Fasting is an exquisite adaptive survival mechanism built into every mammal. It is meant to support survival in the wild when food might be scarce. Fasting also instinctively comes into play whenever acute disease or trauma occurs, so as to maximize rapid healing potential. The radical but perfectly natural metabolic changes that take place in the body when fasting are profound and multifaceted. All of these changes are directed toward optimizing healing, repair and improving all general functioning.
The drive to survive gives us another point of view to consider fasting. On the basic physical level, when no food/fuel is being consumed, the body must feed itself from its own reserves. In this challenging situation, the body knows that it must do everything possible, as quickly as possible, to enable itself to survive as long as it possibly can. To maximize the odds for survival, all of the body’s cells, tissues, organs and systems need to be operating at maximum efficiency and effectiveness. Aware of this urgent requirement, the body immediately gets to work identifying problem areas, marshaling resources, optimizing biochemical imbalances and physiological functions, repairing dysfunctional structures, healing old injuries and eliminating old, marginal cells and any other obstacles or hindrances that are limiting optimal functioning.
In other words, to survive as long as you can without food, every cell, tissue, organ and system in your body should be working perfectly. The better everything works, the longer you survive. If everything is working perfectly, there is no ‘weak link’ organ or system that would prematurely put you out of commission. So when fasting, your body gets to work, as rapidly as it possibly can, to improve and balance everything so as to eliminate any weaknesses.
When fasting, the underlying issues behind any major chronic diseases you have will be addressed immediately. Chronic disease results in weakened tissues, organs and systems, sometimes greatly so. As your body begins fasting, the great intelligence within your body immediately recognizes that these weakened areas threaten the long-term survival of the whole body. It may take some time to unwind all the suboptimal compensatory adjustments that previously had to be made to deal with the degenerative effects of the disease. Chronic diseases of long duration will require a serious amount of time and energy to repair, and patience is required on your part as all the necessary work is being done. Along the way, all manner of minor problems will be dealt with as well. With fasting, healing and repair is occurring on multiple levels, simultaneously.
As your fast progresses, you will likely feel old injuries reappear as your body now has the opportunity to address them. You will notice thoughts, feelings, impressions and insights spontaneously popping up as the mental, emotional and spiritual levels of your Being are brought into play as well.
Remember, every disease and dysfunction involves your whole Self, which includes all these subtle, intangible levels. In fact, most chronic disease problems originate at these more subtle and deeper levels. The true cause(s) of disease usually reside in these subtle realms. Once a trauma or chronic dis-ease occurs on these subtle levels, and if these subtle disturbances and traumas are not addressed (spiritual conflicts, psychological issues), then physical symptoms will eventually appear. Physical pain and degeneration are clear signs that subtle underlying problems need serious attention. To fully heal from any disease or trauma, all of levels and facets of the problem must be consciously re-felt, re-experienced and addressed. Your fast greatly assists this multi-level healing process.
This leads us to the most profound level of our Being: Spiritual Fasting.
The most transformative breakthroughs of your fasting experience, if you are ready for them and the time is right, are the spiritual insights and revelations that can occur during and immediately after your fast. This is when the life-changing shifts of consciousness can occur. They can transform your life in many unexpected ways.
Spiritual Fasting is essentially the same as ‘regular’ fasting in the practical sense: no food is consumed, only water is ingested, maximum rest and sleep is encouraged, etc. Ideally your fast is conducted in a beautiful retreat location in Nature where worldly concerns are handled for you by others. Profound rest and deep healing occurs on all levels – physical, mental, emotional, spiritual – to the extent that you do everything possible to minimize any waste of your precious vital energy. Your body is living off its own reserves while fasting, and it knows exactly what it wants to achieve while the fast is in progress. You help it achieve maximal healing and rejuvenation by conserving every bit of energy you have, so your body and mind can put that energy to use exactly where it is needed.
