The accelerated healing process that occurs during fasting can scarcely be believed by a person who has not fasted. No matter how gifted the writer, the experiential reality of fasting cannot be communicated. The great novelist Upton Sinclair wrote a book about fasting and it failed to convince the multitudes. But once a person has fasted long enough to be certain of what their own body can do to fix itself, they acquire a degree of independence little known today. Many of those experienced with fasting no longer dread being without health insurance and feel far less need for a doctor or of having a regular checkup. They know with certainty that if something degenerates in their body, their own body can fix it by itself.
Like Upton Sinclair and many others who largely failed before me, I am going to try to convince you of the virtues of fasting by urging you to try fasting yourself. If you will but try you will be changed for the better for the rest of your life. If you do not try, you will never Know.
To prompt your first step on this health-freedom road, I ask you to please carefully consider the importance of this fact: the body"s routine energy budget includes a very large allocation for the daily digestion and assimilation of the food you eat. You may find my estimate surprising, but about one-third of a fairly sedentary person"s entire energy consumption goes into food processing. Other uses for the body"s energy include the creation or rebuilding of tissues, detoxification, moving (walking, running, etc.), talking, producing hormones, etc. Digestion is one aspect of the body"s efforts that we can readily control, it is the key to having or losing health.
The Effort of Digestion
Digestion is a huge, unappreciated task, unappreciated because few of us are aware of its happening in the same way we are aware of making efforts to use our voluntary muscles when working or exercising. Digestion begins in the mouth with thorough chewing. If you don"t think chewing is effort, try making coleslaw in your own mouth. Chew up at least half a big head of cabbage and three big carrots that have not been shredded. Grind each bit until it liquefies and has been thoroughly mixed with saliva. I guarantee that if you even finish the chore your jaw will be tired and you will have lost all desire to eat anything else, especially if it requires chewing.
Making the saliva you just used while chewing the cabbage is by itself, a huge and unappreciated chemical effort.
Once in the stomach, chewed food has to be churned in order to mix it with hydrochloric acid, pepsin, and other digestive enzymes. Manufacturing these enzymes is also considerable work! Churning is even harder work than chewing but normally, people are unaware of its happening. While the stomach is churning (like a washing machine) a large portion of the blood supply is redirected from the muscles in the extremities to the stomach and intestines to aid in this process. Anyone who has tried to go for a run, or take part in any other strenuous physical activity immediately after a large meal feels like a slug and wonders why they just can"t make their legs move the way they usually do. So, to assist the body while it is digesting, it is wise to take a siesta as los Latinos do instead of expecting the blood to be two places at once like los norteamericanos.
After the stomach is through churning, the partially digested food is moved into the small intestine where it is mixed with more pancreatin secreted by the pancreas, and with bile from the gall bladder. Pancreatin further solubilizes proteins. Bile aids in the digestion of fatty foods. Manufacturing bile and pancreatic enzymes is also a lot of effort. Only after the carbohydrates (starches and sugars), proteins and fats have been broken down into simpler water soluble food units such as simple sugars, amino acids and fatty acids, can the body pass these nutrients into the blood thorough the little projections in the small intestines called villi.
The leftovers, elements of the food that can"t be solubilized plus some remaining liquids, are passed into the large intestine. There, water and the vital mineral salts dissolved in that water, are extracted and absorbed into the blood stream through thin permeable membranes. Mucous is also secreted in the large intestine to facilitate passage of the dryish remains. This is an effort. (Intestinal mucous can become a route of secondary elimination, especially during fasting. While fasting, it is essential to take steps to expel toxic mucous in the colon before the poisons are re adsorbed.) The final residue, now called fecal matter, is squeezed along the length of the large intestines and passes out the rectum.
If all the digestive processes have been efficient there now are an abundance of soluble nutrients for the blood stream to distribute to hungry cells throughout the body. It is important to understand the process at least on the level of oversimplification just presented in order to begin to understand better how health is lost or regained through eating, digestion, and elimination. And most importantly, through not eating.
How Fasting Heals
Its an old hygienic maxim that the doctor does not heal, the medicines do not heal, only the body heals itself. If the body can"t heal then nothing can heal it. The body always knows best what it needs and what to do.
But healing means repairing damaged organs and tissues and this takes energy, while a sick body is already enervated, weakened and not coping with its current stressors. If the sick person could but somehow increase the body"s energy resources sufficiently, then a slowly healing body could heal faster while a worsening one, or one that was failing or one that was not getting better might heal.
Fasting does just that. To whatever degree food intake is reduced the body"s digestive workload is proportionately reduced and it will naturally, and far more intelligently than any physician could order, redirect energy to wherever it decides that energy is most needed. A fasting body begins accessing nutritional reserves (vitamins and minerals) previously stored in the tissues and starts converting body fat into sugar for energy fuel. During a time of water fasting, sustaining the body"s entire energy and nutritional needs from reserves and fat does require a small effort, but far less effort than eating. I would guess a fasting body used about five percent of its normal daily energy budget on nutritional concerns rather than the 33 percent it needs to process new food. Thus, water fasting puts something like 28 percent more energy at the body"s disposal. This is true even though the water faster may feel weak, energyless.
I would worry if sick or toxic fasters did not complain about their weakness. They should expect to feel energyless. In fact, the more internal healing and detoxification the body requires, the tireder the faster feels because the body is very hard at work internally. A great deal of the body"s energy will go toward boosting the immune system if the problem is an infection. Liberated energy can also be used for healing damaged parts, rebuilding failing organs, for breaking down and eliminating deposits of toxic materials. Only after most of the healing has occurred does a faster begin to feel energetic again. Don"t expect to feel anything but tired and weak.
The only exception to this would be a person who has already significantly detoxified and healed their body by previous fasting, or the rare soul that has gone from birth through adulthood enjoying extraordinarily good nutrition and without experiencing the stressors of improper digestion. When one experienced faster I know finds himself getting "run down" or catching a cold, he quits eating until he feels really well. Instead of feeling weak as most fasters do, as each of the first four or five days of water fasting pass, he experiences a resurgence of more and more energy. On the first fasting day he would usually feel rotten, which was why he started fasting in the first place. On the second fasting day he"d feel more alert and catch up on his paper work. By his third day on only water he would be out doing hard physical chores like cutting the grass, splitting wood or weeding his vegetable garden. Day four would also be an energetic one, but if the fast extended beyond that, lowering blood sugar would begin to make him tired and he"d feel forced to begin laying down.
After a day of water fasting the average person"s blood sugar level naturally drops; making a faster feel somewhat tired and "spacey," so a typical faster usually begins to spend much more time resting, further reducing the amount of energy being expended on moving the body around, serendipitously redirecting even more of the body"s energy budget toward healing. By the end of five or six days on water, I estimate that from 40 to 50 percent of the body"s available energy is being used for healing, repair and detoxification.
The amount of work that a fasting body"s own healing energy can do and what it feels like to be there when it is happening is incredible. But you can"t know it if you haven"t felt it. So hardly anyone in our present culture knows.
As I mentioned in the first chapter, at Great Oaks School I apprenticed myself to the traveling masters of virtually every system of natural healing that existed during the ‘70s. I observed every one of them at work and tried most of them on my clients. After all that I can say with experience that I am not aware of any other healing tool that can be so effective as the fast.
Essentials of a Successful, Safe Fast
- 1. Fast in a bright airy room, with exceptionally good ventilation, because fasters not only need a lot of fresh air; their bodies give off powerfully offensive odors.
- 2. Sun bathe if possible in warm climates for 10 to 20 minutes in the morning before the sun gets too strong.
- 3. Scrub/massage the skin with a dry brush, stroking toward the heart, followed by a warm water shower two to four times a day to assist the skin in eliminating toxins. If you are too weak to do this, have an assisted bed bath.
- 4. Have two enemas daily for the first week of a fast and then once daily until the fast is terminated.
- 5. Insure a harmonious environment with supportive people or else fast alone if you are experienced. Avoid well-meaning interference or anxious criticism at all cost. The faster becomes hypersensitive to others" emotions.
- 6. Rest profoundly except for a short walk of about 200 yards morning and night.
- 7. Drink water! At least three quarts every day. Do not allow yourself to become dehydrated!
- 8. Control yourself! Break a long fast on diluted non-sweet fruit juice such as grapefruit juice, sipped a teaspoon at a time, no more than eight ounces at a time no oftener than every 2 or 3 hours. The second day you eat, add small quantities of fresh juicy fruit to the same amount of juice you took the day before no oftener than every 3 hours. By small quantities I mean half an apple or the equivalent. On the third day of eating, add small quantities of vegetable juice and juicy vegetables such as tomatoes and cucumbers.
- Control yourself! The second week after eating resumed add complex vegetable salads plus more complex fruit salads. Do not mix fruit and vegetables at meals. The third week add raw nuts and seeds no more than 1/2 ounce three times daily. Add 1/4 avocado daily. Fourth week increase to 3 ounces of raw soaked nuts and seeds daily and 1/2 avocado daily. Cooked grains may also be added, along with steamed vegetables and vegetable soups.
The Prime Rules of Fasting
Another truism of natural hygiene is that we dig our own graves with our teeth. It is sad but true that almost all eat too much quantity of too little quality. Dietary excesses are the main cause of death in North America. Fasting balances these excesses. If people were to eat a perfect diet and not overeat, fasting would rarely be necessary.
There are two essential rules of fasting. If these rules are ignored or broken, fasting itself can be life threatening. But if the rules are followed, fasting presents far less risk than any other important medical procedure with a far greater likelihood of a positive outcome. And let me stress here, there is no medical procedure without risk. Life itself is fraught with risk, it is a one-way ticket from birth to death, with no certainty as to when the end of the line will be reached. But in my opinion, when handling degenerative illness and infections, natural hygiene and fasting usually offer the best hope of healing with the least possible risk.
The first vital concern is the duration of the fast. Two eliminatory processes go on simultaneously while fasting. One is the dissolving and elimination of the excess, toxic or dysfunctional deposits in the body, and second process, the gradual exhaustion of the body"s stored nutritional reserves. The fasting body first consumes those parts of the body that are unhealthy; eventually these are all gone. Simultaneously the body uses up stored fat and other reserve nutritional elements. A well-fed reasonably healthy body usually has enough stored nutrition to fast for quite a bit longer than it takes to "clean house."
While house cleaning is going on the body uses its reserves to rebuild organs and rejuvenate itself. Rebuilding starts out very slowly but the repairs increase at an ever-accelerating rate. The "overhaul" can last only until the body has no more reserves. Because several weeks of fasting must pass by before the "overhaul" gets going full speed, it is wise to continue fasting as long as possible so as to benefit from as much rejuvenation as possible.
