I first tried fasting back in 1991, while I was living in Germany. I was young and exploring everything new and healthy on the market. There was a lot of talk about the benefits of fasting and more and more books coming out on the subject. I bought a book and then did a five day fast with water and vegetable broth. With the knowledge I have now, I wouldn’t recommend going to that extreme on your first fast! I do remember clearly that I felt great and that my sense of smell and other senses heightened incredibly.
Fasting is the voluntary absence of food. While the idea of missing even one meal might seem daunting for some of us, fasting does have many benefits for the body and can be easy if you know how to fast carefully. The art of fasting is an ancient tradition practiced for thousands of years and has been used to treat illness of all kinds. It can help bring about rejuvenation, clarity, cleansing and strengthening.
Fasting is a natural process. Whenever we get sick or don’t feel so well we lose our appetites – that’s our body’s way of telling us we need to fast. In the days when humans lived a hunter-gatherer life fasting was a regular occurrence. We ate when food was available and when there was no food, we had to fast. That kept everything in balance. Today we don’t have that natural balance anymore because we are never short of food supply.
Some benefits of fasting are:
- Gives the digestive system a well deserved rest.
- Cleanses and detoxifies the body.
- Promotes mental clarity and enhances cognitive function.
- Improves insulin sensitivity.
- Improves blood lipid profile.
- Fat loss.
- Increases energy levels and gives a feeling of lightness.
- Creates a break in eating patterns, which makes you aware of them.
- Can promote inner stillness.
Research cardiologists at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute (Murray, United States) report that fasting not only lowers one’s risk of coronary artery disease and diabetes, but also causes significant changes in a person’s blood cholesterol levels. Both diabetes and elevated cholesterol are known risk factors for coronary heart disease. Read more here about what was published in the Science daily.
There are different ways of fasting but an easy and effective fast for beginners is a juice fast on one day a week or even once per month. This gives your body enough easily digested nutrients to get it through the day. A juice fast can ease the digestive burden and enhance ongoing detoxification to some degree.
However the main benefit of a one-day juice fast is not significant detoxification: it’s rather a concentrated period of rest for your digestive organs, and an opportunity for the organs that are responsible for ongoing detoxification – your liver, kidneys, skin, and lungs – to do a little extra health promoting work.
We can also fast by eating fruit only – apples work particularly well for a one day fast. I like doing apple days. All I do is eat apples all day, whenever I am hungry I just eat another apple and nothing else. They make me feel lighter and great. Here is one of my previous posts on the benefits of eating apples.
Jason Shon Bennett, who is one of New Zealand’s leading health guru’s, is the founder of the “Lifeplan” (Longevity Inspired by Food and Exercise) and he strongly believes in regular intelligent fasting. His new book “Eat Less, Live Long” is about fasting.
I have heard Jason’s talks here in Nelson at the Suter Art gallery four times and he is very inspirational. He has cured himself of asthma and more, and is generous in sharing with us all his medical research and how he cured himself.
Here are some of Jason’s tips for a fasting day that he shared with us at his last seminar/ talk here in Nelson:
- Have a goal when fasting; plan for it and prepare for it.
- Fast on one regular “irregular” day per week
- Wake with an apple cider vinegar drink (with real apple cider vinegar with mother culture in it)
- Walk, exercise, stretch
- Make a vegetable juice for the day (Celery, cucumber, beetroot, ginger, carrot is Jason’s favourite)
- Start with a one-day fast. The first fast is usually the most challenging mentally. Subsequent fasts get easier as you progressively get healthier and your body has less accumulated toxins to deal with. Build to longer fasts slowly over a year or so as long as they continue to be beneficial to you.
- Drink plenty, water, herbal teas, fresh ginger tea between juices or apples
- Keep mentally busy, warn your partner and family and friends (you might get grumpy)
- Be responsible to someone; tell someone that you are doing a fasting day!
- Relax about it – do not be too rigid – go to bed early – get enough sleep.
- And last but not least: It’s okay to fail, if you start off the day thinking you are going to do a fast but change your mind by lunchtime, then that’s okay. You did half a day. The more you try the easier it gets and maybe next time you give it a try you will do a whole day.
And fasting can be used to keep us in balance. Sometimes we might “stumble” and have a day of eating more of the kind of foods that are not so good for us. We might have been to a party or it could be a special occasion like Christmas. So what can we do to get back on track? You might have already guessed? A fast!
Leslie Kenton, the founder of the “Cura Romana program”, is a strong promoter of apple fasts. She says: “In many ways, the most useful thing about the apple fast is the way you can call on it when you most need help to get you back on the rails again. We all slip up sometimes – we over work or over indulge and live to regret it the next day. A two-day apple fast, or even just a day spent eating only apples, is an excellent ‘quick corrector’. Spend even just one day munching apples and it will help set all to rights again, so that when you awaken next morning you feel more like your old self and ready to face the day full of energy. Read more here on her website.
Be well, stay well!