Mark Stengler, ND
Fasting has been used for thousands of years as a medical therapy to help the body detoxify and rejuvenate from all kinds of health problems. It is defined as "voluntarily not eating food for varying lengths of time.: Many of the world's oldest medical systems have relied upon fasting for healing and as a way to prevent disease..
Fasting has been used for thousands of years as a medical therapy to help the body detoxify and rejuvenate from all kinds of health problems. It is defined as "voluntarily not eating food for varying lengths of time.: Many of the world's oldest medical systems have relied upon fasting for healing and as a way to prevent disease. The father of medicine, Hippocrates, found that fasting helped the body heal itself and wrote about its tremendous healing potential. Most world religions have used fasting as a way to improve physical health and spiritual clarity. The Bible makes frequent recommendations about the benefits of fasting combined with prayer. Currently, fasting is becoming a more accepted method of detoxification for health practitioners throughout North America.
How Does Fasting Work?
Fasting is beneficial because it simply gives the body a time to rest. Specifically, the digestive organs are given a break from the continual digestion of food. A tremendous amount of energy is required for digestion, and this "saved" energy can be used for healing and regeneration. In addition, fasting prevents more toxic substances from entering the body and simultaneously allows for the expulsion of toxins. This is particularly true in the case of the liver, which has to break down and metabolize all the toxic metabolites that enter the body. The immune system is also given a break from dealing with toxins from our food, water and air.
During the first day of a fast, the body burns sugar stores known as glycogen. After this occurs, the body begins to burn fat for fuel, while the brain continues to require blood sugar. During the second day, some muscle tissue may be broken down into amino acids, which are converted by the liver into glucose to feed the brain. During the second to third day, the body goes into what is called ketosis. In ketosis, the liver converts stored fat into chemicals called ketones, which can be used by the brain, heart and muscles for energy. It is generally during this period when people lose their hunger pains and experience increased energy levels and a heightened sense of awareness, which often includes clarity of the mind and spirit. People may lose up to two pounds a day during this stage. As fat is increasingly burned as fuel, fat-stored toxins are released into the bloodstream to be metabolized by the liver and kidneys.
Length of a Fast
The length of a fast really depends on the health of the person. The healthier you are, the longer you can fast. Many practitioners recommend two- to three-day fasts with each change of the season. More commonly, a spring fast is recommended to cleanse the body of toxins accumulated during the dormant winter season. As well, many people use preventive fasts of one day per week.
The most basic fast is the water fast, during which one consumes only water for a specified amount of time. This is the most aggressive fast and is best conducted by those in good health or those who have experience with its use. If you are trying it for the first time, it is recommended to start with one day only. Consume at least 2.3 litres (80 ounces) of purified water daily.
Juice fasts are also very popular. They are not as intense as water fasts because the naturally occurring sugars in vegetable and fruit juices prevent ketosis from occurring. Common juices include carrot, lemon, apple, beet, celery, sauerkraut juice and various greens such as wheatgrass and parsley. Consume approximately 1.8 litres (64 ounces) of fresh juices daily. This type of fasting is better for those trying fasting for the first time or for those who cannot take time out of their schedule for a more intense fast.
It is important to start and stop a fast properly. The best way to start is to gradually lighten the amount of food consumed three days before the fast. Also, avoid heavier foods such as dairy products and meats. Your diet the day before the fast should consist of easily digested foods such as light salads, fresh soups, fruits and herbal teas.
A Good Ending
The end of the fast should be similar to the days before you began the fast. You should transition to light foods for a few days and then gradually incorporate heavier foods. Remember to keep consuming plenty of water, as detoxification is still occurring.
Fasting is generally safe for everyone. A fast longer than three days should be supervised by a medical doctor or naturopathic physician. If you have blood sugar problems, such as hypoglycemia or diabetes, or any other systemic disease, consult with a doctor before starting.
It is also important to get plenty of rest during a fast. Dress warmly. Exercise should be kept very light, as should mental activities.
It is not uncommon for people to experience symptoms of detoxification during a fast. These can include fatigue, headache, bad breath, nausea, skin rash or feeling like one has a flu or cold. These symptoms should clear up as the fast progresses beyond the second or third day.
All in all, you should choose a fast that is most suitable to your particular needs and health. Fasting truly is nature's way of cleansing and regenerating the body.