It is best not to end the fast before all toxic or dysfunctional deposits are eliminated, or before the infection is overcome, or before the cause for complaint has been healed. The fast must be ended when most of the body"s essential-to-life stored nutritional reserves are exhausted. If the fast goes beyond this point, starvation begins. Then, fasting-induced organic damage can occur, and death can follow, usually several weeks later. Almost anyone not immediately close to death has enough stored nutrition to water fast for ten days to two weeks. Most reasonably healthy people have sufficient reserves to water fast for a month. Later I will explain how a faster can somewhat resupply their nutritional reserves while continuing to fast, and thus safely extend the fasting period.
The second essential concern has to do with adjusting the intensity of the fast. Some individuals are so toxic that the waste products released during a fast are too strong, too concentrated or too poisonous for the organs of elimination to handle safely, or to be handled within the willingness of the faster to tolerate the discomforts that toxic releases generate. The highly-toxic faster may even experience life-threatening symptoms such as violent asthma attacks. This kind of faster has almost certainly been dangerously ill before the fast began. Others, though not dangerously sick prior to fasting, may be nearly as toxic and though not in danger of death, they may not be willing to tolerate the degree of discomfort fasting can trigger. For this reason I recommend that if at all possible, before undertaking a fast the person eat mostly raw foods for two months and clean up all addictions. This will give the body a chance to detoxify significantly before the water fast is started, and will make water fasting much more comfortable. Seriously, dangerously ill people should only fast with experienced guidance, so the rapidity of their detoxification process may be adjusted to a lower level if necessary.
A fast of only one week can accomplish a significant amount of healing. Slight healing does occur on shorter fasts, but it is much more difficult to see or feel the results. Many people experience rapid relief from acute headache pain or digestive distress such as gas attacks, mild gallbladder pain, stomach aches, etc., after only one day"s abstention from food. In one week of fasting a person can relieve more dangerous conditions such as arthritic pain, rheumatism, kidney pain, and many symptoms associated with allergic reactions,. But even more fasting time is generally needed for the body to completely heal serious diseases. That"s because eliminating life-threatening problems usually involve rebuilding organs that aren"t functioning too well. Major rebuilding begins only after major detoxification has been accomplished, and this takes time.
Yes, even lost organ function can be partially or completely restored by fasting. Aging and age-related degeneration is progressive, diminishing organ functioning. Organs that make digestive enzymes secrete less enzymes. The degenerated immune system loses the ability to mobilize as effectively when the body is attacked. Liver and kidney efficiency declines. The adrenals tire, becoming incapable of dumping massive amounts of stress-handling hormones or of repeating that effort time after time without considerable rest in between. The consequences of these inter-dependent deterioration"s is a cascade of deterioration that contributes to even more rapid deterioration"s. The name for this cascading process is aging. Its inevitable result–death.
Fasting can, to a degree, reverse aging. Because fasting improves organ functioning, it can slow down aging.
Fasters are often surprised that intensified healing can be uncomfortable. They have been programmed by our culture and by allopathic doctors to think that if they are doing the right thing for their bodies they should feel better immediately. I wish it weren"t so, but most people have to pay the piper for their dietary indiscretions and other errors in living. There will be aches and minor pains and uncomfortable sensations. More about that later. A rare faster does feel immediately better, and continues to feel ever better by the day, and even has incredible energy while eating nothing, but the majority of us folks just have to tough it out, keeping in mind that the way out is the way through. It is important to remind yourself at times that even with some discomfort and considering the inconvenience of fasting that you are getting off easy–one month of self-denial pays for those years of indulgence and buys a regenerated body.
Length of The Fast
How long should a person fast? In cases where there are serious complaints to remedy but where there are no life threatening disease conditions, a good rule of thumb is to fast on water for one complete day (24 hours) for each year that the person has lived. If you are 30 years old, it will take 30 consecutive days of fasting to restore complete health. However, thirty fasting days, done a few days here and a few there won"t equal a month of steady fasting; the body accomplishes enormously more in 7 or l4 days of consecutive fasting, than 7 or 14 days of fasting accumulated sporadically, such as one day a week. This is not to say that regular short fasts are not useful medicine. Periodic day-long fasts have been incorporated into many religious traditions, and for good reason; it gives the body one day a week to rest, to be free of digestive obligations, and to catch up on garbage disposal. I heartily recommend it. But it takes many years of unfailingly regular brief fasting to equal the benefits of one, intensive experience.
Fasting on water much longer than fifteen consecutive days may be dangerous for the very sick, (unless under experienced supervision) or too intense for those who are not motivated by severe illness to withstand the discomfort and boredom. However, it is possible to finish a healing process initiated by one long water fast by repeating the fast later. My husband"s healing is a good example of this. His health began to noticeably decline about age 38 and he started fasting. He fasted on water 14 to 18 days at a time, once a year, for five consecutive years before most of his complaints and problems entirely vanished.
The longest fast I ever supervised was a 90 day water fast on an extraordinarily obese woman, who at 5" 2" weighed close to 400 pounds. She was a Mormon; generally members of the LDS Church eat a healthier diet than most Americans, but her"s included far too much of what I call "healthfood junkfood," in the form of whole grain cakes and cookies, lots of granola made with lots of honey, oil, and dried fruit, lots of honey heaped atop heavily buttered whole grain bread. (I will explain more about the trap of healthfood junkfood later on.) A whole foods relatively meatless diet is far superior to its refined white flour, white sugar and white grease (lard) counterpart, but it still produced a serious heath problem in just 30 years of life. Like many women, she expressed love-for-family in the kitchen by serving too-much too-tasty food. The Mormons have a very strong family orientation and this lady was no exception, but she was insecure and unhappy in her marriage and sought consolation in food, eaten far in excess of what her body needed.
On her 90 day water fast she lost about 150 pounds, but was still grossly overweight when the fast ended. Toward the end it became clear that it was unrealistic to try to shrink this woman any closer to normal body weight because to her, fat represented an invaluable insulation or buffer that she was not prepared to give up. As the weight melted away on the fast and she was able to actually feel the outline of a hip bone her neurosis became more and more apparent, and the ability to feel a part of her skeleton was so upsetting to her that her choice was between life threatening obesity and pervasive anxiety.
Her weight was still excessive but the solace of eating was even more important. This woman needed intensive counseling not more fasting. Unfortunately, at the end she choose to remain obese. Fat was much less frightening to her than confronting her emotions and fears. The positive side was that after the fast she was able to maintain her weight at 225 instead of 375 which was an enormous relief to her exhausted heart.
Another client I fasted for 90 days was a 6" 1" tall, chronic schizophrenic man who weighed in at 400 pounds. He was so big he could barely get through my front door, and mine was an extraordinarily wide door in what had been an upper-class mansion. This man, now in his mid twenties, had spent his last seven years in a mental institution before his parents decided to give him one last chance by sending to Great Oaks School. The state mental hospitals at that time provided the mentally ill with cigarettes, coffee, and lots of sugary treats, but none of these substances were part of my treatment program so he had a lot of immediate withdrawal to go through. The quickest and easiest way to get him through it was to put him on a water fast after a few days of preparation on raw food.
This was not an easily managed case! He was wildly psychotic, on heavy doses of chloropromazine, with many bizarre behaviors. Besides talking to himself continuously in gibberish, he collected bugs, moss, sticks, piles or dirt, and switched to smoking oak leaves instead of cigarettes. He was such a fire hazard that I had to move him to a downstairs room with concrete floor. Even in the basement he was a fire hazard with his smoking and piles of sticks and other inflammables next to his bed, but all of this debris was his "precious." I knew that I was in for trouble if I disturbed his precious, but the insects and dirt piles seemed to be expanding exponentially.
One day the dirt exceeded my tolerance level. To make a long story short he caught me in the act of cleaning up his precious. Was he furious! All 350 pounds of him! (By this time he had lost 50 pounds.) He barreled into me, fists flying, and knocked me into the pipes next to the furnace and seemed ready to really teach me what was what. I prefer to avoid fights, but if they are inevitable, I can really get into the spirit of the thing. I"d had lots of childhood practice defending myself because I was an incurable tomboy who loved to wrestle; I could usually pin big boys who considered themselves tough. So I began using my fists and what little martial arts training I had to good use. After I hurt him a bit he realized that I was not going to be easily intimidated, and that in fact he was in danger of getting seriously damaged. So he called a truce before either of us were badly beaten up. He had only a few bruises and welts, nothing serious.
After that he refrained from collecting things inside the building (he continued to collect outside). This compromise was fine with me, and the incident allowed me to maintain the authority I needed to bully him into co-operating with the program: taking his vitamins, and sticking to his fast until he finally reached 200 pounds. After 90 days on water he actually looked quite handsome, he no longer smoked, he was off psychotropic medication, and his behaviors were within an acceptable range as long as your expectations were not too high.
He was well enough to live outside a hospital and also clear-headed enough to know that if he let too many people know how well he really was, he might have to give up his mental disability pension and actually become responsible for himself. No way, Jose! This fellow knew a good thing when he saw it. So he continued to pull bizarre stunts just often enough in front of the right audience to keep his disability checks coming in, while managing to act sane enough to be allowed to live comfortably at home instead of in the hospital. By keeping to my program he could stay off mind-numbing psychotropic medication if he kept up his megavitamins and minerals. This compromise was tolerable from his point of view, because there were no side effects like he experienced from his tranquilizers.
It is very rare for a mentally ill person who has spent more than a few months in a mental hospital to ever usefully return to society because they find "mental illness" too rewarding.
My Own 56 Day Long Fast
Fasters go through a lot of different emotional states, these can get intense and do change quite rapidly. The physical body, too, will manifest transitory conditions. Some can be quite uncomfortable. But, I don"t want to leave the reader with the impression that fasting is inevitably painful. So I will now recount my own longest fast in detail.
When I did my own 42 day water fast followed by two weeks on carrot juice diluted 50/50 with water, which really amounted to 56 consecutive days, my predominant sensation for the first three days was a desire to eat that was mostly a mental condition, and a lot of rumbling and growling from my stomach. This is not real hunger, just the sounds the stomach likes to make when it is shrinking. After all, this organ is accustomed to being filled at regular intervals, and then, all of a sudden, it gets nothing, so naturally the stomach wants to know what is going on. Once it realizes it is on temporary vacation, the stomach wisely decides to reduce itself to a size suitable for a retired organ. And it shuts up. This process usually takes three to five days and for most people, no further "hunger pangs" are felt until the fast is over.
Real hunger comes only when the body is actually starving. The intense discomforts many people experience upon missing a meal are frequently interpreted as hunger but they aren"t. What is actually happening is that their highly toxic bodies are taking the opportunity presented by having missed a meal or two to begin to cleanse. The toxins being released and processed make assorted unpleasant symptoms such as headaches and inability to think clearly. These symptoms can be instantly eliminated by the intake of a bit of food, bringing the detox to a screeching halt.
