A simple cleansing diet theory--drinking cayenne, lemon juice and maple syrup in water--has blossomed into a “slimming solution” with numerous maple syrup marketers, websites and books offering weight loss plans based on the spicy lemonade. Celebrity advocates even tout its benefits. This plan has been around since the 1970s, with its popularity resurging periodically. Always consult a health care provider before undergoing a fast--especially if you have a health condition or take medicines.
The concept of fasting is not new, although various theories on how to do it best exist. It has been used for centuries for religious purposes by people of many faiths as a way to purify the soul, body and mind and as penance for sinful behavior. It is considered a preventive tool in traditional Chinese medicine. Some modern-day advocates also say it can cure or prevent disease, but more often fasting is used as a way to cleanse or “detoxify” your body and to shed unwanted pounds, notes Dayle Hayes and Rachel Laudan, authors of “Food and Nutrition.” This theory on fasting is a somewhat modern idea that took root in the second half of the 20th century. The concept of fasting with cayenne pepper, lemon juice and maple syrup was popularized by alternative health practitioner Stanley Burroughs in the mid-1970s. He called it the Master Cleanse. Interest in the cleanse was revived a few decades later by Peter Glickman, who released a new book on this old plan called “Lose Weight, Have More Energy and Be Happier in 10 Days.” More recently, this theory regained popularity thanks to celebrity advocates. Some maple syrup companies have hijacked the idea, claiming that their syrup is the only type that should be used for this plan, offering "secrets" that will help you with this fasting plan and “maple syrup guides” with newer variations of the plan.
The cleanse should last for a minimum of 10 days. You will drink 6 to 12 glasses of the special lemonade daily. When he released his version of the cleanse, Burroughs advised dieters that the cleanse could be done for up to 40 days. Glickman claims he has done it for up to 28 days. The night prior to beginning this cleanse you are supposed to drink a cup of herbal laxative tea, according to Glickman. You also drink 1 quart of water with 2 tsp. non-iodized sea salt each morning that you do the cleanse. As an alternative to the salt water you may consume another cup of laxative tea.
Making the lemonade for this “diet” is relatively simple. Mix 1 oz., which equates to 2 tbsp., of fresh lime or lemon juice, the same amount of organic maple syrup and 1/10 tsp. cayenne pepper into 8 oz. of water. You can purchase what you need at the grocery store or buy kits online that supply the ingredients for this diet. Glickman claims the lemon juice will break down layers of old waste in your colon, the syrup will provide you with energy and the cayenne pepper will accelerate your detox process while dilating your blood vessels and breaking up mucus. You do not eat food during the cleansing process.
While this plan is popular, no clinical evidence exists to support its detoxification claims, notes the experts at the Diet Spotlight website. You are likely to lose weight, however, due to the severe calorie restriction, note the experts at DietChoices.com. In general, detoxification diets are not scientifically proven as a way to remove toxins from your body, the Dietitians Association of Australia warns. Animal studies have pointed to health benefits from periodic fasting such as increased insulin sensitivity, stress resistance and longer life span, although studies on humans are needed to see if people would gain such benefits, reports USA Today. Many medical practitioners doubt this theory, noting that a regular fasting time frame of 12 hours daily, such as overnight, is enough to gain such benefits, notes Hayes and Laudan.
Using this fast short-term approach can lead to side effects. These include dizziness, fatigue, headaches and abnormal heart rhythms. If you have gout, fasting raises your risk of an attack. Undergoing longer-term fasting may interfere with your immune system as well as vital bodily functions. It can cause damage to your kidneys, liver and other organs, according to the American Cancer Society. If you are already malnourished, it can be especially dangerous.
- “Food and Nutrition”; Dayle Hayes, Rachel Laudan; 2008
- American Cancer Society: Fasting
- Diet Choices: Master Cleanse
- “Lose Weight, Have More Energy and Be Happier in 10 Days”; Peter Glickman; 2005
- Diet Spotlight: Beyonce’s Diet Review
- USA Today: Study: Fasting improves health as much as cutting calories; April 28, 2003