Each faster is then instructed by the nurse as to the measurements that will be recorded daily, most of which the faster will take for himself and record on special forms. These records include a.m. temperature, pulse twice daily for evidence of ecological factors related to illness, blood pressure, water intake and urine output during Stages 1 and 2 for evidence of water retention, check of urine for ketones and Vitamin C level, and twice daily salivary pH readings.
Vitamin C supplementation is routinely carried on throughout the fast to aid in the detoxification program. If a water fast is carried on longer than a week, a general vitamin supplement is added to the regime. If diuresis seems to be incomplete, diuretic herb teas are frequently suggested. These might consist of goldenrod, chamomile, watercress, parsley or rose hips.
When the fast is merely for reducing and physical evaluation and there is no evidence of disease, the fastener's progress could be watched on the basis of weekly office visits with interim phone calls.
Concerning the role of exercise, opinions vary all the way from those who advise bed rest to those who make a great point of long periods daily of walking, cycling or swimming. It would seem that a middle of the road policy is generally applicable, with individual variations to suit the particular faster. For those who are most toxic and are not troubled with excess weight, initially, much rest best suits their condition, to be followed by a program of gradually increasing exercise as tolerated. In general it is probably wiser not to include jogging, other forms of strenuous exercise and certainly no competitive exercise, yet fastens are frequently surprised by the physical strength they find as they move into Stage 2 and by the ease with which they can endure long periods of sustained exercise.
Concerning the use of enemas, colonies, or of their avoidance, opinions are very controversial. Once again we have taken a middle of the road position, starting the fast with an initial purge, using phospho-soda, and following on the next three days with self-administered enemas, unless diarrhea occurs or the stool becomes clear. Further enemas are not regularly employed unless there would seem to be discomfort due to the collection of feces.
It is important to keep dental plates in the mouth, biting on them to keep the gums in condition or there may be such shrinkage that by the end of the fast the plates no longer fit.
Personal hygiene is particularly important during the fast, for there may be considerable body odor due to the detoxification taking place. A shower is suggested for each morning. Water temperatures should not be extreme because too long in hot water can be ennervating. To follow a shower with a good body brushing is a good procedure. Cosmetics and deodorants should be avoided during the fast, for they tend to drive the impurities back into the system. An absorbent material or cornstarch under the arms could, however, be used in addition to frequent cleansing. The coated tongue can be brushed and thus cleansed, which will partially alleviate frequent bad taste in the mouth.
In the case of the water fast, spring water from a known good source is preferable; but if this is not possible, distilled water is the second choice, if appropriate minerals are added to approximate a natural source of water. Approximately 70 ml. of water or other liquid per kilogram of body weight should be drunk daily, with the occasional substitution of herb teas if desired.
In as much as we like to see our fasters learn to flow with life, we never tell them ahead of time how long they will be fasting. Instead we encourage them to get in touch with their INNER KNOWER and allow that to be their guide, with suitable comments or suggestions from us when appropriate. This is a day to day decision and not preordained.
In the instance of juice fasts, the juices should be prepared daily as nearly as possible to their time of use, in any case not more than a day before. Preferably, juice is produced with a pressure-type juicer, rather than a centrifugal type. Grapefruit or apple are the usual juices we employ for the start of the day, changing to vegetable juices for the rest of the day. Orange juice is avoided because of its high sugar content and due to the fact that many people have the problem of hypoglycemia. The usual amount of juices for the day is one liter to be divided into four glasses frequently diluted and sipped throughout the day rather than to be drunk solely at meal times. For specific suggestions as to variations on juices see the books of Paavo Airola and those from the Bircher-Benner Clinic, available through health food stores. Favorites among our group have been a mix of carrot and celery juice and Bieler broth.(18) The latter has the advantage especially for people who have multiple allergies or maladaptive reactions to certain foods, for zucchini is very rarely a culprit. Bear in mind also that the green leaves of vegetables restore a favorable acid-alkaline balance after the combustion of foods more rapidly than anything else, so that a plain juice from green leaves has a unique place in the fasting purification process. Supermarket vegetables, if used, should be washed thoroughly to remove any vestiges of pesticide sprays. Organically grown vegetables are preferred.
The first week of the fast is in every way the hardest, for gradually one after another the symptoms of detoxification become manifest. These are generally related to health problems of the past and make their appearance in reverse order of the time of life when they were originally present. This follows the same law that will be observed when using homeopathic medications. One of the most frequently recurring symptoms is the withdrawal headache of the coffee addict. Other commonly encountered symptoms include extreme fatigue, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, palpitations, nasal mucous, visual disturbances, muscle pains and cramps, diarrhea, flatus, irregularities of the heart and increased body odor. (The latter should never be handled by the use of deodorants as this will block the pores of the skin and drive the toxins back into the body.) Symptoms can be greatly ameliorated by the use of the potassium supplement to which reference has already been made. Nausea can often be handled by the addition of lemon juice to the faster's water, or by the use of homeopathic Nux vomica or Ipecac. If vomiting continues for more than a day, it may on rare occasions be necessary to give intravenous fluids. When there is intolerance to ascorbic acid (Vitamin C), magnesium oxide or bicarbonate of soda may be given along with it. Inasmuch as magnesium deficiency is reported at times, it has been our custom to give magnesium oxide in equal parts with the bicarbonate and ascorbic acid. If, however, this is followed by diarrhea, the amount of magnesium oxide should be decreased. When there is considerable evidence of toxicity, that is to say the liver has a large load of work ahead, to help the individual get back into a state of health the liver flush has frequently been used, as recommended by Harold Stone, the father of polarity therapy. It consists of a mixture of olive oil, lemon and grapefruit juice, and garlic.