Two weeks into the fast I experienced sharp abdominal pains that felt like I imagine appendicitis feels, which compelled me toward the nearest toilet in a state of great urgency where I productively busied myself for about half an hour. As I mentioned earlier, I was experimentally adhering to a rigid type of fast of the sort recommended by Dr. Herbert Shelton, a famous advocate of the Natural Hygiene school. Shelton was such a powerful writer and personality that there still exists a Natural Hygiene Society that keeps his books in print and maintains his library. The words "Natural Hygiene" are almost owned by the society like a trademark and they object when anyone describes themselves as a hygienist and then advocates any practice that Dr. Shelton did not approve of.
Per Dr. Shelton, I was going to fast from the time hunger left until the time it returned and I was not going to use any form of colon cleansing. Shelton strongly opposed bowel cleansing so I did no enemas nor colonics, nor herbs, nor clays, nor psyllium seed designed to clean the bowel, etc. Obviously at day 14 the bowel said, enough is enough of this crap, and initiated a goods house cleaning session. When I saw what was eliminated I was horrified to think that I had left that stuff in there for two weeks. I then started to wonder if the Sheltonites were mistaken about this aspect of fasting. Nonetheless, I persevered on the same regimen because my hunger had not returned, my tongue was still thickly coated with foul-smelling, foul-tasting mucus and I still had some fat on my feet that had not been metabolized.
Shelton said that cleansing is not complete until a skeletal condition is reached–that is, absolutely no fat reserves are left. Up until that time I did not even know that I had fat on my feet, but much to my surprise, as the weeks went on, not only did my breasts disappear except for a couple of land marks well-known to my babies, but my ribs and hip bones became positively dangerous to passersby, and my shoes would not stay on my feet. This was not all that surprising because I went from 135 pounds down to 85 on a 5" 7" frame with substantial bone structure.
Toward the end of the fast my eyes became brighter and clearer blue, my skin took on a good texture, my breath finally became sweet, my tongue cleared up and became pink, my mind was clear, and my spiritual awareness and sensitivity was heightened. In other words, I was no longer a walking hulk of stored-up toxemia. I also felt quite weak and had to rest for ten minutes out every hour in horizontal position. (I should have rested much more.) I also required very little sleep, although it felt good to just lie quietly and rest, being aware of what was going on in various parts of my body.
During the last few weeks on water I became very attentive to my right shoulder. Two separate times in the past, while flying head first over the handlebars of my bicycle I had broken my shoulder with considerable tearing of ligaments and tendons. At night when I was totally still I felt a whole crew of pixies and brownies with picks and shovels at work in the joint doing major repair work. This activity was not entirely comfortable, but I knew it was constructive work, not destructive, so I joined the work crew with my mind"s eye and helped the work along.
It seemed my visualizations actually did help. Ever since, I"ve had the fasters I supervised use creative imagery or write affirmations to help their bodies heal. There are lots of books on this subject. I"ve found that the techniques work far better on a faster than when a person is eating normally.
After breaking the fast it took me six weeks to regain enough strength that I could run my usual distance in my regular time; it took me six months to regain my full 135 pound weight because I was very careful to break the fast slowly and correctly. Coming off water with two weeks on dilute carrot juice I then added small portions of raw food such as apples, raw vegetables, sprouts, vegetable juices, and finally in the fourth week after I began drinking dilute carrot juice, I added seven daily well-chewed almonds to my rebuilding diet. Much later I increased to 14 almonds, but that was the maximum amount of such highly concentrated fare my body wanted digest at one time for over one year. I found I got a lot more miles to the gallon out of the food that I did eat, and did not crave recreational foods. Overall I was very pleased with my educational fast, it had taught me a great deal.
If I had undertaken such a lengthy fast at a time when I was actually ill, and therefore had felt forced into it, my experience could have been different. A positive mental attitude is an essential part of the healing process so fasting should not be undertaken in a negative, protesting mental state. The mind is so powerful that fear or the resistance fear generates can override the healing capacity of the body. For that reason I always recommend that people who consider themselves to be healthy, who have no serious complaints, but who are interested in water fasting, should limit themselves to ten consecutive days or so, certainly never more than 14. Few healthy people, even those with a deep interest in the process, can find enough personal motivation to overcome the extreme boredom of water fasting for longer than that. Healthy people usually begin protesting severely after about two weeks. If there is any one vital rule of fasting, one never should fast over strong, personal protest. Anytime you"re fasting and you really desire to quit, you probably should. Unless, of course, you are critically ill. Then you may have no choice–its fast or die.
Common Fasting Complaints And Discomforts
The most frequently heard complaints of fasters are headaches, dry, cracked lips, dizziness, blurred vision with black spots that float, skin rashes, and weakness in the first few days plus what they think is intense hunger. The dizziness and weakness are really real, and are due to increased levels of toxins circulating in the blood and from unavoidably low blood sugar which is a natural consequence of the cessation of eating. The blood sugar does reestablish a new equilibrium in the second and third week of the fast and then, the dizziness may cease, but still, it is important to expect dizziness at the beginning.
It always takes more time for the blood to reach the head on a fast because everything has slowed down, including the rate of the heart beat, so blood pressure probably has dropped as well. If you stand up very quickly you may faint. I repetitively instruct all of my clients to stand up very slowly, moving from a lying to a sitting position, pausing there for ten or twenty seconds, and then rising slowly from a sitting to a standing position. They are told that at the first sign of dizziness they must immediately put their head between their knees so that the head is lower than the heart, or squat/sit down on the floor, I once had a faster who forgot to obey my frequent warnings. About two weeks into a long fast, she got up rapidly from the toilet and felt dizzy. The obvious thing to do was to sit back down on the toilet or lie down on the bath rug on the floor, but no, she decided that because she was dizzy she should rush back to her bed in the adjoining room. She made it as far as the bathroom door and fainted, out cold, putting a deep grove into the drywall with her pretty nose on the way down. We then had to make an unscheduled visit to a nose specialist, who calmly put a tape-wrapped spoon inside her bent-over nose and pried it back to dead center. This was not much fun for either of us; it is well worthwhile preventing such complications.
Other common complaints during the fast include coldness, due to low blood sugar as well as a consequence of weight loss and slowed circulation due to lessened physical activity. People also dislike inactivity which seems excruciatingly boring, and some are upset by weight loss itself. Coldness is best handled with lots of clothes, bedding, hot water bottles or hot pads, and warm baths. Great Oaks School of Health was in Oregon, where the endlessly rainy winters are chilly and the concrete building never seemed to get really warm. I used to dream of moving my fasters to a tropical climate where I could also get the best, ripest fruits to wean them back on to food.
If the fast goes on for more than a week or ten days, many people complain of back discomfort, usually caused by over-worked kidneys. This passes. Hot baths or hot water bottles provide some relief. Drinking more fluids may also help a bit. Nausea is fairly common too, due to toxic discharges from the gall bladder. Drinking lots of water or herbal tea dilutes toxic bile in the stomach and makes it more tolerable.
Very few fasters sleep well and for some reason they expect to, certainly fasters hope to, because they think that if they sleep all night they will better survive one more deadly dull day in a state of relative unconsciousness. They find out much to their displeasure that very little sleep is required on a fast because the body is at rest already. Many fasters sleep only two to four hours but doze frequently and require a great deal of rest. Being mentally prepared for this change of habit is the best handling. Generalized low-grade aches and pains in the area of the diseased organs or body parts are common and can often be alleviated with hot water bottles, warm but not hot bath water and massage. If this type of discomfort exists, it usually lessens with each passing day until it disappears altogether.
Many fasters complain that their vision is blurred, and that they are unable to concentrate. These are really major inconveniences because then fasters can"t read or even pay close attention to video-taped movies, and if they can"t divert themselves some fasters think they will go stir crazy. They are so addicted to a hectic schedule of doingness, and/or being entertained that they just can"t stand just being with themselves, forced to confront and deal with the sensations of their own body, forced to face their own thoughts, to confront their own emotions, many of which are negative. People who are fasting release a lot of mental/emotional garbage at the same time as they let go of old physical garbage. Usually the psychological stuff contributed greatly to their illness and just like the physical garbage and degenerated organs, it all needs to be processed.
One of the most distressing experiences that happen occasionally is hair loss. Deprived of adequate nutrition, the follicles can not keep growing hair, and the existing hair dies. However, the follicles themselves do not die and once the fast has ended and sufficient nutrition is forthcoming, hair will regrow as well or better than before.
There are also complaints that occur after the fast has been broken. Post-fast cravings, even after only two weeks of deprivation, are to be expected. These may take the form of desires for sweet, sour, salt, or a specific food dreamed of while fasting, like chocolate fudge sundays or just plain toast. Food cravings must be controlled at all costs because if acted upon, each indulgence chips away the health gains of the previous weeks. A single indulgence can be remedied by a day of restricting the diet to juice or raw food. After the repair, the person feels as good as they did when the fast ended. Repeated indulgences will require another extended bout of fasting to repair. It is far better to learn self-control.
The Healing Crisis And Retracing
Certain unpleasant somatics that occur while fasting (or while on a healing diet) may not be dangerous or "bad." Two types, the healing crisis, and retracing, are almost inevitable. A well-educated faster should welcome these discomforts when they happen. The healing crisis (but not retracing) also occurs on a healing diet.
The healing crisis can seem a big surprise to a faster who has been progressing wonderfully. Suddenly, usually after a few days of noticeably increased well-being, they suddenly experience a set of severe symptoms and feel just awful. This is not a setback, not something to be upset or disappointed about, but a healing crisis, actually a positive sign.
Healing crises always occur after a period of marked improvement. As the vital force builds up during the healing process, the body decides it now has obtained enough energy to throw off some accumulated toxins, and forcefully pushes them out through a typical and usually previously used route of secondary elimination, such as the nose, lungs, stomach, intestines, skin, or perhaps produces a flu-like experience with fever chills, sweat, aches and pains, etc. Though unpleasant, this experience is to be encouraged; the body has merely accelerated its elimination process. Do not attempt to suppress any of these symptoms, don"t even try to moderate fever, which is the body"s effective way to burn out a virus or bacteria infection, unless it is a dangerously high fever (over 102° Fahrenheit). Fever can be lowered without drugs by putting the person into a cool/cold bath, or using cold towel wraps and cold water sponge baths. The good news is that healing crises usually do not last long, and when they are past you feel better than you did before the crisis.
Asthmatics seem to have the worst crises. I have had asthmatics bring up a quart of obnoxious mucous from their lungs every night for weeks. They have stayed awake all night for three nights continuously coughing and choking on the material that was being eliminated. After that clearing-out process they were able to breath much more freely. Likewise I have had people who have had sinusitis have nothing but non-stop pussy discharge from their sinuses for three weeks. Some of this would run down the throat and cause nausea. All I could say to encourage the sufferer was that it needed to come out and to please stand aside and let the body work its magic. These fasters were not grateful until the sinus problem that had plagued them since childhood disappeared.
