case studies

Long-Term Relief from Chronic Posttraumatic Headache after Water-Only Fasting and an Exclusively Plant-Foods Diet

Submitted on August 14, 2017 - 11:12am

This article originally appeared in Alternative and Complementary Therapies: August 2017 edition, Vol. 23 issue 4. 

Summary: Chronic posttraumatic headache (CPTHA) occurs in up to 95% of patients following traumatic brain injury (TBI) and can prove highly debilitating.

Here, the case is reported of a 52-year-old woman with unremitting CPTHA. The patient underwent two medically supervised, water-only fasts and began an exclusively plant-foods diet, free of added sugar, oil, and salt, which resulted in long-term reduction in headache intensity, duration, and frequency.

This case suggests that water-only fasting and dietary intervention have therapeutic potential in the treatment of CPTHA and provides a basis for further studies.

To read the full article, please click on the attached file below...

Final publication is available from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers.  Please click this link here:


World-Class Health Care at TrueNorth

Submitted on January 14, 2017 - 2:37pm

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2016 issue of Health Science magazine, the member magazine of the National Health Association.

NHA president gets up close and personal at TrueNorth Health Center

By Mark Huberman

From September 10–17, my wife Wanda and I (pictured below) had the wonderful experience of spending a week at Dr. Alan Goldhamer’s TrueNorth Health Center in Santa Rosa, California, covering it for this magazine. As you will see from some of the pictures I am sharing, it is truly a remarkable facility that offers the finest and most comprehensive care that our health movement has ever produced.

The environment at TrueNorth is soothing and conducive to healing, and the accommodations are spacious, clean, and include free Wi-Fi, flat-panel televisions, and even Sleep Number beds. The daily food buffets prepared by Chef Ramses Bravo and his staff are a model for just how easy, enjoyable, and inspiring an uncompromising whole-foods, plant-based, SOS-free (salt, oil, sugar) diet can be.

L to R: Dr. Peter, Raisanen, Mark Huberman, and Dr. Peter Sultana

There are in-depth health lectures and/or cooking classes at least twice a day, along with fitness and nutritional consults and training, yoga, chiropractic care, and more. Most importantly and impressively, the Center offers world-class fasting supervision by an extraordinary staff that includes caring and experienced supervising medical doctors, naturopaths, chiropractors, a resident physician, and daily visits by interns, all of whom combine to give patients one-on-one daily care like nowhere else I have ever seen or heard of. The entire staff—from the receptionists to the cooks to housekeeping—is as friendly and welcoming as you could imagine.

Chef Ramses Bravo giving a cooking demonstration

During our stay, I had the opportunity to interview many of the guests, and I am pleased to report that a large number of them joined the NHA after being introduced to our fine publication, Health Science. Here is a sampling of the wonderful people I met and a glimpse into some of their remarkable stories of recovery.

David Goldman lecturing

Robert Smith of Newport, Oregon

Robert Smith is a veteran deep-sea fisherman who is on his fourth visit to TrueNorth over the course of a couple of years. He is proud to report that he has lost 120 pounds and has completely changed his life for the better. He learned about TrueNorth after reading The Pleasure Trap. Robert described himself as previously being “very overweight, on medication, and just miserable.” He tried all kinds of gimmick diets, including Adkins, juice diets, and protein shake diets, all of which caused him to lose weight only to gain it back.

Robert has fasted under the care of Dr. Michael Klaper, but on his current stay, he was under the care of Dr. Anthony Lim, whom he describes as “funny and very energetic.” Robert has tremendous praise for the entire staff, from the housekeeping staff to the doctors, he says, “all of whom combine to create a very healing environment.” He also commented that the price is more than right and truly a bargain, adding, “I frankly don’t know how they do it—since they feed you, take care of you, wash your clothes, and provide you with lectures—all at a great price.” Now when Robert goes out to sea, his wife makes him a bunch of plant-based, SOS-free meals. He does admit to missing eating fish, but he says he is never turning back.

Elizabeth Oehler of Montville, New Jersey

Elizabeth turned 75 in October and came to TrueNorth to deal with a lengthy battle with diabetes and osteoarthritis in her knees. She and her husband, Max, were referred to TrueNorth by Dr. Ronald White, a whole-food, plant-based doctor in Long Valley, New Jersey, who operates the Ethos Health Center. Dr. White told Elizabeth, “If you want to get rid of your diabetes, you’ve got to go to TrueNorth.”