Although at Meadowlark we have ample evidence that the psychological benefits of the fast, the attunement to the inner life, are equal in value to the improvement in outward health, I have found scant information in the literature reviewed on the use of psychotherapy in conjunction with the fast. Nor is there scarcely a mention of the bonus of transpersonal experiences which are often accompaniments of the group process that I will describe. I will mention one study done by Wine and Crumpton (l9) that does make a few good points. In their work they divided 37 men into three groups. In group one were placed the men who had a negative attitude in their hospital surroundings, became irritable, demanding and spent much time making accusations. In the second group were those judged as not being successful in life; as might be expected, neither were they particularly successful in fasting. The third group worked together as a unit sharing each others' problems. This was the one group that truly profited from the experience, gaining insights into their reasons for overeating, the realization of how superficial their lives had been and the discovery of their need to find a new way of life.
At Meadowlark we have the advantage of a setting of great natural beauty in the mountain-girded valley of Hemet, California, which is truly a space apart from the noisy structured life of a large city or hospital setting. This is no doubt a factor in making our group therapy more effective than the study just mentioned. There is also the advantage that our group makes no distinction as to who is included; thus those with poor self esteem have the support of the others. The addition of dream analysis not only helps one to discover the real person but it also frequently takes an individual who has never visited the realm into the dormant area of transpersonal reality. Too, our program takes the faster through exercise programming, biofeedback, psychosynthesis, various types of group encounter, and art therapy, often relating to dream experiences (as related in the chapter on dreams). Lastly but by no means least, much stress is placed upon the keeping of a personal journal.
Certainly one of the greatest benefits of the fast is the mental clarity that accompanies it, and another is the opportunity to discover the value of daily meditation. The group experience always adds to every aspect, for it gives support to each member; and the sharing, loving concern between members and staff frequently strengthens the faster's personal image.
Membership in a Meadowlark fasters' group is something that is taken very seriously, assuredly a factor in its success. To enter it is the guest-patient's decision rather than the physician's. No one is accepted for the group who is to be in residence for less than two weeks, and it is made very clear at the start that fasting is a discipline, that certain rules will be strictly adhered to. For instance, daily attendance at group meetings promptly at 7 a.m. is required, and sampling of food from the refrigerator is absolutely forbidden. Violation of either rule is grounds for asking the guest to drop out of the group. There are other, less rigid rules. To those who cannot meet the requirements, and it happens that some guests do ask for a less strenuous regime after a few days' sampling, it is suggested that another, more appropriate time will come when they will feel more emotionally fulfilled and able to undergo the necessary discipline. This strictness has a salutatory effect on those who do succeed, for the accomplishment seems even greater.
Coming Off the Fast
The length of the fast has already been discussed, so we will turn directly to the plan of withdrawal from the fasting state. As a rule of thumb, approximately the same length of time should be given to the withdrawal phase as was spent on the fast. It should be remembered that at the end of the fast, the amount of digestive juices available is limited and the stomach may have considerably shrunk. Thus the initial feedings should be in small amounts at frequent intervals. Breaking this rule and gorging after a fast as some occasionally do, or eating highly refined or spiced foods, can have serious consequences, such as severe abdominal pain, diarrhea and vomiting. Deaths have even been reported from such impulsive behavior.
The longer the fast, the more care is needed in its method of termination. The usual procedure is to break it with fruit or vegetable juices. Meadowlark's routine is one glass of fruit juice for breakfast and two to three of vegetables juices during the remainder of the day. In the case of fasts that have continued longer than a week, the juices should at first be diluted. These are sipped at intervals throughout the day and not gulped down as a substitute for a meal. The juices used have already been described under the discussion of the juice fast. The water intake should also be kept up so that a total daily fluid intake should average thirty milliliters per kilogram (one ounce per two pounds of body weight.) For a one-week fast, I would suggest two to three days of juice; for two weeks, double this. However, in case of obesity, one can stay considerably longer on the juice if it is so desired. From juices the next step is the introduction of a breakfast of fruits or Muesli,(20) and the other two meals of vegetables, largely raw or very lightly cooked. If there is a suspected reaction to foods, this is the time for presumptive food testing as already described. Lastly we would add dairy products and wheat, carefully noting any possible change in pulse rate or other symptoms that might suggest a reaction to either.'