Wednesday, July 15, 2009

My experience on the Master Cleanse - how I did it safely

WARNING: lengthy and sometimes gross description ahead - if you are going to comment, please read this all FIRST before you pass judgement:

OK, so the title totally just gave it away.

But before you "poo poo" this cleanse and all of its bad rep, you must hear me out as I can now tell you what's what first hand.

Now, I am sure some of you have tried the cleanse. You might have had a bad experience, you might have had a good experience. The world seems very divided on this subject. So I'm just gonna let you know my experience - I don't want to get into a debate about how "bad" this is. Believe me, I heard it all before I decided to do it and I knew that I just had to go ahead and learn first hand. Guess what? My experience was fine (as fine as can be when you don't eat for days) and I would recommend it to most (but not all) people - albeit with a little tweaking.

So, I've heard about this cleanse for a long time. I kind of admired the crazy people who decided to go without food for 10 days. But I didn't think I would do it. After all, I had heard so many bad things. But I had decided to give up drinking for 10 days anyway, so I figured hey, might as well detox my whole body while I am it!

First thing to remember, the Master Cleanse is NOT A DIET. It is a cleanse. Weightloss does happen - though not always - but it is more of a sideeffect. I didn't actually know if I would lose weight but I knew that I wanted to "clean" out my system before I started a healthier way of eating. I would be lying if I said I didn't want to lose weight, but the more I read about the benefits, the more I wanted to do it for other reasons.

First off, let me tell you how it works - in pure basics. Everyday you juice three lemons, add 14 tablespoons of maple syrup (Organic grade B or A), and a teaspoon/tablespoon of cayenne pepper to 2 litres of water. This is your "food" for the day.

Along with the juice, you are to drink heaps of water to keep yourself hydrated and full. You also are to take the dreaded Salt Water Flush and laxative teas daily. These are unfortunately essential as you need to poop out the "toxins" and you can't poop if you aren't eating. I've heard many doctors say "You don't need to detox, your body does it naturally" - I say BUNK! Doctors don't always know what they are talking about, the "alternative" medicine of a cleanse doesn't always mesh with their thinking and actually MANY doctors recommend cleanses and detoxes to their patients. It just depends on how healthy you are and what your goal is.

You can do this cleanse for 3 days, 5 days, 7 days, 10 days....10 days is the max recommended. I have heard of people doing it for 14 or 30 days. I personally think that is nuts. That is when it gets dangerous...your body can do anything for 10 days. But if you push it beyond that, I think you have to either tweak the diet some more or question your motivation.

The reason a lot of people want to do it for more than 10 days is that they want more weight to be lost. You lose about a pound a day on the MC and most people who do it are unfortunately really, really overweight.

I would NOT recommend the Master Cleanse to anyone who expects to lose more than 10 pounds on it. If you want to lose more, do it for 10 days, and then continue dieting and exercise but do NOT prolong the cleanse to lose more weight...this is where the MC gets a bad rap, from people making stupid choices.

I chose to do the cleanse for 8 days. When I do it again in November (or next year), I will go for 10 days.

The MC also gets a bad rap for other reasons:

1. You gain all the weight back, AND MORE!

-NOPE. FALSE. You will gain some back...that is water weight and also food in your system. Think about it...the food on your plate weighs something and it will way that same amount in your system. Since eating for the first time last night, I gained two pounds haha - I weighed myself before dinner and after, curious. That is normal and it's OK. The fact is, I didn't LOOK like I gained two pounds, so obviously it's just food and water.

That said, this morning I weighed myself again - OK WEIGHING YOURSELF EVERYDAY IS BAD! And I only weighed myself every other day on the cleanse. BUT I just dropped another pound - this is after eating last night and having wine. So there!

The reason why people gain weight back is that they don't change their eating habits. I cannot stress this enough.

They were eating crap before and they go back to eating crap after. Of course, it's going to come back with a vengance. This is particularly true of people who are predisposed to binge. The cleanse is supposed to take away your cravings but not in the weak-willed. They go a week without eating and then eat a week's worth as soon as it is over!

