People who are not familiar with fasting may imagine that it entails sitting around getting bored and depressed, and not eating anything. Some of us are even convinced we will die if we miss a meal. At times it is difficult to slow down the pace of life enough to even think about giving the body a break. The more disconnected we are from our bodies, the more difficult it is to imagine the powerful effects that fasts, using certain food and drink, can have. It is quite an adventure in itself and fascinating to learn about the body, mind, and spirit by challenging yourself in this way.
There is much you can do to keep you busy during a fast. There are schedules to keep, special combinations of food and drink to be prepared, and a host of other enjoyable treatments such as various baths, skin brushings, and massages. You may wish to take advantage of special therapies by health practitioners. It is important to acquaint yourself with the many methods and recipes developed throughout history for fasting. These methods create the "work" of fasting; it is up to you to decide how intricate the work will become, depending on personal resources.
Fasting reduces fat in the body. Women enjoy a firm waistline and men are delighted when the "love handles" or the "spare tire" around their waists disappear as a benefit of fasting. The body becomes less congested and is able to reshape, restore, and retexturize itself once the purification process begins. Of course, this does not always happen instantaneously; for most of us it occurs gently and consistently through correct diet over time. In his most recent studies, Dr. Bernard Jensen often tells his patients not to expect a full recovery in less than a year.
In our lives we need a sense of constant renewal. This exhilarating feeling of renewal is consistently achieved with restorative fasting diets. Each time I have fasted, my body has indicated when to start and when to stop, and I have found this to be true in fasting experiences of others as well. Each time you fast, you will learn something new about yourself and the hidden gifts with which self-healing will reward you. Do not let your health take a backseat to anything. You are your own best guardian.
It should be noted that some people have a tendency to go overboard. In their excitement and effort toward restoring the body, they reason that if a little does this much good, a lot more may achieve even better results. This kind of thinking can create more harm than good.
EXERCISE AND FASTING
Exercise should be kept to a minimum while fasting; this is a time for the body to do work internally. Walking and light gardening are good physical activities to assist metabolism during your fasting experience. Simple yoga exercises that are not too strenuous will help to balance and stimulate your inner organs during a fast.
It is important to develop and maintain a regular exercise pattern after completing your fast. The body needs exercise to ensure proper nutrient absorption. Exercise also triggers the well known "feel good" hormones in your system, the endorphins, which are the morphine-like opiates of the brain that calm and reassure. They are responsible for giving a lift to the spirit and increasing metabolism.
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WHO SHOULD ABSTAIN FROM FASTING
Those people in very weakened states, such as cancer patients, should not undertake cleansing fasts. Pregnant women and very young children also should abstain from fasting. The alcohol- or drug-dependent person should seek individual treatment and consultation while fasting from a carefully chosen professional in the field of natural medicine. If you have diabetes, heart disease, ulcerative colitis, or epilepsy; if you are not yet age eighteen, or are more than 10 pounds underweight; if you are on medication, you need special supervision while fasting. If you have any questions about fasting, whatever your medical condition, please consult a naturopathic physician.
In general, you should not lose a lot of weight while fasting unless you do an extended water fast -- which is not recommended in this book. Fifty years ago, a fast on water alone was advocated as safe and effective -- not so today. Most people have accumulated DDT -- among other dangerous pesticides -- in their fatty tissues. A water fast loosens these foreign accumulations, but instead of being directed through the liver into the large intestine to be eliminated, they are driven into the bone marrow. This is the last place we want poisons to accumulate. For this reason, a cleansing fast on water alone is not advisable or recommended.
I am referring now to dependence on smoking, drinking, or drugs. There are so many health risks related to overindulgence or dependence upon these detrimental practices that I cannot recommend them to anyone, particularly while fasting. In most cases, cleansing the body of accumulated toxins will relieve the craving for nicotine, alcohol, and other drugs.
Those who avoid cleansing the body because of these addictions are the ones who are often in "greatest need" of fasting to achieve balance. The body does have the ability to constantly renew itself if given a chance. Therefore, regardless of what habits govern us, we need only to possess the genuine desire -- along with sincere determination and willpower -- to become balanced in body, mind, and spirit.
