By Loren Lockman
If you’re suffering from health challenges of any kind, you may want to take a look at the ancient, and amazing practice of fasting. Not well understood by many today, fasting has been used for time immemorial to address problems of all kinds.
Virtually all animals employ fasting in times of sickness or injury.
You may have seen a cat or a dog (or any other animal) lie down and refuse food when ill. Though people often believe that this is a “bad” thing and that the animal will be harmed by its stubborn refusal to eat, in fact, the animal is simply following its instincts and nature’s dictates and giving its body the optimal conditions in which to deal with virtually any problem.
Rumi, the great 11th century poet and mystic extolled the virtues of fasting. Pythagoras understood the impact that a clean body has on the brain, and insisted that all prospective students fast for six weeks before he would tutor them.
After Gandhi was assassinated at 77, his doctors commented that his organs looked like those of a 35 year old. Their only explanation was the extensive fasting he had done.
Plutarch said, “Instead of medicine, fast for a day.” This remains excellent advice. At the first sign of a cold or flu, or any other acute illness, if you will take to bed and cease eating, your body will have the opportunity to cleanse and heal itself much more quickly.
The benefits that can accrue to us via fasting are numerous and varied. Fasting is not magic, though it often seems so. It is simply nature’s way of allowing the organism the best possible conditions in which to cleanse and heal itself.
Heart disease affects 50% of all Americans. Last year, a peer-reviewed study published in a medical journal proved that fasting is three times as effective as hypertension medications at reducing high blood pressure.
It’s helpful to understand that virtually all symptoms that we experience are evidence that the body is attempting to heal itself. Sinus congestion, fever, swelling, even pain, are created by the body on purpose, and are nothing more than evidence that the body is working to address some problem and restore balance, or homeostasis. When the body is given an opportunity to cleanse and heal, all manner of symptoms may arise, and they often do.
Sometimes, those who don’t understand this will believe that the fast has made them sick. In fact, by ceasing to squander the body’s energy on unnecessary activities (including, temporarily, eating!), much more energy is available to cleanse and heal. The appearance of symptoms simply indicates that these processes have begun.
It is always the body that heals itself. Remedies of all kinds generally treat symptoms, not causes, and it is only by eliminating the cause of a problem that we can expect to solve the problem.
Taking a decongestant may relieve the discomfort, but it does nothing to eliminate the actual problem, which was a toxic substance in the body. With its means of elimination paralyzed by the drug, the body is forced to store these toxins, furthering the body’s build-up of them, and eventually creating chronic disease.
If you’ve been eating a Standard American Diet for 20, 30, 40 years or more, your body probably has a lot of stored debris. Additionally, as the body becomes overburdened with the toxins brought in from outside (exogenous) sources from our diet, water, and the environment, it’s also becoming overburdened with toxins created inside the body (endogenous). These endogenous toxins are the waste products of cellular metabolism. When a system is heavily burdened, it’s unable to process and eliminate the cellular wastes quickly enough, and these wastes build up.
Many years ago, French scientist Alexis Carrel won the Nobel prize for keeping the cells of a chicken heart alive for 32 years. He accomplished this by keeping the cells’ fluid bath clean, changing it twice a day. In fact, the cells only died when a research assistant neglected to change their bath one day.
Like the chicken heart cells, we can improve our health and extend our life by providing our internal organs with a clean environment. Fasting is the most effective and efficient way to allow the body to cleanse itself of all wastes, both exogenous and endogenous.
Fasting means different things to different people. I use the textbook definition: “the complete abstinence from all nutrients.” Though people talk about “juice fasting” or “fruit fasting,” these terms are misnomers. Because fruit and vegetable juices contain nutrients, taking only juices is more appropriately termed a “juice diet.” The same is true for long monodiets like the melon or grape diet.
Though many believe that juices and certain foods are “cleansing,” this isn’t true. Rather, simple diets of juices or water-rich fruits allow the body a much greater chance to cleanse itself than it has while eating a typical diet. Though the body detoxifies more than usual while consuming a lighter diet, this is very different than what happens while truly fasting.
There are beneficial physiological changes that occur in the complete absence of nutrients. The body goes through a series of steps to meet its constant glucose needs, looking first to the digestive tract, next to glycogen stores in the liver, then to muscle tissue to create glucose, and finally, to adipose tissue. This last step doesn’t happen if there are any nutrients coming in.
