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Fasting has been practiced since the Stone Age. During that age, the hunters and gatherers carried out food restrictions at regular intervals. The therapy is also followed as a spiritual practice since many years. The age old method of fasting is highly recommended and has various healing effects on the human body, encouraging the body’s powerful innate ability to heal itself. Though it is not appropriate for everyone, it can be used therapeutically for a variety of conditions or health concerns.
What is Fasting?
Fasting is defined as abstaining from all food and drink other than water for a specific period of time. It is basically done for a religious or therapeutic cause. The intake of food is temporarily stopped and as a result many systems of the body are given a break from digestion work. This helps the body gain energy and release toxic substances. An absolute fasting is an abstinence from food and drinks for a definite period. In water fasting, one completely avoids water along with the food but this is not advisable for a person having several medical issues. Water fasting makes sure that it cleanses the body on a deep, cellular level. Juice fasting is considered better for those on medications but before carrying out both, one should always get an advice by a well informed practitioner.
Fasting as a therapy
Therapeutic fasting is the process of consuming pure water while ensuring complete physical and emotional rest. It is beneficial for conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, mental health problems, skin disease, obesity, respiratory diseases, gastrointestinal issues, joint problems and various allergies. The therapy is widely recommended as it has the innate ability to make the body respond and heal. The intermittent fasting is considered effective as people find the diet intake better than calorie restriction approach. The intermittent fasting proves useful in weight loss and cardio protection. While the process of fasting therapy gives good results, one should always consult a trained doctor and follow an appropriate dietary and lifestyle culture as advised.
Benefits of Fasting Therapy
- Detoxification – Toxins are stored in Adipose or fat tissue. During fast, this tissue releases the toxins and sends it to the liver. The liver’s phase I and II detoxification system utilizes these toxins and processes them.
- Enhanced Immune function – Therapeutic fasting enhances immune system and prepares the body’s mechanism to fight against foreign particles such as bacteria and viruses etc. One undertakes fasting post cold or flu as it proves beneficial for healing the same. While suffering from stomach disorders, it is advised to stay away from food. Fasting is more beneficial than the medicine while ailing with stomach problems. It cures the ailment and provides very good relief.
- Weight loss – Weight loss is the one area that has gained significant interest while opting for fasting therapy. Obesity has been significantly higher these days due to unhealthy lifestyle and improper diets. Fasting plays a major role and the person loses a dramatic amount of weight during the process.
- Other benefits – Many health practitioners have documented the beneficial results that fasting promises to offer. Visible improvements have been seen with the following conditions:
- Skin conditions
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- High cholesterol
- Digestive disturbances
- Rheumatoid arthritis
Studies/Research on The Efficacy
- In a recent major clinical trial conducted in Japan, fasting therapy proved 87% effective in curing or ameliorating a wide variety of psychosomatic and mental diseases.
- Between 2008 and 2013 there were a number of research studies that suggested fasting can have significant beneficial effects with people trying to beat cancer by halting cancer progression, improving survival, reducing the side-effects of drugs and radiotherapy and even causing tumors to disappear.
- A 1984 a study stated that workers in Taiwan who had severe chemical poisoning have shown dramatic improvement after a ten-day fast.
- In Russia and Japan, studies have demonstrated fasting to be an effective treatment for mental illness.
How can you get started with the therapy?
Fasts should be entered and exited with proper care.
- Diet should be slowly lightened over a few days.
- Foods such as meats and dairy products should be avoided for a couple of days.
- The day prior to the fast, easily digested foods like soup, fruits and vegetable salads should be consumed.
- Herbal tea and water should be taken during the fast.
- Fasts should be ended slowly the same way as they were entered.
- One should switch to heavy foods from light ones.
- After a few days, the diet should include wholesome foods.
- One should not overeat post fasting as it may cause more disorders in the system.
Precautions, Contraindications and Risks
Fasting is not suitable for everyone and in some cases could prove to be harmful.
- If one undergoes the first fast longer than three days, they should seek medical supervision.
- Anyone who has a pre-existing medical history should seek medical support during fasting.
- Medications should not be ignored and should be taken from time to time.
- One should check their lifestyle and reduce any work pressure and stress, get plenty of rest and indulge in light exercises such as walking and gentle stretching.
- Intermittent fasting vs daily calorie restriction for type 2 diabetes prevention: a review of human findings. Barnosky AR, Hoddy KK, Unterman TG, Varady KA. Transl Res. 2014 Oct;164(4):302-311. doi: 10.1016/j.trsl.2014.05.013. Epub 2014 Jun 12. Review. PMID: 24993615
- Fasting therapy for treating and preventing disease – current state of evidence. Michalsen A, Li C. Forsch Komplementmed. 2013;20(6):444-53. doi: 10.1159/000357765. Epub 2013 Dec 16. PMID:24434759
- Initial cost of care results in medically supervised water-only fasting for treating high blood pressure and diabetes. Goldhamer AC. J Altern Complement Med. 2002 Dec;8(6):696-7. No abstract available. PMID:12614522
- Fasting therapy for psychosomatic diseases with special reference to its indication and therapeutic mechanism. Suzuki J, Yamauchi Y, Horikawa M, Yamagata S. Tohoku J Exp Med. 1976;118 Suppl:245-59. PMID:964029