What is fasting and can it be beneficial? Many of us know it as a protocol the doctor prescribes before blood testing. For others, it may mean giving up a favorite food for a period of time or not eating food at certain times of the day or year out of respect for various religious holidays. Strictly speaking, fasting is the voluntary absence of food. Although the idea of missing one meal may put most of us in a state of misery, fasting does have many benefits for the body.
Give your body a rest
We take vacations, we have weekends off from work, we rest our tired bodies through sleep, and we “take a break” to rejuvenate from stress. One thing though that we hardly ever do, is take a break from food for longer lengths of time. Our digestive system is a very hard-working and busy system which requires high amounts of energy; in fact, the digestive system can even drain energy needed for healing, repair and general maintenance of the body. Therefore, it makes sense to give our digestive system a vacation once in awhile.
An ancient tradition
The art of fasting is an ancient tradition practiced for thousands of years for curing illness of all kinds, rejuvenation, clarity and decision making, cleansing and strengthening. Have you noticed that when we are sick, our appetite diminishes? Similarly, when animals are ill, they lie down and do not eat or drink. Our innate wisdom does this so we can fight off germs and heal quickly. Energy goes towards healing our bodies instead of digesting food. This inherent clue has led our bodies towards restoring and maintaining health.
Fasting also allows for our bodies enzyme systems to focus on detoxifying and breaking down toxins in the body quickly and efficiently without the job of heavy food digestion. During fasts, toxins are being circulated in the body in order for our organs to de arm them. Therefore, it is not always wise to detoxify quickly because a flood of toxins being released at once can cause serious distress to the body that can do more harm than good.
Effective ways to fast
If you have never fasted before, and would like to experience a fast, please have no fear. Fasting should be gentle and nurturing and can range from a 12-16 hour window overnight, a one day fast or to longer durations such as a week. More rigorous fasts such as a water-only fast should only be done by those who have experience with fasting and detoxification. A gentle fast is great way to start – without even having to go hungry. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- eating a raw food diet of fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts
- eating a “mono” diet of one food (for example a fruit or rice gruel)
- consuming mineral-rich bone broth and vegetable broths
- drinking green smoothies
- drinking only fresh pressed vegetables/fruit juices
- eating salads exclusively
- eating kichadi (a traditional Indian rice/vegetable dish full of healing herbs and spices)
- having an early dinner and refrain from food for a 16 hour period before eating breakfast
Fasting may seem overwhelming or daunting, but if you simply choose one day per week and practice any of the above tips, you will get used to this healing practice. When fasting, always remember to listen to your body, letting it decide when and how long fasting should last. For those who still have doubts, seeing a Naturopathic Doctor or Holistic Nutritionist, they can help ease your hesitation and motivate you to get started.
Fasting is a message to your body that you are embarking on a new beginning, flushing out the old and bringing in the new. Make a commitment for change! Fasting is the perfect way to introduce new healthy habits and foods into your life. It can give you that jump-start, boost clarity, and clear your body towards shifting things in a positive direction.
It’s great to give your digestive system a break once in awhile. Let us know how you do.