Fasting is the most radical, and often most thorough, method of detoxification. It’s tradition runs long. Religions, from Christian to Buddhism and Islam to Judaism, have embraced some form of fasting, as a practice to cleanse the individual, mind, body and soul.
Physiologically, fasting creates an array of biochemical events which, when undertaken safely, can lead to improved levels of health and vitality. It is not appropriate for diabetics, pregnant women, people who have experienced chemotherapy or heavy toxin exposure, have eating disorders or mental illness to undertake a fast, unless under supervision from a trained health practitioner. Indeed, it is worthwhile getting advice before undertaking a fast, no matter who you are. I know this from personal, as well as professional, experience.
Unprepared water fast
My first experience of fasting was as a first year Naturopathic student. Inspired by the writings of the Nature Cure doctors and supremely confident of my body’s ability, I was desperate to experience a fast. I was fresh out of the city, a smoker, wine lover, sweet tooth and caffeine fueled stress pot. After consulting a qualified naturopath, who suggested an array of gentler cleansing methods and supports, I bull-headedly decide to plunge headfirst into a 3-day water fast.
With only water and a tiny herbal tincture by my side, I vividly recall the second day of fasting, in bed, nauseous, feeling like my head was going to explode and vomiting up every sip of water I took.
I thought I was dying.
- The body doesn’t adapt to extreme approaches
- Water fasting is extreme.
- Remove caffeine, alcohol, sugar, tobacco, preservatives and additives from your diet one by one, over a week or more.
- Accept support and advise from experienced people, it’s best not to go in alone.
Poor breaking of the fast
The next fasting experience was with a group of budding naturopaths. We camped on a peninsula surrounded by fresh, powerful ocean and fasted on herbal teas, vegetable broths, water and sunlight. We did skin brushing, sand scrubs, swims, practiced yoga, had deep understanding conversations and rested. We had a wonderful, mutually supportive time, with only half a day mired by the detox headache. We all left feeling liberated, vital and strong. To celebrate our accomplishments, however, we feasted on a huge cooked dinner followed honey coated macadamia and chocolate. This quickly shifted our elated vitality levels down numerous notches.
- The method of breaking the fast is as important as the fasting itself.
- Slowly reintroduce foods. Follow your true cravings, maybe fruit, maybe vegetables, but in any case a small portion of raw, organic wholefood, eaten slowly and mindfully.
- Be in a natural environment as much as possible. Allow yourself to gently experience natural forces of earth, wind, sun and water and space. The energy of the natural world will re-energize you.
Unsuitable fasting practices
With such a great first experience together, we set out to fast again, this time broadening our experience by embracing an Ayruvedic fasting technique from the pancha karma tradition. The idea was to keep our bowels moving, so as to prevent the detox headache and other symptoms. The technique consisted of drinking a quarter of cup of castor oil then eating a spoonful of watery lentil dhal, three times a day. Certainly, our bowels moved. In fact, we spent a good proportion of our time at the camp long drops, conversing from our respective cubicles. The end of the fast found us feeling exhausted and drained from diarrhoea and although rested, not bounding in vitality.
- Have a fast tailored to meet your individual temperament, physical and mental condition and the season to enhance success.
Keeping the bowels moving
The next experience of my fasting exploration was on a mountain top silent fasting retreat. It was in the early days of the retreat’s evolution and there was a strict policy of silence, with no reading, nor music nor writing or drawing. Fasting the mind as well as the body. The schedule included juice fasting, meditation, yoga, water and herbal tea in a supportive environment amidst the forest. I felt amazingly high and joyous, which in retrospect, I recognise was actually very ungrounded and delusional. I also broke out in little pimples all over my face.
- Keep the mind engaged with information that inspires wellness, spaciousness and purification, without over stimulating.
- Providing gentle bowel cleansing aides. These include psyllium husks, abdominal massage, gentle herbs, water enemas and probiotics to ensure the bowel moves each day despite the lack of food, and will help dodge detox symptoms like skin breakouts.
Supported fasting process
Another stop on my journey of fasting included the Hippocrates health regime of steam sauna, wheat grass juicing, twice daily enemas, lymphatic exercises, 3 days of watermelon juice soup (sipped from a teaspoon to enhance digestion) followed by 7 days of raw foods. There were food preparation lessons and educational sessions. I had lots of rest during the 10 days, and had no detox symptoms. I felt grounded, clear and energised at the end. The guidelines of maintaining a 80% raw food diet however, weren’t followed for too long once I got back into the real world.
- Redesign a nourishing dietary and substance intake regime that is achievable and maintains your good health.
- The level of ensalivation of food is crucial to good digestive practices and often needs to be re-learned.
Please learn from my mistakes!!
Fasting is a powerful tool in optimising wellbeing. It provides an opportunity to rest, soak up sunlight, do gentle exercises, provide self care and the opportunity to reflect on our relationship with food. Our world is a pretty toxic place at the moment, so go easy. Remember your body responds best to small, gentle changes, so ask a trained health professional for some advice. And heed it!!
This is one element of Sparkle Detox Course – a step-by-step, effective and safe, body tissue cleansing process designed by Naturopath Sally Mathrick. If you haven’t already, join Sparkle Detox. You’ll have life-time access to wholistic, doable, ‘delicious-with-benefits’ practices to keep your precious body-mind healthy, fresh and vital. JOIN NOW
Copyright Sally Mathrick – please cite www.sparklewell.com.au if using this information
Written Feb 2009 and previously published in Wellbeing Australia issue #121