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Fasting

fasting.jpgHave you ever noticed that little children and sick animals tend to shun food when they are sick?  There is a reason for this.  In most acute illness the body is congested and when the body is congested it does little good to put more food into it. It just clogs the system more.

Think of it this way.  Suppose the drain on your kitchen sink got plugged up and you were unable to wash dishes.  You wouldn’t continue to make more meals and dirty more dishes until you’d gotten the drain unplugged, right?  Well, when you are sick, it’s often a sign that one or more of the “drains” in your body are clogged.  If you take time to unclog the drain before you resume eating, your food will digest better and the body will metabolize it more efficiently.

Okay, maybe you’re not into the kitchen stuff, so here’s another analogy for those of you who are more mechanically inclined.  Think of what happens to a car when the air filter is dirty, the oil needs to be changed and the carburetor and spark plugs are getting fouled.  The car no longer burns fuel efficiently, which reduces performance. It also increases the amount of “gunk” being generated by the engine, which causes the engine to get even more clogged up.  If one takes the time to clean the carburetor, change the oil and replace the spark plugs and filters, the engine will burn cleaner and more efficiently.

Just like an automotive engine or our household plumbing, the body needs to be kept clean.  If the body gets congested  it needs a nutritional “lube, oil and filter service” or an herbal “drain opener” to clean it out so that it can run efficiently again.

Of course, I’m not suggesting that cleansing is the only thing we need to keep the body healthy.  Obviously, the body also needs exercise, rest, and good nutrition.  But, the body isn’t going to be able to utilize good nutrition properly if it’s congested, and you won’t feel like exercising when your metabolic “engine” isn’t running efficiently.  You probably won’t sleep when the body’s drains are plugged, either. So, in most cases, if you want to improve your health, a good place to start is by doing a cleanse.

Fasting is the Most Basic of All Cleanses

The most basic of all cleanses is a fast.  In fact, fasting is one of the oldest and most effective natural healing techniques.  As I mentioned at the beginning of this chapter, it’s also instinctive, since small children and animals don’t eat when they don’t feel well.

Some of us have been taught to “eat to keep up your strength” when we’re sick, but this is bad advice.  As I understand it, Hippocrates, the ancient Greek physician responsible for the famous Hippocratic Oath, is the one who originated the famous saying, “Feed a cold and starve a fever.”  Even though everyone has heard this sage wisdom, practically nobody understands what it means.  His advice becomes clearer if you render it as “if you feed a cold, you will wind up having to starve a fever.”  In other words, it’s not wise to feed a cold or a fever.  Both need to be “starved” out with fasting.

Many modern Western herbalists and naturopaths have discovered for ourselves the incredible value of “starving” colds, flu, fevers and other acute ailments.  So, next time you have any acute illness, stop eating and do some cleansing!!  Putting food into the body when you’re ill is like running more water into a sink with a plugged drain—it’s just going to make the problem worse.

Of course, while water is not likely to help a plugged drain, it’s exactly what the body needs when it’s clogged.  The old adage, “go to bed, rest and drink plenty of fluids,” is probably the best advice ever written as basic therapy for acute illness.  Every eliminative channel of the body needs water to function properly and simply resting and flushing the system with liquids will help you get over most colds, flu’s, and other minor ailments faster than an OTC (over-the-counter) medication at your local drugstore or supermarket.

Fasting and Chronic Illness

fasting-nature.jpegDetoxifying in chronic illness isn’t much different, it just takes longer.  Also, the body has likely burned up a lot of its nutritional reserves in chronic illness, so it doesn’t have what it needs to power the detoxification process.  That’s why one should start slowly and work gradually with chronic illness, even when making dietary changes. Arnold Ehret, a major proponent of fasting and author of The Mucusless Diet Healing System, said that most people say, “Here is good food, eat it.”  He says, “Here is good food, be careful or it will make you feel sick.” 

I experienced this first hand when I was trying to change my diet.  I started eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, avoided all junk food, and used only whole grains.  Within a few days my sinuses were draining copiously, and I remember thinking, “Why is all this good food making me sick?”

It wasn’t.  It was simply feeding a lot of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients to my starving body, which was allowing my body to initiate some major detoxification.  Later, after I learned how to cleanse my body I was able to eat good food without having these reactions.  In fact, after doing a three month colon cleanse I was able to eat nothing but cherries for three days and experienced no ill effects.  I learned from this that cherries and other fresh fruits can’t give you diarrhea, but they will “clean you out” if you are toxic.

So, when you’re suffering from any kind of chronic illness, it will help to do an herbal cleanse before trying any kind of fasting.  Still, a 24-hour fast once per month is a good basic health-building practice.  Periodically, longer fasts can be utilized.  For most people, a three day fast is sufficient, but people have fasted for as long as 40 days. I’ve done a water fast for five days, but I’m not recommending long fasts like that for health purposes, here.  The 24 hour fast once a month while drinking plenty of water is best for most people.

