Thursday, August 18, 2011

Fasting For Health

Fasting on water for a period of one to ten days is a safe and powerful way to rejuvenate the mind and body. Long used as the primary detoxification method by naturopathic physicians, there are many benefits to fasting, both emotional and physical. Twenty years ago, I first learned about fasting from Arnold Eheret’s “Rational Fasting” (1914), and Frank McCoy’s “The Fast Way To Health” (1923), books which emphasized the healing abilities of the body if it can rest in a fasting state. As a personal experience, I first tried my own extended water fast of 9 days while I was on a personal retreat. It was a transforming experience. Now, I often use water fasting with my patients, especially for chronic health problems and as a yearly spring “tune-up”

Benefits Of Fasting

Fasting is the oldest healing method known to man. It cures disease, prolongs life and energizes the soul. It was used by Ayurvedic physicians, ancient Greek physicians, it was discussed in the Bible, Koran and popularized by the “physical culturists” of the nineteenth century. In 2003, fasting is again becoming a trendy thing. In the August 14th, 2003 New York Times, (section 9, page 1), fasting is touted to “rest the tummy, restore the soul”. There is a great deal of medical research on the benefits of fasting. My own clinical experience has shown fasting to slow aging, improve liver function, improve mental functioning and to cure arthritis. Research has also shown fasting to alleviate autoimmune disease, atherosclerosis, diabetes, epilepsy, leaky gut, obesity, pancreatitis and chemical poisoning (PCB and DDT).

Slows Aging

For hundreds of years, Europeans have been using the spas on a yearly basis to refresh and renew their health through fasting and hydrotherapy. Although clinical experience has demonstrated the benefit of this protocol, very little is available to demonstrate that this practice works. Recent research has shown that rational diet restriction in the form of short fasts may be the most powerful way known to man to extend lifespan. In fact, fasting is the only documented “alternative health” method to extend lifespan. Studies have shown that high glucose and insulin damages mitochondria and diet restriction (fasting) reduces this total amount of oxidative stress within a cell mitochondria.

(Lee, C., et al. “Age Associated Alterations of the Mitochondrial Genome,” Free Rad Biol Med 22, 7 (1997): 1259–69. Kimura, K.D., et al.. daf-2, an insulin receptor-like gene that regulates longevity and diapause in Caenorhabditis elegans. Science 277(Aug. 15) 1997:942-946))

Improves Liver Function

Fasting enhances the liver’s ability to clear out metabolic flotsam from the blood stream.

As blood is filtered through the liver, toxins are scavenged, neutralized, and reassembled for elimination. Because of the way in which many of us eat and live, the liver can become, sluggish, and congested. Constant exposure to a lifetime of toxins; nutrient-poor diets high in hydrogenated fats; and a leaky gut are among the primary causes of liver burnout. Fasting regenerates the liver’s ability to function in a healthy way. But, be careful, because long term fasting or fasting in a polluted environment can go the wrong way and actually cause accelerated liver disease. Always fast for short periods of time in a pure environment and take a little vitamin C during your fasts, one to four grams will suffice.

(Godin, D.V., Wohaier, S.A. “Nutritional Deficiency, Starvation and Tissue Antioxidant Status,” Free Radical Biol Med 5 (1988): 165–76.)

Benefits Cognitive Functioning

Fasting sharpens the mind and purifies the soul. People who fast report a sense of feeling renewed. The reason for this is that fasting allows the liver to clean the blood which then delivers pure uncontaminated “fuel” to the brain. If the liver can’t clean out the “flotsam and jetsam” of the blood, this allows recycled chemical messengers like adrenalin and other stress hormones to have a second chance to re-stimulate the nervous system. (Basile, A.S., et al. “Elevated Brain Concentrations of 1.4-benzodiazepenes in Fulminate Hepatic Failure,” NEJM 325, 7 (1991): 473–78. / Mulle, K.D. “Benzodiazepene Compounds and Hepatic Encephalopathy,” NEJM 325, 7 (1991): 509–11.) Several studies have shown that as you get liver toxicity, you fail to break down valium-like compounds which creates a toxic state that is truly a state of being intoxicated.