If you smoke and are addicted to nicotine, do not allow it to deter you from taking a step forward regarding your health. Cut down as much as possible while fasting. If the urge to smoke becomes overwhelming, chew on a piece of licorice bark, swab a tiny bit of clove oil onto the back of the throat, or try smoking herbs such as damiana leaves (calming) and rosemary (menthol taste). As an aid in quitting tobacco, try smoking lobelia, also known as Indian tobacco. It contains lobeline, which is similar to nicotine but does not have the same addictive effects. There are a number of commercial herbal cigarettes available that are also useful in making the transition from smoking to stopping.
If you are recovering from alcohol dependency, certain herbs are good to include in your diet. They can also be used while fasting. In China and Japan, the kuzu root has been used by herbal doctors as an anti-alcohol herb for thousands of years. It is valued for its actions on reducing alcohol consumption by neutralizing acidity and thus relieving minor aches and pains. Highly nutritious kuzu root starch is used in much the same way as arrowroot, cornstarch, gelatin, or flour to thicken sauces, stews, and puddings; it also makes vitalizing teas. Kuzu root powder is much higher in calcium, vitamins, and minerals than any other ingredient used for thickener. It is excellent in teas and soups for colds, flus, and digestive and intestinal disturbances of many kinds.
Kuzu is a valuable super-food to add to the diet. Its use in the future as a nutritional supplement for alcohol-dependent people looks promising. In 1993 researchers at Harvard University Medical School and the University of North Carolina Bio-Medical Research Laboratory began studies on the mild actions of this valuable plant. Kuzu root starch is available at your natural foods store and should find a permanent place in your cooking.
KUZU REVITALIZING TEA
Dissolve the kuzu root starch in the cold water, add the gingerroot, and heat until the tea begins to boil; stir the tea until thickened. Remove from heat and blend in the tamari and umeboshi plum. Drink l/2 to 1 cup from 1 to 3 times a day as desired for nutritional support.
1 heaping tsp. kuzu root starch
1 cup pure water (cold)
1/10 tsp. fresh gingerroot (grated)
1/4 tsp. tamari
1/2 tsp. umeboshi plum (minced) (optional)
Medicinal-strength herbal teas that are excellent for aiding those suffering from the effects of alcohol include: angelica, elecampane, goldenseal, hops, maize, mullein, parsley, plantain, red clover, sage, wormwood, and yellow dock. These herbs also help to calm, cleanse, strengthen, and nourish the ailing tissues of the body.
The long-term toxic effects of drug residues from many drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, and LSD, can be modified by detoxification. Many of these drugs are stored in fatty tissues, as are industrial chemicals and pesticides. People with "historical" residues will be amazed at the clarity of mind they experience as they purge their bodies of contaminants and street drugs.
Drug-depleted brain and body chemistry can be restored using amino acids and other nutrients therapeutically during early recovery. More than a thousand programs nationwide have begun using nutritional therapy for dramatic improvement in moods and reductions in cravings. Look for therapists who are licensed by your state to practice this particular nutrient therapy.
UNABLE TO COMPLETE YOUR FAST?
If you need to end your fast before it is completed, it is very important to break it slowly by drinking juices and broths and eating only raw or steamed vegetables and fruits for at least the first day or two. Consuming a large or difficult-to-digest meal, such as cooked meats, will shock your body out of its cleansing state and may cause discomfort or illness.
You will feel the benefit of your fasting effort and your body will adjust accordingly, continuing to build on this process, if you maintain a diet that consists of at least 75 percent vegetables and fruits. Do not expect all of your energy to return immediately after you stop fasting. It takes a few days to build full strength; then as time passes, you will discover that you are stronger than ever.
The Seasonal Detox Diet: Remedies from the Ancient Cookfire
by Carrie L'Esperance.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Healing Arts Press, a division of Inner Traditions International. ©1998, 2002. http://www.innertraditions.com
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About the Author
CARRIE L'ESPERANCE, a certified iridologist and former gourmet food professional, has spent more than twenty-five years studying the healing systems of the world's cultures. She now specializes in helping clients discover the individual nutritional requirements that will allow them to feel and function at their best.