On a Sensory Experience of Abstinence: The Master Cleanse
16th Feb 2014Posted in: Blog 0
On a Sensory Experience of Abstinence: The Master Cleanse
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The following is an exploration of the sensory experience of abstinence. A while back, my friend turned me on to the concept of cleansing  my body through the "master cleanse", which you can read about here. "Why would i want to cleanse my body?" i asked and my friend replied: "because you have been mistreating it, filling it with toxins and abusing it". While i thought that sounded harsh at the time, i thought about the 10 years of smoking i had subjected my lungs to and the 15 years of alcohol use (sometimes abuse) i had put my liver through. Then i thought about all of the big mac's, greasy spoons, fried chicken and other unknown ingredients which i had allowed into my blood  and i started to wonder if there was not some danger that i was actually hurting my health in long term ways. I was already convinced that most kinds of cancer and diabetes can be prevented in most cases through exercise, nutrition and healthy living, so it was no big leap for me to consider that certain conscious actions might also be taken to correct or reverse some of the damage which might have already been done in my wayward teen age years. Toxins As i looked over the manual for the master cleanse, i felt myself growing convinced by the logic behind detoxification of my body. Still, i remained cautious because i am aware of the extraordinarily persuasive power which words possess when they are laid to paper.  While i did make some effort to acquire scientific evidence online through nutritional studies, i did not find anything particularly convincing. In fact, i could not find anything at all. As i asked around, most people seemed completely against such a practice and most people counseled me against trying it. They said things like: "why would you want to do that?" and "you are going to gain all the weight back like a yo-yo once you are done" and "don't do it, it is going to be dangerous". Given that i take my own health so seriously, i was quite torn by wanting to try something potentially beneficial to my health and more importantly wanting to do no harm to my health. I looked further into the question and like any serious researcher, I started out with some you tube testimonials which you can find here, here and here. I have included these particular links because they accurately present most of the technical aspects of the master cleanse such as the actual recipe but the last two links actually use the master cleanse as a platform to try and sell you their own products. If you read the comments below the last two youtube videos, you can read people who have actually experienced the master cleanse calling out the video makers, for trying to sell you over the counter diet pills and other such "snake oils". One commentator writes: "Con artist. This guy is obviously trying to sell his snake oil despite 60 years of Master Cleanse testimonials. Seriously Yuri, You don't know jack about the body let alone pH levels"  There are many videos of people on the net knocking the master cleanse in order to sell you something purported to be superior. But there seem to be even more touting the virtues of the practice of detoxification through the digestive system. Another commentator (peaceispossible80) justly points this out: " I don't know much about the master cleanse, but after watching this video and checking out your site, it appears you are merely knocking the master cleanse (which is available for free) to push your cleanse, which is very expensive to obtain the information on how to do it. Do you care about people's health or do you care about making money? If the latter, then it wouldn't be wise for anyone to trust anything you say in this video". Clearly, one problem with "the people's" education is that it is free. Things which are free tend to be very problematic for us as a culture living within a capitalist economy. In this culture, we say "nothing is free" and "you get what you pay for". But some people also say: "you can't put a price on happiness" and "money can't buy you love" so who is right? Water is free, but some people bottle it up and sell it. Air is free, and sadly some people actually manage to sell that to people in the most polluted places on earth. Where there is a dollar to be made, someone will try and make it and that is the skepticism with which i treat the official critics of the master cleanse. Actually it is through that lens that i look at a great many things in society. When i see the words of commenters on youtube, i wonder if it has not been every single detractor of the Master Cleanse who has also been trying to sell me an alternative. The problem is that the MC is free and it can be done at home and a lot of people don't like that. Nutrition is big business and competition is fierce for mighty dollar. Anyway, enough said about my contempt for the role of money in our lives. If the MC works and it does what it claims to do then it demonstrates to me once again that there is much which a dollar cannot do. Standing out amond the obviously biased comments, lay this one from one commentator claiming to be a nurse (hammerandnails777): "I have not done the MC, and I don't intend to. But as an RN, I can tell you that exposing your body to this insane regimen of fluids and diuretics will not only acidify your body but will expose it to unnecessary amount of stress. Yes, you might detox to some degree, yes you might loose some weight, but you doing it with a major caveat: cardiac arrest!! The toxins will leave your body by force, so do the electrolytes which make your heart beat. So, if you are doing this MC, you will come dangerously close to cardiac arrest. Is absolutely insane. Consult any doctor, and they will tell you the same thing. Detox safely, daily, make it a way of life, not throwing your body over the cliff". This commenters words do raise some concern and i will check into them further because they appear to be objective. The kind of doctors i know through the public health care system will not review the document on the MC and i don't have money to pay someone privately so i am going to have to rely on what i think i know about medicine and what i know i know about my own body.  