This is why it is very important to "Ease-Out" of the cleanse. This will also help your metabolism. I've been consuming around 600 cals daily on the cleanse from the juice, so when I introduce food, I do it slowly and surely.

The first day after your cleanse, stick to fresh juices (no pasturized). I had Odwalla. Mix it with water and drink it SLOWLY. In the evenining I had roasted tasting thing ever (tastebuds are super sensitive!). I aim to have around 800 cals over the next few days, then bump it up to 1000 cals and then to 1200 after a week. That weigh you aren't suddenly loading your body with calories - THIS is what causes rapid weight gain and for your metabolism to slow down.

Anyhoo, today I plan to have more veggies, some decaf coffee with almond milk, and homemade soup. Avoid strong coffee, dairy and meat for the first four days. Your body has to get used to digesting first.

2. Another myth? You are damaging your body.

-This is true IF you do it for a long time. I know there are many advocates who do it for a long time and I don't doubt that they feel great on it - that usually happens if they are doing this for health and not weight issues.

I also think that the cleanse can be damaging for some people even on shorter stints.

Before I did this, I went to a nutritionist/health guru - this man knew so much about me and my body just by looking at me, it was eerie and exciting! I am going back to see him next week as there are solutions for some of my many problems (not imaginary either, he saw them before I pointed them out (dark circles, puffy skin, lack of tone etc).

Anyway, I digress, I went to see him for advice and he asked me about my blood type and then about my habits. He said that people like me feel faint and dizzy with low-blood sugar. Very true. He said I MUST have protein on this cleanse because without it, I will faint and lose muscle.

He "prescribed" me Whole Foods (not the store) Vegan Smoothies - it's in the green packet at many health stores. It is protein powder full of brown rice protein, green crap and such and such. I didn't take the shake everyday, 3x a day like he said, but I did take it every other day, on the days I still did my strength training.

My body retained its muscle mass, I didn't feel dizzy or faint AND I got MUCH important electrolytes, fibre and potassium.

To anyone thinking of doing this, PLEASE get the shake. I do think the cleanse can be dicey without it. A lot of people on the MC boards would shake their
head at this because it is not the "pure" way but I would rather not sacrifice my health. The protein shake was as easily digestible as the juice is, did not cause my body any added stress and the cleanse worked just fine.


I made other adjustments too: I am not a huge fan of lemons, so I made the juice with limes instead. I used 4 limes or 2 limes and one lemon (lime doesn't seem to make as much juice as lemons so this is why). Limes work just as well as lemons though.

Also, because I am hypoglycemic (I HAVE LOW BLOOD SUGAR AND MUST EAT EVERY TWO HOURS), I started using agave syrup along with the maple syrup. Agave is mild, inexpensive, easy to pour, tasty AND it has a low-GI rating - safe for diabetics, it will NOT spike your blood sugar levels like the MP can. For this, I used 5 tablespoons of maple syrup and 5 of agave. I also put agave in my peppermint tea (you are allowed herbal teas, just check the ingredients that there are no milk products or sugar in it....some fancy teas have this).

Agave is sometimes not recommended but I found it worked fine. Blackstrap molasses is an approved subsitute to Maple Syrup as well. But do not use anything else in place of these three things! Very important.


Oh yes, I must say something about the salt water flush. It is not mandatory and it is not for everyone.

The idea is to mix organic sea salt (non-iodized) with lukewarm water and drink it down. Salt water can not be absorbed into the system because it has the same density as blood and passes right through you. About 30 min after taking the solution, it will come ...rushing out of your butt. To put it mildly. It acts as an enema to flush your system clean.

I did it 4 out of th 8 days and stuck to the Smooth Moves Senna tea otherwise. The flush did not work well for me.

First of all, have you ever seen Casino Royale? Remember when Bond gets poisoned and the first thing he does is pour a salt shaker into water and drink it so he will vomit? Yup...same thing.

The mixture is disguting, no doubt. The first time I did it, nothing happened. The second time I did it, I felt sick and dizzy for 20 min until BLAM out came the crap.

