For the past forty days, I have rigorously followed the “Master Cleanse” regime, developed fifty years ago by Stanley Burroughs, an alternative health practitioner and natural remedy enthusiast. During his lifetime and even up until the present day, Mr. Burroughs has been greatly maligned in the press by nutritionists and medical authorities as being a misguided charlatan. Nevertheless his “lemonade diet” has remained a popular solution for those seeking to rid their bodies of “toxins” and, in some cases, for weight loss.
The Master Cleanse was recommended to me by a life-long friend who occasionally employed it, and who has always remained annoyingly young-looking and thin. I was not. My weight was approaching extremely dangerous levels at over three hundred and fifty pounds. It had become difficult to stand and to move about. During the previous five years, back surgery was performed on two occasions to alleviate severe pain which was a result of the excess weight. Suffering from Type II diabetes, I was prescribed a hundred and sixty units of insulin daily, along with two thousand milligrams of Glyburide/Metaformin to keep my sugar levels at bay, as well as forty milligrams of Benazepril to control my blood pressure and enhance kidney function. I had tried the Master Cleanse before, but had only been able to stay on it for three days.
Then the Lord God took a hold of me. I am a Christian, and during a time of prayer, I began to address the Holy Spirit directly, asking Him to pray for me. He did so, and while overcome by emotion, I was inspired to write the hymn, “Holy Spirit, Pray for Me.” A time of prayer, confession and repentance of sins followed, concerning the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life. I believe that this particular experience of self examination, seeking God, and repentance was essential to my success. The Master Cleanse pamphlet had been on my desk for months, and a few weeks later, I began the fast, planning only to stay on it for the recommended seven to ten days. Nevertheless, my continued focus was only to stay on it for the day that was before me.
The diet is spartanly simple, consisting of two tablespoons of lemon juice, two tablespoons of maple syrup, an eighth of a teaspoon of cayenne pepper, and ten ounces of hot water, taken six to twelve times per day, each glass containing about one hundred fifteen calories. After the first few days, I was only drinking about three to four servings a day and was never, from the first day to the last, was hungry for even a moment. On the evening of the first day, which is not counted in the forty day total, I went into hypoglycemic shock as my sugar levels plunged. Shaking and dazed, I dragged myself out of bed and ate a large portion of watermelon, a few peppermints, and a yeast roll in order to bring my sugar back to safe levels. The next day, I stopped taking insulin completely, and cut the amount of Glyburide/Metaformin in half. When the ten days were up, I just kept going.
Burroughs recommends that a cleansing routine be employed in conjunction with the diet. An herbal laxative tea is to be taken every evening. If this is not readily efficacious, two or three teaspoons of kosher salt dissolved in a quart of warm water may also be drunk the first thing in the morning. This effectively clears and cleans the entire intestinal tract in an hour or so. During a week fast, this is to be done every day. In my case, I only drank the tea for the first few days, and then after an initial salt water lavage, I waited ten days to repeat the process, and repeated again at twenty, thirty days and forty days.
Shortness of breath has been reported as one of the side effects of the Master Cleanse, and I did experience troubling bouts of it after the eighteenth day. While researching the cause of this, it was discovered that one possibility might be an imbalance of electrolytes in the body, one of which is sodium chloride. After employing the salt water lavage, or even putting a shake or two of salt in my lemonade, the shortness of breath went away. There were also some patches of dry skin on my hands and calves, probably caused by not drinking enough water early on. After the third week, part of my routine was to drink at least a full liter of water in addition to the lemonade. The dry skin cleared up after being treated with some coconut oil, and did not reappear. This was the extent of the difficulties that I had with the fast.
We know that fasting has been practiced as a physical and spiritual discipline for thousands of years. This fact alone is incentive enough to give it a try. There are those who tout intermittent fasting (once or twice a week) as an aid to weight loss, reducing inflammation, lifting depression, slowing aging, even preventing cancer. However, longer fasts are frowned upon. Warnings against long term fasting include heart palpitations, shortness of breath, electrolyte imbalance, kidney function, lethargy, and muscle loss. But, when you read the materials available on the web closely, you will discover that no statistics or bona fide studies are cited as proof positive. It seems to me that fasting even for a day gives the body time to rest, allowing the liver kidneys, and digestive tract to rest. During the forty day Master Cleanse fast, I lost sixty-five pounds, my glucose levels dropped substantially, and my blood pressure stayed within normal levels without the use of medication. I feel much better, sleep better, stay awake longer, and am more productive during my waking hours. One comes off the fast gradually over a few days, transitioning from orange juice, to vegetable broth, finally to regular fare. Burroughs was apparently a vegan, and recommends a diet consisting of raw vegetables, cooked vegetables and vegetable broth, fruit, nuts, and berries. I intend to follow his advice, and have great hope for the days to come.