The Master Cleanse, Menopause and Movements

Posted by on Feb 20, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments


Q&A: Master Cleanse, Mighty Menopause and Majestic Movements (bowel, that is)

 This post is written in gratitude for all the people who put their own experiences online while on the Master Cleanse.  It was comforting and instructive to be able to read personal accounts about all the unique aspects of this particular Cleanse.  Like many others, I am not a doctor or health care practitioner and simply make my experience available for those who are curious about whether this Cleanse is right for them.  Plus, I saw almost nothing written about doing the Cleanse during the menopausal years. Even if you’re not in that season or gender, I trust you’ll find some valuable ideas in this post.  I’ve written this in a Q&A format so you can easily skip to parts that interest you.

 First, the good news!

Q:  What are your most amazing outcomes from successfully completing a 10 day Master Cleanse?

A:   I feel like my body is mine again.

  • I lost 10 pounds of stomach bloat, so my clothes fit properly again
  • my skin and hair are soft and less greasy
  • my cravings for sugar have subsided
  • inflammation in my right finger joint and the plantar fasciitis in my left foot have completely dissipated
  • hot flashes are less intense and much less frequent. 
  • I have the healthiest looking poop I’ve ever seen (get used to being a little obsessive about your poop if you plan on doing this Cleanse!)
  • I’ve learned a lot about what role food plays in my life.  I spent the time I wasn’t preparing and eating food researching the latest on food and health.  As I was coming off the Cleanse, I gathered a host of new recipes to create a comprehensive nutrition plan so I could successfully sustain these outcomes.   

 Q:  What made you consider doing the Master Cleanse?

A:  Like many, I had always dismissed the Master Cleanse as something for the uber-healthy crowd.  It sounded like the extreme sport of cleansing to me.  And then a year ago I started dating a guy who went on the Master Cleanse a month into our relationship.  I was able to watch his experience up close and personal.  I still didn’t think I would ever put my body and mind through it because, well, for a zillion reasons, not the least of which is the, you know, not eating anything for at least 10 days!

 Then I turned fifty, with Christmas a few weeks later, and it felt like my body just couldn’t process the amount of ‘celebration’ it had endured.  By the end of January my body still seemed confused and imbalanced.  Peri-menopausal symtoms had been coming in waves over the past year already but now it seemed to really be kicking in: weight gain, more frequent hot flashes, excessive bloating and missed periods.  It felt like I was drowning under the strain.  Like when a boss drops a huge project onto your desk when you’re already struggling to just get the day-to-day tasks done, my body seemed overwhelmed and ill-prepared.  It appeared that desperate times required a new approach.

 Q:  What was your process leading up to starting the Cleanse? 

A:  I asked my guy to forward the complete document on the Master Cleanse, written by Stanley Burroughs in 1940, and I read the thing from start to finish.  I resonated with his premise that the body is a self-healing unit and given the right conditions (a break from the job of digestion for starters), it will adapt and heal many afflictions without the need for synthetic medication.  I also went online and began to research.  I read a myriad of articles, paying close attention to the stream of personalized comments below the links.  I read the nay-sayers’ arguments against and the glowing accounts in support of this regime.

 I could feel myself internally preparing to start the Cleanse but there were a few things I needed to get more clear in my head first.  It sounded all good that countless people through the decades had successful experiences on this cleanse but I needed to consider my specific situation at this time in my life.  

 1) I am the girl who always carries an extra bag of nuts or chocolate in her bag in case my blood sugar dips and I start to feel a little woozy or cranky.   Those feelings always felt scary to me and the thought of drinking only a lemonade concoction for 10 days without any food for backup brought up a lot of resistance.  Even just the growing feeling of hunger in my belly would sound a warning bell that I best get food into my body quickly.  The uncertainty that I wouldn’t know how to react to the feeling of hunger while on the Cleanse raised a strong voice of concern.

 And so I had a little chat with myself.  I recalled all the ways I have risen to challenges and cracked open a whole new world in the last decade, a world where fear doesn’t rule the roost.  But this is food, I kept reminding myself, this isn’t a fear of travelling alone or starting a new career.  This is survival kind of stuff.  Eating is a basic life resource one should feel scared not to have.  But truly not having food and being scared to feel hungry or slight light-headedness are not the same thing, I countered.  What if this cleanse could create some space and trust between those two very different things and allow me to navigate more easily in my food world?

 2) I needed to get clear about my ‘why’ – concrete reasons why I would choose the specific challenge of the Master Cleanse.  I knew this step would be the difference between starting, let alone finishing it.  So I spent some time journaling and nailing those down. 