Benefits of Fasting

Periodic fasting is important, even in chronic illness, because it allows the digestive system to rest and clear itself.  It also eliminates allergens from the diet, which may results in the elimination of allergy-induced health symptoms.  In fact, fasting can help you identify allergens because of the reactions you’ll have in your body when you consume these foods again after a fast.  A fast can have numerous health benefits, including reduction of pain, relief from digestive upset, clearer thought processes, weight loss, and general health improvement.

People who are hypoglycemic, that is, they suffer from low blood sugar, have a hard time fasting.  If you’re one of these people, it’s probably better to do a juice fast.  It’s also better to do a juice fast if you’re going to fast for more than 24 hours.  A juice fast involves abstaining from solid food, and drinking some kind of fresh fruit or vegetable juice whenever you feel hungry.  Plenty of water should also be consumed while on a juice fast.

I’ve done many juice fasts, usually for a period of one to three days.  I also fast on water or juice for short periods 8-24 hours when I’m feeling congested, bloated, constipated, and “foggy” in the head.  As soon as the body clears itself, these symptoms disappear and I’m able to go back to eating regular food again. 

Experiences with Juice Fasting

fruit-juice-fast.jpgI’ve also successfully used juice fasting with family and friends.  My mother cured herself of rheumatoid arthritis using juice fasting, based on the recommendations of nutritionist Paavo Airola in his book, There is a Cure for Arthritis.  She was hit with an attack of this disease that left one of her arms virtually paralyzed.  It was so bad she was wearing a sling to hold her arm. 

After I gave my mother Dr. Airola’s book, she bought a juicer and started doing regular juice fasts.  In combination with some colon cleansing and some anti-inflammatory herbal remedies like Joint Support, yucca and Devil’s claw, my mother’s arthritis cleared up within a month.  The famous herbalist Dr. John Christopher also described this type of juice fast cleansing in his booklet, Dr. Chrisopher’s Three-Day Cleansing Program.

I also helped a close friend of mine overcome diabetes by doing juice fasting with vegetable juices to stabilize her blood sugar levels.  She was so “whacked out” from the blood sugar imbalances that she was having a hard time thinking straight.  Since she was a neighbor, I had her come to my house every day and we made the juices from vegetables like carrots, beets and celery and I sent her home with that days supply.  In combination with some blood sugar balancing herbs like licorice and goldenseal, she was able to get completely off her blood sugar medication and cured herself of Type II diabetes.

These are just a few examples from my own person experience.  There are many books out there which tell similar stories of how people have used fasting and juice fasting to help themselves heal from arthritis, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, and even cancer. 

How to do Juice Fasting

lemon-juice-fast.jpegWhen juice fasting, it’s important that one have a supply of fresh, raw juice.  This means one will either need to own a juicer, or have a source to buy fresh, unpasteurized juice.  It is best to stick to with one type of juice for the duration of the fast.  Raw unfiltered apple juice is a good choice because it has a mild laxative action.  However, if one has blood sugar issues it’s not the best choice—vegetable juices are better.

One of the easiest (and most effective) juice fasts is to fast using lemon water flavored with real maple syrup.  I prefer grade B maple syrup when I can find it because it is darker and has a higher mineral content than grade A maple syrup, which is more sugary.  However, I’ve used both.  You can make the lemon drink anyway you want, but I like to use about 4 lemons in a half gallon of water and then sweeten with maple syrup to taste.  This is drunk throughout the day.

Lemon is great because it helps both the liver and the kidneys flush toxins.  It is particularly helpful for flushing waste acids from the body.  If you’re interested in learning more about this cleanse, the book, The Master Cleanser, by Stanley Burroughs explains how to do this type of juice fasting.

In my most recent experiences with this program, I’ve been adding Thai-Go to the lemon water.  This makes a very tasty drink, and adds a lot of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant power to the drink.  Noni juice would be another option.

If you find that fasting causes headaches, dizziness, weakness, extreme hunger, etc., you may need to take something to help balance out your blood sugar while fasting.  Licorice root is very good for this.  Super Algae, spirulina or bee pollen are other good choices.

Fasting and Cleansing

Of course, you don’t need to fast in order to do a cleanse, but there are some advantages to combining fasting with cleansing.  First of all, it accelerates the detoxification process, making any herbal cleansing program more effective.  This is because you aren’t taking any food allergens or additives into the body, so all your body’s detoxification mechanisms are concentrating their efforts on getting rid of old toxins.

Second, because you aren’t taking any food allergens or toxins into the body you get to experience what it feels like to be free of these substances which are dragging down your energy.  This makes it easier to identify foods that are taking away from your health and avoid them.  Most people have no idea what it feels like to be truly healthy because their bodies are so burdened with toxins that they think that state is “normal.”

Of course, if you can’t fast, you can simply try simply “fasting” from something that you know isn’t good for you for a few days.  For example, I sometimes ask clients if they can “fast” from coffee or sugar or dairy products for a week.  This allows the system to clear itself of the substance and allows them to see how it feels not to be consuming it.  Often when the start consuming the offending substance, they immediately notice a decline in their health.

In conclusion, there are many ways to use fasting to cleanse the body and improve health. Best of all, fasting doesn’t cost you a dime.  In fact, you get to save money and improve your health at the same time!   Of course, fasting will work even better if we also do things to help open up specific channels of elimination and detoxification in the body.