Fasting is not a new fad, and can be undertaken at any time of the year, from 1 day to 30 days. However, the perfect time to begin any fast is at the beginning of January, just after Christmas, when many of us are willing to abstain from food for a while, quite simply because we’ve had too much to eat over the festive period, and it just feels right to give our digestive system a rest. I know I always feel like this. I do enjoy my Christmas treats, but I’m always ready for the beginning of January when I can say YES I enjoyed Christmas, but now it’s time to think about giving my digestive system a well-earned rest, losing a few pounds in the process, as well as boosting my concentration and energy levels.
Fasting has been around for thousands of years. The major religions have always had periods of fasting. Judaism has several annual fast days including Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonements; in Islam, Muslims fast during the holy month of Ramadan, while Roman Catholics and Eastern orthodoxy observe a 40 day fast during Lent, the period when Christ fasted for 40 days in the desert. In Old English, the word “fæsten” means the voluntary abstinence from food and drink or from certain kinds of food.
However, you don’t have to be of any particular faith to participate in fasting and to take advantage from the many health benefits of fasting. “To eat when you are sick, is to feed your illness” – Hippocrates.
We know that the digestive system needs a vast amount of blood and oxygen to enable it to break down and digest food, and to facilitate the absorption of nutrients through the small intestine. Around 70% of our immune system is located in our intestines, and this immune system is constantly on high alert, checking for friend or foe in the food and drink we ingest. If the immune system picks up a pathogenic bacteria or parasite in our food, that may potentially cause us harm, it will initiate an attack, and destroy the pathogen before it has time to cause an illness. However, if the digestive system and immune system is overwhelmed by continuous amounts of food, and if there are issues with gut dysbioisis (an imbalance in the gut bacteria ie too many pathogenic strains and not enough of the ‘friendly’ strains in the gut), irritable bowel syndrome, ‘leaky’ gut, then the immune system may not be able to identify a foe, and may let it pass into the intestines, where it can cause a great deal of damage, eg food poisoning and gut infections, some that may be life-threatening.
Consider fasting then. When we are fasting, we are giving our digestive system and well earned break. We won’t starve as we are able to function fairly well during fasting, especially if we are well nourished, and let’s face it, most of us are well, if over-nourished nowadays. I would not recommend any person under-nourished embark on any kind of fasting, and when I say under-nourished, I’m talking about people that have a diet of junk food and fizzy drinks, and little else, where they are consuming very little in the way of nutrients so are sub-clinically malnourished. Fasting for such people would only deprive them of much needed nutrients.
Fasting is something not to be undertaken lightly, and if your diet has included alcohol, caffeine, meat, sugar, chocolate and bad fats, then you may want to eliminate these before actually starting fasting, otherwise you may have some unpleasant healing crisis symptoms – headaches, low energy, low mood, skin eruptions, poor sleep, poor concentration.
In recent years, the 5:2 Diet has become popular, as advocated by Dr. Michael Mosley. The 5:2 diet is where you consume 500 calories (600 for men) two days a week, and the other five days, the normal amount of calories. Dr. Michael Mosley cured himself of a dangerous pre-diabetic condition, that killed his own Father, after following the 5:2 fast. I’ve tried the 5:2 diet, but I do find it a little bit lightweight for me. I can, if I’m not too busy do a 24 hour fast, where I eat a fresh, wholesome meal around 6pm, but then I don’t eat again until 6pm the following evening. I drink lots of water and lots of herbal teas, and during such a fast I don’t do any exercise. I can only do a 24 hour fast a couple of days in a week, but I do find that the weight drops off me very quickly, and my energy and concentration levels rocket. Short-term fasting means one to three days of taking in nothing but water. It’s a good home remedy for colds, flu, infections and ‘toxic’ overloads of all kinds. Combine short-term fasting with resting and a positive mental attitude, and you will feel like a new person. Many people report that after just one day of fasting, they experience clearer senses, clearer heads, lighter bodies and more energy.
Fasting is nature’s natural anti-ageing diet. After a period of fasting, you can literally look 10 years younger, and this is something I’ve personally experienced after carrying out the fasting ‘cure’ at The Viva Mayr Clinic in Austria. Here I am, enjoying the snow in Austria, 8lbs lighter and yes, looking a good 10 years younger, if I do say so myself, but it’s not just about looking younger, it’s about feeling younger, full of positivity, energy and vitality!
As your stomach, intestines and liver begin to get smaller and tighter, during fasting, so too does your external skin, and the skin on your face, becoming taut and less lined. Fasting is also recommended for reducing obesity, controlling blood sugar (Type II Diabetes has been shown to be completely resolved during a period of fasting), improving concentration, clearing up auto-immune skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis, as well as improving common digestive and gut disorders like irritable bowel syndrome, chronic bloating, constipation, indigestion and heartburn, to mention a few, but evidence shows that fasting can also completely reverse more serious diseases like high blood pressure, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, alzheimer’s disease, depression and cancer. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3946160/
More effects of fasting:
- It allows the digestive system to rest and recuperate
- It successfully controls sluggish digestion
- It reduces cravings, particularly for sugar
- It cleans and detoxifies the body of metabolic wastes
- It de-acidifies the body
- It mobilises healing powers to combat disease processes
There is no doubt too that slimmer people live longer than people that are overweight and it’s not difficult to understand why. For example, if you are carrying excess fat on the outside of your body, you will be carrying excess fat on the inside too, around your vital organs, especially your heart, liver and kidneys, and this, in time, will overtax them. Eventually they will wear out and stop working before their time. Over-eating, especially lots of processed, denatured, devitalised foods will make us old, ill and ugly long before our time. If the body can’t break down all the food we are eating, it will simply convert it into fat, externally and internally.
Disclaimer: before undertaking any kind of fast, and particularly if you have a chronic disease or illness, speak to your GP. Anyone suffering with anorexia, malnutrition, pregnant and nursing mothers must refrain from fasting.