Benefits of Fasting
Fasting is defined as the complete abstinence from all substances except pure water, in an environment of total relaxation. Fasting is the greatest remedy–the physician within!
Philippus Paracelsus, famed Swiss physician and one of three Fathers of Western Medicine, with Greece’s Hippocrates and Galen, practiced and prescribed prolonged fasting. Throughout history many ancient religions believe that some form of fasting or food deprivation has spiritual benefits and brings people closer to God. For example, once a year Muslims around the world fast during Ramadan, many Hindus and Christians believe that some form of fasting has spiritual benefits. In fact, the Bible states that Moses, David, Jesus and Elijah fasted for up to 40 days. Most religious or spiritual fasting is about abstaining from food and drink from sunrise to sunset. Religion aside, medical research also shows us that fasting can have numerous benefits. Human beings actually have the capability of surviving without food for much longer than we realize.
However, with the advent of agriculture and increasing technological advancement, most people have lost their awareness of the benefits of fasting. The affluence acquired by man in modern era has however led to gluttony that pushes one to consume much more food than required for normal functions of a human body. We now seem to just satisfying our ever increasing appetites and expanding taste buds.
Reawakening to an ancient truth.
Unlike the past where health problems were the result of deficiencies and water borne diseases, today’s diseases are much more complex and epidemics of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer are the norm. Such problems are not helped and sometimes exasperated by dietary excesses. For example, and American study conducted on 174 high blood pressure patients who underwent water – only fasting showed that almost every patient experienced enough of a reduction in blood pressure to completely eliminate the need of medication and over ninety percent of patients achieved normal blood pressure.
We often consume too much unhealthy food in the form of fat and protein especially animal fat and animal protein, too much refined sugar as refined carbohydrates and caffeine in the form of coffee, tea, alcohol, cigarettes and soda. It is thus only sensible to think that fasting for health and going without food for a small period of time would provide an opportunity for the body to reverse the harmful effects of unhealthy diet and thereby restore good health.
Scientific experiments indicate that immune function is significantly enhanced during water fasting. There is also an enhanced mobilization and elimination of toxic products including poisons such as dioxins, pesticides residues and other pollutants. Fasting results in weight loss, elimination of excess cholesterol, triglycerides, uric acid and other accumulated environmental toxins. Often, growths and tumors associated with dietary excesses, such as fibroids and cysts are reabsorbed. This actually is often termed as detoxification fasting.
Inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis, colitis, asthma and hepatitis, often are greatly improved or resolved. Many enzymatic functions of the liver and other organs, including the insulin-resistance characteristic of diabetes, can rapidly normalize. In the fasting state, the duration and intensity of illness, such as inflammation, mucus production, fever and diarrhea are often dramatically reduced. Fasting has been found to be the most efficient and powerful means available to facilitate self-healing. Studies have also indicated that people who suffer from hypertension are able to eliminate medication completely with water only fast.
Heightening your awareness
Human beings are creatures of habit and accustomed to eating. Fasting brings the lifestyle to an abrupt halt and gives you the opportunity to pause, reflect and decide how you are going to conduct your life afterwards. It enables you to make a break with your past and set off in a new positive direction. Fasting heightens the awareness as well as appreciation for food and one learns to eat with reverence.
Making the transition to healthful living
It is not easy to break a habit that has been established over many years and after a lifetime of acquiring taste buds that are used to stimulating foods and a nervous system that depends on stimulatory drugs like caffeine, healthy food may become unappetizing, exercise painful and the symptoms of withdrawal from stimulants unbearable. These unpleasant symptoms are a result of the slow process of detoxification that accompanies the cessation of bad habits. Although the detoxification process may be intense and sometimes unpleasant, it can be highly effective. After fasting, healthful food often tastes delicious and bad habits like bingeing may disappear. One could also attempt fresh fruit juice fasting, with little or no sugar, as a transition from fasting to getting back to normal diet routine. Fasting is also the most efficient method to overcome addictions to a variety of drugs including caffeine, nicotine, alcohol and marijuana.
