What is the Lemon Juice Diet?

The lemon juice diet is an internal cleansing regimen developed in 1941 by Stanley Burroughs, an American alternative health practitioner. During the course of the diet, the dieter’s sole nutrition comes from a lemonade, consisting of freshly-squeezed lemon juice, Grade B maple syrup, cayenne pepper and water. When it was developed as the "Master Cleanse," the recommendation was that dieters drink from six to 12 glasses daily, plus as much purified water as they cared to. Other components of the diet are a salt-water flush in the morning and a laxative tea in the evening.

Although labeled a “diet,” Burroughs originally conceived and promoted the lemon juice diet as a method of cleansing the digestive system of toxins and plaque. He also claimed it would help people to overcome cravings for such things as alcohol, coffee and tobacco. It acquired a reputation as being an effective weight loss diet in the 1990s and has ever since been recommended for both purposes. Burroughs recommended following the diet for 10 to 40 days; some modern practitioners, however, discourage any regime longer than a single day.

The cleanse is claimed to detoxify the body because of the lemon juice's acidic content, which is said to clean what it comes in contact with, as well as to loosen plaque deposits in the digestive system. To enhance this effect, some modern adaptations of the diet also recommend that colon cleansing supplements such as bentonite or psyllium seeds be incorporated into the lemonade drink. Many of those who go on the lemon juice diet report intense reactions, including dehydration, stomach pain and diarrhea, especially in the diet’s early days.

Burroughs’ regime for coming off the lemon juice diet was very strict, intended to return the system to full functionality gently, in light of the long rest it had recently been given. During the first 36 hours after ending the diet, only diluted citrus juices, preferably orange juice, could be ingested. Dieters were to prepare a fresh soup of leafy and root vegetables the second day, and concentrate on drinking the broth as the day’s final meal, although they were permitted to eat some of the softer vegetables. Nuts and seeds are added to the approved foods on the third day, and by the fifth day, the dieters can return to their normal foods. Burroughs and modern practitioners warn against eating heavy animal proteins and a wide range of other foods of limited nutritional value, including what’s considered “junk food.”

Despite its popularity, nutritionists and medical professionals alike criticize the lemon juice diet, asserting that it provides no real nutrition. In addition, dieters who drink the minimum six glasses daily of the lemonade get only about half the recommended minimum intake of 1200 calories daily. Another serious concern is that the lemon juice diet is highly inappropriate for so many people, including those with diabetes, those with any sort of gastric or bowel problem, liver disorders or any heart problems. For these reasons, although many people embark on diets on their own, those considering the lemon juice diet should definitely consult with a medical professional prior to beginning it.


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