I believe that electrolytes are abundant in water and lemon juice but i am definitely no biologist. MC claims, through the testimonials of the people who have tried it, to help people loose weight, and purge toxins and get generally healthier through little more than hard work and a mixture of water, lemon juice, cayenne pepper and maple syrup. I have tried the cleanse 5 times and what follows is an account of my most recent experience. Day 1: i purchased 12 x 1.5 liter bottles of spring water, 40 organic lemons, 2 liters of grade A maple syrup and 100 grams of cayenne pepper. That is everything i need to feed myself for about two weeks.  I will let you look at the specif mixture presented in the master cleanse pdf linked to at the top of this post but i will also tell you how i made my specific batches here. For each 1.5 liter bottle of water, i use the juice of 3 lemons, approximately 180 milliliters, squeezed and seeded but i keep the pulp. Next, i add 180 milliliters of pure grade B maple syrup. Any grade will work but the darker the better, according to the author. Lastly, i add about two tablespoons of cayenne pepper to the mix, shake well and refrigerate. On this first day, i reduced my food consumption immediately to 1 meal per day, at supper. In addition, i made sure that my meal did not contain meat or cheese or anything else which is harder to digest. In fact, i tended to gravitate towards steamed vegetables and chicken broth in this phase and for some time after the cleanse. For diner, i had steamed greens and chicken broth. I had been drinking the cleanse formula throughout the day and my appetite had naturally been reduced so i did not feel very hungry for breakfast or lunch. At this point, i was drinking only 1.5 liters of the cleanse per day, in addition to my dinner. Day 2: I had been drinking the juice daily at a rate of about 3 liters per day, while also drinking mint tea, laxative tea and plain water as desired. Hunger pangs were common but i had already been through them before so i knew they were temporary. I just drank some of the mixture whenever i got hungry, as i had done in the past and my hunger subsided shortly after. I had noticed my mood shift a little to the dark side on day two and this persisted for quite a few days actually with decreased patience and increased irritability, but i tend to be a moody type on any given day so this was not such a surprise! It could be that the cessation of alcohol consumption (roughly 2 drinks per day) was contributing to my altered mood because alcohol is a depressant most widely self prescribed for it's desired relaxing effect on inhibition and muscle. In fact, i did not miss alcohol at all. At this point though, i knew that coffee would be harder to kick. Day 3: Getting close to kicking coffee. No, scratch that, i am kicking it today. This is my third day. No food except for a small, mostly liquid meal at supper time and the cleanse throughout the day.  Slowly but surely, when i get more comfortable, i will cut that meal. I know i can do this, i have done it before. The first time i cut out food completely, i felt like i was flying or breathing under water. There was simply no point of reference in order to understand the experience of being alive and well without eating solid food. There was something surreal about it. Day 4: I have detached myself from coffee. Solid food is out. Alcohol is past. Day 4 and i am flying. Except for the headaches resulting probably from caffeine or alcohol withdrawal or simply some kind of shock to the body from having slowed my metabolism so quickly. Having experienced these symptoms before and reading about them as common in the text by Burrough's, i was not overly disturbed. This is really day one of complete withdrawal from solid food. Day 5: The journey has begun and now the real fun begins. Now begins the psychological mind game that my body is going to play with my consciousness. My body was wrestling me into an intense corner of reflection by sending signals of hunger to my mind, in a kind of mind-body duel. Around bedtime, i noticed some minor difficulty in getting my biological thermostat up to comfortable warmth. Read more about body temperature here and the role of the hypothalamus here. I am including these links because the hypothalamus is responsible for setting core temperature, set point weight and a number of other major events like hunger, thirst and circadian rhythm, all related to homeostasis.   To explain my frequent cold spells, i suggest that i was losing a lot of fat. Some have reported as much as 2 pounds per day. Fat insulates muscle and vital organs from cold so loosing that insulation in the winter means a temporary adaptation through an increase in metabolism. I simply had to pay closer attention to putting on a sweater or using an extra blanket when sleeping. But now that i think of it, i might consider only doing the MC in the summer just to make it that little bit more comfortable. My pants are starting to slip off my waist but i am not doing this to lose weight. I have never had a weight problem or any serious health problems but i sometimes feel unhealthy because of what inam doing or not doing for my body. Sometimes i grow concerned that i am doing things which hurt me like consuming white sugar, transfats, and alcohol. At other times, i am concerned that my not exercising for long periods of time or not participating in certain psychosocially pleasurable activities like painting or being with friends, is causing undue harm to my system. Either way, whether i am causing harm to myself through something i am doing or not doing, i am often concerned that i am not living as healthfully as i could be. The MC is one way for me to take control of my health and shut out negative influences. Individual and collective health are social obligations and demanding individual and collective health is a political act. Furthermore, the definition of individual and collective health is a democratic process in which everyone must play a role. When i am on the cleanse, i am saying that i resist the coercive influence of a consumerism which tells me that i must drink beer to be Canadian