The third time I did it, I felt violently ill....wanted to vomit for about a half hour until I decided that this was ridiculous - this was toxic poison and I had to get it out of me. So I vomitted. Yuck, it was worse coming up. Just salt water, over and over again and then...a bit of blood.

Well that was it. No more SWF for me! It also then came out of my system - the other way - Thank God. I felt immediatley better, but anyway decided to stick to the teas.

Problem with the teas though is that they can cause dependence (why it says on the box not to do for more than ten days - ie, the length of the cleanse). Also it is can work 3 hours after taking it or 18 hours after taking it. Lucky me it worked while I was in Canadian Tire buying a badminton set. I sure stank up that bathroom for a good 30 minutes. It can also hurt. The tea cause cramps which stimulate your colon. Ouchie. But I have IBS anyway so I am used to frequent digestive pain!

So my advice is...try the Salt Water Flush. Don't not do it because it tastes gross but do stop if it causes other problems. I ended up doing it again on my last night just as a final HUZZAH CLEAN OUT! It worked, took a while though but I didn't feel AS sick, perhaps because I used less salt and I chugged it back. Meh. Up to you.

All right, so what can you expect on the cleanse? Many people say they saw improvements with their skin. Many lost weight right away. Many had boundless energy.

This is a recap of what happened to me on my 8 days:

Day 1: Feel fine. Craving EVERYTHING but I am not hungry. I was rarely hungry on the cleanse - REAL hunger that is. I now know the difference between real hunger and cravings. Anyway, I was fine but daunted at the long journey ahead of me. And the juice made me really hyper. I also notice how often I snack...there are bowls of almonds and chips on the counter. Normally I would reach for them without thinking about it but now I catch often must I eat without taking it into account?

Day 2: Feels like I have the flu. I am spacey and didn't sleep well at all. Probably because the SWF didn't work and my tummy was cracked out. Wish I could have coffee but I can't. Am amazed how there are food commercials EVERYWHERE! On TV, in health's nuts. I want to eat it all.

My bfs' mom is cooking peanut butter cookies, making roasted chicken, oooh the house is filled with smell. Your smell will become heightened right away btw. It all smells SO GOOD! I am almost getting high off the smells. I decide to go for a walk and do my strength training.

Also, my tongue has turned white - this is a sign the toxins are coming out. It won't turn pink again until you are done.

Day 3: Worst day. Toxins are really coming out, I feel so low. I am spaced out. I feel like I am so stoned and just lifeless. The protein, the juice, nothing is helping. I feel like life has no purpose. I feel the days won't end. I am sad and angry and I hate myself. I am bored...there is no meals to plan, nothing to look forward to. I am amazed how much of my life revolves around food - some of that is good, some of that is bad.

(the reason for that is also food provides
seratonin - also, days seem longer because you do not have meals breaking it up)

Day 4: Feel fine. Not sad, not upset. Energized and happy. Amazing turnaround. The day is fine. I go to Mike's show that night and even surrounded by my friends eating poutine and drinking beer, I stick to my water with lime and am fine. But when it starts getting past 11PM, I just want to be in bed. The dizzys start. Also, my face has started breaking out like CRAZY! clear skin my ass! Turns out, your skin also acts as an outlet for toxins :S

Day 5: Slept in. Go to work and then feel fine. No complaints. I've lost 5 pounds.

Day 6: incident in Canadian Tire - damn tea! Play badminton for exercise. Feel fine. Not hungry.

Day 7: actually sit at the dinner table with my cup of peppermint tea. The food smells amazing and actually the smell is enough for me. I'm not hungry...after day 3, looking at food has become a curiousity. I see it, but it seems foreign. I want it but I also don't.

Day 8: Last day and it sucks lol. I guess it has been a week. I'm dizzy, tired, loopy and actually hungry, the first time my stomach has been like GIVE ME FOOD NOW! I take that as a sign that this is a good thing that this is my last day. My body has had enough.

Day 9: I've lost 9 pounds. I have a decaf Stabucks with soy milk and it is good AND peps me up. I drink my Odwalla smoothie (just pureed fruit and juice, all fresh, no preservatives or added sugar) slowly and dilute it with water. Yum.