Once at TrueNorth, Elizabeth fasted for 14 days under the care of Dr. Anthony Lim, and after a period of re-feeding, I met her as she was about to return home. She is thrilled to report that her diabetes is gone and that she hasn’t had any pain in her knees. She loved Dr. Lim, but also praised the Center’s new resident, Dr. Peter Raisenan, as well as the many interns who see patients several times a day. She found everyone to be very caring and never rushed. She describes TrueNorth as a “wonderful place that is down to earth and like a spa.” She reports meeting many great people with whom she is sure to remain in contact, adding that for her and her husband of 49 years, “Coming to TrueNorth was the best decision we ever made—except getting married!”

Lynn Corrigan of Camano Island, Washington

Lynn is a 65-year-old massage therapist who came to TrueNorth following her recent surgery for colorectal cancer, determined to avoid the return of her cancer. She fasted 17 days under the care of Dr. Michael Klaper, who she states, “held my hand through the entire stay.” He challenged and inspired her to stick with the program for the long term so that there will be “no cancer cells in my body at all, and so my immune system will be able to tackle those cancer cells that we make on a daily basis.” She also greatly appreciated Dr. Doug Lisle, who she states “does for the mind what these other guys do for the fasting and cellular repair.” She claims that “From the beginning she has looked at cancer as her friend and teacher.”

Rakesh Wradhwa of Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Rakesh is a 59-year-old resident of Dubai who grew up in India but who spends lots of time in the U.S. While in school, he learned about naturopathy, read about Gandhi and was fascinated by the beneficial aspects of fasting, but he never practiced it himself. He reports that India was not a healthy country in which to grow up, since, while people are vegetarian, they are often very unhealthy because they eat a lot of salt, oil, sugar, and dairy products.

Rakesh first discovered Dr. Goldhamer back in 1991 when he was operating the Center for Conservative Therapy in Penngrove, California. Rakesh’s wife was diagnosed with breast cancer and came to the Center for a fast. She fasted for around 28 days and her lumps completely disappeared. He started coming to TrueNorth in 2009 after being diagnosed with a constellation of health problems, including lupus, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, headaches, skin problems, prostate enlargement, and hypothyroid. He was prescribed some very potent drugs but was not getting any better. He fasted for 30 days and had some significant healing crises. Over time, his lupus went into full-scale remission, and while his thyroid issue has not resolved itself, he reports that it is certainly better and the medication for it has been cut nearly in half.

Rakesh’s blood pressure has been significantly reduced and his sleep apnea has improved to the point that he often has been able to do without the C-PAP device, something he attributes not only to the fasting but also following a plant-based diet. He now comes to TrueNorth every year. Sometimes he fasts and sometimes he does not. Like so many of the other guests, he has the highest praise for the staff at TrueNorth, who he states, “basically don’t leave you alone.” While he has stayed at more luxurious centers around the world, he considers TrueNorth “by far the most effective in the shortest possible time.”

Dr. Madeline Long of Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania

Madeline Long has practiced Internal Medicine in Bryn Mawr Hospital for approximately 33 years. She came to TrueNorth almost a month ago, and at the time of our interview, she was on her 13th day of a fast. Two years ago, she received a cancer diagnosis and wanted to do something alternative since she became convinced that “one single drug, one simple treatment, one single radiation bout does not kill all the cancer cells.” She has come to believe that cancer cells need glucose to survive, and the best sway to change their metabolism is to do a water fast.

From a medical standpoint, she considers Dr. Goldhamer to be brilliant and has high praise for the staff he has assembled, all of whom provide a completely supportive, patient-friendly experience. She also described them as being welcoming, loving, caring, and comforting. Her personal physician at the Center is Dr. Michael Klaper, who she also considers a brilliant practitioner. She is amazed and impressed by the twice-a-day doctor visits, weekly blood tests, and daily monitoring, which she considers “amazingly embracing for a patient.” She has become totally immersed in the TrueNorth program and plans on taking it back to her practice. She characterizes it as a religion to her and that her “new theology” is plant-based.

