Fasting For DetoxWhy have people been fasting for thousands of years?
What are the advantages of fasting?
What are the different types of fasting?
Does fasting really help you detoxify?
Fasting, in the various forms that people have observed throughout history, has been known to have a beneficial effect on health.
However in a religious context, it is primarily a technique for seeking proximity to God and the divine. It seems that every religion knew the practice of fasting in one form or another. In the archaic practices of Hinduism there were certain days of the year set aside for fasting by women, and others for men. In our day, the Brahmin caste in India still observes a complete abstinence from food and drink on the eleventh and twelfth days of every Hindu month.
Fasting in History
Hippocrates (400 BCE), the mythical Greek "Father of Medicine," seems to have prescribed total abstinence from food while a "disease" was on the increase, and especially at the critical period, and a sparse diet on other occasions.
Fasting was also known to the ancient Egyptians and Greeks. Similarly, the ancient scriptures of Persia advocate fasting and confirm its value as a means for spiritual purification. The Jews of the Old Testament were known to observe fasts on days of danger and misfortune and on several fixed days in their calendar, of which, the best known to non-Jews, is the fast of Yom Kippur. Jesus is said to have fasted forty days and nights before his final entry into Jerusalem.
The early Christians, most of whom observed the Mosaic Law, also fasted on the Day of Atonement. However, with time, less emphasis was placed on exact adherence to the practices observed by Jesus. The Lenten fast assumed a largely symbolic role, involving abstention from certain types of food only.
Muslims observe an annual fast, during the month of Ramadan. Between first light and sundown, adult Muslims in good health abstain from food, drink, cigarettes, and sex. The fast lasts for an entire lunar month of between 28 and 30 days. It is described in the Quran thus "so that you may attain taqwa or God-consciousness". It is considered another instrument for bringing believers closer to their natural state and cleansing this state from the dross of any disobedience and corruption.
Fasting for Detox
In the strict dietary sense, fasting is the complete abstinence from all substances except pure water, in an environment of total rest. Juice fasting, a popular variation, is abstinence from all food and drink except water and fresh vegetable and fruit juices. A modified fast includes small amounts of solid food, usually raw fruits as well as raw and steamed vegetables.
Other types of fasts sometimes include brown rice fast, whereby only brown rice is eaten for a week, accompanied by water. Detoxification is the foremost argument presented by advocates of fasting.
Detoxification is a normal body process of eliminating or neutralising toxins resulting from biochemical functions through the colon, liver, kidneys, lungs, lymph nodes, and skin. Fasting precipitates this process because, when food no longer enters the body, the latter turns to its fat reserves for energy.
When the fat reserves are used for energy during a fast, they release the stored chemicals from the fatty acids into the system and are subsequently eliminated through the above-mentioned organs.
Another benefit of fasting is the healing process it triggers. During a fast, energy is diverted away from the digestive system, -since there is no food to mobilise it- towards the metabolism and immune system. This is one reason why animals stop eating when they are wounded, and the reason why we feel less hungry when we're sick.
Fasting also triggers rapid weight loss. Once the body is in fasting mode, it becomes accustomed to go without food after a few days. After a fast, the stomach actually shrinks and is restored it to its normal size. People tend to be satisfied with less food after fasting, as the latter signals to your body that you've altered the way you eat.
Beware of bingeing after a fast, especially if you starved your body to extreme! You could defeat the whole purpose of the fast.
IF, or intermittent fasting has been gaining huge popularity recently. It involves total or partial abstinence from food for pre-defined periods of time. Some of the most famous natural health gurus, online and off, emphatically advocate its detoxifying benefits.
There are various IF disciplines popular amongst health enthusiasts. Some advocate 2 days of fasting per week while eating normally for the remaining 5 days. Called the 5:2 fasting plan, it is advocated by Dr Michael Mosley, who wrote a book about it called: The Fast Diet: Lose Weight, Stay Healthy, and Live Longer with the Simple Secret of Intermittent Fasting.Another type of IF is the alternate day fasting whereby, as the name indicates, the fast is observed every other day. This however, has proven difficult for most people, as they have to go to bed on an empty stomach during fasting days, or every other day.
Finally, an effective fasting method recommended by Dr Mercola, entails restricting your eating time to a window of 8 hours in any given 24-hour period. This makes the IF more easily achievable while experiencing the benefits of the fast, which include:
- Reducing oxidative stress
- Normalising insulin levels
- Enabling ketosis, whereby your body uses fat instead of sugar for energy
- Reducing appetite
- Promoting Human Growth Hormone (HGH) hormone
- Reducing triglyceride and fat
When is a good time to fast?
Spring fasts are highly recommended because the increased physical vitality and availability of fresh produce and vegetables in the spring and summer can make the cleansing process pleasant and beneficial. For a winter fast, plan a short 2 day program, like a weekend fast for instance.
Long, unsupervised fasts can be dangerous. If you plan to fast for more than 2 or 3 days in a row, you must consult your natural health practitioner or doctor before you start.
Patricia Bragg Ph.D. author of "The Miracle of Fasting" writes "Proven throughout history for physical, mental and spiritual rejuvenation, fasting promotes cleansing and healing; helps normalize weight, blood pressure, cholesterol; rebuilds the immune system; and helps reverse the aging process. If we are to get these poisons out of our bodies we must fast. By fasting we give our bodies a physiological rest. This rest builds Vital Force. The more Vital Force we have, the more toxins are going to be eliminated from the body to help keep it clean, pure and healthy."
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