Fasting is the single greatest natural healing therapy. It is nature’s ancient, universal "remedy" for many problems. Animals instinctively fast when ill. When I first discovered fasting, 15 years ago, I felt as if it had saved my life and transformed my illnesses into health. My stagnant energies began flowing, and I became more creative and vitally alive. I still find fasting both a useful personal tool and an important therapy for many medical and life problems.
Of course, most of the problems for which I recommend fasting as treatment are ones that result from overnutrition rather than malnutrition. Dietary abuse problems, more common in the Western world than in Third World countries, generate many of the chronic degenerative diseases that I have written so much about; these include atherosclerosis, hypertension and heart disease, allergies, diabetes, and cancer. I believe that fasting is therapeutic and, more importantly, preventive for many of these conditions and more.
As I use the term here, fasting is the avoidance of solid food and the intake of liquids only (true fasting would be the total avoidance of anything by mouth). The most stringent form of fasting is taking only water; more liberally, fasting includes the use of fresh juices made from fruits and vegetables as well as herbal teas. All of these limited diets generate varying degrees of detoxification—that is, elimination of toxins from the body. Individual experiences with fasting depend on the condition of the body (also mind and attitude). Detoxification might be intense and temporarily increase sickness or might be immediately helpful and uplifting.
Juice fasting is commonly used (rather than water alone) as a mild and effective cleansing plan; this is suggested by myself and other doctors and authors and by many of the European fasting clinics. Fresh juices are easily assimilated and require minimum digestion, while they supply many nutrients and stimulate our body to clear its wastes. Juice fasting is also safer than water fasting, because it supports the body nutritionally while cleansing and probably even produces a better detoxification and quicker recovery.
Fasting (cleansing, detoxification) is one part of the triology of nutrition; balancing and building (toning) are the others. I believe that fasting is the "missing link" in the Western diet. Most people overeat, eat too often, and eat a high-protein, high-fat, rich-food, building and congesting diet more consistently than they need. If we regularly eat a more balanced and well-combined diet, such as my Ideal Diet, we will have less need for fasting and toning plans, although both would still be required at certain intervals throughout the year.
In a sense, detoxification is an important corrective and rejuvenative process in our cycle of nutrition. It is a time when we allow our cells and organs to breathe out, become current, and restore themselves. We do not necessarily need to fast to experience some cleansing, however. Minor shifts in the diet such as including more fluids, more raw foods, and fewer congesting foods will allow for better detoxification; for a carnivore, for example, a vegetarian or macrobiotic diet will be cleansing and purifying. The general process of detoxification is discussed thoroughly in the General Detoxification program; here we focus on fluid fasting—its history, therapeutic use, benefits, contraindications, and, of course, how to do it, along with other aspects of lifestyle that support fasting.
Fasting is a time-proven remedy. Its use goes back many thousands of years, really to the beginning of life forms. As a healing process and spiritual-religious process, it has continued to be more intelligently applied, we hope, in the last several thousand years.
Voluntary abstinence from food has been a tradition in most religions and is clearly a spiritual purification rite. Many religions, including Christianity, Judaism, and the Eastern religions, have encouraged fasting for a variety of reasons, such as penitence, preparation for ceremony, purification, mourning, sacrifice and union with God, and the enhancement of knowledge and powers. From Moses, Elijah, and Daniel to Christ, the Bible is filled with fasters, who employed it to assist their purification and communion with God. Fasts as long as 40 days were employed to cleanse people of sins and the "devil."
The Essenes, authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls, also advocated fasting to purify themselves and commune with God. This was one of their primary healing methods. The Essene Gospel of Peace, transcribed by Edmond Bordeaux Szekely from the third-century Aramaic manuscript, suggests that Satan, his evil spirits, and his plagues will be cast out of our being by fasting and prayer. The Essenes believed that disease came from Satan (they claimed that it took three days without food to starve Satan) and from sins upon our body—the temple, which must be purified for God to reside there. To bring God into our life more completely, we would fast on water and "go to the waters (stream, lake) and find a hollow reed, insert it in our rear ends and flush the evils from our bowels."
For many philosophers, scientists, and physicians, fasting was an essential part of life, health, and the healing process needed to recreate health where there was sickness. Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Galen, Paracelsus, and Hippocrates all used and believed in fasting therapy. Most spiritual teachers also recommend fasting as a useful tool. In a booklet from the 1947 lecture entitled Healing by God’s Unlimited Power, Paramahansa Yogananda suggested that fasting is a way to increase our natural resistance to disease, stating that "Fasting is a natural method of healing. When animals or savages are sick, they fast." He continued, "Most diseases can be cured by judicious fasting. Unless one has a weak heart, regular short fasts have been recommended by the yogis as an excellent health measure." Yogananda referred to an Armenian doctor, Grant Sarkisyan, who had treated many patients successfully with fasting therapy for such disorders as asthma, skin diseases, digestive problems, and early stages of atherosclerosis and hypertension.
