Fasting is one of nature’s way of cleansing and regenerating the body. It has been used for thousands of years to help the body rejuvenate and recover from all kinds of health issues. Fasting is also used by many religions as a means of gaining spiritual clarity and discipline.
What is Fasting?
A simple definition of fasting is: “the voluntary abstinence from consuming food, for various periods of time.” At the extreme level, no food or drink is consumed and on the lighter side, certain drinks and foods are consumed.
A water fast is perhaps the most basic but one of the most intense type of fast. This means that you only consume water for a specified period of time. This is recommended for those who are in good health and are experienced in fasting. If you are a beginner and your body is not used to fasting, you can perhaps start with a juice fast, which is less intense than a water fast.
How Long Should a Fast Last?
The length of a fast depends on the purpose of the fast and the health of the person undertaking the fast. The more intense the purpose and the healthier the person, the longer one can fast. For beginners, one or two days should be sufficient. People who are more experienced at fasting can go for longer periods… For a water fast, it is typically recommended that a duration of five days should be adequate and up to seven days with a juice fast (for people experienced with fasting).
Benefits of Fasting
No doubt there are tremendous spiritual benefits to fasting but from a physical perspective, rest is the primary benefit… Yes, specifically rest of the digestive system. Digestion requires a tremendous amount of energy. When you fast, the digestive organs are given some time to rest and recuperate.
Additionally, the body is given time to detoxify during a fast. Many of the foods we eat generate toxins in the body, which most times are not eliminated as quickly as they are ingested. When you fast, it first of all temporarily stops the build-up of toxins from foods. It also gives the body a chance to utilize the energy conserved from digestion, to eliminate toxins and other waste products from the body.
To really enjoy the detoxifying benefits of a fast, it should ideally be done over two to three days. Typically, during day one of a fast, the body burns stored sugar. During day’s two to three, the body begins to burn stored fat, which is used for energy. As fat is burned for fuel, toxins within the body are released into the bloodstream, where it is expelled by the kidneys.
It is important to begin and end a fast properly. Before you actually begin to fast, it is recommended that you gradually decrease the amount of food you consume at least three days before the fast. Try to cut back or avoid heavy foods such as dairy products and meats. The day before the fast begins, you should ideally be consuming easily digested foods, such as salads, fruits and herbal teas.
Make sure you are healthy enough to fast, especially if you plan on fasting for more than a day. If you have any doubts, please consult your doctor. If you have blood sugar problems, such as diabetes, consult your doctor before beginning any fast.
The ending of a fast should be in the reverse order to the beginning of the fast. You should transition back into light foods for a few days after fasting, then gradually into heavier foods. Also, keep drinking lots of water after fasting, as the process of detoxification will continue up to a few days after the fast.
During a fast, it is important to drink enough water (and/ or juice) and get plenty of rest. Exercise and other physical activities should be very light. As your body begins to detoxify during fasting, it is common to experience mild to moderate headaches or nauseas but these should clear up. If they persist and intensify, consult your doctor immediately.
Undoubtedly, fasting has tremendous health benefits but must be managed properly and should to tailored to your particular needs and health status. So check your vitals… check your doctor… and if they permit, start planning your next period of fasting.