The interesting thing about healing crises are that the symptoms produced retrace earlier complaints; they are almost never something entirely unknown to the patient. Usually they are old, familiar somatics, often complaints that haven"t bothered the faster for many years. The reason the symptom is familiar but is not currently a problem is because as the body degenerates it loses vital force; with less vital force it loses the ability to create such acute detoxification episodes in non-life-threatening secondary elimination routes. The degenerated body makes less violent efforts to cleanse, efforts that aren"t as uncomfortable. The negative side of this is that instead of creating acute discomfort in peripheral systems, the toxemia goes to more vital organs where it hastens the formation of life-threatening conditions.
There is a very normal and typical progress for each person"s fatal illness. Their ultimate disease starts out in childhood or adolescence as acute inflammations of skin-like organs, viral or bacterial infections of the same. Then, as vital force weakens, secondary eliminations are shifted to more vital organs. Allergies or colds stop happening so frequently; the person becomes rheumatic, arthritic or experience weakness in joints, tendons, ligaments, or to have back pains, or to have digestive upsets. These new symptoms are more constant but usually less acute. Ultimately, vital organs begin to malfunction, and serious disease develop. But a hygienist sees the beginning of fatal diseases such as cancer in adolescent infections and allergies.
Retracing is generally seen only on water fasts, not on extended cleansing diets. The body begins to repair itself by healing conditions in the reverse order to that which they occurred originally. This means that the body would first direct healing toward the lungs if the most recently serious illness was an attack of pneumonia six months previously. In this case you would expect to quickly and intensely experience a mini-case of pneumonia while the body eliminates residues in the lungs that were not completely discharged at the time. Next the body might take you through a period of depression that you had experienced five years in the past. The faster may be profoundly depressed for a few days and come out of it feeling much better. You could then reexperience sensation-states like those caused by recreational drugs you had playfully experimented with ten years previously along with the "trippiness" if it were a hallucinogen, speediness if it was ‘speed" or the dopiness if it was heroin. Retracing further, the faster might then experience something similar to a raging attack of tonsillitis which you vaguely remember having when you were five years old, but fortunately this time it passes in three days (or maybe six hours), instead of three weeks. This is retracing.
Please do not be surprised or alarmed if it happens to you on a fast, and immediately throw out the baby with the bath water thinking that you are doing the wrong thing because all those old illnesses are coming back to haunt you. It is the body"s magnificent healing effort working on your behalf, and for doing it your body deserves lots of "well done", "good body" thoughts rather than gnashing of teeth and thinking what did I do to deserve this. The body won"t tell you what you did to deserve this, but it knows and is trying its darndest to undo it.
The Unrelenting Boredom of FastingThen there"s the unrelenting boredom of fasting. Most people have been media junkies since they were kids; the only way they believe they can survive another day of fasting is by diverting their minds with TV. This is far from ideal because often the emotions of a faster are like an open wound and when they resonate with the emotions portrayed on most TV shows, the faster gets into some very unpleasant states that interfere with healing. And the emotions many movies prompt people to sympathetically generate are powerful ones, often highly negative, and contrary to healing. Especially unhelpful are the adrenaline rushes in action movies. But if TV is the best a faster can do, it is far better that someone fast with television programming filling their minds than to not fast at all. I keep a library of positive VHS tapes for these addicts–comedies, stories of heroic over-comings, depiction"s of humans at their best.
Boredom is probably the most limiting factor to fasting a long time. That is because boredom is progressive, it gets worse with each slowly-passing day. But concurrently, the rate of healing is accelerating with each slowly-passing day. Every day the faster gets through does them considerably more good than the previous day. However, fasters rarely are motivated enough to overcome boredom for more than two weeks or so, unless they started the fast to solve a very serious or life-threatening condition. For this reason, basically well people should not expect to be able to fast for more than a couple of weeks every six months or year, no matter how much good a longer fast might do.
Exercise While Fasting
The issue of how much activity is called for on a fast is controversial. Natural Hygienists in the Herbert Shelton tradition insist that all fasters absolutely must have complete bed rest, with no books, no TV, no visitors, no enemas, no exercise, no music, and of course no food, not even a cup of herb tea. In my many years of conducting people through fasts, I have yet to meet an individual that could mentally tolerate this degree of nothingness. It is too drastic a withdrawal from all the stimulation people are used to in the twentieth century. I still don"t know how Shelton managed to make his patients do it, but my guess is that he must have been a very intimidating guy. Shelton was a body builder of some renown in his day. I bet Shelton"s patients kept a few books and magazines under their mattress and only took them out when he wasn"t looking. If I had tried to enforced this type of sensory deprivation, I know my patients would have grabbed their clothes and run, vowing never to fast again. I think it is most important that people fast, and that they feel so good about the experience that they want to do it again, and talk all their sick friends into doing the same thing.
In contrast to enforced inactivity, Russian researchers who supervised schizophrenics on 30 day water fasts insisted that they walk for three hours every day, without stopping. I would like to have been there to see how they managed to enforce that. I suspect some patients cheated. I lived with schizophrenics enough years to know that it is very difficult to get them to do anything that they don"t want to do, and very few of them are into exercise, especially when fasting.
In my experience both of these approaches to activity during the fast are extremes. The correct activity level should be arrived at on an individual basis. I have had clients who walked six miles a day during an extended water fast, but they were not feeling very sick when they started the fast, and they were also physically fit. In contrast I have had people on extended fasts who were unable to walk for exercise, or so weak they were unable to even walk to the bathroom, but these people were critically ill when they started fasting, and desperately needed to conserve what little vital force they had for healing.
Most people who are not critically ill need to walk at least 200 yards twice a day, with assistance if necessary, if only to move the lymph through the system. The lymphatic system is a network of ducts and nodes which are distributed throughout the body, with high concentrations of nodes in the neck, chest, arm pits, and groin. Its job is to carry waste products from the extremities to the center of the body where they can be eliminated. The blood is circulated through the arteries and veins in the body by the contractions of the heart, but the lymphatic system does not have a pump. Lymphatic fluid is moved by the contractions of the muscles, primarily those of the arms and legs. If the faster is too weak to move, massage and assisted movements are essential.
Lymph nodes are also a part of our immune system and produce white blood cells to help control invading organisms. When the lymph is overloaded with waste products the ducts and nodes swell, and until the source of the local irritation is removed, are incapable of handling further debris. If left in this condition for years they become so hard they feel like rocks under the skin. Lumps in the armpits or the groin are prime sites for the future development of a cancer. Fasting, massage, and poultices will often soften overloaded lymph nodes and coax them back into operation.
The Stages Of Fasting
The best way to understand what happens when we fast is to break up the process into six stages: preparation for the fast, loss of hunger, acidosis, normalization, healing, and breaking the fast. A person that has consumed the typical American diet most of their life and whose life is not in immediate danger would be very wise to gently prepare their body for the fast. Two weeks would be a minimum amount of time, and if the prospective faster wants an easier time of it, they should allow a month or even two for preliminary housecleaning During this time, eliminate all meat, fish, dairy products, eggs, coffee, black tea, salt, sugar, alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, and greasy foods. This de-addiction will make the process of fasting much more pleasant, and is strongly recommended. However, eliminating all these harmful substances is withdrawal from addictive substances and will not be easy for most. I have more to say about this later when I talk about allergies and addictions.
The second stage, psychological hunger, usually is felt as an intense desire for food. This passes within three or four days of not eating anything. Psychological hunger usually begins with the first missed meal. If the faster seems to be losing their resolve, I have them drink unlimited quantities of good-tasting herb teas, (sweetened –only if absolutely necessary–with nutrisweet). Salt-free broths made from meatless instant powder (obtainable at the health food store) can also fend off the desire to eat until the stage of hunger has passed.
Acidosis, the third stage, usually begins a couple of days after the last meal and lasts about one week. During acidosis the body vigorously throws off acid waste products. Most people starting a fast begin with an overly acid blood pH from the typical American diet that contains a predominance of acid-forming foods. Switching over to burning fat for fuel triggers the release of even more acidic substances. Acidosis is usually accompanied by fatigue, blurred vision, and possibly dizziness. The breath smells very bad, the tongue is coated with bad-tasting dryish mucus, and the urine may be concentrated and foul unless a good deal of water is taken daily. Two to three quarts a day is a reasonable amount.
Mild states of acidosis are a common occurrence. While sleeping after the last meal of the day is digested bodies normally work very hard trying to detoxify from yesterday"s abuses. So people routinely awaken in a state of acidosis. Their tongue is coated, their breath foul and they feel poorly. They end their brief overnight fast with breakfast, bringing the detoxification process to a screeching halt and feel much better. Many people think they awaken hungry and don"t feel well until they eat. They confuse acidosis with hunger when most have never experienced real hunger in their entire lives. If you typically awaken in acidosis, you are being given a strong sign by your body that it would like to continue fasting far beyond breakfast. In fact, it probably would enjoy fasting long beyond the end of acidosis.
Most fasters feel much more comfortable by the end of the first seven to ten days, when they enter the normalization phase; here the acidic blood chemistry is gradually corrected. This sets the stage for serious healing of body tissues and organs. Normalization may take one or two more weeks depending on how badly the body was out of balance. As the blood chemistry steadily approaches perfection, the faster usually feels an increasing sense of well-being, broken by short spells of discomfort that are usually healing crises or retracings.
The next stage, accelerated healing, can take one or many weeks more, again depending on how badly the body has been damaged. Healing proceeds rapidly after the blood chemistry has been stabilized, the person is usually in a state of profound rest and the maximum amount of vital force can be directed toward repair and regeneration of tissues. This is a miraculous time when tumors are metabolized as food for the body, when arthritic deposits dissolve, when scar tissues tend to disappear, when damaged organs regain lost function (if they can). Seriously ill people who never fast long enough to get into this stage (usually it takes about ten days to two weeks of water fasting to seriously begin healing) never find out what fasting can really do for them.
Breaking the fast is equally or more important a stage than the fast itself. It is the most dangerous time in the entire fast. If you stop fasting prematurely, that is, before the body has completed detoxification and healing, expect the body to reject food when you try to make it eat, even if you introduce foods very gradually. The faster, the spiritual being running the body, may have become bored and want some action, but the faster"s body hasn"t finished. The body wants to continue healing.
By rejection, I mean that food may not digest, may feel like a stone in your stomach, make you feel terrible. If that happens and if, despite that clear signal you refuse to return to fasting, you should go on a juice diet, take as little as possible, sip it slowly (almost chew it) and stay on juice until you find yourself digesting it easily. Then and only then, reintroduce a little solid raw food like a green salad.
Weaning yourself back on to food should last just as long as the fast. Your first tentative meals should be dilute, raw juices. After several days of slowly building up to solid raw fruit, small amounts of raw vegetable foods should be added. If it has been a long fast, say over three weeks, this reintroduction should be done gingerly over a few weeks. If this stage is poorly managed or ignored you may become acutely ill, and for someone who started fasting while dangerously ill, loss of self control and impulsive eating could prove fatal. Even for those fasting to cure non-life-threatening illnesses it is pointless to go through the effort and discipline of a long fast without carefully establishing a correct diet after the fast ends, or the effort will have largely been wasted.
