For those of you who haven’t heard of the Master Cleanse, it’s a cleansing program from the 1950s that’s developed a cult-like following. Believers drink only water mixed with maple syrup, the juice of fresh lemons, and a touch of cayenne pepper. It’s cool to cleanse, and the Master Cleanse just sounds like it must be the best, right?

But there are problems with the Master Cleanse detox, two big ones:

  1. It won’t lead to the health and spiritual benefits that come from a fast in which you adhere to true caloric abstinence.
  2. It doesn’t really cleanse.

What? Yeah, really. Let me explain.

As a fast, the Master Cleanse falls short.  Two tablespoons of maple syrup per glass provide 110 calories, and if you’re drinking the recommended 8 glasses per day that means you’re consuming 880 calores – OF SUGAR. Don’t give me that nonsense about how it’s “good” sugar and not “bad” sugar. It’s freakin’ sugar.

Along with 8 calories in two tablespoons of lemon juice per glass that means the total amount of calories consumed in a day on the Master Cleanse is 944. That’s a low-calorie diet, not much of a fast. And most of those calories are in the form of SUGAR.

Yes, SUGAR. Real maple syrup from the tree, unadulterated by manufacturing and processing, is sucrose. It does have some nice natural things to give it flavor like trace amounts of amino acids and healthy plant nutrients. While that part is great, it’s still almost entirely SUGAR. Maple syrup, like table sugar that comes from natural cane and beets, is made of sucrose. Like table sugar, a bottle of maple syrup has no fiber which is paramount in blocking the toxicity of freed fructose. One molecule of sucrose is composed of half fructose and half glucose. For a review on the hazards of fructose, read Sugar Explained and watch Dr. Lustig’s popular video that’s gone viral.

Consider fructose without its natural antidote, fiber, to be a poison. Now realize that almost half of all the calories you get while doing the Master Cleanse are coming from poison without any antidote. Yuck.

Since your body has to process all of that fructose, there’s no rest for the liver. A fast that is healthful gives the liver a rest. Our bodies need a chance to go through periods of catabolism, or breakdown, in order to work efficiently at anabolism, or rebuilding. We need a healthy cycle, a balance. Constant intake of sugar throughout the day prohibits that balance, that cleansing of all stored sugar as glycogen from the liver and the resetting of physiological processes. It’s like shooting yourself in foot while you’re fasting.

The health benefits from a good fast are many, and I highly recommend fasting for most people. (Of course, there are some medical conditions in which one should be wary, and anyone with a serious condition should check with their doctor.) For a review of the health benefits of fasting, read the section “Are There Health Benefits to Fasting” towards the end of my article, The Yoga of Fasting: Is it Good for You or Not?

Maybe the biggest “oops” of the Master Cleanse detox is that while you’re trying to clean, you’re actually doing the opposite. Animals, including humans, store toxins in fat cells – nasty chemicals like PCBs and dioxins. On a low-calorie diet like the Master Cleanse, fat cells break down and release their stored energy to make-up for what’s not being brought in as food. When they do, those fat cells also release toxic chemicals they’ve stored. While that may sound great on first take, please realize that it’s a disaster.


Toxic chemicals are stored in fat cells to sequester them, to remove them from the general circulation where they can cause greatest harm. Fat cells are like a jail for the bad guys. To some extent, you want them there because its better the bad guys are in jail than at a crime scene where they kill. If there’s a jail-break and they get out, which will happen on the Master Cleanse, what’s to keep them from seeking out their targets and creating victims, killing them by promoting cancer?

You want to make sure the bad guys are courteously escorted beyond the gates of the castle, but on the Master Cleanse, there are no available escorts. The most important escort for their removal is fiber. On an alternate-day fast, tons of fiber remains in the intestinal tract to bind up the bad guys and deposit them in the toilet where they belong. On the Master Cleanse, particularly by the 10 day mark, there’s absolutely no fiber hanging around anywhere and the bad guys are free to return to the circulation and kill.

Another primary escort for toxins like heavy metals and free radicals is glutathione. This fabulous little substance is of paramount importance in handling bad guys. The sad thing is that on the Master Cleanse, it gets totally and completely depleted. Way before the tenth day, there’s no glutathione around to protect us. Anarchy prevails, and the bad guys are free to produce victims.

In summary, here’s why to say a big, fat “No” to the Master Cleanse detox:

  1. It’s not much of a fast when your daily consumption of calories is 944almost all sugar in the form of sucrose. That’s considered a low-calorie diet.
  2. Half of the calories consumed are from fructose (a poison) without its antidote (fiber).
  3. With all that sugar, there’s no rest for the liver, no period of catabolism without anabolism. Studies of fasting have shown tremendous benefits from zero calorie intake for sustained periods, ideally 24 hours.
  4. There’s no fiber in the intestine, especially after 10 days of only sugar water, to bind toxic chemicals like PCBs and dioxins released from fat cells. Fiber escorts toxins out of the body and prevents the bad guys from finding targets and creating victims.
  5. Glutathione is depleted after about 24 hours of fasting. Without its replenishment, the body’s natural ability to detoxify is seriously hampered.
Why Say No to the Master Cleanse