Improves Immune Function

Fasting rests the intestines and liver, both key sites of our immune function. It is estimated that sixty percent of our immune system resides in our intestines. When you rest this major site of immune function with fasting, you potentiate a healthy immune system. Eating can depress immune function. One study showed that 100 gm of sugar significantly reduced the ability of white blood cells to destroy bacteria. The greatest effects occurred between 1 and 2 hours after consumption, but were still significantly below function 5 hours after the feeding. Conversely a fast of 36 or 60 hours significantly increased the power of the white blood cells to destroy dangerous bacteria. (Sanchez A, Reeser JL, et al. Role of Sugars in Human Neutrophilic Phagocytosis,. Am J Clin Nutr, November, 1973;26:1180-1184.

Cures Arthritis

Doctors have been using fasting for arthritis for over one hundred years. It is such a well known fact, the medical literature is even full of success stories. (Adam, O. Anti-Inflammatory Diet and Rheumatic Diseases. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1995;49:703-717) The best results are found when a short fast is combined with a change to a vegetarian diet and removing offending food allergies. (Kjeldsen- Kragh J. Rheumatoid Arthritis Treated With Vegetarian Diets. Am J Clin Nutr, 1999;70(Suppl.):594S-600S./ Gamlin, L and Brostoff, J . Food Sensitivity and Rheumatoid Arthritis, EnviroTox Pharm, 1997;4:43-49.) Some doctors feel that fasting may be involved in changing the bacterial flora in a favorable way for patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Abnormal bacteria are present in the stool in a high percentage of patients with a variety of autoimmune problems such a s Crohn’s disease, RA, ankylosing spondelytis. Anaerobic bacterial species such as klebsiella and proteus.have been implicated. (Hunter, J.O. “Food Allergy or Enterometabolic Disorder,” Lancet 338 (1991): 495–96.)

Fasting Supplements

Vitamin C: 2 grams/day prevents oxidative damage during the detoxification of a fast.

Milk Thislte: 300 mg/day increases liver glutathione during the fast.

Fasting No-Nos

Fasting for a prolonged period of time can diminish the body’s stores of glutathione making it more susceptible to aging and disease. Low tissue antioxidant status is found under dietary restriction because fasting lowers glutathione detoxification in the liver. (Vogt, B.L., and J.P. Ritchie. “Fasting-Induced Depletion of Glutathione in the Aging Mouse,” Biochem Pharmacol 46, 2 (1993): 257V63.) For this reason, those who are fasting should be very careful of chemical exposure because lack of dietary protein makes the liver unable to process any toxins. Patients who will undergo surgery would probably have less complications to the anesthetic if they were put on a protein dense regimen instead of clear fluids. (Boyd, E.M., and F.L. Taylor. “The Acute Oral Toxicity of Chlordane in Albino Rats Fed for 28 Days from Weaning on a Protein-Deficient Diet,” Input Med Surg 1 (1969): 213–51., Godin, D.V., Wohaier, S.A. “Nutritional Deficiency, Starvation and Tissue Antioxidant Status,” Free Radical Biol Med 5 (1988): 165–76.)

General Guidelines For A Two Day Fast

Decrease the amount of food eaten the 2 days before the fast so the body will adapt more easily.

Break the fast slowly and carefully with warm soups and juices.

During the fast, avoid high stress situations, intense exercise, extreme temperature change and drafts and chemical exposure.

No colonics are necessary

Day 1:

Water: 1 cup every hour with lemon squeezed into it.

Warm herbal tea every 3 hours

Bed rest twice a day for 10 minutes

Day 2:

Water: 1 cup every hour with lemon squeezed into it.

Warm herbal tea every 3 hours

Bed rest twice a day for 10 minutes

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