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 Fasting: Fasting for Health and as an Anti-Aging Strategy 

"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.
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     About The Author
    Leon Chaitow ND, DO, MROA practicing naturopath, osteopath, and acupuncturist in the United Kingdom, with over forty years clinical experience, Chaitow is Editor-in-Chief, of the ...more
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