day—expect to gain most or all of it back later unless you increase exercising or otherwise adjust your diet.
Maple syrup is expensive. This diet will end up costing at least $6 a day, depending on your source for maple syrup, which you will probably want to buy in bulk.
You Might Be Wondering . . .
Will I feel starved?
When I used the Lemon Cleanse, I was shocked at how energetic and well I felt—like the jolt of a strong cup of coffee, only without the jitters and with no let-down. I felt good and not hungry. That’s right, the spicy lemonade is an appetite suppressant and an energy tonic.
Is the Lemon Cleanse safe?
For a period of 10 days you should be fine (with exceptions noted above under “Not for the Faint of Heart”). If at any time you are concerned, simply discontinue the cleanse.
Can I go about my life normally while on the Lemon Cleanse?
Surprisingly, yes. You will not be hungry physically, although you might be psychologically. You will likely experience an above-normal amount of energy and alertness—I did.
Will there be any side effects?
Probably—most users report symptoms of detoxification, as with any cleanse. If you do not feel better upon elimination the next morning, you should discontinue the cleanse.
After the Lemon Cleanse, how do I return to normal eating?
Burroughs recommends an elaborate and slow return to normal eating that lasts several days, with juices for the first two days, then vegetable broth, and gradually to add in fruit, vegetables and lastly nuts before the return to a normal diet. Please read either the Burroughs or the Glickman book (see Resources) for more details.