The Dangers Of The Master Cleanse

by Jason Boehm, MS, CNS, MMC

Why Can Juice Cleanses Make You Feel Bad?

Actress Salma Hayek recently revealed to US Weekly that she got her svelte physique and glowing skin with Cooler Cleanse, a juice cleanse with flavors like “Pineapple & Ginger” and “Spicy Lemonade.” According to their web site, this juice cleanse – which costs $58 a day – “frees energy in the body, which can then return to the essential jobs of deep inner cleansing and healing.”

Likewise, celebrities like Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore get into movie shape with the Master Cleanse, a concoction of lemon juice, cayenne pepper, and grade B maple syrup.

What Is The Master Cleanse

The Master Cleanse is actually a liquid juice fast. You basically drink lemonade all day and some herbal tea. The lemonade recipe in the Master Cleanse consists of lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper. As you’ll read in this article, this is a terrible way to do a cleanse.

Stanley Burroughs first wrote about this plan in The Master Cleanser, first published in the 1950s. Burroughs had an interesting history of hucksterism, and was eventually convicted of second-degree felony murder, felony for practicing medicine without a license, and unlawful sale of cancer treatments.

Visit your local health food store or search online and you’ll find countless detoxification programs and cleanses, from prepackaged drinks to powders to do-it-yourself juicing. Manufacturers often interchangeably use “cleanse” and “detox” to mean many things, but they all promise numerous health claims and a lean, vibrant body.

Most cleanses and detoxes lack the science to validate these claims. Worse, many are almost entirely sugar and provide little if any protein. Problem is, detoxification requires protein, and without this crucial component, cleanses can wreak havoc on your body.

The Science Of Why The Master Cleanse Can Make You Feel Bad

According to Dr. Nieske Zabriskie, detoxification involves eliminating or neutralizing toxic substances via your skin, lungs, kidneys, liver, and intestines. Air, diet, drugs, alcohol, smoking, and metabolic by-products all contribute to toxic overload, which damages your cells and eventually contributes to chronic disease.

Detoxification isn’t something you do twice a year with a specifically designed formula or program. Every cell in your body constantly detoxifies, although most detoxification occurs in your liver.

Two Phases of Liver Detoxification

The liver, your body’s detox ground zero, utilizes two enzymatic detoxification pathways, appropriately called phase 1 and phase 2. During phase 1, your liver converts fat-soluble toxins into water-soluble substances. Phase 2 involves excreting these toxins via urine, sweat, and other bodily fluids.

Here’s the thing. During phase 1, your liver converts toxic substances to highly reactive metabolites. Many of these metabolites are free radicals and more toxic than the original toxin. If your liver doesn’t properly excrete them in phase 2, you can suffer significant cellular damage. So how do you effectively excrete these toxic metabolites?

Nutrient Requirements in Liver Detoxification

“What’s important to keep in mind,” says Dr. Zabriskie, “is that there are two pathways by which the body detoxifies harmful substances and it’s essential to support both of these pathways in order to detoxify effectively. Supporting only one of the detoxification pathways can actually do more harm than good.”

Both phase 1 and phase 2 need numerous nutrients to effectively detoxify. Phase 1, for instance, requires many vitamins including B vitamins, calcium, bioflavonoids, and the amino acid cysteine. Phase 2, on the other hand, almost entirely depends on amino acids such as taurine, glutamine, and lysine.

Phase 2 and Amino Acids

Let’s take a closer look at how these amino acids contribute to phase 2 detoxification. Some of the seven pathways in phase 2, such as the glycine pathway and the taurine pathway, are self-descriptive and require that amino acid to properly detoxify.

Another pathway in phase 2, the glutathione pathway, helps your liver detoxify xenobiotics, carcinogens, and heavy metals like mercury. Your body synthesizes glutathione from three amino acids: glutamate, cysteine, and glycine. During phase 1, increased free radical production can deplete glutathione levels, stalling the glutathione pathway in phase 2.

In other words, without the precursor amino acids to build glutathione, your liver can’t sustain phase 2 detoxification. Which explains why the Master Cleanse is such an incomplete detox program.

Likewise, the sulfation pathway helps your liver eliminate numerous medications such as acetaminophen, and demands the sulfur-contain amino acids methionine and cysteine to effectively work.

The take-home: without amino acids, phase 2 detoxification cannot occur. Rather than excrete the oftentimes more-harmful metabolites phase 1 created, they build up and create serious toxic overload. Not only is the Master Cleanse incomplete, but as you will read, it can harm you.

Sugar Damages Rather Than Assists Your Liver During Detoxification

Back to the Master Cleanse. Your body breaks down maple syrup in this concoction to glucose and fructose. Without fat or protein to buffer out this incoming sugar, the maple syrup creates a high glycemic index, which significantly raises your blood sugar that eventually crashes and creates the lethargy, brain fog, and other uncomfortable symptoms many people experience during a cleanse.

A study in the journal Obesity concluded a high-glycemic diet can even create fatty liver, due to the fructose in maple syrup and juice cleanses that creates additional metabolic havoc.