or eat a lot to be a man. The master cleanse helps me not only take a stand against bad habits but also helps me take a stand for myself. Day 6-12: The past 6 days have been progressively easier. The fat around my waist is completely gone and my pants all but fall off without a belt. I don't miss solid food and each day i notice things like my skin getting clearer and having less roughness or bumpiness on my face and hands. I notice my step is lighter and i practice jumping up and down to see if i can notice a difference in height. There is more bounce in my step. I made a lasagna and served it to my wife, but i will confess to dipping my finger in the sauce impulsively, like an unconscious drone before waking up to realize what i had done. Having been without solid food for 6 days, i am starting to feel that i have gone far enough for this time. At this point, it is just an intuitive decision come back to eating the solid food which i enjoy so much. Day 13: Given that my stomach is empty as can be, i am going to try the recommended salt water flush. Two tablespoons of sea salt into 946 ml water and down the hatch. Within about 1 hour, i am running to the toilet to evacuate all of that salt water. The first time i tried this, i wondered how anyone could survive ingesting so much salt. But as the author points out, that combination of salt and water is the density of blood so the intestine does not pick it up. At this point, i am feeling a little queezy and i have trouble getting the taste of salt out of my mouth. I lie down on my side and wait for it to pass but i don't prevent myself from living either. As the water and salt pass, i am feeling better. This part is intense but i believe it is optional and i have skipped this step in the past, getting just as much benefit from the effects of abstinence and cleanse. Tomorrow i will introduce chicken broth and orange juice in the morning. Day 14: I am coming out of the cleanse much the same way i have gone in: gradually, listening to my body, gently responding with what i hear it telling me it needs. Food tastes better today. Everything tastes better. I am breathing better as a result of lost weight around my face and neck. I no longer snore according to my wife. The broth settles me completely and am now reducing my cleanse lemonade intake to about 2 liters per day and having a broth meal in the evening. I continue on this regimen for 3 days, introducing orange juice in the morning and some steamed greens in the evening. Eventually by day 17, i have reduced lemonade intake, increased solid food intake. Day 17: Solid food is what i eat now but i am sticking to things which feel right. My habits of snacking, eating late and drinking alcohol have all been reset somehow.   Review This experience with the master cleanse lasted a total of 17 days with a total of 13 days abstinence from solid food. As noted a number of body sensations were observed as follows: -decreased tartar on teeth. -clearing of skin complexion and disappearance  of minor blemishes or irritability (back of neck). -frequent urination. -lightness of step. -loss of mass around waist, neck and face. In addition to these physical signs, a number of experiences took place on psychological and spiritual levels: -sensation of tension between my bodies signalling hunger and my will to abstain from solid food. -sensation of being powerful as i exert control over my impulse to eat, drink coffee or alcohol. -sensation of pleasure as i observe myself feeling healthy and in control of my being. -sensation of occasional hunger in the first days. Having done this cleanse on 5 separate occasions, i can say that each time is different. On two occasions i was not even capable of completing a cleanse because my will power was insufficient. On those occasions, i cheated and ate food throughout the cleanse. In those cases, there was no cleanse to speak of because my digestive system was never completely empty and a salt water flush was not possible. I lost weight temporarily on those trials but losing weight has never been my primary intention. No, i am after bigger fish. I want an experience which is unlike any other and i usually get that with the cleanse. I believe it was Freud who said that abstinence breeds conscience. As i abstained from food and went through all the forms of withdrawal, i became more aware of my body and it's relationship to my feeling state.  At the midpoint, i started to look at food differently. My mind conjured images of previous meals and foods i have seen and i started to re-taste them in my thoughts. Somethings seemed to taste disgusting in my mind. I thought about certain kinds of heavily processed food and started to feel completely disgusted at the tastes evoked by the images. I started to crave pure, crisp water more often and my sense of smell seemed to grow more sensitive. As my relationship to food seemed to gain a new perspective, my relationship to nature itself appeared different. My mood was more stable, and i have tended to be more calm on the cleanse. More patient, more mindful. My sleep cycle has shifted a little as well. I notice that i tend to get tired earlier at night when i am on the cleanse and for some time afterwards. I believe this is because i have cut out the sweets which i usually take as desired in the evening to keep me up and working on art. I have to say that while i have benefited enormously from this cleans on several occasions, i can not recommend it to anyone. Only a medical authority or nutritionist or other specialist might be able to do so. However, i can add mine to the long list of positive testimonials which have been recorded over the last 60 years. From experience, i believe that the MC could be dangerous to the system under certain conditions, but again, i can not give medical or nutritional advice because i am not a specialist in those fields. That being said, i believe that the benefits on a spiritual, bio-psycho-social level have been immense for me and that is why i intend to return to the cleanse once or twice a year in the foreseeable future.   Further research Mind brain connection: Master cleanse: Master cleanse testimonials with some interesting and conflicting views.

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