Ounce of Prevention | Healthy Fasting
Most religious traditions promote fasting as an important spiritual activity. Modern scientific research has demonstrated that fasting might offer us many physical health benefits as well as the spiritual ones.
Research in humans suggests that during prolonged fasting, the body begins to feed on itself, first by breaking down older, damaged unhealthy cells and tissues.
This process is called autolysis and when eating is resumed, it stimulates the regeneration of newer healthier cells. Thus, periodic fasting can be a re-juvenating process.
The United States-based National Institute on Ageing has reported a variety of health benefits when a 30 per cent reduction in food intake in laboratory animals is done.
- Significant and lasting reduction in blood sugar levels, blood pressure and heart rate
- Increased ability to handle stress and resist toxins
- Weight loss
- A 30 per cent increase in lifespan and a general anti-ageing benefit
- Reduced risk of cancer
- Better sleep and increased daytime vigour and vitality
- Increased production of anti-ageing substances, such as growth hormone, DHEA and melatonin.
While a number of practical considerations make it difficult to reproduce this kind of experiment in humans, many experts believe that men and women would get much the same benefits from restricting their overall caloric intake as long as they ensure that all their nutritional requirements (protein, vitamins, minerals, etc.) were met.
Unfortunately, the modern Western diet encourages just the opposite: too many calories and too few nutrients. Thankfully, nutritional science has solutions to this dilemma.
Here is how to get not only the spiritual, but also the health benefits from fasting:
DEFINE FASTING DAYS
Identify one or more days in the week for your fasting. If possible, choose days when you have some time to rest, meditate or pray. Fasting two days per week or on alternate days or on weekends are popular choices. I recommend that fasts longer than a few days be supervised by a trained health-care provider. It is also important to eat wisely and moderately on the days when you are not fasting. Drastically reduce your consumption of meats, fatty, fried and highly processed foods.
DRINK LIQUIDS INSTEAD
I suggest liquid fasts, as they are less strenuous on the system. The liquids consumed can include pure water, protein shakes, herbal teas, diluted fruit juices, vegetable juices, coconut water and vegetable broths. Aim at having half an ounce of liquid for each pound of body weight. So, if your weight is 150 lb, you should drink at least 75 ounces of fluid daily while on your liquid fast.
Breakfast is our most important meal. A wonderful, healthy liquid breakfast would combine a protein shake along with a cup of herbal green tea. I recommend a specific proprietary protein shake powder for making the ideal liquid meal. It is carefully formulated to provide all the nutrients you need in a meal in about 200 calories. The protein shake can or a bowl of vegetable broth can be used to replace the evening meal. While on your liquid fast, you should continue to take your vitamin and mineral supplements.
ADD A CLEANSING PROGRAMME
Fasting encourages the body to release the toxins and impurities stored in its tissues. Doing a cleansing programme while you fast will facilitate the detoxification process while enhancing the health benefits of your fast. I employ an herbal cleansing combination of an aloe vera drink along with fibre/probiotic tablets. Other cleansing modalities like colon irrigation, steam or sauna baths and hydrotherapy are also powerful.
Our thoughts and mental activity can also be toxic and unhealthy. Avoid exposing yourself to horror, violence and negative news. Choose carefully what you watch on television and read in the newspapers.
Become aware of the thoughts you dwell on, the kind of conversations you have, and the company you keep. Focus on healthy, positive, uplifting thoughts while moving your attention away from negative, unhealthy ones.
A healthy fasting programme can make an enormous difference to your health. A structured liquid fast can also be extremely useful for accelerating weight loss.
- You may email Dr Vendryes at email@example.com or listen to An Ounce of Prevention on POWER106FM on Fridays at 8:15pm. Visit www. tony vendryes.com for details on his books and articles.