“In a fast, the body tears down its defective parts and then builds anew when eating is resumed.”
-Herbert M. Shelton, Fasting for Renewal of Life
Fasting is one of those healing methods you never hear about! After all, who goes to the doctor to get prescribed to fast? If anything, medically speaking, fasting is considered dangerous and can cause severe deficiencies and gallbladder issues if not done correctly and monitored. However some new breakthroughs in conventional medicine have found fasting can have beneficial results and can even be prescribed in some instances! Holistic medicine for years has been promoting the benefits of fasting but up till recently there had been no hard science to prove this. What exactly does both schools of thought say about conventional medicine?
Besides fasting with IV nutrition in only the most extreme GI emergencies the first real breakthrough in medical grade fasting came from research into IBS. There is one specialty that encourages fasting – a medical-grade fast, that is. Dr. Pimentel is a ground-breaking doctor who discovered SIBO – Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth – and believes it not only may be the cause of many forms of IBS, but also Fibromyalgia and CFS. His book, A New IBS Solution, tells all. He also talks about a three week fast on Vivonex, a medical-grade food often used in hospitals for those who cannot digest normal food. This author did a two-week fast years ago and actually did have some symptoms relieve permanently.
In the herbalism world, three-week or 21 day fasts seem to be a key to help detox and regenerate the body. The Bible often talks about 40 day fasts for spiritual awakening. Ayurveda prefers more intermittent fasting rather than the longer fasts.
Recently USC did a study and found that a three day fast can regenerate the human immune system. They found that after a few days, stem cells started to be produced, and another study even found fasting to weaken cancer cells in mice.
They stated the cyclical fasting of three to five days may have health benefits. For years, gym patrons and body builders have done cyclical fasting to increase testosterone.
“Instead of using medicine, rather, fast a day.” -Plutarch
Fasting for years has also been a mainstream of many alternative healers, and they claim that working your way up to a 20 day fast is where the magic happens as far as detox and regeneration. This fasting of course is difficult and requires a lot of discipline. It is said it can bring up old emotions and demons, since some alternative medicine doctors believe body pain and emotions are linked and detoxing the body brings both the physical, mental, and emotional toxins and injuries to the surface to heal.
“Everyone has a physician inside him or her; we just have to help it in its work. The natural healing force within each one of us is the greatest force in getting well. Our food should be our medicine. Our medicine should be our food. But to eat when you are sick is to feed your sickness.” -Hippocrates
Historically there are two types of fasting – fasting for health reasons and fasting for spiritual awakening. Spiritual fasting helps strengthen our spirit. One cannot fast without past traumas and unprocessed emotions coming to the surface. As the body heals physically during a fast, it also heals emotionally and rejuvenates the mind, the body, and the soul. It also breaks one’s compulsion for food and helps clear the mind, and the mental fog lifts. The faster is left more in balance and more perceptive and aware. Spiritual masters like Pythagoras wouldn’t admit any students to his teachings unless they had purified themselves by fasting first.
As the body fasts, parasitic organisms begin to die. This includes parasites and other infections of all sorts. As these opportunistic organisms die, the body starts to balance out and then detox as the toxins in the body start to pour out. It’s a cleaning of the internal house. If you don’t feed the disease it cannot survive. Diseases are living organisms, parasitic in nature. Most diseases are caused, in holistic healing’s definitions, by autointoxication. This means the body poisons itself with recirculating toxins that weaken the mind, body, and spirit. Fasting also gives the GI tract a time to rest and rebuild. When the body is in a fast it will seek out dead, useless tissues like proteins and either expel them or re-purpose them into something useable by the body to heal and regenerate tissue. Perhaps it takes this tissue and somehow creates stem cells out of them. It’s often believed that although short, intermittent fasting of a few days is best, one can do a longer fast and the true magic happens at the three-week, 20-21 day mark. Perhaps this is when the body is at its leanest as far as riddance of opportunistic overgrowth.
Hippocrates prescribed either a strict fast with nothing but water or
herbal teas for all disease in the acute stage. It is also recommended for all colds, flus, digestive issues, and humoral and metabolic disorders.
Studies have shown that lab mice have greatly extended life spans due to severe restriction of calories. Fasting may hold the key to the promise of life extension.
There has also been a very popular lemonade diet that got famous in Hollywood for quick weight loss; it included a fast on lemonade drink and salt water flushes to clean toxins out of the colon.
Don’t forget, of course, the water fast, the juice fast, and the air fast, as breatharians claim to do. There was even a holy man in India recently who claims to have fasted for 70 years living off the nectar of his pineal gland.
“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.” Matthew 9:17
With the advent of the new study it looks like there might be a new way to tell if fasting could be beneficial. In the past this has been difficult, because how can you give a placebo to someone when no placebo can be given? Perhaps this will back up what sage healing advice has been saying for centuries. Only time will tell.
“Fasting releases the physician within. Fasting breaks the cycle of unconscious eating and living. Fasting naturally detoxifies the body and enhances the mind” -Dr. Mark Laursen M.D.
unpolluted air, the threat of mold in apartment walls, and general toxicity of living, may affect even the most prepared fast. Perhaps going out into the mountains with the fresh air, water, and connection to the earth (or what some call earthing), along with the catharsis, is part of the process. Going to
the beach where the sun (vitamin D) and the ocean (minerals) may have a way of naturally rebuilding the body’s immune system, along with lots of coconut water, if one was in a natural environment, could also be beneficial.
Catharsis is defined by Wikipedia as:
Catharsis (from the Greek κάθαρσις katharsis meaning “purification” or “cleansing”) is the purification and purgation of emotions—especially pity and fear—through art or any extreme change in emotion that results in renewal and restoration. It is a metaphor originally used by Aristotle in the Poetics to describe the effects of tragedy on the spectator.
In summary there are many possible benefits to fasting, as well as many types of fasts and many methods of fasting, (depending on the culture and school of medical thought your subscribing to). There can be many reasons for fasting from medical, to weight loss, to spiritual, so don’t just randomly start a fast. Do responsible research, planning and get a medical expert on board before doing any kind of fasting. Fasting is something to be well planned because if done incorrectly it can deplete and weaken health. One must know how to both start and break a fast. However with the proper preparation and planning a successful fast can be had to improve the body, mind and the spirit!
Here is a great fasting documentary to learn more: