Healing is the miracle that occurs at the often messy intersection where the life we’re living crashes headlong into the life that’s been patiently awaiting us. You may experience this crash because of a medical illness like cancer. You may be suffering from a string of failed jobs and personal relationships. You may arrive with depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, a sense of boredom or even doom.
One of the most powerful tools, sadly overlooked in Western medicine, is the ancient practice of fasting. Pure and simple, the process of ceasing to ingest food for a period of at least seven days stimulates every innate healing power the body has in store.
This is the carabiner that attaches you to the experience of your body. If your facilitators are experienced, you rejoin with the sense of awe and wonder at the miracle that is your body–the vehicle of your soul. Nearly everyone completes a fast with a healthier relationship to their body’s needs and ability to respond to them. And very few people complete the process attached to their unhappiness, fatigue or illness because most of the symptoms, if not the root causes, have been illuminated, shifted or simply disappeared.
Fasting affects every layer of our being: from our cells and tissues; to the production of hormones and neurotransmitters; to the deployment of bile and digestive enzymes; to the effective and efficient movement of breath and oxygen throughout the body. If you thought fasting was just good for the gut, think again.
What are the physical benefits of fasting?
Fasting is much like a maintenance check. Most of us regularly take our cars in for annual maintenance checks. The oil is changed, the brake pads replaced and the tires rotated. We pay for this safety measure to assure that we’re driving a well-functioning machine. The body is the same. If we remember the fasting process is as old as time and that even the animal kingdom does it, it must be something the body needs and indeed loves.
At least 65% of the entire body’s energy reserve is directed to digestion. That means more than half of all the energy we need and consume on a daily basis goes to our gut. And, much of the 65% energy directed to digestion, assimilation (the uptake of nutrients) and elimination is randomly scattered energy because we are working inefficiently and ineffectively. This is not a good thing, and is even worse over time.
The history and benefits of fasting are not new. Nor are they New Age. Fasting is an ancient healing art as old as the recorded history of man.!
Who Should Fast?
Many people and medical professionals believe fasting can be a “miracle cure” because of the long list of physical conditions either improved or removed by fasting. Thousands of people have suffered for months, years or decades with chronic conditions that have failed to ameliorate through the use of drugs or even radical surgeries and other invasive treatments.
Fasting is an inexpensive treatment. It is a natural, safe and effective first response to just about any form of unwellness.!Fasting often provides the first proof that the body can, in fact, heal. As symptoms dissipate during the short course of the fasting, the person fasting experiences the deep connection between food and health. They often have the energy and desire to continue to make the healthier shifts and choices in their eating and drinking habits to continue on the road to newfound health.
The clinical reality is that when we fast, we signal to the body that his or her own innate healing
What is the difference between fasting and cleansing?
According to fasting guru, Hillary Hitt, “A fast is always a cleanse but a cleanse is not always a fast.” A fast means that no food is taken in and digested. A cleanse can mean any number of things—consuming raw foods and juices, for example. A fast is like taking a long internal shower and usually lasts up to several days. It is important to go past day 3-4 as that is when the body releases large volumes of toxic waste! In a “supported” fast the body is cleansed of old waste, stored bile, toxins and parasites. Supported means that supplements are added to support the liver and kidneys.This is necessary because most people come to a fast depleted and in need. And, it means that a qualified person is guiding the group so no one suffers unnecessarily.!
Did early man fast to lose weight?
No. The history of fasting has no recorded beginning and will likely have no end. Fasting was imposed upon early man because of the variable ability to secure food.Tribes often went long periods of time on very little or no food. Hunters gathered what they could,ate what they needed and eventually learned how to preserve the leftovers for later consumption. Remember that the next time you leave the grocery store laden with your goodies.
Seven simple but profound positive impacts of the fasting process:
â– Rests the digestive system
â– Cleanses and detoxifies the entire body
â– Pauses patterns in eating and general consumption
â– Promotes greater clarity–physical, emotional, spiritual
â– Clears and restarts major body systems– the space of miracles
â– Creates a sense of physical lightness and enhanced energy
â– Promotes a sense of calm, inner peace, knowing, connection
Is fasting unique to human beings?
Fasting is not unique to man. Squirrels and salmon and snails fast. So do anteaters,humpback whales, plovers and penguins. In fact, just about all species in the animal kingdom fast as they change environments, enter a new life stage, prepare to create offspring or seek rest prior to an arduous journey. Call it animal instinct.
Was fasting practiced solely for religious purposes?
No, again.It is our historical understanding that Buddha, Christ, Moses and Mohammed all fasted. Much of the tradition of fasting is embedded in the books of major faiths and has been practiced, in varying forms, for many centuries.These ancient fasting practices share the same goal of reaping both physical and emotional benefits. Many faiths also share the deep spiritual belief that while fasting, we come in closer proximity to God or the divine nature within us. Therefore, fasting in the religious context is deeply established across multiple faiths.The religious reasons for fasting do include the derived health benefits.
Religious communities fast to give thanks to God, to atone for sins and as a gesture of gratitude or forgiveness.Depending on the faith, religious fasts also encourage a deeper connection to God – the external God or the personal divine within. Many ancient indigenous cultures believed men and women were at their height of intuition while fasting and encouraged it to avert natural disasters or to gain insight into timing of war or tribal relocation.
When was fasting first considered a ‘first line’ medical treatment protocol?
Physicians and healers have encouraged fasting as a first line defense for both acute and chronic illnesses since as early as 460 B.C.In this time they studied the animal kingdom to learn about healing, surveying what herbs animals ate when ill and what behaviors they engaged in when sick or dying. Their observations led them to utilize fasting as a primary treatment for many ailments.
One of the earliest documented medical proponents of fasting, and a keen observer of the animal world, was none other than Hippocrates – considered the Father of Medicine and the inspiration for the Hippocratic Oath that guides the moral and professional conduct of doctors worldwide today.
Are there many medically valid reasons to fast or cleanse?
Yes! Researchers have long studied the effects of fasting.Deciphering fasting physiology and the further development of traditional fasting was the foundation for recognizing this form of treatment in naturopathy. It is now fully recognized as a treatment for chronic illnesses and a prevention protocol for many other illnesses at major medical centers including Johns Hopkins University and The Mayo Clinic.
Fasting is experiencing a revival. Interestingly, the Eastern traditions never really wavered Bhutan and Vietnam, fasts (of variable lengths) remain a common family practice for illness prevention or treatment.
Is the medical data supporting fasting any good? Yes! The list of modern medical practitioners with successful careers who are advocates of fasting in many of the world’s best medical institutions is long. These medical professionals practice at Johns Hopkins, Harvard Medical, Yale New Haven, Case Western, Vanderbilt, UCLA, Stanford and other acclaimed institutions. They have published in reference journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine, The Lancet, The American Journal of Epidemiology, The International Journal on Cancer, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the British Medical Journal, the Journal of the American Medical Association and others!
While their findings and practices have been brought to the public on Oprah and other talk shows, the sciences behind the logic is significant and growing. ! Many doctors have experimented the old fashioned way—on themselves. There are numerous examples of doctors who have become ill with cancer, heart disease or arthritis, and who have tested fasting protocols on themselves.
Many experienced personal healings such as the elimination of all symptoms and/or underlying disease. Some found the experience to be such a significant value that they themselves then began research on the subject. The more patients they encouraged to fast and the more measurable clinical benefits that ensued, the more fasting has become a favorite in the medical suite of suggestions.
Are there emotional benefits to fasting?
The answer is a resounding yes, there are. Emotionally, one will feel calmer, clearer and happier. Fasters often report that depression lifts and goals begin to feel more obtainable as obstacles are put into proper focus. Clients are self-reporting improved concentration, less anxiety, and better sleep.
Are there any spiritual benefits to fasting?
Phew—yes is the answer to this one! The powerful effects of fasting are often experienced most deeply in our spiritual connection. Fasting takes our attention inward. We listen and become quiet. And that quiet quality time, you with you, will also allow a greater sense of kinship with your Inner Being.
Without the continual addition of heavy foods into the system (and after any major detox symptoms have passed), the body takes on a lighter, less dense feeling. This helps to create a subtle separation from ordinary physical reality and all its worldly things.
Is fasting considered alternative because it’s ‘woo woo’?
Not at all. In fact, fasting is considered an ‘alternative’ therapy because it isn’t typically prescribed by mainstream conventional western medicine, because western medicine treats ailments and conditions most commonly with invasive techniques. While these modern techniques are highly successful in treating some conditions, they fail miserably in others.
What is pH and why is this so important? Much of the story of fasting benefits lies in the understanding of pH. In chemistry, pH (potential of hydrogen) is a measure of the acidity or basicity of an aqueous solution. Pure water is said to be neutral, with a pH close to 7.0. Solutions with a pH less than 7 are said to be acidic and solutions with a pH greater than 7 are basic or alkaline. Many factors play a role in acid forming: stress, medications, food and beverages!
Be sure to fill your diet with plenty of the above alkaline forming foods. The level of pH is measured using a pH paper. The value scale ranges from 1 (most acidic) to 14 (most alkaline). The middle and healthy range for pH is reflected in the color green.
Multiple systems within the body function to keep the body’s blood and organs within a specific pH so that we are well functioning and alive. Human blood has pH in the range of 7.35 and 7.45 – a tight range! Generally, the range for all organ systems and therefore the entire body is between 6.8 and 7.4. The pH range changes throughout the day and from day to day.
When the body is out of normal range, great amounts of energy are expended to correct the pH. In order to regain balance, the body will leach calcium from bones and teeth to reduce acid. Your body will also deplete potassium reserves to buffer the acid build up.
Sodium, important for the healthy function of the brain, nervous system and muscles, will also be leached. Magnesium will be redirected away from the muscles causing cramps and discomfort. The nutrients from food or supplements will not be absorbed and used in an acid environment.
When a pH is too high or too low, the body is considered to be in an acid state and just out of balance. When the body is out of balance and highly acidic, it becomes a welcome host for illnesses ranging from simple acne to allergies, high blood pressure, blood sugar challenges, headaches, mood shifts, arthritis, sinus congestion, fungal infections (candida), low energy and a poorly functioning immune system that results in constant colds, flu and fatigue.
In fact, most scientists and practitioners on the forefront of professional research in nutrition and health agree that an acid environment is the “first mover” for most, if not all, diseases. The good news is that pH can be shifted temporarily and more permanently with intention and attention to diet and stress.
How does fasting restore pH?
Imagine more than 20 feet of digestive tubing, encumbered by the buildup of mucoid plaque which is a combination of harmful mucous material and undigested foods. Plaque covers up the all important villi, finger-like projections in the small intestines which are trying so hard to absorb the nutrients in the food consumed. The buildup of this toxic waste accumulates over years and decades creating an acidic environment.
A fast removes toxic waste from the colon, small intestine, liver and gallbladder. Some people literally see many pounds of this waste removed naturally. The waste material is highly acidic, rancid, foul smelling and of no service to the body whatsoever. And, they are the perfect nesting spot for parasites. Once removed, the internal body is lighter, cleaner and better able to maintain a balanced pH.
What are some of the side effects of fasting?
Many people experience headaches, body aches, lightheadedness and sometimes nausea. Each of these sensations in the body is part of the healing cleansing process. Symptoms usually pass within hours, and very rarely last more than a day. They signal the level of toxicity— the more toxins, the more discomfort. But most clients move through these symptoms with relative ease.
Why should a fast be supported?
The body is a complex and miraculous machine. A good program will be guided by people who understand the body and are well trained in healing modalities such as medicine, homeopathy and naturopathy. “Skepticism rants and raves or raises a chilly eyebrow while Reality patiently waits for all the fuss to die down. It is through science that we ”While a fast is physically fairly straightforward, it is an emotionally opening and a spiritually awakening process. Traditionally, cleansing was done in a circle with guides or elders present to safely support and assist people moving through any stored emotional trauma. And, nearly all fasters have moments of great clarity, a prove, but through intuition that we discover a connection to something greater, and epiphanies that guides can assist in interpreting and assimilating.
Where fasting most shines as an alternative practice is with the degenerative diseases and chronic conditions. Degenerative diseases are conditions of deterioration progressing over time, and are generally caused by long term lifestyle choices and/or bodily wear due to age.
No amount of surgery or numbers of medical procedures will cure a body that isn’t physically, emotionally and spiritually directed toward healing. And any scientist will concede that only the body itself can restore tissues to their original state of perfection. What natural remedies succeed in doing, is focusing the other aspects—the emotional, mental and spiritual parts of our being—toward health.
Can conventional medicine do it all?
What conventional medicine can do:
– Manage trauma better than any other system of medicine.
– Treat emergencies–a severed carotidartery, for example
– Antibiotics treat acute bacterialinfections
– Prevent many infectious diseases by immunization
– Replace damaged hips and knees.
Conventional medicine cannot:
– Treat viral infections
– Cure most, if not all, chronic degenerative diseases
– Effectively manage most kinds of mental illness
– Cure most forms of allergy or autoimmune disease
– Effectively manage all but about 2% of genetically linked illnesses
– Cure most forms of cancer
“If I could live my life over again, I would devote it to proving that germs seek their natural habitat – diseased tissue – rather than being the cause of the diseased tissue; i.e. mosquitoes seek the stagnant water, but do not cause the water to become stagnant” – Rudolph Virchow (founder of pathology)