My reasons for doing the Master Cleanse:

  • Get a baseline for what are natural peri-menopausal symptoms and what might be other dietary and/or lifestyle issues
  • It is a fairly aggressive and therefore potentially very effective reset on my defaults for my body/being in this new season of my life
  • Give my digestive system and internal organs a chance to rest and heal
  • A challenge for my body/mind to adjust and overcome the automatic fear trigger of not having food available all the time (physically and mentally).
  • An avenue to calm the chronic inflammation in my body
  • A time to do a re-think on food and nutrition in my life
  • A joint adventure with my partner as we notice how food informs (and plays its part in) our relationship.

 3) Out of respect for a trusting mind/body relationship, I wanted to give myself the option to end the Cleanse at any time, if I knew I needed to.  Considering how sneaky I know the survival brain can be, I worked out a comprehensive list of questions I would answer before I gave myself permission to quit prematurely. 

Here are a few from the list:

What might I shift (physically, mentally) to continue this?

What will I lose by ending early?

What will I gain by ending early?

How else am I able to meet my cleansing goals, if I decide not to stay on the Master Cleanse right now?  Write out a complex plan.

 Q:  What did you do to optimize your experience on the Cleanse?

A:  Since this Cleanse is all about detoxing and allowing one’s body to reset itself, I worked through other default habits that might also need to a reset.  Here’s a few I committed to during the Cleanse.  It became increasingly obvious to me that I desire to consider these as permanent lifestyle shifts.  Sadly, I wasn’t too surprised that I hadn’t updated my personal care habits in a long time.  Habits are like that.

1)     No moisturizer.  Since the skin is a significant vehicle in allowing toxins to be expelled from the body, I realized that even partially clogging the pores with moisturizer would work against this.  It was impressive to see how after a few days on the Cleanse, my skin was not dry or flaky, with no need for moisturizer anyways.

2)     Using a natural deodorant instead of antiperspirant. 

3)     Using a non-sulphate shampoo, natural soap and minimal makeup (only eye makeup).

4)     Walking daily.  We naturally release a lot of toxins through our respiratory system – our breath – and while I didn’t feel like doing any hard-core cardio while I cleansed, the benefits of going for a longer walk were felt immediately.  My whole body and being felt the difference on the one day I missed my walk.

5)     Creating a supportive environment.  A week before the start of the Cleanse I started to eat my way through the fridge and cupboards.  By the time I started, there was almost no food in the house, which made it a lot easier to focus on my goals for this cleanse.  I also made sure the house was clean and clutter-free so my exterior world matched my internal intentions.

 Q:  What were the first few days like?

A:  I kept a journal of my experience because like any other adventure, you forget by the end just how terrifying and exhilarating the start of the ride truly was.

1)     I really enjoyed the taste of the lemonade concoction from the first sip.  I found writing down the time I drank a glassful helped me regulate best.  Consistently drinking the lemonade every two hours kept me from feeling too hungry and by the evening I could easily extend that time.  I never needed more than 6 cups a day to feel energized and satiated.  I suspected the taste would get old but even up till the last glass I really enjoyed it.  We bought organic lemons, organic cayenne pepper and of course the organic Canadian Grade C (even higher in minerals and a stronger flavor than A and B) maple syrup.  I am enjoying the leftover syrup in recipes that call for sweetener and can’t imagine ever going back.

2)     I began the saltwater flush on the morning of Day 2 and ended the morning of the first day coming off the Cleanse.  This wouldn’t have occurred to me but my guy reminded me that you want the detoxed stuff out of the body and that logically follows the morning after you drink the lemonade all day.  Initially, I wasn’t sure how I was going to drink a quart (4 cups) of warm water mixed with 2 tsp of organic, unrefined salt.  Again, my guy came through.  He found using a straw made it easier to get the liquid to the back of the throat and down.  I watched him take a deep breath and suck on that straw like a trooper, trying hard to avoid gaging.  It seemed pretty traumatic to me.  Right then and there I decided that if I was going to do this every morning, I had to find a way to make it more pleasant.  I joked about imagining it was an umbrella drink by the pool and then decided to do what I could to create that feeling.  I queued up The Pineapple Song by Good Size as I prepared my saltwater every morning and slurped it down with a smile on my lips and sway in my hips. 

3)     The most interesting part of the first few days was observing how my survival brain was trying to over-ride my resolve.  And it pulled out all the stops.  An almost non-stop slideshow of delicious food images popped up whenever my mind wandered.  I simply thanked my brain for doing its job reminding me that food is good and necessary and then quickly prompted myself again on why I was doing this.  Having those clear intentions available and written down made the whole experience much easier.

 Q:  What else did you put in place that made doing the Master Cleanse easier to complete?

