Why I'll Never Do The Master Cleanse Again, But Recommend It To Everyone

Medical review by Marvin Singh, M.D.
Integrative Gastroenterologist
Dr. Marvin Singh is an Integrative Gastroenterologist in San Diego, California. He is trained and board certified in Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology/Hepatology.
lemon glass of water

Image by Nataša Mandić / Stocksy

There are some things all healthy people seem to do at least once in their lives. Going vegan. Eliminating gluten. And the notorious "master cleanse." If you haven't experienced the master cleanse yourself, you've probably witnessed a friend attached to their bottle of lemon juice, cayenne pepper, and maple syrup like it's their only source of oxygen.

After eight days of being one of those spicy-lemon filled cleansers, I've made a decision. I'll never do the master cleanse again. Yet, I have been recommending it to everyone. Here's why.

First, a refresher: What is the master cleanse?

Before describing my love-hate relationship with the master cleanse, here's a quick primer. The Master Cleanse was created by Stanley Burroughs in 1940s, and it consists of only lemon juice, cayenne pepper, and maple syrup for 10 days. You can drink water anytime you want, a diuretic tea before bed, and a liter of salt water in the morning. For a more comprehensive explanation of the Master Cleanse, it's benefits, and how to do it, be sure to check out our full guide.

I've been interested in trying the master cleanse since my friend did it in 2011. The result? She looked and felt better than ever before. Radiant skin, shimmering hair, high energy, and an empowered attitude about health.

So when a teammate suggested our entire company try the cleanse, I decided to give it a go. Spoiler alert: My review was not so glowing.

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Why I'll never do the master cleanse again.

The master cleanse seems to benefit people who are overweight or need to remove toxins from years of bad habits. If you've completed other cleanses and maintain a clean diet, it may be more annoying than helpful. My top complaints are:

1. I had low energy.

I felt exhausted everyday I was on the master cleanse. My mind was not sharp. I couldn't exercise beyond a light yoga practice. I got winded walking San Francisco hills I typically sprint up. If you do this cleanse, prepare to be tired.

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2. I had constant chills.

You know that feeling you get when you're sick and can't put on enough layers of warm clothes? That was my experience for eight days. I always felt cold. It affected my sleep and work. Feeling hungry wasn't nearly as bad as feeling cold.

3. I lost muscle.

If you don't have excess body fat, you'll likely lose muscle mass. This muscle mass can be regained after the cleanse. Yet, it added to my conclusion that the downsides of this cleanse outweigh the benefits for anyone already healthy.

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Why I still recommend the master cleanse.

1. It hits the "restart button" on your eating habits.

The greatest benefit of the master cleanse has been the opportunity to calibrate my diet and start fresh. For example, I heard intermittent fasting (IF) eliminates cravings, but in the past I couldn't imagine not eating breakfast. Having gone eight days without any food made it easy to implement IF post-cleanse. The result has been that my cravings are gone. This may not have happened without the cleanse.

2. You'll stop thinking about food!

We spend a lot of time selecting and analyzing food. What should I eat today? Does it fit my diet? How much does it cost? When you only have one option of what to consume, you free up a lot of mental energy.

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3. You'll learn a lot about yourself

The master cleanse is a great experiment. As you observe your emotional and physical reactions to the drastic diet change, you'll learn about your will power, how you interact with others, what it's like for billions of people who are hungry everyday, and what "healthy" means to you. Bonus: You skin and hair may look better than ever before.

Ready to learn how to fight inflammation and address autoimmune disease through the power of food? Join our 5-Day Inflammation Video Summit with mindbodygreen’s top doctors.

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