Doing it right
Whether fasting is used in the transition to a healthful diet and lifestyle, to overcome the signs and symptoms of disease, or as a preventive measure, it is a powerful tool for helping sick people to get well and healthy people to stay healthy. Fasting for weight loss is very popular among women. It is important that it is done in the right manner. The most important advice about fasting is: Do it right or don’t do it. Complete rest, a supportive environment, and professional supervision are required to ensure that fasting will be a safe and effective experience.
It is however not advisable for certain people to fast. Fear is often an insurmountable problem as is extreme weakness in various diseases associated with muscular dystrophy. Before attempting a fast, a physician should evaluate your complete health history taking into account any illness, injury and treatment. Some people with medical conditions such as severe kidney disease and certain types of cancer are not advised to fast. A comprehensive examination should be performed including urine analysis and blood evaluations to ensure that fasting is safe for the individual.
Duration of fast
Studies show that there is no one pre set period of fasting. The idea is to fast as briefly as possible but yet as long as necessary to allow the body to generate and resolve any possible healing crisis that might result. Traditional proponents of fasting especially by ‘yogis’ or those who want to fast for the purposes of cleansing and detoxifying believe that a fast should last until the tongue clears (that is there is no longer a thick coating on the tongue) and the hunger returns. However, experience shows that some people do not develop a clear tongue even if they fast beyond their bodily reserves and the mere absence of hunger does not ensure that adequate reserves remain.
Phases of fasting
The physiology of fasting is divided into three phases :
- The first is the gastrointestinal phase, which lasts approximately six hours following your last meal.
- During this phase the body uses glucose, amino acids and fats that are absorbed from the intestinal tract.
- Phase two usually lasts for about two days and during this time the body will use its glycogen (sugar) reserves that are stored in the muscle and liver cells.
- These glycogen reserves are mobilized to provide the central nervous system including the brain its normal fuel, glucose.
- Within a few hours the body begins to convert adipose (fat) tissue into fatty acids.
- In phase three, the body switches from utilizing glucose to fat metabolism and the body’s protein reserves are quickly depleted.
- Fortunately, however, this is not a problem as within ten hours of your last meal, about 50 percent of muscle fuel comes from fat.
- However, body reserves differ from individual to individual.
- For example, a 155 pound male at normal weight has enough reserves to fast between two and four months.
- If this fast continues beyond that period, starvation leading to death occurs.
Breaking the fast
The best way to break a fast is to introduce the body to light, easily digested foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables. At this time it is hoped that the body has developed a preference for whole natural foods and appropriate physical activity.
Health Benefits of Fasting
- Fasting initiates rapid weight loss with little or no hunger. Once the ‘ketosis’ of fasting sets in, it becomes quite easy to go without food.
- Fasting promotes detoxification. As the body breaks down its fat reserves, it mobilizes and eliminates stored toxins.
- Fasting gives the digestive system a much needed rest. After fasting, both digestion and elimination process are rejuvenated.
- Fasting promotes the resolving of inflammatory processes such as rheumatoid arthritis.
- Fasting helps in controlling allergic reactions, including asthma and hay fever.
- Fasting promotes the drying up of abnormal fluid accumulations, such as edema in the ankles and legs and swelling in the abdomen.
- Fasting corrects high blood pressure without drugs. Fasting will reduce blood pressure to a safe range within two weeks or less in the vast majority of cases. And the blood pressure will remain low after the fast if the person eats correctly and lives healthily.
- Fasting makes it easy to overcome bad habits and addictions. Many people have overcome tobacco and alcohol addictions by fasting, and even drug addictions. Fasting rapidly dissipates the craving for nicotine, alcohol, caffeine and other drugs
- Fasting clears the skin and whitens the eyes. It is common to see skin eruptions clear while fasting, and the whites of the eyes never look so clear and bright as they do after a fast.
- Fasting restores taste appreciation for wholesome natural foods. People say that their taste buds come alive after fasting and that food never tasted so good.
- Fasting is the perfect gateway to a healthful diet and lifestyle. Going on a fast gives you the motivation and enthusiasm to make a fresh start and commit yourself to a new and better way of life.
- Fasting actually shrinks the stomach – not in a harmful way, but restoring it to its normal size. People tend to be satisfied with less food after fasting.