A:  Everyone comes to the Cleanse with their own goals and will find strategies to optimize those.  Here’s a few things that worked especially well for me.

 1)     I started a 1000 piece puzzle on my dining room table on the first day so that I could concentrate on something other than ‘not eating’ at mealtimes. Rather perfectly, the last pieces were put in place on Day 10.

2)     I stayed close to home the first few days.  The thought of being out in the world with food sights and smells felt too challenging, so I didn’t venture out.  I even fast forwarded through commercials on TV (who knew there were so many food ads?!)  By Day 6, I attended my niece’s birthday party.  They served Chinese food for dinner.  I sailed through the event gently clutching my lemonade and averting my eyes from the birthday cake.  I couldn’t have imagined doing this on day one or two.

3)     I made sure I was well stocked so I didn’t run out of lemons or maple syrup at an inopportune time.  Normally when you’re out of something, you simply eat something else.  When you’re on this cleanse there are no options so count the lemons (and allow for a dud or two when you slice them open in your count) to ensure that you don’t run low.  Once your body has adjusted to the lemonade, you could feel quite ill if you simply start eating without reintroducing food slowly.  Knowing this (and imagining the discomfort) helped any time I felt even slightly compelled to put food in my mouth.

 Q:  What was the strangest thing that happened to you while on the Cleanse?

A:  I knew from reading Burrough’s document how important it is to ensure that the body is expelling the toxins every day.  The saltwater flush is very effective.  The laxative tea is the other recommendation.  Many people do both.  As long as things are flowing down and out regularly, it is up to the individual to figure out what works best.  I planned to do the saltwater flush first thing in the morning and one tea in the evening.  I realized after a few days that while the instructions on the box recommend steeping the tea for 10-30 minutes, this was too potent for my body during the Cleanse.  And the suggested timeframe of 8 hours from drinking to elimination was more like 4-5 hours for me.  I was up in the middle of the night with cramps and nausea more than once until I realized that perhaps I was steeping the tea for too long and drinking it at the wrong time. 

By Day 5, I thought I had it figured out.  I had the tea in the afternoon and only steeped it for about a minute but I still spent most of the evening running to the bathroom.  By the third elimination that evening, things weren’t feeling great – burning sensation and cramping.  I looked in the bowl (best way to ensure you know what’s going on in your body by colour, consistency and amount – it may not be glamorous but its crucial information) and this time, the entire bowl was blood red.  Understandably I panicked a little.  Had I done damage to my stomach or intestines with all the eliminations?  Should I stop the Cleanse?  I quickly went to the Master Cleanse forum pages and easily found another situation with the exact same scenario and I calmed a little.  This past year, a gastroenterologist had confirmed that, like many people in this stage of life, I had hemorrhoids.  I suspected that I had likely aggravated something with all the eliminations.  While I could feel myself begin to prepare mentally for coming off the Cleanse if needed, I promised myself that I would breathe and see what happens next before I do anything hasty.  My next elimination did not have any blood.  I decided that I would stop taking the laxative tea but continue with the saltwater flush for the rest of the Cleanse.  Now, a week after coming off the Cleanse and back to normal eating, my poop looks very healthy – there isn’t even any hemorrhoid blood in my poop (bright red) – something I have regularly experienced for a couple of years already.  I hadn’t expected this result and am extremely glad I stayed on the Cleanse.  Well, honestly I never imagined discussing poop in public either, but it’s not a surprise that our quality of life usually ends up connected to how we deal with our shit.    

Q: What are two of the best things you are taking with you from your Master Cleanse experience?

A:  1) I’m proud of myself.  No, I didn’t climb Mount Everest but I went on this intense inner climb where I chose to graciously navigate the physical, mental and emotional aspects every day.  I decided to be fully awake and aware of what I was feeling, tasting and thinking in order to gain the most out of the effort.  It was a treat to watch myself gain momentum as the days went by and bust old beliefs about what is healthy and possible in regards to my relationship with food.   I fully experienced the correlation of inflammation-inducing foods and their direct effect on my joints and general health in the most empowering way!

 2) Doing this Cleanse gave me a new avenue to understand my shifting hormonal landscape.  So far, as much as I wanted to be optimistic, going through menopause has felt like an unwelcome project, one with frustrating and invasive symptoms.  By taking a stand in the things I have control over (what I put in my mouth and how I approach this season) I am learning how to naturally ease the harshness of the symptoms and gain confidence in how to support this inevitable shift.  

 Should you decide the Master Cleanse is right for you, I wish you everything you need and desire for the season of life you are in.

 Seize the gift of a clean slate!  And clean poop. 







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