"Normally, I taper medication as the patient adopts a healthy diet and postpone the fast until it is safe to discontinue most medication.......If patients cannot reduce their dependency on such agents [toxic drugs which combined with fasting can cause toxic insult to the kidneys] through dietary and nutritional management prior to the fast, they are not suitable candidates for a fast."(10)
Among the forms of prescription medication which indicate that fasting should be avoided would be the current use of antidepressants, non-steroidal-anti-inflammatory drugs, aspirin, oral hypoglycaemic drugs, anti-coagulant drugs, chemotherapeutic drugs, anti-hypertensive medication.
Once these have been safely stopped, with a physicians approval, fasting can commence, however if the fast is to last for more than 48 hours supervision is suggested.
Anyone habitually using 'social' drugs (alcohol, tobacco, street drugs etc) should be very carefully detoxified (as well as stopping the habit) before any long-term fasting is considered. All signs of withdrawal should be passed before fasting is used, and careful monitoring of their condition should be continued throughout long-fasts. Short fasts, interspersed with other detoxification method are preferable.
No-one who is afraid of the idea of fasting should be asked to do so. There are gentler ways, including mono-diets which can start the process.
Common Side-effects of Fasting
Awareness of the likely side-effects of fasting is important for both the person undertaking the fast and anyone supervising or looking after them. Such 'side-effects' are usually relatively mild and are rarely serious, and include:
Headaches (usually lasting less than a day - and common at the start of a fast). Cold compresses, warm foot baths and neck massage should help.
Insomnia is not uncommon at the start of a fast. A 'neutral bath' is often helpful as are the use of essential oils.
Nausea and a coated tongue are usual on a fast. Scraping the tongue and use of a herbal mouth-wash can help reduce these symptoms. Gentle acupressure on the 'anti-nausea' point (P6) on the wrist should help minimise this symptom.
Dizziness, lightheadedness and palpitations are common early symptoms and highlight the need for rest and for no driving or use of machinery requiring strength or concentration during a fast. Relaxation and slow deep breathing exercises are suggested to assist in the normalisation of these transient symptoms.
Increased body odour, skin rashes and dry skin may appear during a fast. Regular warm but not hot showers or aromatherapy baths using appropriate oils are suggested. All such symptoms decrease as regular short fasts are undertaken.
Increased discharge from mucous membranes (nasal, vaginal etc) often occurs and this should be allowed to happen unchecked.
Aching limbs and muscles may occur and can be minimised by use of aromatherapy oils in a neutral bath, massage and doing light stretching exercises.
It is normal to feel colder than usual during a fast so the individual should dress more warmly than usual and add an extra blanket to the bed.
As a rule hunger vanishes after the first day of a fast.
Bed-rest is not essential or even desirable unless the physical condition demands it. Fresh air and a little gentle exercise are helpful but excessive exercising (aerobic) and sunbathing should be avoided to conserve energy and prevent dehydration.