Gavino Villa, of Paso Robles, California

Gavino is a 54-year-old Mexican-American who for the past five years has operated a bamboo farm under the name “Paso Bamboo.” He suffered from Jorgen’s Syndrome, a rare autoimmune disease that mostly affects women, which obstructs the body’s ability to produce lubrication. It initially affected his eyes, but then progressed to his joints, resulting in a debilitating effect on his hip and ankle. He also suffered from some very severe hemorrhoids. His doctor prescribed various medications that only made matters worse and led to depression. He reports that trying various “quack treatments” did nothing to help him.

His first step in the direction of true health care came from a Ted Talk delivered by Dr. John McDougall. After 10 minutes of listening to his wisdom, Gavino decided he would never eat meat again. Just by cutting out meat and following Dr. McDougall’s dietary recommendations, his hemorrhoid problems resolved, but his weight remained an issue as did his joint problems. He then came across Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s book, Fasting and Eating for Health, and thought that maybe fasting could help him recover. He found a local Adventist anesthesiologist who was transitioning out of his conventional medical practice who helped him (and even joined him!) in the fast.

After a 15-day fast, his symptoms cleared up by 90%, but then regressed to 60% afterwards. Still believing that fasting would be the key for him, he Googled “fasting” on the Internet and came across Dr. Alan Goldhamer—a discovery he describes as a “godsend.” When he arrived at TrueNorth, one of the first lectures he heard was from Dr. Anthony Lim, who really set him straight on diet, causing him to cut out his “peanuts, tortillas, and bread,” lifelong staples of his diet.

Dr. Peter Sultana became Gavino’s primary doctor and supervised his 20-day fast. As a result of the fast, all of his symptoms cleared. He stayed an additional 10 days to re-feed and is back at home and at work on his farm in the best health of his life. Before leaving, one of his other good fortunes was to have a consultation with David Goldman, who he considers the best trainer and nutritionist in the world and an extraordinary resource for TrueNorth. David sent him home with not only an exercise program but a nutrition plan for the next six months.

Gavino credits TrueNorth with not only giving him back his health, but control of his body for the first time in his life. He also believes they provided him a spiritual awakening. He insists that there is no place like it because the Center can attack all aspects of a patient’s needs. He credits Dr. Goldhamer for assembling a remarkable, caring staff that includes not only the doctors but the cooks and the cleaning staff. He also greatly admired the way they all appreciated and respected Dr. Goldhamer as their boss. ***

Below: the TrueNorth Health Center courtyard

British Medical Journal Publishes Report from TNH on the Successful Treatment of Lymphoma Cancer with Fasting and a Vegan, SOS-free Diet

Submitted on December 14, 2015 - 8:07pm

This article originally appeared in BMJ Case Reports 2015; doi:10.1136/bcr-2015-211582

Authors: Alan Goldhamer, D.C., Michael Klaper, M.D., Afsoon Foorohar, D.O., and Toshia R Myers, Ph.D.

Summary: Follicular lymphoma (FL), the second most common non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL), is well characterised by a classic histological appearance and an indolent course. Current treatment protocols for FL range from close observation to immunotherapy, chemotherapy and/or radiotherapies. We report the case of a 42-year-old woman diagnosed by excisional biopsy with stage IIIa, grade 1 FL. In addition to close observation, the patient underwent a medically supervised, 21-day water-only fast after which enlarged lymph nodes were substantially reduced in size. The patient then consumed a diet of minimally processed plant foods free of added sugar, oil and salt (SOS), and has remained on the diet since leaving the residential facility. At 6 and 9-month follow-up visits, the patient's lymph nodes were non-palpable and she remained asymptomatic. This case establishes a basis for further studies evaluating water-only fasting and a plant foods, SOS-free diet as a treatment protocol for FL.

To read this article in its entirety, please click here.

British Medical Journal Publishes Report from TNH on the Successful Treatment of Lymphoma Cancer with Fasting and a Vegan, SOS-free Diet

Submitted on December 11, 2015 - 10:04am

This article originally appeared in BMJ Case Reports 2015; doi:10.1136/bcr-2015-211582

Summary: Follicular lymphoma (FL), the second most common non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL), is well characterised by a classic histological appearance and an indolent course. Current treatment protocols for FL range from close observation to immunotherapy, chemotherapy and/or radiotherapies. We report the case of a 42-year-old woman diagnosed by excisional biopsy with stage IIIa, grade 1 FL. In addition to close observation, the patient underwent a medically supervised, 21-day water-only fast after which enlarged lymph nodes were substantially reduced in size. The patient then consumed a diet of minimally processed plant foods free of added sugar, oil and salt (SOS), and has remained on the diet since leaving the residential facility. At 6 and 9-month follow-up visits, the patient's lymph nodes were non-palpable and she remained asymptomatic. This case establishes a basis for further studies evaluating water-only fasting and a plant foods, SOS-free diet as a treatment protocol for FL.