Foods For Monodiet, Juice or Broth Fasting zucchini, garlic, onion, green beans, kale, celery, beet greens and root, cabbage, carrot, wheat grass juice, alfalfa juice, barley green juice, parsley juice, lemon/lime juice, grapefruit juice, apples (not juice, too sweet), diluted orange juice, diluted grape juice
There are gradations of fasting measures ranging from rigorous to relatively casual. Water fasting is the most rapid and effective one. Other methods have been created by grasping the underlying truth of fasting, namely whenever the digestive effort can be reduced, by whatever degree, whenever the formation of the toxins of misdigestion can be reduced or prevented, to that extent the body can divert energy to the healing process. Thus comes about assorted famous and sometimes notorious monodiet semi-fasts like the grape cure where the faster eats only grapes for a month or so, or the lemon cure, where the juice of one or more lemons is added to water and nothing else is consumed for weeks on end. Here I should also mention the "lemon juice/cayenne pepper/maple syrup cure," the various green drink cures using spirulina, chlorella, barley green or wheat grass, and the famous Bieler broths–vegetable soups made of overcooked green beans or zucchini.
I do not believe that monodiets work because of some magical property of a particular food used. They work because they are semi-fasts and may be extremely useful, especially for those individuals who can not or will not tolerate a water fast.
The best foods for monodiet fasting are the easiest ones digest: juices of raw fruits and nonstarchy vegetables with all solids strained out. Strained mineral broths made of long-simmered non-starchy vegetables (the best of them made of leafy green vegetables) fall in the same category. So if you are highly partial to the flavor of grapes or lemons or cayenne and (highly diluted) maple syrup, a long fast on one of these would do you a world of good, just not quite as much good as the same amount of time spent on water alone. If you select something more "solid" for a long monodiet fast, like pureed zucchini, it is essential that you not overeat. Dr. Bieler gave his fasting patients only one pint of zucchini soup three or four times a day. The way to evaluate how much to eat is by how much weight you are losing. When fasting, you must lose weight! And the faster the better.
Pure absolute water fasting while not taking any vitamins or other nutritional supplementation has a very limited maximum duration, perhaps 45 days. The key concept here is nutritional reserves. Body fat is stored, surplus energy fuel. But energy alone cannot keep a body going. It needs much more than fuel to rebuild and repair and maintain its systems. So the body in its wisdom also stores up vitamins and minerals and other essential substances in and in-between all its cells. Bodies that have been very well nourished for a long time have very large reserves; poorly nourished ones may have very little set aside for a rainy day. And it is almost a truism that a sick person has, for quite some time, been a poorly nourished one. With low nutritional reserves. This fact alone can make it difficult for a sick person to water fast for enough time to completely heal their damaged organs and other systems.
Obese people have fat reserves sufficient to provide energy for long periods, but rarely can any body, no matter how complete its nutrition was for years previously, contain sufficient nutritional reserves to support a water fast of over six weeks. To water fast the very obese down to normal weight can take months but to make this possible, rather diverse and concentrated nutrition containing few calories must be given. It is possible to fast even a very slim a person for quite a bit longer than a month when their body is receiving easily assimilable vitamins and minerals and small amounts of sugars or other simple carbohydrates.
I estimate that fasting on raw juices and mineral broths will result in healing at 25 to 75 percent of the efficiency of water fasting, depending on the amount of nutrition taken and the amount the juices or broths are diluted. But juice fasting can permit healing to go on several times longer than water might.
Fasting on dilute juice and broth can also save the life of someone whose organs of elimination are insufficiently strong to withstand the work load created by water fasting. In this sense, juices can be regarded as similar to the moderators in a nuclear reactor, slowing the process down so it won"t destroy the container. On a fast of undiluted juice, the healing power drops considerably, but a person on this regimen, if not sick, is usually capable of working.
Duration of juice fasts can vary greatly. Most of the time there is no need to continue fasting after the symptoms causing concern have been eliminated, and this could happen as quickly as one week or take as long as 60 days if the person is very obese. Fasters also lose their motivation once the complaint has vanished. But feeling better is no certain indication that the need to fast has ended. This points up one of the liabilities of juice fasting; the person is already eating, their digestive system never shut down and consequently, it is much easier for them to resume eating. The thing to keep in mind is that if the symptoms return, the fast was not long enough or the diet was not properly reformed after the fast.
During a long fast on water or dilute juice, if the body has used up all of it"s reserves and/or the body has reached skeletal condition, and the condition or symptoms being addressed persists the fast should be ended, the person should go on a raw food healing diet. If three to six months on raw food don"t solve the complaint then another spell of water or dilute juice fasting should be attempted. Most fasters are incapable of persisting until the body reserves have been used up because social conditioning is telling them their emaciated-looking body must be dying when it is actually far from death, but return of true hunger is the critical indicator that must not be ignored. True hunger is not what most people think of when they think they are hungry. Few Americans have ever experienced true hunger. It is not a rumbling in the stomach or a set of uncomfortable sensations (caused by the beginning of detoxification) you know will go away after eating. True hunger is an animal, instinctual feeling in the back of one"s throat (not in the stomach) that demands you eat something, anything, even grass or shoe leather.
Seriously ill people inevitably start the cleansing process with a pre-existing and serious mineral deficiencies. I say inevitably because they likely would not have become ill had they been properly nourished. Sick fasters may be wise to take in minerals from thin vegetable broths or vitamin-like supplements in order to prevent uncomfortable deficiency states. For example calcium or magnesium deficiencies can make water fasters experience unpleasant symptoms such as hand tremors, stiff muscles, cramps in the hands, feet, and legs, and difficulty relaxing. I want to stress here that fasting itself does not create deficiencies. But a person already deficient in minerals should watch for these symptoms and take steps to remedy the deficiencies if necessary.
Raw Food Healing Diets
Next in declining order of healing effectiveness is what I call a raw food healing diet or cleansing diet. It consists of those very same watery fruits and nonstarchy vegetables one juices or makes into vegetable broths, but eaten whole and raw. Heating food does two harmful things: it destroys many vitamins, enzymes and other nutritional elements and it makes many foods much harder to digest. So no cooked vegetables or fruits are allowed because to maintain health on this limited regimen it is essential that every possible vitamin and enzyme present in the food be available for digestion. Even though still raw, no starchy or fatty vegetables or fruits are allowed that contain concentrated calories like potatoes, winter squash, avocados, sweet potatoes, fresh raw corn, dates, figs, raisins, or bananas. And naturally, no salad dressings containing vegetable oils or (raw) ground seeds are allowed. Nor are raw grains or other raw concentrated energy sources.
When a person starts this diet they will at first experience considerable weight loss because it is difficult to extract a large number of calories from these foods (though I have seen people actually gain weight on a pure melon diet, so much sugar do these fruits have, and well-chewed watermelon seeds are very nourishing). Eating even large quantities of only raw fruit and raw non-starchy vegetables results in a slow but steady healing process about 10 to 20 percent as rapid as water fasting.
A raw food cleansing diet has several huge advantages. It is possible to maintain this regimen and regularly do non-strenuous work for many months, even a year or more without experiencing massive weight loss and, more important to some people, without suffering the extremes of low blood sugar, weakness and loss of ability to concentrate that happen when water fasting. Someone on a raw food cleanse will have periods of lowered energy and strong cravings for more concentrated foods, but if they have the self-discipline to not break their cleansing process they can accomplish a great deal of healing while still maintaining more or less normal (though slower paced) life activities. However, almost no one on this diet is able to sustain an extremely active life-style involving hard physical labor or competitive sports. And from the very beginning someone on a raw food cleanse must be willing and able to lie down and rest any time they feel tired or unable to face their responsibilities. Otherwise they will inevitably succumb to the mental certainty that their feelings of exhaustion or overwhelm can be immediately solved by eating some concentrated food to "give them energy." Such low-energy states will, however, pass quickly after a brief nap or rest.
Something else gradually happens to a body when on such a diet. Do you recall that I mentioned that after my own long fast I began to get more "mileage" out of my food. A cleansed, healed body becomes far more efficient at digestion and assimilation; a body that is kept on a raw food cleansing diet will initially lose weight rapidly, but eventually weight loss slows to virtually nothing and then stabilizes. However, long-term raw fooders are usually thin as toothpicks.
Once starchy vegetables like potatoes or winter squash, raw or cooked, or any cereals, raw or cooked, are added to a cleansing diet, the detoxification and healing virtually ceases and it becomes very easy to maintain or even gain weight, particularly if larger quantities of more concentrated foods like seeds and nuts are eaten. Though this diet has ceased to be cleansing, few if any toxins from misdigestion will be produced and health is easy to maintain.
"Raw fooders" are usually people who have healed themselves of a serious diseases and ever after continue to maintain themselves on unfired food, almost as a matter of religious belief. They have become convinced that eating only raw, unfired food is the key to extraordinarily long life and supreme good health. When raw fooders wish to perform hard physical work or strenuous exercise, they"ll consume raw nuts and some raw grains such as finely-ground oats soaked overnight in warm water or deliciously sweet "Essene bread," made from slightly sprouted wheat that is then ground wet, made into cakes, and sun baked at temperatures below about 115 degrees Fahrenheit. Essene bread can be purchased in some health food stores. However, little or no healing or detoxification can happen once concentrated energy sources are added to the diet, even raw ones.
During my days at Great Oaks School I was a raw fooder for some years, though I found it very difficult to maintain body heat on raw food during chilly, rainy Oregon winters and eventually struck a personal compromise where I ate about half my diet raw and the rest fired. I have listed some books by raw fooders in the Bibliography. Joe Alexander"s is the most fun.
Complete Recovery Of The Seriously Ill
Its a virtual certainty that to fully recover, a seriously ill person will have to significantly rebuild numerous organs. They have a hard choice: to accept a life of misery, one that the medical doctors with drugs and surgery may be able to prolong into an interminable hell on earth, or, spend several years working on really healing their body, rotating between water fasting, juice or broth fasting, extended periods on a cleansing raw food diet, and periods of no-cleansing on a more complete diet that includes moderate amounts of cooked vegetables and small quantities of cooked cereals. And even after recovery someone who was quite ill may have to live the rest of their life on a rather restricted regimen.
It is unrealistic to expect one fast to fix everything. The body will heal as much as it can in the allotted time, but if a dangerous illness has not been fully remedied by the first intense fast, a raw food diet must be followed for three to six months until weight has been regained, nutritional reserves have been rebuilt and it is safe to undertake another extended fast. More than two water or juice fasts a year of thirty continuous days are not recommended nor should they be necessary unless the life is in imminent danger and there is no other option.
