Sunday, February 20, 2005

Fasting: Day 3

Day 3 and I'm feeling fine. The night before last I had strange, vivid dreams. Several of these were about food. The kind where I find myself eating something and then suddenly remember I'm fasting and say, "Oh, noooooooo!" Last night, nothing like that, at least not that I remember.

So, how on earth did I come across the lemonade diet, aka The Master Cleanser. It was sometime around 1998, I was working at North Coast Laboratories in Arcata. It was just after New Year's and two of my co-workers were talking about this fast that they were going to do. Fasting was something that I had always been intrigued by and interested in trying. They outlined what it was that they were going to do and told me the benefits they felt they had obtained -- basically detoxification. This really captured my interest and so they brought in their copy of The Master Cleanser. I ran myself off a copy.

The author, Stanley Burroughs, is one interesting guy. His fundamental assertion in this book is that all human disease is actually toxemia, that we are poisoning ourselves -- through the evils of "improper diet, inadequate excercise, negative mental attitudes and lack of spiritual attunement". The things that we call diseases are merely results of this toxemia -- bacteria, viruses and the like that are able to capitialize on our poisoned state. In fact, he says, in a healthy body, germs and viruses provide a service, breaking down and eliminating waste products; it is only when we saturate our bodies with waste that germs and viruses become a problem. Western medicine, he says, only compounds the problem with its emphasis on drug-based remedies, which themselves often have toxic properties.

These are interesting ideas and I think that they have some merit. However, there is certainly a lot to find fault with in this work. Burroughs is unapologetically unconventional as a scientist, or natural scientist as I think he would call himself. There are no initials after his name and he is comfortable backing up his claims with arguments like this, "Regardless of whether you believe [these principles] or not, it does not alter the fact that they may be true." And this one, my personal favorite, "Dozens of letters weekly, from around the world highly praise the many superior benefits of the lemonade diet. Thus we must conclude that since it does so much for so many it is truly The Master Cleanser." A bit of argrmentum ad populum, certainly an unrepresentative sample, with a bit of branding and marketing thrown in.

Burroughs is decidedly in the "New Age" "Alternative Medicine" camp, by association if not by choice. A couple of his other published works: Vita-Flex (pressure point therapy) and Color Therapy (shining colored light on the body to create balance) Perhaps most damning of all to his credibility (from the perspective of traditional western science) is the quoting of an article from the National Enquirer, by the premier astrologer and psychic of our time, Jeanne Dixon. Interestingly, Ms. Dixon's prediction, made in 1975, has turned out to be pretty prescient: "One of the greatest medical breakthroughs of the decade [?] will come from the common citrus fruit. Scientists will create fantastic new wonder drugs from these fruits for a wide array of ilnnesses that have plagued mankind for centuries. It will be learned that a chemical in the fruit can strengthen out natural resistance to many diseases." I don't know if the words biotechnology or nutraceuticals had been coined in 1975, but they certainly weren't as common currency as they are today -- and you'd better believe the folks at ADM are doing lots of playing around with oranges and lemons.

I know I've been a little harsh on ol' Mr. Burroughs. I actually find a lot of value in what he has to say, but quite a bit of it makes me uneasy. Next time: If I think the guy is something of a crackpot, why am I following his wacky diet?