Is Fasting The Solution?


Fasting has been practiced around the world and in every culture for millenium. Religious ritual, devotional practice, cleansing and even preparation for war have all been used as reasons for abstaining from food. Today, the season of Lent will still urge some people towards fasting in the Christian world and Ramadan is an essential pillar of Islam in all countries. Even hundreds of websites and books on natural healing and holistic nutrition recommend fasting. So is it something you should consider? Well, the thought is that fasting gives the body a chance to rest and heal because of eliminating toxins as the body delves into stored reserves for energy and nutrition. This is an effect that can often be achieved in a few days. But the truth may be very different, since the effects of a fast are based on the individual’s reserves of nutrients and stored load of toxins that will be released during fasting.

One thing that is not stored in the body is protein, so during any period of fasting, the body will break down muscle to provide essential fuel for the brain and other key systems. This can be a detriment to athletes and people who still have to have substantial muscle use during their fasting period. Also water soluble vitamins such as C and some B’s will be lost. People with heart issues, heartbeat irregularity and blood pressure issues may experience stronger negative symptoms during fasting because of this.

During fasting, the body will use fat reserves for conversion to glucose for metabolism and energy. This can be beneficial for people trying to lose a bit of weight and also to help the body break addictions to things like alcohol because of the high sugar content. However, there can be very debilitating effects as well. Fatigue, headaches, dizziness, nausea, constipation, low blood pressure and muscle pain can all be common. During a fast the breakdown of fat cells occurs rapidly and the toxic release from these cells can overload elimination systems such as the kidneys and liver. At the same time the body doesn’t have access to all the nutrients it would normally utilize to help with detoxification. Stress hormones can surge during this time which is why many people report increased energy. But the result of that can be even more weight gain later!

Juicing may be a better choice since you can get more of the nutrients you require without the fibrous aspect. As long as your blood sugar is stable, this can really enhance a fast. But if you truly have a chronic illness or are debilitated, pregnant or taking medications, then fasting is not for you. Instead, seek the advice of a Naturopath or holistic nutritionist to design a short-term diet that can give you the support you need while allowing the body to detoxify slowly and naturally. In the long term this can do much more for your body’s long-term health than a fast.

Fasting will always be a part of our world and for many people a part of their lives. But fasting was never practiced for beneficial results. Instead, it was always utilized for its reminder of struggle, of sacrifice and the difficulty of going without. It was to bring back humility and to create a common experience for all people. Fasting is a remembrance of hardship and a reminder of gratitude. Fasting as detoxification lessens that important historical context and changes the very nature of an important spiritual practice.