Based on Stanley Burroughs' 1940s book "The Master Cleanser," the Master Cleanse is both a detox plan and a weight loss diet. The cleanse is a modified fast that requires you to drink a lemonade-like beverage made from purified water, organic lemons, cayenne pepper and grade B maple syrup. Although Burroughs dedicated a section in "The Master Cleanser" specifically to diabetics, his advice is unsafe by current medical standards.
Master Cleanse Basics
On the Master Cleanse, you would drink six to 12 glasses of the lemonade daily; each glass contains about 100 calories, almost all from maple syrup -- pure sugar. In addition to the lemonade, you would perform a salt-water flush every morning and drink a laxative tea in the evening. No food is allowed, although you are encouraged to drink water when you are hungry. According to Susan Moores, R.D., the master cleanse can cause blood sugar problems, specifically hypoglycemia or low blood sugar.
Burroughs and Diabetes
Burroughs says the Master Cleanse can be modified for diabetics by using molasses instead of maple syrup at the beginning of the diet. Burroughs says "the molasses supplies the necessary elements for the pancreas to produce insulin." He recommends starting with small amounts of molasses, and reducing insulin intake until you are consuming 2 tbsp. of molasses in each glass, at which time Burroughs says you should be able to stop taking additional insulin altogether. After you've stopped taking your insulin, Burroughs says, replace the 2 tbsp. of molasses with 2 tbsp. of maple syrup.
Is It Safe?
The Master Cleanse is a dangerous fad diet for anyone, but especially bad for diabetics. Burroughs' advice is medically unsound and very dangerous. Do not change your insulin dose, and never just stop taking insulin -- especially while living on a very low-calorie diet of sugar water. The master cleanse is nutrient deficient, and lacks protein, fiber and healthy fat. If you have diabetes and go on the diet, you would experience hypoglycemia, including such symptoms as dizziness, the shakes, anxiety, mood swings, fatigue, headache and hunger.
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Diabetes and Weight Loss
Losing weight can improve your body's sensitivity to insulin, helping to ease symptoms of Type 2 diabetes. But weight lost on the master cleanse is mostly water weight, and will be quickly regained when you start to eat normally again. The master cleanse does not teach you how to eat a healthy balanced diet, does not encourage exercise and is not a sustainable way of life. Although maintaining a healthy body weight can reduce your risk of other serious health problems, making long-term healthy lifestyle changes is a safer way to reach your goal weight. Consult your doctor before embarking on any diet, particularly if you have diabetes or another major illness.
Maura Shenker is a certified holistic nutritionist and health counselor who started her writing career in 2010. She leads group workshops, counsels individual clients and blogs about diet and lifestyle choices. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Rhode Island School of Design, a Master of Fine Arts from The Ohio State University and is a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.