This is important because we retain toxins primarily in the adipose tissue – our long-term fat stores. With nutrients coming in, the body never switches to burning adipose tissue as a primary source of fuel. The result of this is that so-called “juice fasts” are generally much easier on the body because there is much less detoxification going on.
Though one can expect to experience some discomfort while fasting, the degree varies greatly and depends on the specific conditions of the faster. Most people enjoy the process and find it relatively painless.
There are some typical symptoms that one may expect to experience. As mentioned earlier, fasting is the most effective way to treat high blood pressure. Within days of beginning a fast, most people will see their blood pressure begin to drop. In cases where there is a lot of arterial plaque, blood pressure may go up first, as these fatty deposits are broken down and released into the bloodstream, thickening the blood.
There is no cause for concern in either case. However, when fasting, you are very likely to experience dizziness upon standing up quickly, and this can be dangerous if you pass out and hurt yourself when you fall. Take the precaution of sitting up first when getting up from a lying position, rise slowly, and brace yourself if possible.
Aches and pains, cold and flu symptoms, congestion, headache, and many other symptoms may also arise. One thing that often happens is that people find their internal organs. Many people are not really aware of their internal organs, and don’t know where they are. When fasting, it is not unusual to feel some aches in these organs, especially the liver and kidneys, which are the primary organs of detoxification. They will likely be working much harder than usual, and you may feel some pain there as a result.
It is also not unusual to experience aches and pains in old injuries. Injuries that healed improperly or incompletely tend to improve while fasting. When given a chance, the body goes back in and begins the work of completing these repairs. They may hurt while this is going on. This is the body’s way of reminding us to stay off them while they are healing.
Over the last 17 years, I’ve supervised people with almost every condition imaginable through fasts ranging from a few days to nearly 10 weeks. The results have been almost uniformly very positive. This should not surprise us though – the human body is incredibly resilient, and given the opportunity and ideal conditions, is almost always capable of healing itself.
How long your fast should be depends on your conditions. The average person has a six to eight week reserve of nutrients, and can safely fast that long, if she does it properly. Few people ever need to fast that long, though most would undoubtedly benefit from it.
Fasting properly means following the natural model: the sick animal lies still throughout the fast. Fasting means complete physiological rest, so this is the ideal way. I encourage my clients to spend as much time as possible resting comfortably with their eyes closed. Attempting to fast while continuing one’s normal routine is a recipe for disaster, as the body becomes quickly exhausted.
If fasting is a safe and natural process, why would anyone need supervision? No one does. However, many people find that they fare much better when in the proper supportive environment, and under experienced supervision.
There are some contraindications for fasting, though they are few and far between. I believe that almost everyone can safely fast, and will benefit greatly from doing so. Some exceptions to this are women who are pregnant or nursing, anyone who is emaciated for any reason, or anyone with extreme nutritional deficiencies.
Fasting in pregnancy or lactation results in an overload of toxins to the baby. Because fasting means that the body is living on nutrient reserves, those who are emaciated for any reason literally cannot fast. They can refrain from eating, but rather than fasting, they will be starving. In the first case, the body is being fed on non-essential reserve tissue. In the second case, when no reserves are present, the body will consume vital tissue. The body is intelligent enough to distinguish between the two.
The emotional component to this process is also very important. Fasting is an opportunity to clear out long-suppressed emotional “baggage.” The results of this part of the process can be amazing, and coupled with the rejuvenative physical effects, make fasting a very powerful tool.
If you’re having any trouble sticking to your chosen raw diet, you will also benefit from fasting. When you eliminate all of the toxins from your system, you will cease to crave any of the non-foods that still have a hold on you.
If you’re not already experiencing perfect health, you may want to investigate fasting. You’ll want to examine all of your diet and lifestyle choices to achieve this lofty goal, and fasting is a good way to start.
Loren Lockman directs the Tanglewood Wellness Center in Panama, where he supervises fasts, counsels clients one-on-one and teaches the principles of natural law. Loren can be reached by going to: http://www.TanglewoodWellnessCenter.com.
We are interviewing Loren during the 21 DAY DETOX CLEANSE AND FORUM this Sept 15 8pm EST. Please stay tuned.
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