Surviving the 10-Day Lemon Juice Cleanse

Niña Terol
Going on the Master Cleanse isn't only about losing pounds; it's a kind of bootcamp for the mind and body

WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU LEMONS. Could the lemon juice cleanse cleanse really improve wellness?

MANILA, Philippines – The Lemon Juice Cleanse, a.k.a. Master Cleanse or the Lemonade Diet, is a 10-day cleanse that involves fasting on all solid foods and drinking only a concoction made of freshly squeezed (or fresh pressed) lemon juice, pure maple syrup (grade B), and cayenne pepper. It was introduced by Stanley Burroughs in 1940 and regained popularity after pop icon Beyoncé Knowles reportedly lost at least 20 lbs. on the cleanse, for her role in Dreamgirls (2006).

A 3-time “survivor” of the cleanse, I first tried it in January 2009 as my way of detoxing after the holidays and preparing myself for a new job. I did it again in 2010 before embarking on the campaign trail; and, just recently, I did it a third time in order to “reboot” my system and get back on the path of health and wellness. 

Here are some things I’ve learned along the way.

Mind and body bootcamp

Going on the Master Cleanse is like going undergoing an intense, 10-day bootcamp that tests your body, mind, and soul on so many levels. Let me get one thing out of the way: it can be extremely difficult if you’re not prepared for it. In order to succeed and finish the cleanse for 10 (or more) days, you need to prepare your body, condition your mind, and create a support system at home and at work.

  • Take the Ease-In and Ease-Out period seriously. Just as you would need to warm up and cool down before and after any rigorous exercise, the Master Cleanse program requires that you “ease in” for three days, then “ease out” for three more days after your 10th (or last) day. This is important because it prepares your body to be consuming only juice for 10 days, and it also prepares you mentally to be without your favorite food and drinks. 
  • Enlist as much support as you can. Crucial to my success on all three years of cleansing was getting the support of my husband, who also agreed to eat light and consume mostly soups, veggies, and light protein during my fast. I also asked my teammates at work to avoid offering or serving me food no matter what. Getting your family and friends on board is important because just the slightest bit of negativity or guilt can throw you off-track.
  • Think “mind over matter.” I’ve found that while the body can adjust rather quickly to consuming just lemon juice for 10 days, it’s the mind that’s more difficult to still. For this, I summoned everything that I had learned from years of meditation practice, to condition myself that all my cravings were just all in my mind; that having a cleaner, lighter body was worth the sacrifice. I found that being able to say “no” to excellent food toughened my will, built discipline, and –  I realized – helped build character.

Pre-cleanse: The Ease-In

  • Day A: Gradually decrease your intake. Eat only raw fruits and vegetables, such as salads. Use only olive oil or vinaigrette for the dressing.
  • Day B: Prepare your body for liquids. Drink juiced fruits and vegetables or fresh (not processed) broths and soups
  • Day C: Drink only freshly squeezed or fresh pressed orange juice. 

BASIC INGREDIENTS. Fresh pressed lemon, pure maple syrup (grade B), cayenne pepper (approx. P3,600 for 10 days worth of ingredients). Photo by Niña Terol-Zialcita

Your 10-day ammo

The best thing about the Master Cleanse is that its ingredients are fairly easy to source, and the juice is literally as easy to make as lemonade.


  • Fresh lemons or fresh pressed lemon juice* (NOT lemon concentrate or lemonade)
  • Pure maple syrup, grade B* (NOT maple-flavored syrup or pancake syrup)
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Sea salt (optional)
  • Senna-based laxative tea
  • A LOT of water** 

*Available in specialty stores such as Healthy Options and S&R

** Drink plenty of water throughout the cleanse

How to make the lemon juice:

  • Mix 2 tbsps. lemon juice and 2 tbsps. pure maple syrup for every 10 oz. of water. 
  • Add a dash of cayenne pepper, to taste. 
  • Store in a translucent or opaque tumbler or pitcher, away from direct sunlight.

Nighttime tea or salt water flush

In order to complete your detoxification and rid your body of junk, take the laxative tea at night, preferably before 10PM. It will usually take effect 6-12 hours later, and you’ll find yourself cleansing your system early in the morning. If you have an early day the morning after, take the tea early or skip it altogether.

If you want really intense cleansing action, go for the salt water flush. Mix 2 tsps. of sea salt into a liter of water, and try to drink in one go, early in the morning, on an empty stomach. You’ll find yourself thoroughly cleansing your system within 30 minutes or so. (Warning: this can be a VERY unpleasant experience. I cried the first time I did it; now I avoid this as much as I can and go with the tea instead.)