Later that day I have more smoothie but drink it to fast. Tummy hates this. I'm in the bathroom for 30 minutes at work lol - guess I am not done detoxing! Coffee helped too (it's the actual cofee bean that keeps you regular, not the caffeine).

That evening I have a sald with peaches and walnuts. SO good. I eat very slowly and don't scarf it down (I normally eat too fast, no wonder I have digestive issues). Also I am allergic to peaches but apparently not now? Hmmm.

Anyway, then I have a very small helping of steamed green beans, roastes carrots and potatoes. Again, I eat slowly. My stomach immediately bloats but I have no pain - and I am full fast. And satisfied. I don't need anymore food. I also have a glass of wine. wheeeee! I'm a lightweight.

Today I am cruising through cups of half caf coffee and almonds. I'm eating veggie leftovers now. My hunger very quickly subsides. I lost more weight this morning. I'm happy and confident that I can continue my healthier eating habits.

Also, my period has just started - for some reason, it is the heaviest I have ever EVER had. Wonder if it's detoxing too? At any rate, this would explain the bad skin I've had. Bad timing to do a cleanse while you are PMSing!

For those interested, I have made new choices with my eating plan...sticking to a low-GI, Mediterranean diet from now on and NO red meat as I can not digest it well. There are other things too (taking probiotics is encouraged after the cleanse since the flush can clean out bad AND good bacteria), but I will write more once I visit the health guru guy.

Hope you enjoyed this post. Sorry for the length but there was a lot to say on the matter. If you are interested in doing this, there are great resources here: and directions. But also, please email me and I can answer some questions. I've done a LOT of research on it over the last 10 days (what else was I gonna do? Eat?) and I do think my way is a healthier way to do this. Also, email me if you wanna vent - it's hard to talk about the cleanse because people think you are nuts ("you haven't eaten in 5 days???") and that's one reason I didn't blog about it until after I was done, so you can always talk to me (did you know that matter can remain in your colon for up to a decade? By the end I was passing up some pretty gross stuff, moldy smelling! Must have been in there for years!).

Main thing here: Listen to your body! I'm glad I did the cleanse - it proved my willpower over food, it made me pay attention to my choices and I lost some stubborn weight along the way. Oh and right now, I do feel pretty great :)


Rachel said...

Wow, it sounds intense. I really don't think I have the willpower to do this. Thanks for posting in such detail,it's a good resource if I ever decide to give it a shot - i have poop problems and eat far too much too quickly so might be good for that!! :)

Alice said...

oh man... i have absolutely NO DOUBT that i would benefit from a cleanse like this, but i am just so, so, so bad at not giving in to cravings and such..! i don't know how i'd manage to not eat, or not snack, or not cheat... isn't that sad? i mean, everyone is CAPABLE of doing it, i am basically just saying i'm too LAZY. ugh.

Sher said...

My sister has done a 4 day cleansing. any longer sounds really hard to do.

Bre said...

Its not the willpower that I think would be hard...its the taste. Lemons and Cayenne Pepper? Its hard to imagine those two going together. Lemons/limes...okay., no.
Was it as bad as I'm imagining?

Wanderlusting said...

Bre it is suprisingly good. I wouldn't drink it for fun, but no complaints about the taste. People who have troubles with cayenne can take cayenne capsules with the juice. Some get creative and shoot back the cayenne and lemon in a shot glass so that they can just enjoy the lemonade. Some days it tasted pretty darn good too! If you like it sweeter just add more maple syrup.

I actually tried it without the cayenne and it honestly didn't taste as good. It needs the kick I think, plus the cayenne helps clear out mucus and is an appetite suppressent (plus I hear it revs your metabolism).

OmnisLucis said...

this sounds super intriguing but my low blood sugar would never allow me. well done for the self-discipline tho!

Amber (Girl with the red hair) said...

A bunch of ladies I used to work with all did the master cleanse, I tried it for one day and couldn't handle it. Too hungry. I get REALLY grouchy, sick-feeling, upset, depressed and a million other things when I don't eat every 2 hours.

