By Rachel Hynd
What is fasting and can it be beneficial? Many of us know it as a protocol the doctor prescribes before blood testing. For others, it may mean giving up a favorite food for a period of time or not eating food at certain times of the day or year out of respect for various religious holidays.
Strictly speaking, fasting is the voluntary absence of food. While the idea of missing even one meal might put most of us in misery, fasting does have many benefits for the body.
Give your body a rest
We take vacations, we have weekends off from work, we rest our tired bodies through sleep, and we "take a break" to rejuvenate from stress. One thing, though, that we hardly ever do, is take a break from food for longer lengths of time.
Our digestive system is very busy and hard-working, which requires high amounts of energy; in fact, the digestive system can even drain energy needed for healing, repair and general maintenance of the body. Therefore, it makes sense to give it a vacation once in awhile.
An ancient tradition
The art of fasting is an ancient tradition practiced for thousands of years for curing illness of all kinds, rejuvenation, clarity and decision making, cleansing and strengthening. Have you noticed that when you're sick, your appetite diminishes? (Similarly, when animals are ill, they lie down and often don't eat or drink.) Energy goes towards healing our bodies instead of digesting food.
Fasting also allows for the body's enzyme system to focus on detoxifying and breaking down toxins in the body quickly and efficiently without the job of heavy food digestion. During fasts, toxins are being circulated in the body in order for our organs to de-arm them. Therefore, it's not always wise to detoxify quickly because a flood of toxins being released at once can cause serious distress to the body that can do more harm than good.
Effective ways to fast
If you've never fasted before, and would like to experience a fast, have no fear. Fasting should be gentle and nurturing and can range from a one day to as long as a week. More rigorous fasts, such as a water-only fast, should only be undertaken by those experienced in fasting and detoxification. A gentle fast is great way to start -- without even having to go hungry.
Here are some ideas to get you started on a fast:
Eating a raw food diet of fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts
Eating a "mono" diet of one food (for example a fruit or rice gruel)
Consuming mineral-rich bone and vegetable broths
Drinking green smoothies
Drinking only fresh pressed vegetables/fruit juices
Eating salads exclusively
Eating kichadi ( a traditional Indian rice/vegetable dish full of healing herbs and spices)
Having an early dinner and refraining from food for a 16-hour period before eating breakfast.
Fasting may seem overwhelming or daunting, but if you simply choose one day per week and practice any of the above tips, you'll get used to this healing practice. When fasting, always remember to listen to your body, letting it decide when and how long fasting should last. For those who still have doubts, seeing a Naturopathic Doctor or Holistic Nutritionist may help ease your hesitation and motivate you to get started.
Fasting is a message to your body that you're embarking on a new beginning, flushing out the old and bringing in the new. Fasting is the perfect way to introduce new healthy habits and foods into your life. It can give you that jump-start, boost clarity, and clear your body toward shifting things in a positive direction.
Make a resolution to give your digestive system a break once in a while. What better way to start a new year?
Rachel Hynd is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and certified Raw Food Instructor. NaturallySavvy.com is a website that educates people on the benefits of living a natural, organic and green lifestyle. For more information and to sign up for their newsletter, visit www.NaturallySavvy.com(c)
This article was printed in the April 24, 2011 - May 7, 2011 edition.