The difference with Spiritual Fasting is that you go into your fast with spiritual goals in mind. This is a dedicated time for you. No one else. You set yourself up so that you minimize all distractions. You leave the world behind. You leave food, its rituals and its cravings behind. You leave all your typical daily habits, routines and formality behind. You sleep when you want, awaken when you want. There are no rules to follow, schedules to keep or responsibilities to handle. The point is to tune into your own body intelligence and allow it to guide you in everything it wants to do, when it wants to do it. Your sole focus is you.
All expectations of others are dropped. You do not concern yourself with how you look, how you dress, what you should say, or what others might think. None of that matters. What does matter is for you to directly reconnect to yourself – your own pure, authentic, natural self.
Strangely, this is very difficult to do. All of us are enveloped, dominated and governed by our own artificial persona – our ego – with all its made-up rules; its should’s and should not’s. Daily life in our frantic world reinforces this conditioning constantly. Being your simple, true self 24/7 is impossible… primarily because you haven’t seen or felt your authentic self for a very long time. You don’t really know who you are anymore.
A dedicated spiritual fast serves the purpose of providing you a wide open space to let go of everything. At the same time, the deeper questions of your Being can be given a voice: Am I truly happy? Is my life going in the direction I desire? What do I really want? Why do I want it? Why am I here? What’s my purpose?
The journey of re-awakening to your own authentic essence is the trip of a lifetime. Healthful living and wise use of fasting can radically speed up the process.
Read more here (Spiritual Fasting article).
Fasting is the natural healing and purification function that is innate and instinctive in all mammals. Due to the wonderful and complex detoxification and rejuvenation processes that occur during a fast, health professionals and spiritual masters throughout the ages have recommended fasting as the best way to heal from illness, rebalance our priorities and reconnect to our deeper wisdom.
A thorough-going rest, by fasting, is the most favorable condition under which an ailing body can purify, repair and rejuvenate itself. It is the most potent method for healing and health maintenance. Everyone can derive great benefit from a properly conducted water fast.
Fasting provides the ideal context for tremendous healing to take place in our body, mind and spirit. However, fasting is not a cure, in and of itself. Fasting provides the most favorable environment and conditions for the innate life force within the body to cure itself. Fasting allows the body to rapidly and effectively do its healing work.
With acute disease, the desire for fasting is given by the living body when internal toxin levels reach a threshold that threatens the function and survival of its cells. During any acute illness, our appetite naturally diminishes and ceases, and all we want to do is to rest and sleep. Our body intelligently focuses its energy reserves to the task of eliminating the offending toxins and healing damaged cells and tissues. It diverts energy from the muscles and gastrointestinal tract; this is why we feel like resting and only drinking fluids when sick. Our body uses this opportunity to most effectively and efficiently cure the underlying problem of our illness: internal toxin build-up.
Fasting: Nature’s Way To Heal and Rejuvenate
The benefits of water fasting are numerous and include a much higher-functioning physical body, greater mental clarity, and a deepened sense of connection to all life.
Unlike conventional medicine and alternative therapies which are primarily focused on treating symptoms, fasting allows and encourages the body to heal itself. Treating symptoms only deals with the effects of disease. To truly heal, you need to address the cause(s) of disease. Fasting provides the body with the optimal conditions and opportunity to cleanse itself of accumulated toxins and heal any prior damage. Fasting is the most excellent method to address nearly every disease condition.
Importantly, fasting demonstrates your knowledge and faith in what your body can do. Trust it. Be patient with it. Give it the space and time to do what it wants to do. You’ll be amazed at the results.
Fasting is a built in and highly regulated bodily process that occurs during the complete abstention from all food, supplements, protein/electrolyte drinks, etc. Only pure water is taken as desired.
Fasting begins when carbohydrate stores (mostly glycogen) are depleted. This happens within 12-24 hours. Over the following ~24 hours, the body will use easily available and non-critical proteins for energy. After that, the body switches to fat metabolism. Fasting can continue as long as fat stores are available to be used for fuel (ketosis). This is usually 4-6 weeks maximum for the average person. Longer for the obese, shorter for the emaciated.