I think it CAN work, depending on who's doing it and how. The one lady I worked with is a REALLY fit lady, goes to the gym and eats pretty healthy anyways and she only did it for 10 days to clean out her system. Another lady thought it would jumpstart her weight loss though so she did for FOURTY days. Ya, she lost about 30 pounds, and then she DID gaine it all back in a few weeks. I really don't think it's healthy to go for longer than 10 days though. And you're right, the point is to clean your body and then CHANGE your eating habits afterwards!

Melissa said...

thanks for the piece. you definitely have more willpower than I do, lol!

OceanDreams said...

Wow, I truly admire you for doing this. I definitely pass no judgment and instead applaud you for going through this cleanse. At least you did a lot of research and learned what works for your body! I totally agree that it is important what you eat afterward to ensure you keep off the weight. I would love to do this, but I love food way to much. I get bitchy if I go without food for more than like 6 hours. Lol. You look gorgeous though and great job for keeping that stuff down (for the most part) and that is fantastic that you received wonderful results in the process!

Wanderlusting said...

Thanks everyone - I DO get mega bitchy when I don't eat. But I kept my bitchyness to myself since I brought it on myself. Plus I was PMSing lol. My boyfriend was scared at first because he KNOWS how Iget when I am hungry and to do it for days! Luckily I wasn't hungry, though still irritable. Not as bad as I thought I would be.

Anyway just want to point out that I am not saying this is something everyone must do. But if you were curious about it, then this is what is what.

Obviously exercise and eating right are the best ways to lose weight. Unfortunately for me I have been trying to lose 10 pounds since Jan and this is what worked. I know feel motivated to keep it going through more exercise, eating right etc though of course it will be a slower, sustainable rate from now on in.

Kristin said...

You were able to work out normally though it? You mucho willpower lady!! If only I could ignore the donut holes calling my name right now. Ah ha

Odette said...

I am not going to lie I always totally bashed the idea of the Master Cleanse, but after I heard that you and a few people were doing it I did my research too and I decided that I would really benefit from the colon cleaning effects. So I am now a convert! Although I think that I am going to start with the 5 days. Seriously good for you for sticking it out and I am going to heed your advice about the protein shake. I really appreciate your openness! :) Great post!

Underfunded Heiress said...

I've never done that cleanse but I believe cleansing is great for your body especially if you don't go back to eating junk. I eat pretty healthy and I am a avid believer that your diet affects not only your body but your mind (ie brain) and spirit. I have a juicer so I usually do a juice cleanse.

That's awesome that you look and feel great (not that you needed to for weight loss!). Ppl are so worried about hurting their bodies through cleansing but they never realize all the junk their eating is worse. Kudos to you! You are so disciplined!

Wondering Woman said...

Very interesting. I'm hypoglycemic too so I've always been afraid to try a cleanse. I have to eat every 3 hours and can't think clearly if I don't. How did you manage it not doing the protein shakes several times a day? I've never looked for agave syrup but sounds like something I should seek out. I wouldn't mind losing 5-8 pounds but I'd mostly like to feel better, like spring cleaning the body. Congratulations on doing it.

Dane said...

Wow I truly admire you. Takes a lot to finish this.. I dont think Im ready for it yet. I have just cut alcohol out of my life, so I turn to snacks to make myself happy, although I am losing quite a bit of weight from not drinking so I guess there still is a balance somehow.. I really wanna try this, once I have quit smoking. Thanks for the tips!

Vixel said...

Wow, thanks for writing this! It's something I've been intregued about trying for a while, though I think I'd have to get time off work to do it.

I've tried the drink though, and I agree it's actually surprisingly nice.

prettylittletangents said...

Very interesting post and kudos to you for completing your goal! I have the same questions as Kristin and Wondering Woman as I too am hypoglycemic and I work out often.

sil said...

that's so amazing that you did it! i really appreciated the diary and research you did - i think i would definitely try it if i didn't have anything to do. i may try it since i won't have a job in a couple of days. i think it's very important to cleanse your body, and i think that you did a great job of introducing good food back into your diet slowly instead of bingeing.. great post!

Anika said...

Wow, this was bizarrely addictive to read. And honest too. Thank you. I've read many a horror story about the Cleanse (or variations of) and have always wondered at the truth behind it all.

