Adventures in Therapeutic Fasting ©

by Lonny J. Brown

Although nowadays the common response to illness is usually to "take something," it may be advisable to try the opposite. Therapeutic fasting is an excellent self-healing practice. It induces metabolic changes that are inherently cleansing and repairing. The organs empty and rest, conserving energy, promoting the elimination of waste and accumulated toxins, and making cell regeneration much more efficient. 

Overeating, lack of fiber, bad food, and not enough exercise result in poor assimilation of nutrients, cell starvation, and an accumulation of bacteria that can eventually cause auto-toxemia, a slow self-poisoning. Naturopaths and internal hygienists contend that these conditions of systemic pollution are the origin of many common ailments. After all, we are not nourished by what we swallow, but what we assimilate. "Losing your appetite" when sick may be nature's call to fast. 

Fasting is mankind's most ancient healing strategy. Many traditional cultures, including Oriental, east Indian, and Native American, have long regarded it a dependable curative and revitalizing personal health measure. Hippocrates prescribed fasting, as did Galen and Paracelsus, and it was practiced by Plato, Socrates, Pythagoras, and Mahatma Gandhi. In modern Europe, reputable clinics that support therapeutic fasting are quite common. In Sweden it's practically a national sport. 

Proponents of fasting offer thousands of testimonials from recovered asthmatics, arthritics, insomniacs, and ex-sufferers of migraines, skin and digestive disorders, and dozens of other ailments. They maintain that - with the exception of serious conditions like tuberculosis, ulcers, diabetes, hypoglycemia, blood, liver, kidney and heart diseases- systematic voluntary abstention from eating is almost always a healthy first response to illness. Dr. Bernard Jensen, author of "Tissue Cleansing Through Bowel Management" has supervised over 50,000 fasts at his center in Escondido, CA. 


There are two kinds of fasting. The "water fast" induces rapid internal purification, but shocks the system. Dr. Rudolph Ballentine, MD., author of "Diet & Nutrition-- A Holistic Approach," says that the average American lacks the proper reserve nutrients necessary for a healthy water fast. 

The safer and more gradual "juice fast" uses natural vegetable and fruit juices to provide essential vitamins to sustain metabolism, and minerals which neutralize released toxins and remove pollutants. 

Although abstaining from food is often not as difficult as the novice may imagine, it is useful to plan ahead. Fasting is not recommended at times of high stress. During the first two days, when you may feel weak and out of sorts, it's nice to be able to be alone, or with supportive loved ones, and to rest when you feel like it. 

One should begin to taper off in quantity and complexity of diet several days before all solid food is eliminated. While fasting, at least two quarts of liquid per day should be consumed to internally wash the system. Colonic irrigation also augments the cleansing process. 

The liquids consumed should contain no proteins or fats, so that the body will begin to break down its own excess deposits. Juices can be made from carrots, cucumbers, celery, beets, greens, peppers, and berries, as well as most fruits. Cabbage juice is high in enzymes and vitamins. The liquids should be organic and as fresh as possible. Herbal teas and clear broths are also suitable. 

Certain natural substances have specific healing effects while fasting: Psyllium seeds are a natural laxative; Chlorophyll, lemon juice, and beet tablets are liver cleansers; Bentonite absorbs poisons; Potato water is high in vitamin C; And garlic kills bacteria. 


One predictable symptom of food-withdrawal is mild depression. Unfulfilled attachments to sugar, coffee, alcohol, and chocolate may manifest as emotional mood swings. But invariably, initial difficulties are replaced by a satisfied feeling of accomplishment. Paradoxically, the longer you fast, the less hungry you feel. The mild euphoria often reported by fasters around the third day may be traced to the same neurochemical changes that athletes undergo when getting their "second wind," as stimulating brain endorphins and peptides are released. 

Regular moderate exercise during the fast benefits circulation and elimination. Yoga, breathing exercises and swimming are excellent adjunct activities. The value of fresh air, pure water, and sunlight during this purification process cannot be over-emphasized. Since the skin is the single largest organ of elimination, dry brush massage and warm baths are also therapeutic. 

The duration of a fast depends on one's medical condition, body weight, lifestyle, reactions, and other individual factors. The average fasts at most health spas in Europe last between ten and twenty days. For fasts over two weeks experienced supervision is recommended. In many cases, fasts are repeated in cycles, interspersed with periods of taking light, natural foods, almost exclusively vegetarian. 

Breaking the fast is a critical phase. Because the system has been at rest, and the organs have shrunk, and because humans can be impetuous, the first few days after a fast should be conducted carefully. Often, taking only the appropriate amounts of food calls for more self-control than not eating at all. Getting "back to normal" too soon can tax your system and do more damage than if you had never fasted. It's best to gradually reintroduce small amounts of fresh fruit and vegetables over the course of a few days. Chew thoroughly. 

Fasting is like eating well, and all positive self-care measures: You'll never know the benefits 'till you try it, and nobody else can do it for you! Good Luck.