The story of Jake"s catastrophic illness and almost-cure is a good example of this type of program. Jake was from back East. He phoned me because he had read a health magazine article I had written, his weak voice faintly describing a desperate condition. He was in a wheelchair unable to walk, unable to control his legs or arms very well, was unable to control his bladder and required a catheter. He had poor bowel control, had not the strength to talk much or loudly and most frightening to him, he was steadily losing weight although he was eating large amounts of cooked vegetables and grains. Jake had wasted away to 90 pounds at 5"10" and looked pathetic when I first saw him wheeled off an airplane at my local airport.
Jake had seen a lot of medical doctors and had variously been diagnosed as having chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic (whatever that is) meningitis, and multiple sclerosis. He had been treated by virtually every medical expert and many famous alternative practitioners, utilizing a host of old and new techniques, all to no avail. He had even tried intravenous chelation therapy and colonics. It had also been suggested that he enter a hospital for the treatment of eating disorders and/or see a psychiatrist. He had tried to gain admittance to a number of holistic fasting institutions back east, but they all refused him because they considered the risk was too high to fast a person at such a low body weight. But I had previously fasted emaciated people like Jake, and there was something I liked about his telephone presence. Perhaps this is why I foolishly decided I knew better than the other experts.
People commonly waste away and die while eating large amounts of food. Obviously they are unable to digest or assimilate nutrients or they wouldn"t be wasting. Eating further increases their toxic burden from undigested meals, further worsening their already failing organs. The real solution is to stop feeding them altogether so that their digestive functions can heal. In Jake"s case, his body"s nutritional reserves had already become sadly depleted due to poor absorption over such an extended period, so I could not fast him on water. I immediately put Jake on a rich mineral broth prepared from everything left alive in our garden at the end of winter–leaves of kale, endive plants, whole huge splitting Savoy cabbages, garlic, huge leeks including their green tops, the whole stew fortified with sea weed. It did not matter too much what vegetables I used as long as there were lots of leafy greens containing lots of chlorophyll (where the most concentrated mineral nutrition is located).
Jake was given colonics every day, but had to be carried to the colonic table because he could not support his own weight. Whoever had given him colonics previously had not accomplished much for I must say that Jake had the most foul smelling discharges that I had ever encountered in administering over 6,000 colonics over many years. It was as if his body was literally rotting from the inside out.
After 30 days on mineral broth Jake, who really did weigh 90 pounds when he arrived, was only down to 85! When a person already close to skeletal weight starts fasting, to conserve vital tissue the body goes rapidly into a state of profound rest so it uses very little energy, thus it loses very little weight each day. This degree of resting also helps heal abnormal body parts earlier. After one month on mineral broth Jake began to show signs of mineral deficiencies in the form of a fine tremor of the hands, and cramps in the feet, so I put him on mineral supplements too.
Jake was in my house for a long time. At the end of the second month on broth he started two weeks on raw carrot juice with a lot of chlorophyll added from sources such as algae (spirulina), wheat grass juice, alfalfa, etc.. This was followed by two more weeks on small quantities of raw fruits and vegetables, and then followed by two weeks with added steamed vegetables, and finally, he achieved a diet which included small amounts of grain, cooked legumes and raw nuts, plus the fruits and vegetables previously mentioned. Jake health steadily improved. He gained control of his bladder, bowels, speech, hands, and legs. He began to exercise in the living room on a stationary bike, and walked slowly up and down our long driveway, picking daffodils in the beautiful spring weather.
Sadly, though I could help his body to heal it was next to impossible to stem the tides of Jake"s appetites or to pleasantly withstand his tantrums when he was denied; he always wanted more in terms of quantity, more in terms of variety, and at more frequent intervals. Though his organs had healed significantly, his digestive capacity was not nearly as large as he remembered himself enjoying before he got sick. And never would be. Jake was not happy about the dietary restrictions necessary for him to retain his newly attained health, and unwilling to stay within the limits of his digestive system"s ability to process foods. He had gained weight and was back up to 120 pounds. It was time for him to go home before I lost my good humor.
Jake left with a lot of "good lucks" and stern admonitions to stick to his stringent diet and supplement program. It was a big moment for Jake. He had arrived in a wheelchair three months before. Now he walked unaided to the airplane, something he had not been able to do for two years.
Back at home Jake had no one courageous enough to set limits for him. His immediate family and every one of his brow beaten associates were compelled to give him everything that he wanted. So his appetite and lack of personal discipline got the better of him. He started eating lots of dates and figs. These had been eliminated from his diet because he was unable to process foods which such a high sugar content. He also ate larger and larger quantities of grains, nuts and avocados, although I had warned him of specific quantity limits on rich foods. Most sadly, he returned to enjoying spaghetti with lots of cheese grated on top. Within months of leaving my care his paralysis and weakness returned, except that unfortunately for him, he still retained the ability to assimilate food and maintain his body weight. Ironically, the only ultimate benefit of his fasting with me was to permit him to suffer a far longer existence in a wheelchair without wasting away and escaping into death.
I would be failing my readers if I did not explain why Jake became ill in the first place. Jake had started what grew to become a very successful chain of spaghetti restaurants with a unique noodles and sauces made to his own formula. He ate a lot of his own spaghetti over the years, and had been reared in a good Italian family with lots of other kinds of rich food. Jake had a reputation for being able to outeat everybody in terms of quantity and in the amount of time spent eating. In childhood, this ability had made his Italian mother very happy because it showed appreciation for her great culinary skill.
Secondly, Jake the adult was still at his core, Jake the spoiled brat child, with a bad, unregulated temper. He was in the habit of dumping his temper on other people whether they needed a helping of his angry emotions or not. A lot of people in his employ and in his extended family tiptoed around Jake, always careful of triggering his wrath. At my place as Jake began to get well he began to use his increased energy and much stronger voice to demonstrate his poor character. At meal times Jake would bang the table with a fork hard enough to leave dents in the wood table top while yelling for more, complaining loudly about the lack of rich sauces and other culinary delights he craved. This was a character problem that Jake could not seem to overcome, even with a lot of intervention from the local minister on his behalf and my counseling. Jake was a Catholic who went to church regularly, but acted like a Christian only while he was in church. On some level Jake knew that he was not treating others fairly, but he would not change his habitual responses. His negative thoughts and actions interfered with his digestive capacity to the extent that his gluttonous eating habits produced illness, a vegetative paralyzing illness, but not death. To me this seems almost a form of karmic justice.
It is common for people who have been very ill for extended periods of time to realize what a wonderful gift life is and arrive at a willingness to do almost anything to have a second chance at doing ‘life" right. Some succeed with their second chance and some don"t. If they don"t succeed in changing their life and relationships, they frequently relapse.
Luigi Cornaro"s left the world his story of sickness and rejuvenation. His little book may be the world"s first alternative healing text. It is a classic example of the value of abstentousness. Had Jake taken this story to heart he would have totally recovered. Cornaro was a sixteenth century Venetian nobleman. He, like Jake the spaghetti baron, was near death at the young age of forty. (Jake was also in his early 40s when he broke down.) Cornaro"s many doctors were unable to cure him. Finally he saw a doctor who understood the principles of natural healing. This wise physician determined that this illness was caused by a mismatch between Cornaro"s limited digestive capacity and the excessive amount of food he was eating. So Cornaro was put on a diet of only 12 ounces of solid food and fourteen ounces of liquid a day. Any twelve ounces of any solids he wanted and any fourteen ounces of liquid. It could be meat and wine, salad or orange juice, no matter.
Cornaro soon regained his health and he continued to follow the diet until the age of 78. His health was so outstanding during this period that people who were much younger in terms of years were unable to keep up with him. At 78 his friends, worried about how thin he was (doesn"t it always seem that it is your so-called friends who always ruin a natural cure) persuaded him to increase his daily ration by two ounces a day. His delicate and weak digestive system, which had operated perfectly for many years, was unable to deal with the additional two ounces, and he became very ill after a very short period of over eating.
Worse, his recent indulgence had even further damaged the organs of digestion and to survive Cornaro had to cut his daily ration to eight ounces of solid food and eleven of liquids. On this reduced dietary he again regained his health and lived to be 100. Cornaro wrote four books on the value of abstinence or "sober living" as he called it, writing the last and perhaps the most interesting at 96 years of age. Had my patient Jake been able to confine his food intake to the level of his body"s ability to digest, he might still be walking and enjoying life. But try as I might I could not make him understand. Perhaps he enjoys doing penance in his wheel chair more than he would enjoy health and life.
Tissue Losses at Death By Starvation*
* From Keys, Ancel, Joseph Brozek , Austin Henchel, Olaf Mickelson and Henry L. Taylor, (1950) The Biology of Human Starvation. Two Vols. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
|Brain and Spinal Cord
It is true that ethical medical doctors use the least-risky procedure they are allowed to use. But this does not mean there are no risks to allopathic treatment. The medical doctor justifies taking the risks by saying that the risk/reward ratio is the best possible. Any sick person is already at risk. Life comes with only one guarantee: that none of us gets out of it alive.
Compared to the risks of allopathic medicine, fasting is a far safer method of treating disease. The oft-repeated scare stories medical doctors and their allies circulate about fasting are not true, and it is important to remember that none of these people portraying fasting as evil and dangerous have ever fasted themselves–I"ll put money on that one. Or, on the slim possibility that someone telling fasting horror stories did actually not eat for 24 hours (probably because some accident or acute illness prevented them), they had a terrible experience because they didn"t understand the process, were highly toxic, and were scared to death the whole time.
Or worse yet they fasted for a short period with an "open mind"–a very dangerous state in which to approach anything new. I have found through considerable experience with people professing to have open minds that the expression "I"m open minded" usually means that someone has already made up their mind and new data just passes straight through their open mind–in one ear and out the other. Or sometimes, the phrase "open mind" means a person that does not believe any information has reality and is entirely unable to make up their mind.
The most commonly leveled criticism of fasting is that in its efforts to survive self-imposed starvation the body metabolizes vital tissue, not just fat, and therefore, fasting is damaging, potentially fatally damaging. People who tell you this will also tell you that fasters have destroyed their heart muscle or ruined their nervous system permanently. But this kind of damage happen only when a person starves to death or starves to a point very close to death, not when someone fasts.
There is a huge difference between fasting and starvation. Someone starving is usually eating, but eating poorly and inadequately, eating scraps of whatever is available such as sugar, white flour, rancid grease, shoe leather, or even dirt. Frequently a starving person is forced to exercise a great deal as they struggle to survive and additionally is highly apprehensive. Or someone starving to death is confined to a small space, may become severely dehydrated too and is in terror. Fear is very damaging to the digestive process, and to the body in general; fear speeds up the destruction of vital tissue. People starve when trekking vast distances through wastelands without food to eat, they starved in concentration camps, buried in mind disasters, they starve during famines and starve while being tortured in prisons.