As long as fat stores remain, you are not starving. When available fats have been metabolized (used up) past certain minimum levels, rapid autolysis (breakdown) of protein structures (muscle) occurs. This is when starvation begins.
Various hormones come into play during an extended fast. Significant ones include sustained increases of plasma growth hormone and increased adrenocorticotropin levels. These have important effects on ketosis and cellular protein conservation. Also, pancreatic release of insulin is diminished considerably.
As the body continues fasting, it scavenges any and all superfluous fat stores, abnormal tissues, adhesions, fibrous growths, etc. for autolysis (breakdown) and subsequent gluconeogenesis (creation of simple sugars for fuel). All important organs and structures are preserved during fasting.
With fasting, proteins, including specific amino acids are decreased. Certain metabolic functions, such as the TOR, PKA and IGF pathways, are modulated. With re-alimentation (break-fast), immune system stem cells and many other types of stem cells multiply and are strongly activated. This greatly rejuvenates the immune and other systems of the body.
Growth and healing continue during the fast, but these processes slow during extended fasts.
Various ‘healing crises’ (aka detoxification cycles) occur during the fast. This happens when the body is marshaling its resources to metabolize and eliminate noxious waste material from its domain. These actions reflect the intelligent innate control of cellular purification, tissue repair and optimal healing. Our body is working at the intensity and speed that can best restore long-term health.
Clear and prominent signs are given by our body before it moves into critical protein breakdown (starvation). These include a strong desire for food, called ‘true hunger,’ which is felt in the mouth and throat, not the stomach; a clearing of the coating of the tongue; a sudden increase in weakness; changes in cardiac function, and more.
A fast longer than 4 or 5 days, especially if it is your first fast, is best supervised by a professional who is experienced with monitoring the progression and proper conclusion of extended fasts. In this way, safety is enhanced, and maximum health benefit can be obtained and preserved.
Water vs. Juice Fasting
With water fasting, there is no food being ingested. The body is living on its own stored reserves. When ‘juice fasting’ (consuming only juices, fruits, certain specific foods or spices, liquids, etc) nutrients are being ingested. The effects and results btw juice and water fasting are dramatically different. Drinking only juices or engaging in other modified types of detox programs may have their place in your health care routine, but they do not come close to the potent restorative effects of pure water fasting.
With water fasting, since no food is consumed, there is a great conservation of vital energy that would normally have gone to the many energy-intensive processes of digestion. Likewise while water fasting, your body will shut down most of your desire to expend energy through activity. IOW, you won’t feel like doing much of anything. Lots of rest, relaxation and sleep are what is required. With this great amount of extra energy now available, added to the natural cleansing capabilities built into the body, great amounts of detoxification, repair and healing can be carried out very quickly… and that is exactly what happens.
Since no food (fuel) is being ingested, the body must switch to digesting itself for energy. This metabolic process of burning primarily fat for energy is called ketosis. It begins after about 48 hours without food, and ketosis is a natural, built-in process for extending a fast as long as necessary, or as long as you have fat reserves… whichever comes first.
The body stores most of its uneliminated toxic debris in our fat tissues, so the deep cleansing of the fast does not begin until the ketosis stage of the process. This means that “juice fasting” (which is a misnomer as juices supply both calories and nutrients. This is correctly called a “juice diet.”) is far less effective than true water-only fasting, because with juicing the body never switches into ketosis – the most beneficial, deep-healing part of the process.
It is sometimes said that juice fasting is much more gentle, and this is true. It is more gentle because plenty of nutrients are being supplied, and the food being digested is broken down and absorbed very easily and quickly. This allows for extra vital energy to be used for cleansing and healing than would normally be available. With juicing you can continue your normal daily routine while still achieving some degree of detox and regeneration. But if you’ve got deep-seated chronic disease issues to deal with and you want to really get to work, water fasting will quickly and efficiently get the job done.
Continue to the next section: Reasons To Fast