Fructose is almost entirely metabolized in your liver, which places significant burdens on this already-overtaxed organ that, ironically, you’re trying to assist with detoxification. “When fructose reaches the liver,” says Dr. William J. Whelan, a biochemist at the University of Miami School of Medicine, “the liver goes bananas and stops everything else to metabolize the fructose.”

Fructose overloads the liver, eventually becoming a hepatotoxin. A Hepatotoxin is simply something that harms the liver. Fructose overload in your liver can create hypertension, high triglycerides, hyperlipidemia, insulin resistance, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Fructose also lowers leptin (which puts the brakes on your hunger) and increases ghrelin (your hunger-triggering hormone), which can result in weight gain.

The Master Cleanse and juice cleanses, then, do double damage to your liver. Not only do they not provide your liver the essential amino acids for phase 2 detoxification (creating toxic build-up), the sugar in these cleanses creates additional work for your liver.

Tofi: Thin on the Outside, Fat on the Inside

Lack of protein in the Master Cleanse and juice cleanses creates stresses beyond your liver. Unlike carbohydrate or fat, your body can’t store protein. Without sufficient dietary protein, your body will break down muscle and other tissues to obtain essential amino acids. Inadequate protein intake can also negatively impact your immune and many other systems.

This explains why people often feel dizzy, weak, bad and sick on the Master Cleanse.

People do lose weight on these cleanses, primarily due to caloric restriction. But just because you lose weight doesn’t mean you lose fat. Since you’re not getting sufficient dietary protein, some of that weight loss likely results from muscle mass breakdown, which you most definitely don’t want.

Sufficient protein, on the other hand, spares lean muscle and helps you burn fat. A study in The Journal of Nutrition, for instance, showed that women who ate a higher-protein diet experienced significantly higher fat loss and preserved lean muscle tissue much better than those who ate a higher-carbohydrate diet.

The Right Detox Plan Can Help You Burn Fat, Spare Muscle, and Feel Great

Now that you understand the negative effects of carbohydrate-based cleanses, you’ll want to choose a high-quality protein-based cleanse that provides the amino acid and nutrient support to help your liver – and every other organ – effectively detoxify.

Unlike the lethargy, fatigue, brain fog, and overall blah feeling you likely experience on the Master Cleanse or a juice cleanse, a protein-based cleanse stabilizes blood sugar, balances insulin, and satiates you better. You have steady energy with no sugar spikes and crashes.

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How To Build Muscle (New From PEERtrainer)

peertrainer fresh start cleanse

Video Presentation: How To Do A Cleanse The Right Way

PEERtrainer’s 14-day Fresh Start Cleanse includes the option of a plant-based protein powder that supports phase 1 and 2 detoxification. It offers all essential amino acids without creating potential burdens and reactions that sugar-loaded protein powders and animal protein can create. You get a professional fiber formula that mixes well without being harsh on your system like many commercial fibers do, as well as a world class detoxification supplement package.

During the cleanse, whether you opt for the “kit” or not, you will eat foods that have the higest Nutrient Density Scores (greens and sulfer-containg cruciferous vegetables), remove problematic and potentially toxic foods, and safely and effectively detoxify using professionally formulated products and guidance to create newfound energy and vigor.

With the 14-day Fresh Start Cleanse, you also get the expert guidance of JJ Virgin, who has designed detoxification programs for years. You will have access to recipes designed by PEERtrainer that feature foods to get you the nutrients you need for long term health, and improved immunity. One can also choose to be part of a very supportive community.

Because you replace several meals each day in this program with protein-based smoothies, you save time and money while providing your body the most effective nutrients that help detoxify. During this “nutritional cleanse” one easily crowds out the toxic foods, allowing for detoxification and optimal nutrition.

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Join The Discussion About This Article: Ask A Question, Post A Comment:


Celebrity Detox: US Magazine

Cooler Cleanse: Cooler Cleanse

Master Cleanse: a href=””>

Master Cleanse: Master Cleanse Wikipedia Entry

Master Cleanse and celebrities: CBS News: Master Cleanse And Celebrities

Phase 1 and phase 2 detox:

Phase 1 and phase 2 detox:

Nutrient support for liver detoxification:

Foods That Support Your Immune System: Super Immunity, Dr. Joel Fuhrman

Glycemic Index and Sugars: Healthy Sugar Alternatives


Fructose: Fructose Wikipedia Entry


Children’s Hospital Boston (2007, September 27). Quick-burning Carbs May Cause Fatty Liver: Low-glycemic Diet Protected Mice. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 25, 2011, from Science Daily

Brehm BJ, D’Alessio DA. Benefits of high-protein weight loss diets: enough evidence for practice? Curr Opin Endocrinol Diabetes Obes. 2008 Oct;15(5):416-21.

Franz MJ. Protein: metabolism and effect on blood glucose levels. Diabetes Educ. 1997 Nov-Dec;23(6):643-6, 648, 650-1.

Layman DK, Boileau RA, Erickson DJ, Painter JE, Shiue H, Sather C, Christou DD. A reduced ratio of dietary carbohydrate to protein improves body composition and blood lipid profiles during weight loss in adult women. J Nutr. 2003 Feb;133(2):411-7.

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