Until water fasting goes on past the point where all fatty tissues and all abnormal deposits have been burned for fuel and recycled for the nutritional elements they contain, vital muscle tissues and organs are not consumed. And as long as the body contains sufficient nutritional reserves, vital organs and essential tissues are rebuilt and maintained. In fact the body has a great deal of intelligence that we don"t give it credit for. It knows exactly which cells are essential to survival, which ones are not. The body knows which cells are abnormal deposits, and it goes to work to metabolize them first. For example, the body recognizes arthritic deposits, cysts, fibroids, and tumors as offensive parts of the landscape, and obligingly uses them for foods in preference to anything else. A starving (not fasting) body also knows precisely in what order of priority body cells should be metabolized to minimize risk of death or permanent disability.
After a starving body has reached skeletal condition, or where some small amount of fat remains but nutritional reserves (vitamins and minerals) are exhausted and there is insufficient nourishment forthcoming, the body begins to consume nutrient-rich muscle and organ tissue in a last-ditch effort to stay alive. Under these dire circumstances, the least essential muscles and organs from the standpoint of survival are metabolized first. For example, muscles in the arms and legs would be consumed early in the process, the heart muscle used only toward the very end. The very last part of the body to be metabolized when one is starving and as has come very close to death would be the brain and the nervous system.
Starvation begins where fasting ends, which is when real hunger begins. If the return of hunger is ignored whenever it takes place, whether it is in 30, 60, or 90 days depending upon body weight and type of fast, at that point exactly, not a day before, starvation begins very slowly. Usually it takes a considerable period of time after that before death occurs. It is important to note that this discussion applies only to the abstention from food, not water. Death takes place very quickly in the absence of water.
The chart on the previous page shows numerically the phenomenal ability of the body to protect the most essential tissues of the body right up to the time of death. If a person fasted for 30 days, the average time it takes for the return of hunger in a person that is not overweight, and then ignored the return of hunger, and continued to abstain from food–if the person could avoid forced exercise, keep warm, and had enough hydration, it could take as much as an additional 20 to 60 days to die of starvation! At death the body would have experienced losses of 40 to 60 percent of its starting body weight. (Ancel Keys et al, 1950) A emaciated person can not afford to lose nearly as much weight as an obese person, and death under conditions of starvation will occur earlier. In all cases of starvation the brain, nerves, heart, lungs, kidneys and liver remain largely intact and functional to the very end. During a fast, it is almost impossible to damage essential organs, unless of course the person creates the damage by fears about the process, or by internalizing the fears of others. If those fears are present, the fast should not be attempted.
Weight Loss By Fasting
Loss of weight indicates, almost guarantees, that detoxification and healing is occurring. I can"t stress this too much. Of all the things I find my patients seem to misunderstand or forget after being told, it is that they can"t heal in a rapid manner without getting smaller. This reality is especially hard for the family and friends of someone who is fasting, who will say, "you"re looking terrible dear, so thin. Your skin is hanging on your bones. You"re not eating enough protein or nutrient food to be healthy and you must eat more or you"re going to develop serious deficiencies. You don"t have any energy, you must be getting sicker. You"re doing the wrong thing, obviously. You have less energy and look worse every day. Go and see a doctor before it is too late." To succeed with friends like this, a faster has to be a mighty self-determined person with a powerful ability to disagree with others.
Medical personnel claim that rapid weight loss often causes dangerous deficiencies; these deficiencies force the person to overeat and regain even more weight afterward. This is largely untrue, though there is one true aspect to it: a fasted, detoxified body becomes a much more efficient digester and assimilator, extracting a lot more nutrition from the same amount food is used to eat. If, after extended fasting a person returns to eating the same number of calories as they did before; they will gain weight even more rapidly than before they stated fasting. When fasting for weight loss, the only way to keep the weight off is to greatly reform the diet; to go on, and stay on, a diet made up largely of non-starchy, watery fruits and vegetables, limited quantities of cooked food, and very limited amounts of highly concentrated food sources like cereals and cooked legumes. Unless, of course, after fasting, one"s lifestyle involves much very hard physical labor or exercise. I"ve had a few obese fasters become quite angry with me for this reason; they hoped to get thin through fasting and after the fast, to resume overeating with complete irresponsibility as before, without weight gain.
People also fear weight loss during fasting because they fear becoming anorexic or bulimic. They won"t! A person who abstains from eating for the purpose of improving their health, in order to prevent or treat illness, or even one who fasts for weight loss will not develop an eating disorder. Eating disorders mean eating compulsively because of a distorted body image. Anorexics and bulimics have obsessions with the thinner-is-better school of thought. The anorexic looks at their emaciated frame in the mirror and thinks they are fat! This is the distorted perception of a very insecure person badly in need of therapy. A bulimic, on the other hand stuffs themselves, usually with bad food, and then purges it by vomiting, or with laxatives. Anorexics and bulimics are not accelerating the healing potential of their bodies; these are life threatening conditions. Fasters are genuinely trying to enhance their survival potential.
Occasionally a neurotic individual with a pre-existing eating disorder will become obsessed with fasting and colon cleansing as a justification to legitimize their compulsion. During my career while monitoring hundreds of fasters, I"ve known two of these. I discourage them from fasting or colon cleansing, and refuse to assist them, because they carry the practices to absurd extremes, and contribute to bad press about natural medicine by ending up in the emergency ward of a hospital with an intravenous feeding tube in their arm.
Cases Beyond The Remedy Of Fasting
Occasionally, very ill people have a liver that has become so degenerated it cannot sustain the burden of detoxification. This organ is as vital to survival as the brain, heart and lungs. We can get along with only one kidney, we can live with no spleen, with no gallbladder, with only small parts of the stomach and intestines, but we can not survive without a liver for more than a day or so. The liver is the most active organ in the body during detoxification. To reach an understanding of detoxification, it helps to know just what the liver does for us on an ongoing basis.
The liver is a powerful chemical filter where blood is refined and purified. The liver passes this cleansed blood out through the superior vena cava, directly to the heart. The blood is then pumped into general and systemic circulation, where it reaches all parts of the body, delivering nutrition and oxygen at a cellular level. On its return flow, a large proportion of the depleted blood is collected by the gastric, splenic and superior and inferior mesenteric veins that converge to form the large portal vein which enters the liver. Thus a massive flow of waste from all the cells of the body is constantly flowing into the liver. The huge hepatic artery also enters the liver to supply oxygen and nutrients with which to sustain the liver cells themselves.
The liver is constantly at work refining the blood. It is synthesizing, purifying, renovating, washing, filtering, separating, and detoxifying. It works day and night without stopping. Many toxins are broken down by enzymes and their component parts are efficiently reused in various parts of the body. Some impurities are filtered out and held back from the general circulation. These debris are collected and stored in the gall bladder, which is a little sack appended to the liver. After a meal, the contents of the gall bladder (bile) are discharged into the duodenum, the upper part of the small intestine just beyond the stomach. This bile also contains digestive enzymes produced by the liver that permit the breakdown of fatty foods in the small intestine.
Sometimes a large flow of bile finds its way into the stomach by pressure or is sucked into the stomach by vomiting. Excessive biliary secretion and excretion can also result from overeating, which overcrowds the area. Sometimes colonics or massage can also stimulate a massive flow of bile. Extremely bitter and irritating, when bile gets into the stomach the person either vomits or wishes they could. And after vomiting and experiencing the taste of bile, wishes they hadn"t.
When no food at all enters the system, the blood keeps right on passing through the liver/filter just as it does when we are eating. When the liver does not have to take care of toxins generated by the current food intake, each passage through the liver results in a cleaner blood stream, with the debris decreasing in quantity, viscosity, and toxicity, until the blood becomes normalized. During fasting, debris from the gall bladder still pass through the small intestine and into the large intestine. However, if the bowels do not move the toxins in the bile are readsorbed into the blood stream and get recirculated in an endless loop. This toxic recycling makes a faster feel just terrible, like they had a flu or worse!
The bowels rarely move while fasting. During fasting only enemas or colonics permit elimination from the large intestine. If done effectively and frequently, enemas will greatly add to the well being and comfort of the faster. Many times when a faster seems to be retracing or experiencing a sudden onset of acute discomfort or symptoms, these can be almost immediately relieved by an enema or colonic.
A person with major liver degeneration inevitably dies, with or without fasting, with or without traditional medicine. Significantly impaired kidney function can also bring about this same result. Mercifully, death while fasting is usually accomplished relatively free of pain, clear of mind and with dignity. That often can not be said of death in a hospital. There are much worse experiences than death. Fasting is not a cure-all. There are some conditions that are beyond the ability of the body to heal. Ultimately, old age gets us all.
Dr. Linda Hazzard, one of the greats of natural hygiene, who practiced Osteopathic medicine in the 1920s, had a useful way of categorizing conditions that respond well to fasting. These she labeled "acute conditions," and "chronic degenerative conditions." A third classification, "chronic conditions with organic damage," does not respond to fasting. Acute conditions, are usually inflammations or infections with irritated tissue, with swelling, redness, and often copious secretions of mucous and pus, such as colds, flu, a first time case of pneumonia, inflamed joints as in the early stages of arthritis, etc. These acute conditions usually remedy in one to three weeks of fasting. Acute conditions are excellent candidates for self-doctoring. Chronic degenerative conditions are more serious and the patient usually requires supervision. These include conditions such as cancer, aids, chronic arthritis, chronic pneumonia, emphysema and asthma. Chronic degenerative conditions usually respond within a month to three months of fasting. The fasting should be broken up into two or three sessions if the condition has not been relieved in one stint of supervised fasting. Each successive fast will produce some improvement and if a light, largely raw-food diet is adhered to between fasts the patient should not worsen and should be fairly comfortable between fastings.
If there has been major functional damage to an organ as a result of any of these degenerative conditions, healing will not be complete, or may be impossible. By organic damage, I mean that a vital part of the body has ceased to function due to some degenerative process, injury, or surgery–so badly damaged that the cells that make up the organ can not be replaced.
I once had a twenty five year old man come to my spa to die in peace because he had been through enough diagnostic procedures in three hospitals to know that his liver was beyond repair. He had been working on an apple farm in between terms at university when he was poisoned several times with insecticide from an aerial spray on the whole orchard. He absorbed so much insecticide that his liver incurred massive organic damage.
When he came to me his body had reached the point where it was incapable of digesting, and because of lack of liver function, it was incapable of healing while fasting, a condition in which death is a certainty. He was a Buddhist, did not fear death and did not want to be kept alive in agony or in prolonged unconsciousness by any extraordinary means, nor did he want to die with tubes in every orifice. I was honored to be a supportive participant in his passing. He died fasting, in peace, and without pain, with a clear mind that allowed him to consciously prepare for the experience. He was not in a state of denial or fear, and made no frantic attempts to escape the inevitable. He went quietly into that still dark night with a tranquil demeanor and a slight smile.