Days 1 to 3: Bathroom buddy

If you’re going on the cleanse for the first time, you’ll find that Days 1 to 3 are the most intense; it’s best that you stay at home and make peace with your bathroom because you’ll be in it a lot. This is the time when your body starts releasing years worth of gunk and toxins, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself feeling light-headed and dizzy. If you feel like taking frequent naps, go ahead; this will also help take your mind off food and your bowels. That said, it’s always best to start the cleanse on a long weekend. 

Days 4 to 5: Energizer bunny 

Once you get past Days 1 to 3, you’ll find that your body stabilizes a great deal on Day 4. Instead of feeling dizzy and light-headed, you’ll feel much lighter, much sharper, and with a lot more energy than you’re used to having. It was on these days when I found myself staying up until 2AM, working, reading, and writing because my mind was abuzz with so much energy (I even placed a sketchpad beside my bed so I could capture my sleeping thoughts without getting up).  

Days 6 to 7: Hunger games

During my latest cleanse, the euphoric sensations of Days 4 to 5 were replaced by some sharp hunger pangs by Days 6 and 7. This was probably because Day 6 coincided with our office’s out-of-town planning session, where there were buffet meals and plenty of snacks all throughout. I tried to avoid thinking about food by avoiding the dining area altogether, and I kept myself busy by working through mealtimes.

Days 8-10: Light and breezy

The results of the cleanse were becoming visible by this time, and I was getting compliments for looking slimmer when it came to the face and legs (which, for me, are always the first to show signs of weight loss). The hunger pangs were gone, and I usually felt light and energetic throughout the day. Day 9 coincided with me having to conduct a workshop, and I found that my energy was high despite not having time to drink enough juice throughout the day. On Day 10, however, I was feeling rather nostalgic about the entire process and was anxious about having to plan what to eat again.

The Ease-Out

The Ease-Out prepares your body to start consuming food again. Don’t rush yourself, and eat in small quantities so as not to shock your system. I got too excited on Day 2 of the Ease-Out this time around, and I ended up feeling sick and nauseous the entire afternoon.

  • Day A: Drink only freshly squeezed or fresh pressed orange juice.  
  • Day B: Drink juiced fruits and vegetables or fresh (not processed) broths and soups
  • Day C: Eat only raw fruits and vegetables, such as salads. Use only olive oil or vinaigrette for the dressing.

HYDRATE. If you're attempting the cleanse, make sure to drink plenty of water

The results

After the entire 16-day process, I found that I had lost at least 2 inches on the waist and lower abdomen, around an inch on the upper arm area, and a bit of the flesh on the cheeks and chin. My thighs and legs were also visibly smaller, and my face was starting to look oval again. I avoided weighing in and out this time around, in order to not obsess about the numbers, but I found myself being able to wear clothes that would not have fit me just a month ago.

I also got my period on the first week of the cleanse, but I surprisingly had zero PMS—no cravings, no menstrual cramps, no bruises on my upper arms and thighs. Aside from the apparent loss of weight and inches, the cleanse did make me feel a whole lot cleaner and more balanced inside and out.

More importantly, going on the Master Cleanse taught me that I had become too much of an emotional eater, and that I don’t need to use food in order to respond to stress and mood swings. I learned that I can use the strength of will and discipline to say “no” to things that aren’t healthy for me, and that it doesn’t take much for me to truly be in touch with my body and with myself. The entire process taught me to be more mindful, to be more focused, and to take better care of my body, mind, and spirit. 

What now?

I still have a long way to go before I regain full health and wellness; I’ve had an ongoing battle with weight since my teens and have been yo-yoing wildly through the years. My most recent Master Cleanse experience, however, has inspired me to take control of what I eat and how I prepare my food, especially now that I’m in my 30s. 

I know that I could have learned all these without going through a 10-day fast. To me, however, the cleanse is more than just a diet fad or a weight loss tactic; it’s as spiritual, as meditative, and as physically engaging as doing yoga or preparing for a marathon. To me, this is a mind-body exercise that detoxifies me physically while giving me the chance to think about other things that I need to purge from my life. 

And it’s probably just what I needed to start my year right. –

*Disclaimer: The author is not a medical practitioner and is not authorized to offer medical advice. For best results, consult with a physician before engaging in any kind of cleanse, fast, or detoxification program.

 Niña TerolZialcita (@ninaterol) describes herself as a “communicator, connector, idea curator, and changemaker.” As the founder and “Chief Inspiration Officer” of Inspired.PH, she hopes to build a community of Filipinos who will live with creativity, passion, and authenticity.

Photo of glass of water and lemons from Shutterstock

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