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Fasting has played a large role in human history, culture, and religion, and when done properly, can decrease insulin, mobilize fat stores and accumulated toxins, decrease inflammation, and allow for cell and tissue repair.  While we obtain energy from food, the digestion process does require energy, especially from the liver, pancreas, and kidneys.  Fasting eliminates the burden on these organs, as well as the other organs of digestion, so the body can use this energy for other purposes.  This is not something foreign to the body: our bodies naturally fast during acute illnesses to allow the body to use this extra energy toward fighting infection.

Fasts ideally should have three parts: a pre-fast, the fast itself, and gradual reintroduction of foods.  The pre-fast prepares the body for optimal elimination and the upcoming period of no food.  The pre-fast is usually at least 3 days long and is a high-fiber diet of fruits and vegetables.  The pre-fast can also be done gradually, with day one allowing fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes, and eliminating coffee, sugar, processed foods, dairy, and meat.  Legumes are then eliminated on the second day , and grains are eliminated on the third day, leaving only fruits and vegetables.

The fast itself can vary in degree and duration.    The most stringent is a water only fast, but these are best done only under the careful supervision of a physician.  The “Master Cleanser” fast  is a variation on the water fast and is a combination of lemon, cayenne pepper, and maple syrup in water.  This combination provides an energy source to keep blood sugar from dropping and alkalinizes the blood.  Juice fasts also provide some caloric intake as well as concentrated vitamins and minerals.  Carrot, celery, and beets are often used in juice fasts, but other vegetables can be used for difference health concerns.

The re-introduction of foods should be slow and gradual to allow the digestive system to return to its normal functioning and the best identification of food allergies and sensitivities.  Fruits and non-starchy vegetables should be reintroduced first, followed by starchy vegetables, then legumes and fats, and lastly proteins.  The best way is to reintroduce foods one at a time or with foods that you know you are not sensitive to.  Then watch for any allergic responses or reactions, including increased pulse, rashes or itching, fatigue, body pain, digestive upset, nasal congestion or drainage, mood changes, or headaches.  Foods that tend to cause inflammation, such as dairy, wheat, soy, corn, and nightshade vegetables,  should be reintroduced last, if at all.

It is important to know that fasting is not the same as starving.  During a dietary fast, a person should fast in other areas of life as well.  This means eliminating or reducing normal daily activities, and turning the TV and computer off (especially the news), and take time to rest and enjoy being outdoors.  Other treatments that are beneficial during a fast include massage, hydrotherapy, yoga, and acupuncture.  These treatments can enhance the detoxification effects of the fast, decrease stress, and encourage the intention of caring for your body.

Fasting is not for everyone and should always be done voluntarily.  Women who are pregnant or nursing should never fast, and all fasts should be supervised or monitored by a physician, especially if you have blood sugar imbalances or are on medications.


© Kimberly Hindman, 2007



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