© Elson M. Haas M.D. (Excerpted from Staying Healthy with Nutrition: The Complete Guide to Diet and Nutritional MedicinePublished by Celestial Arts)
The Process and Benefits of Fasting
Hazard of Fasting
How to Fast
Timing of Fasts
Breaking a Fast
Other Aspects of Healthy Fasting
Fasting is the single greatest natural healing therapy. It is nature’s ancient, universal "remedy" for many problems. Animals instinctively fast when ill. When I first discovered fasting, 15 years ago, I felt as if it had saved my life and transformed my illnesses into health. My stagnant energies began flowing, and I became more creative and vitally alive. I still find fasting both a useful personal tool and an important therapy for many medical and life problems.
Of course, most of the problems for which I recommend fasting as treatment are ones that result from overnutrition rather than malnutrition. Dietary abuse problems, more common in the Western world than in Third World countries, generate many of the chronic degenerative diseases that I have written so much about; these include atherosclerosis, hypertension and heart disease, allergies, diabetes, and cancer. I believe that fasting is therapeutic and, more importantly, preventive for many of these conditions and more.
As I use the term here, fasting is the avoidance of solid food and the intake of liquids only (true fasting would be the total avoidance of anything by mouth). The most stringent form of fasting is taking only water; more liberally, fasting includes the use of fresh juices made from fruits and vegetables as well as herbal teas. All of these limited diets generate varying degrees of detoxification—that is, elimination of toxins from the body. Individual experiences with fasting depend on the condition of the body (also mind and attitude). Detoxification might be intense and temporarily increase sickness or might be immediately helpful and uplifting.
Juice fasting is commonly used (rather than water alone) as a mild and effective cleansing plan; this is suggested by myself and other doctors and authors and by many of the European fasting clinics. Fresh juices are easily assimilated and require minimum digestion, while they supply many nutrients and stimulate our body to clear its wastes. Juice fasting is also safer than water fasting, because it supports the body nutritionally while cleansing and probably even produces a better detoxification and quicker recovery.
Fasting (cleansing, detoxification) is one part of the triology of nutrition; balancing and building (toning) are the others. I believe that fasting is the "missing link" in the Western diet. Most people overeat, eat too often, and eat a high-protein, high-fat, rich-food, building and congesting diet more consistently than they need. If we regularly eat a more balanced and well-combined diet, such as my Ideal Diet, we will have less need for fasting and toning plans, although both would still be required at certain intervals throughout the year.
In a sense, detoxification is an important corrective and rejuvenative process in our cycle of nutrition. It is a time when we allow our cells and organs to breathe out, become current, and restore themselves. We do not necessarily need to fast to experience some cleansing, however. Minor shifts in the diet such as including more fluids, more raw foods, and fewer congesting foods will allow for better detoxification; for a carnivore, for example, a vegetarian or macrobiotic diet will be cleansing and purifying. The general process of detoxification is discussed thoroughly in the General Detoxification program; here we focus on fluid fasting—its history, therapeutic use, benefits, contraindications, and, of course, how to do it, along with other aspects of lifestyle that support fasting........