Throughout the centuries, many doctors have treated a variety of patients and maladies with fasting, acknowledging that ignorance (of how to live in accordance with nature) may be our greatest disease. Knowledge, not necessarily from books, but our inherent and experienced knowing of how to live according to the natural laws and spiritual truth, leads to the sacred wisdom of life and subsequent good health. Knowing when and how long to fast is part of this knowledge. Through fasting, we can turn our energies inward, where we can use them for healing, clarity, and change.
Physicians with a spiritual orientation tend to be more inclined than others to employ fasting, both personally and medically. Many of my life transitions were acknowledged, stimulated, and supported through fasting; and when I felt blocked or needed creative juice in my writing, fasting would be very useful. In Spiritual Nutrition and the Rainbow Diet, Gabriel Cousens, M.D., a California physician and spiritual teacher, includes an excellent chapter on fasting in which he describes his concepts of fasting and his own 40-day fast. According to Dr. Cousens,
- . . . fasting in a larger context, means to abstain from that which is toxic to mind, body, and soul. A way to understand this is that fasting is the elimination of physical, emotional, and mental toxins from our organism, rather than simply cutting down on or stopping food intake. Fasting for spiritual purposes usually involves some degree of removal of oneself from worldly responsibilities. It can mean complete silence and social isolation during the fast which can be a great revival to those of us who have been putting our energy outward.
From a medical point of view, I believe that fasting is not utilized often enough. We go on vacations from work to relax, recharge, and to gain new perspectives on our life; why not take occasional breaks from food? Or, for that matter, we might consider fasts from phones, cars, computers, talking, or from whatever activity/consumption we feel is excessive. Most people cannot break out of the conditioned pattern of eating three meals daily. Eating is a habit, an addiction. Most of us do not need nearly the amounts (and types) of food we consume. I have discussed allergy-addiction in many sections of this book; in a sense, eating itself is an allergy-addiction. When we stop and let our stomach remain empty, our body goes into an elimination cycle, and most people, especially when toxicity exists, will experience some "withdrawal" symptoms, such as headaches, irritability, or fatigue (only pure hunger is a clear sign of need for food). When they eat again, their withdrawal symptoms subside, and they feel better. This situation is worse when it involves allergic people eating allergenic foods.
I believe that fasting is one of the best overall healing methods because it can be applied to so many conditions and people. Those who are acid, sympathetic, or yang types, who tend to develop congestive symptoms and diseases rather than those of deficiency, do better on fasting than do other types. Some acid conditions, including colds, flus, bronchitis, mucus congestion, and constipation, can lead to headaches, other intestinal problems, skin conditions, and many other ailments. Those who follow a basic, wholesome, and balanced diet such as outlined in this book have less need to fast or detoxify, although on occasion it is a good idea for anyone, provided that they are not undernourished. Most of us living in Western, industrialized nations are mixed types, with both overnutrition and undernutrition. We may take in excessive amounts of potentially toxic nutrients, such as fats and chemicals, and inadequate amounts of many essential vitamins and minerals. Juice fasting supplies some of these needed nutrients and allows the elimination of toxins. Excess mucus and clogging of the eliminative systems constitute the basic process of congestive diseases; deficiency problems result from poor nourishment or ineffective digestion/assimilation.
In the General Detoxification program, a number of symptoms and diseases of toxicity that can be alleviated by detoxification are discussed. Juice fasting is mentioned as part of the treatment plans in many other sections as well. It can be used to detoxify from drugs or whenever we want to embark on a new plan or life transition, provided that there are no contraindications to fasting (discussed later in this section). Fasting is very versatile and generally fairly safe; however, when it is used in the treatment of medical conditions, proper supervision should be employed, including monitoring of physical changes and biochemistry values. Many doctors, clinics, acupuncturists, nutritionists, and chiropractors feel comfortable overseeing people during fasting.
Conditions for which Fasting May Be Beneficial
|flus||coronary artery disease|
|bronchitis ||angina pectoris |
|headaches ||hypertension |
|food allergies||back pains|
|environmental allergies ||mental illness|
|insomnia ||cancer |
|skin conditions ||epilepsy|