Fortunately, in my many years of practice I had the pleasure of seeing the majority of the people totally regain their health or at least greatly improve it by means of the fasting and healing diets. Many cancer patients watched with amazement as their tumors disappeared before their eyes, many arthritics regained their function, serious skin conditions such as psoriasis disappeared, mental conditions improved, addictions vanished, fatigue was replaced by energy, and fat dissolved revealing the hidden sculpture beneath. I will talk more about procedures and the particular reasons bodies develop specific conditions in later chapters.
Social/Cultural/Psychological Obstacles To Fasting
Numerous attitudes make it difficult to fast or to provide moral support to friends or loved ones that are fasting. Many people harbor fears of losing weight because they think that if times were really tough, if there was a famine or they became ill and lost a lot of weight they would have no reserves and would certainly perish. These people have no idea how much fat can be concealed on an even skinny body, nor of how slowly a skinny body loses weight while fasting. Substantial fat reserves are helpful as heat-retaining insulation in those rare accidents when someone is dropped into a cold ocean and must survive until the rescue boat arrives. Being fat might keep a person alive longer who is lost in the wilderness awaiting rescue with no supplies, no means of procuring food, and no means of keeping warm. On the other hand, fat people would have a far harder time walking out of the wilderness. And extensive fat deposits are merely fuel and do not contain extensive nutritional reserves. An obese person fasting without significant nutritional supplementation would begin starving long before they became really skinny. On the balance, carrying excess weight is a far greater liability than any potential prosurvival aspects it might have.
There are other attitudes associated with weight loss that make it difficult for people to fast. People hold rather stereotypical notions about what constitutes an attractive person; usually it involves having some meat on ones bones. Hollywood and Hugh Hefner have both influenced the masses to think that women should have hourglass figures with large, upthrust, firm breasts. Since breasts are almost all useless fatty tissue supporting some milk-producing glands that do not give a breast much volume except when engorged, most women fasters loose a good percentage of their breast mass. If the fast is extensive, there should also develop an impressive showing of ribs and hip bones; these are not soft and cuddly. Husbands, lovers, parents, and friends frequently point out that you don"t look good this way and exhort you to put on weight. Most people think pleasantly plump is healthy.
Skinny men, especially those who had lost a lot of weight during an illness, are pressured by associates to put on weight to prove that they are healthy. I had a client who was formerly a college varsity football player. Before his illness he had lifted weights and looked like a hunk. His family and friends liked to see him that way and justifiably so. Then he got seriously ill. On a long extended healing diet he lost a significant amount of weight and seemed down right skinny, causing all who knew him well and cared about him to tempt him with all kinds of scrumptious delicacies from the best of kitchens. But this case was like Luigi Cornaro, a man who never again could look like a hunk. His "friends" made an absolutely necessary change in life style and appearance far more difficult than it was already. My client was torn between a desire to please others, and a desire to regain and retain his health. This problem a sick person doesn"t need.
If you have the independence to consider following an alternative medical program in a culture that highly values conformity and agreement, you are also going to have to defend your own course of self-determined action based on the best available data that you have. But fasters are usually in fragile emotional condition, so I advise my clients who are subjected to this kind of pressure to beg their friends and associates to refrain from saying anything if they can"t support the course of action you have chosen. After this, if friends or relatives are still incapable of saying nothing (even non-verbally), it is important to exclude them from your life until you have accomplished your health goals, have regained some weight and have returned to eating a maintenance diet, rather than getting skinnier on a healing one.
The very worst aspect of our culture"s eating programming is that people have been wrongfully taught that when ill they must eat to keep up their strength. Inherent in this recommendation is an unstated belief that when the body is weakened by a disease state, the weakness can somehow be overcome with food, and that the body needs this food to kill the virus, bacteria, or invading yeast, and uses the protein to heal or rebuild tissue. Sadly, the exact opposite is the case. Disease organisms feed and multiply on the toxic waste products of misdigestion, and the body is unable to digest well when it is weak or ill. There"s an old saying about this: ‘feed a cold, starve a fever." Most people think this saying means you should eat when you have a cold. What the saying really means is if you feed a cold then you will soon have to starve a fever. Protein foods especially are not digested by a diseased body, and as mentioned before, the waste products of protein indigestion are especially poisonous. That is all the body needs when it is already down, another load of poison which it can"t eliminate due to weakness and enervation.
Weight loss is usually associated with illness, as it should be! In times of acute illness an otherwise healthy body loses its appetite for food because it is prosurvival to stop eating. It is very hard to coax a sick animal to eat. Their bodies, not controlled by a mind full of complex learned responses and false ideas, automatically know that fasting is nature"s method of healing. Contrary to popular understanding, digestion, assimilation, and elimination require the expenditure of considerable energy. This fact may contradict the reader"s experience because everyone has become tired when they have worked a long time without eating, and then experienced the lift after eating. But an ill body cannot digest efficiently so instead of providing energy extracted from foods, the body is further burdened by yet another load of toxic material produced by fermented and putrefied food. This adds insult to injury in a sick body that is already drowning in its own garbage.
Worse, during illness most available vital force is already redirected into healing; it is not available for digestion. It is important to allow a sick body to proceed with healing and not to obstruct the process with unnecessary digestion or suppress the symptoms (which actually are the healing efforts) with drugs. If you have an acute illness, and you stop all food intake except for pure water and herb teas, and perhaps some vegetable broth, or dilute non-sweet juice, you have relieved your body of an immense effort. Instead of digesting, the body goes to work on catching up on healing. The body can and will almost inevitably heal itself if the sick person will have faith in it, cooperate with the body"s efforts by allowing the symptoms of healing to exist, reduce or eliminate the intake of food to allow the body to marshal its energies, maintain a positive mental attitude and otherwise stay out of the way.
Many people intensely dread missing even one meal. These folks usually are and have been so toxic that their bodies had been stashing uneliminated toxins in their fat for years. They are usually so addicted to caffeine, cigarettes, alcohol, and so forth, that when they had fasted, even briefly, their bodies were forced to dip into highly-polluted fat reserves while simultaneously the body begins withdrawal. People like this who try to fast experience highly unpleasant symptoms including headache, irritability, inability to think or concentrate, blurred vision, profound fatigue, aches, etc. Most of these symptoms come from low blood sugar, but combined with the toxins being released from fat and combined with going through multiple addictive withdrawals, the discomforts are more than most people are willing to tolerate. Fasting on juice is much more realistic for cases like this. It is little wonder that when a hygienist suggests a fast to improve health, this type of case asserts positively that fasting is quite impossible, they have tried it, it is absolutely terrible and know that they can"t do it.
This rejection is partly due to a cultural expectation (one reinforced by western medicine) that all unpleasant symptoms should be avoided or suppressed. To voluntarily experience unpleasant sensations such as those mentioned above is more than the ordinary timid person will subject themselves to, even in order to regain health. They will allow surgery, drugs with violent and dangerous side effects, painful and invasive testing procedures and radiation–all unpleasant and sometimes extremely uncomfortable. These therapies are accepted because someone else with authority is doing it to them. And, they have been told that it they don"t submit they will not ever feel better and probably will die in the near future. Also people think that they have no alternative, that the expert in front of them knows what is best, so they feel relieved to have been relieved of the responsibility for their own condition and its treatment.
During the years it takes for a body to degenerate enough to prompt a fast, the body has been storing up large quantities of unprocessed toxins in the cells, tissues, fat deposits, and organs. The body in its wisdom will always choose to temporarily deposit overwhelming amounts of toxins somewhere harmless rather than permit the blood supply to become polluted or to use secondary elimination routes. A body will use times when the liver is less burdened to eliminate these stored toxic debris. The hygienists" paradigm asserts that the manifestation of symptoms or illness are all by themselves, absolute, unassailable proof that further storage of toxic wastes in the cells, tissues, fat deposits, and organs is not possible and that an effort toward elimination is absolutely necessary. Thus the first time a person fasts a great quantity of toxins will normally be released. Being the resident of a body when this is happening can be quite uncomfortable. For this reason alone, preventative fasting is a very wise idea.
Before the body becomes critically ill, clean up your reserve fuel supply (fat deposits) by burning off some accumulated fat that is rich in toxic deposits and then replace it with clean, non-toxic fat that you will make while eating sensibly. If you had but fasted prophylactically as a preventative or health-creating measure before you became seriously ill, the initial detoxification of your body could have been accomplished far more comfortably, while you were healthy, while your vital force was high and while your body otherwise more able to deal with detoxification.
Each time you fast, even if it is only one day, you allow your body to go through a partial detox, and each time it becomes easier and more comfortable than the last time. The body learns how to fast. Each time you fast it, your body slips into a cleansing mode more quickly, and each time you fast you lighten the load of stored toxins. Perhaps you have already eliminated the caffeine your body had stored, which frequently causes severe headaches on withdrawal, not to mention fatigue. It certainly helps to have this behind you before you go on to the elimination of other irritating substances. Many people have gone through alcohol or tobacco withdrawal, and understand that it is very unpleasant, and also that it must be done in the pursuit of health. Why not withdraw from the rest of the irritating and debilitating substances we take into our system on an ongoing basis, and why not grit your way through the eliminative process, withdraw, from food addictions such as sugar or salt, and from foods that you may be allergic to like wheat, dairy products or eggs.
It is very wise to invest in your own insurance plan by systematically detoxifying while you are still healthy. Plan it into your life, when it is convenient, such as once a week on Sunday, or even once a month on a quiet day. Take a few days of vacation, go to a warm, beautiful place and devote part or all of it to cleansing. Treat yourself by taking an annual trip to Hawaii, fasting at a hotel on the beach–do whatever it takes to motivate yourself. And consider this: vacations are enormously cheaper when you stay out of restaurants.
If you have accustomed your body to 24 hour fasts, then you can work on 48 hour fasts, and over time work up to 72 hour fasts, all on a continuum. You may find it becoming increasingly comfortable, perhaps even pleasant, something you look forward to. Fasting a relatively detoxified body feels good, and people eventually really get into the clean, light, clear headed, perhaps spiritually aware state that goes along with it.
By contrast, fasting when you are sick is much more difficult because your vitality or vital force is very low, you already have no energy, and probably have unpleasant symptoms that must be dealt with at the same time. There may be the added stress of being forced into a cleanse because you are too nauseous to eat. Most people let their health go until they are forced into dealing with it; they are too busy living, so why bother.
The truth is that our body does age, and over time becomes less able to deal with insults; the accumulated effect of insults and aging eventually leads most of us to some serious degenerative illness. Normally this begins happening around age 50 if not sooner. Some of us that were gifted with good genes or what I call "a good start" may have reached the age of 60 or 75 or even 90 without serious illness, but those people are few and far between. Why not tip the scales in your favor by preventing or staving off health problems with systematic detoxification at your own convenience.
Climb into the drivers seat and start to take control and gain confidence in your own ability to deal with your body, your own health, and your own life. When it gets right down to the bottom line, there is really only one thing in the world that is really yours, and that is your life. Take control and start managing it. The reward will be a more qualitative life.