Thank you for sharing something so intimate (or what I think is, anyway) and hope you feel rejuvinated. That plus lemon and ginger tea and exercise will keep you going (atleast the tea and exercise do me :)

have a fab weekend, you deserve it!

Wanderlusting said...

Wondering Woman - Tangents:

They say everytime you feel dizzy or have hunger pains, you should take a sip of your juice.

That normally took care of my low-blood sugar as the maple syrup did it's work.

On days though that I still felt dizzy OR I knew I was gonna work my muscles, then I took the powder. I would have taken it everyday except I didn't always feel the need to. So listen to your body!

If you want to exercise more on the cleanse, they do encourage it. but do take it easy, don't get dehyrdrated and don't let your heart rate get too high. Stick to slow jogs, long walks, leisurely bike rides or yoga. Even if you are a cardio addict, it's nice to have a break once in awhile.

Also, if you are working out, I advise you up the intake of Maple Syrup because that is what provides the carbs and calories. So maybe 16-18 tablespoons instead of 12-14...or just make more of the juice.

BTW I took one day off work for the cleanse (well I was going to take it off anyway to unpack) and then I worked at home. The rest of the week I worked as usual...

I ACTUALLY ADVISE WORKING ON THE CLEANSE! It keeps you busy. Though I must admit there were times I just wanted to sleep and couldn't concentrate. Also, I eat lunch alone (i dont like to eat and talk) so it didn't seem odd that I wasn't eating...I guess it varies! Also, I have a desk-job so it's pretty easy to just sit...It would be hard - I imagine - if you were a waitress or something and on your feet all day.

Cupcakes and Cashmere said...

very impressive! i always feel like i 'cleanse' when i'm sick and lose a few pounds, but it always comes right back on, so i've shied away from doing the real thing. way to stick to your plan though, i'm curious to see how it works in the long run!

FJ said...

Wow you must have spent forever typing this all out lol. My husband did this cleanse last year. I helped him make it ;) It does work, but yes he gained the weight back because he didn't excercise or eat better after it.

MizzJ said...

Great detailed post, thanks for being so honest and detailed about it all! I admire you for your determination, and for actually doing physical activities while on it! I know I'd just be lying on my couch the whole time trying to eat my pillows. That's pretty gross about the moldy poo lol. I'd hate to learn how cruddy my body is :p

Anonymous said...

Today is my first day on the cleanse. So far so good. I don't feel hungry at all. Thank you for your posting I am inspired and am going to try it for 10 days. Wish me luck.

Synaura said...

Body detoxification is important in order to maximize our energy and to avoid frequent illness, fatigues, pains, depression and loss of concentration.
The Right Place. The Right Time

Anonymous said...


Rachael said...

I'm so glad I just found your blog! I just searched protein powder usage in the cleanse. I'm on day 4, and I've been feeling weak. I'm very active and lean, and I was beginning to realize it probably has something to do with protein deficiency. I tried some protein powder in my lemonade, with no ill effects.

I love your description of food interactions! It totally gives you new perspective to everything about eating. I had someone literally yelling in my face, saying his parents were doctors, and he deduced that I will die if I finish the cleanse. I just smiled and said I appreciated his concern. Rocked his world a little, no?

I am in the BEST mood and I feel awesome! I can't wait to see how much better I feel after the full 10 days.

Rhea said...

Thanks for this post!

I really enjoyed reading about your experience, especially because I am going through it now (my third time!). This time is much harder than the past - I wasn't a coffee drinker the last two times I did the MC (first time 14 days, second 10 days). I'm on day 2 and I feel like I'm getting sick and I also have a headache - which I think is coffee induced. I've been contemplating drinking decaf coffee, but I know I shouldn't. Your protein shake idea is something I haven't heard about before, and am going to consider it. I need my brain fully functional as I'm studying for my PhD defense (in 17 days) - some may argue it's not a good time to cleanse, but I think I can do it. Can I ask you what time of day you drank your protein shake? Or did you drink it throughout the day? Also, how much did you drink in one sitting?

Thanks again for your post - it truly resonated with my experience(s).