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Fasting

What is it?

Fasting is the term used for a therapy that reduces or eliminates eating food for a period. Fasting has been used for centuries in many cultures and even animals that are ill have been observed to stop eating until they recover from their illness. Some proponents believe that short-term fasts should be done two times a year to help prevent disease.

Eating and digesting food requires a large amount of energy. Doctors estimate that approximately 30% of the energy obtained from a meal is required to digest the next meal. Proponents of fasting suggest that when food intake is limited, major changes in metabolism occur and the body benefits in many ways.

After the initial sugar stores contained in the liver are used, the body will begin to burn fat as fuel. The toxins contained in fatty tissue will be released as the fat is burned. At the same time, there is a reduction in the toxins being ingested so the total body toxicity is reduced throughout the fast.

The fat levels in the bloodstream will be lowered, causing the blood to thin. This will allow for more oxygenation of tissues and improved white blood cell movement to improve local immunity. Since less energy is needed to digest food, energy and stored nutrients can be used for improving immune function, cell growth, and elimination of toxins.

During a fast, many people report pain or symptoms are greatly reduced or eliminated. After the fast, a person typically begins eating a very simple diet. Eventually, they add foods back into the diet one at a time. If their symptoms return after introducing a certain food, they now know that food is an allergen and to avoid it as much as possible.

There are many different types of fasts. Most people use either water fast or a juice fast. A water fast allows only the intake of pure water (mineral, reverse osmosis, or filtered). Water fast can cause a strong detoxifying effect and can be overwhelming for many people. A juice fast is actually a restricted diet where only fresh juices (mostly vegetables) are ingested. This type of fast is usually more suitable for someone normally eating a more conventional modern diet of processed foods.

Short-term fasts usually are from one to two days and are thought to be helpful with many acute illnesses and conditions. Longer fasts of up to thirty days are usually used for chronic conditions and may need to be repeated numerous times with periods of healthy eating in between. During a fast, most proponents suggest using other activities to help the detoxification process. These include massage, light exercise, colonics, adequate sunlight, breathing fresh air, meditation, yoga, stretching, tai chi, and getting adequate rest.

Fasting has been reported to be helpful in many conditions. These include high blood pressure, headaches, allergies, arthritis, inflammatory diseases, psychological problems, obesity, high cholesterol, and general poor health. Recent scientific studies in Scandinavia have shown fasting to be helpful in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.

Fasting is a cheap and effective therapy for a wide range of health problems. Short fasts are usually okay to undertake without medical supervision, but any fast longer than a couple of days should be followed by a doctor with experience in fasting. People with the following conditions should not attempt fasting: diabetes, eating disorders, epilepsy, hypochondria, kidney disease, malnutrition, pregnancy, lactation, severe asthma, tuberculosis, and ulcerative colitis.

There are many types of practitioners that can help supervise a fast. These include medical doctors, doctors of osteopathy, naturopaths, chiropractors, and nutritionists. Retreat centers or spas can oversee long-term fasts at their facilities. When looking for someone to help you with your fast, ask about their training, years of experience, and if they have gone through what they will be asking you to do.

  • American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (800) 206-7610
  • International Association of Professional Natural Hygienists (305) 454-2220
  • Northwest Naturopathic Clinic (503) 224-8083
  • Revor Salloum, ND (604) 763-5445

References:

1. Burton Goldberg Group: Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide. Future Medicine Publishing, Puyallup, WA; 1994.

2. Inglis B & West R: The Alternative Health Guide. Alfred A. Knopf, NY, NY; 1983.

3. Kastner MA: Alternative Healing: The Complete A to Z Guide to Over 160 Different Alternative Therapies. Halcyon Publishing, La Mesa, CA; 1993.

4. Sifton DW: The PDR Family Guide to Natural Medicines and Healing Therapies. Three Rivers Press, NY, NY; 1999.

5. Woodham A & Peters D: Encyclopedia of Healing Therapies, 1st ed. Dorling Kindersley, NY, NY; 1997.


Last Updated: 4/4/2014

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