What Is the Master Cleanse and Does It Work? Here's Why You Should Probably Stay Away

Seth Wenig/AP

Cleanses are often touted as the solution for staying healthy in this toxic, modern world of ours. The Master Cleanse diet, which consists of 10 days of ingesting nothing but water, lemon juice, maple syrup, cayenne pepper and laxatives, is one such "detox" diet — but does it actually help your body at all? Science seems to say no.

Proponents of the Master Cleanse, also sometimes called the Lemonade Diet, is heralded as a simple plan for losing weight and "cleansing," according to the the Master Cleanse official website.

Read: New Study Shows How People Who Vape May Be Making Themselves Sick
Seth Wenig/AP

The Master Cleanse website lays out the ingredients for the cleanse, and advises adherents to "drink a minimum of six to 12 glasses throughout the day whenever one is hungry" and promises that "every day of The Master Cleanse that you overcome the psychological need to eat, you feel a growing sense of control that motivates you to complete the process."

But eating is not just a psychological need — it's also an actual need. According to The Family Health Guide, a publication of the Harvard Medical School, the Master Cleanse diet "is lacking in protein, fatty acids, and other essential nutrients. The daily laxative regimen can cause dehydration, deplete electrolytes, and impair normal bowel function."

Seth Wenig/AP

As far as its effectiveness, The Family Health Guide references evidence that "fasts and extremely low-calorie diets invariably lower the body's basal metabolic rate as it struggles to conserve energy. Once the dieter resumes normal eating, rapid weight gain follows."

So basically, you might lose weight from not eating real food for 10 days, but your body might also overcompensate and put it all back on again.

The Family Health Guide also points out, "We tend to forget that the body is equipped with a detoxification system of its own," including our liver, kidneys and intestines, which work 24/7 to make sure that we're taking in nutrients and expelling toxins. 

Of course, anyone who is determined to embark on the Master Cleanse, or any similarly extreme diet, should talk to a doctor first.