Historical records tell us that fasting has been used for health recovery for thousands of years. Hippocrates, Socrates, and Plato all recommended fasting for health recovery.
The Bible tells us that Moses and Jesus fasted for 40 days for spiritual renewal.
Mahatma Gandhi fasted for 21 days to promote respect and compassion between people with different religions.
Our ancient ancestors also fasted primarily by force not by choice when resources became scarce such as when spring came late.
For much of human history, fasting has been guided by intuition and spiritual purpose. Today, our understanding of human physiology confirms the powerful healing effects of fasting.
And it is this Physiological process of fasting, which once kept us from dying of starvation, can now help us overcome the effects of dietary excess from the consumption of “pleasure trap” chemicals including oil, sugar, and salt as well as highly processed flour products and factory farmed animal foods that have resulted in an epidemic of obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, auto-immune disorders and cancer.
We can use the natural process of fasting to counteract the effects of poor diet choices and to help make the transition to a health promoting nutrient rich diet.
Fasting is a powerful therapeutic process that can help people recover from mild to severe health conditions.
Some of the most common ones are high blood pressure, asthma, allergies, chronic headaches, inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease), irritable bowel syndrome, adult onset diabetes, heart disease, degenerative arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, eczema, acne, uterine fibroids, benign tumors, and systemic lupus erythematosus.
Fasting provides a period of concentrated physiological rest during which time the body can devote its self-healing mechanisms to repairing and strengthening damaged organs.
The process of fasting also allows the body to cleanse cells of accumulated toxins and waste products.
What does it involve?
Short fasts, lasting from 1 to 5 days, are often done at home. Other than drinking only water or juice, fasting can also require a lot of rest.
Sometimes other methods of detoxification, such as liver flushes or enemas, are recommended as part of the regimen (see also Juicing, Liver Flush, Colon Therapy).
Longer fasts require professional supervision and often take place at a spa, resort, or similar facility. Medical fasts are sometimes done at clinics or hospitals.
What are the benefits?
1. It decreases caloric intake. In order to lose weight, you need a caloric deficit. That really isn’t in contention here, folks.
2. It increases fat oxidation while sparing lean mass. Since what we’re trying to do is lose fat (rather than just “weight”), the fact that fasting increases hormones that preferentially burn fat and decreases hormones that inhibit fat burning is extremely desirable.
3. It improves adherence. In most of the studies surveyed, participants found fasting to be an extremely tolerable way to diet, especially when compared to outright caloric restriction.
When Not to Fast
If you’re severely underweight, diabetic, pregnant, have a serious medical condition, or are recovering from recent surgery, then you really shouldn’t fast without first consulting your physician. People with medical conditions are often exempt from religious fasting obligations. However, if these conditions do not apply to you and you think you’d like to try an occasional fast, here are some guidelines you should follow:
Stay In control
Don’t try to lose all the targeted weight in one session. Fasting for 20 hours at a time is enough to have a rather large impact on insulin sensitivity and other metabolic functions.
If you’re fasting for Ramadan or Yom Kippur you’re invariably required go without water throughout the fast. Although no lasting effects will result, you will often end up somewhat dehydrated.
That’s why Ramadan fasts traditionally begin or end with some form of hydration. You can eat soups, and fruit, or consume large amounts of water. However, if you’re not fasting for religious reasons, you should drink plenty of water during your fast.
Refrain from vigorous exercise
It is perfectly fine to engage in moderate exercise such as walking, but don’t consider running a marathon or hiking over a mountain. Your body does not have enough energy to attempt something like this.
Avoid operating heavy machinery
Heavy machinery (even automobiles) should be avoided until you know how you feel while fasting. On rare occasions fasting may cause unforeseen effects which may limit the cognitive abilities necessary.
Eat high nutrition meals on non-fasting days
If you’re going to eat less, you need to make sure that you still get the nutrition you need in the meals you do it. It stands to reason- lower volume, higher content.
Know when to stop
If your weight goes below where you want it to be, you need to adjust your fasting schedule so that it is more spread out.
We take vacations, we have weekends off from work, we rest our tired bodies through sleep, and we “take a break” to rejuvenate from stress. One thing, though, that we hardly ever do, is take a break from food for longer lengths of time.
Our digestive system is very busy and hard-working, which requires high amounts of energy; in fact, the digestive system can even drain energy needed for healing, repair and general maintenance of the body.
Therefore, it makes sense to give it a vacation once in a while.