Diets that waste your time: the Master Cleanse

A diet that’s been around for decades, the Master Cleanse is designed as a way to remove all the toxins from your body and rest your digestive system. Whether used for a little internal TLC or for rapid weight loss, the question remains as to whether the diet actually has any benefits at all…

How to do the cleanse

According to the website, there is an optional ‘ease-in’ period of a few days to allow your mind and body to prepare itself. This is followed by ten days of the Lemonade Diet and a daily natural detox, and then a final three days of ‘easing out’.

The Lemonade Diet

For 10 days you can only drink between 6 and 12 glasses of what is optimistically described as ‘Lemonade’, consisting of water, lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper.

Not exactly what comes to mind when you think of lemonade. As the diet contains no fibre whatsoever, you also need to drink a natural detox once a day to stimulate your body into releasing the toxins. This is either a detox tea, a herbal laxative or a litre of salt water. Yes, a litre.

The dangers

First of all, the diet contains absolutely no fibre or protein. This may not be harmful for some people if done for a few days, but for older people, or those who already consume a low amount of protein, it can make them more susceptible to illnesses and infections.

Secondly, the Master Cleanse is a semi-starvation diet, meaning that if done for too long, it can cause the body to go into ketosis – a starvation mode that leads to muscle breakdown. Though the website states it is a 10-day diet, Master Cleanse ‘expert’ Tom Woloshyn claims that it “can be safely maintained for many more days in a row, even weeks when desired.” In the meantime it causes dehydration, fatigue, dizziness and nausea among other things. That all sounds very safe doesn’t it? But then who are we to argue, he’s an expert after all.

Doing a cleanse like this repeatedly will also have a damaging effect on your heart. It weakens the heart muscles and blood vessels, which causes micro tears, increasing the risk of a heart attack, atherosclerosis and other heart diseases.

The daily detox

Let’s now have a look at what the detox does to your body. Tricking your body into creating a bowel movement with a laxative or salt water can cause severe diarrhoea, especially when you aren’t consuming any solid foods.

In turn, this causes dehydration and electrolyte imbalance, putting your heart and muscles at even more risk. And what’s worse, drinking a litre of salt water is likely to cause even the bravest among us to throw up, which seems more like a punishment than a healing process.

Does it even do what it says?

The theory behind the diet is that it cleanses your body of toxins. To be fair, it does sound rather enticing to be able to clear out all the nasty things from your body and start afresh. But ultimately this is entirely pointless, seeing as your kidneys and liver already do this for you.

What’s more, most of the weight lost on the diet is water-weight, which will likely be gained back soon afterwards. And to top it off, going into starvation mode causes your metabolism to slow down significantly, so that when you do return to eating normal foods, you are likely to gain weight a lot more easily. Not exactly what you had in mind if you were using it to slim down.

The verdict

There is no scientific evidence to suggest that diets like the Master Cleanse do anything to help the body, but their potential dangers are certainly clear.

As well as putting your body at great risk, you have to drink between 30 and 60 litres of what sounds like a fairly vile drink, with little to no gain. And, unless you want to bring your ‘lemonade cuppy’ with you to every work lunch, coffee date or social event, you’ll have to become a social hermit for two weeks. All in all, the Master Cleanse is definitely a waste of time.

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