To read this article in its entirety, please click here.

A Case of Nonpharmacologic Conservative Management of Suspected Uncomplicated Subacute Appendicitis in an Adult Male

Submitted on November 5, 2013 - 8:51am

Reprinted from: The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, Volume 17, Number 3, 2011, pp. 1–3


Background: Appendicitis is an acute condition of the abdomen that is treated with surgical intervention. Conservative treatment of appendicitis currently involves intravenous antibiotics. While conservative care is a useful tool in apprehensive patients, in conditions such as appendicitis, delays in proper treatment can be life threatening. In spite of this, some patients will still refuse surgical and pharmacologic intervention, which can significantly limit the physician’s therapeutic options.

Subject: Sonographic evidence is presented of appendicitis in a patient who strongly desired to avoid pharmacologic or surgical intervention.

Results: The patient underwent a medically supervised water-only fast followed by a plant-based, low-fat, low-sodium diet and achieved a significant reduction and eventual elimination of symptoms.

Conclusions: This case demonstrates the need for further research on the effects of medically supervised water-only fasting and careful refeeding in cases of uncomplicated appendicitis.

To read the entire article, click on the attachment below or click here.


Case Study: Treatment of Appendicitis Without Drugs or Surgery

Submitted on May 4, 2011 - 12:00pm

At TrueNorth Health, we see a variety of unique patient cases. Recently, our medical team treated a case of subacute appendicitis with medically supervised water only fasting followed by diet and lifestyle modifications. This patient recovered from the appendicitis, and the results are presented in the attached case study. A Case of Nonpharmacologic Conservative Management of Suspected Uncomplicated Subacute Appendicitis in an A...

Fast Track to Health

Submitted on June 20, 2010 - 2:30pm

Reprinted with permission from Dr. Julian Whitaker's Health & Healing newsletter copyright Healthy Directions, LLC. To subscribe, visit

For the last 35 years, I've advocated a low-fat, high-fiber diet; exercise; and targeted nutritional supplements as the foundation of optimal health. For most of those years, I followed my own advice. My diet was pretty good, and I was very active, running marathons, riding a bicycle across the country, and playing tennis, squash, and racquetball.

But I fell off the wagon. Over the past decade, I've allowed salt, sugar, and fat-laden processed foods to sneak into my diet. If I'd just done what I tell my patients to do, this story would never have needed to be told. But I drifted away and paid the price. I was 40 pounds overweight, had high blood pressure and poor exercise tolerance, and was aging rapidly.

It was time for America's Wellness Doctor to get well. So I decided to do just that; I decided to fast.

My Visit to a "Fasting Farm"

My wife and I checked into TrueNorth Health, a facility in Santa Rosa, CA, that has treated thousands of patients with hypertension, obesity, diabetes, and other degenerative diseases using fasting as a primary therapy. For five of the seven days we were there, we drank lots of water, went to lectures, and read and slept a lot, but we had nothing to eat.

We'd been warned that the first two days of fasting would be the hardest, and indeed they were. Both Connie and I were irritable, grumpy, and uncomfortable. It wasn't really hunger that we were experiencing. It was more like the symptoms of withdrawal, which, as it turns out, is exactly what happens when you fast.

After two days, right on schedule, we felt much better. We were no longer anxious or ill-tempered, we slept well, and, incredibly, we weren't hungry. It was amazing that after three or four days of not eating, we could walk by a bakery filled with cupcakes, fruit tarts, and brownies and not even be tempted. We actually contemplated fasting for an additional three days because, at that point, it would have been easy.

Upon the completion of our fast, we eased back into eating, starting with juices. Then we gradually incorporated natural, organic, unprocessed foods low in fat, salt, sugar, and additives; a diet similar to what we recommend at Whitaker Wellness, except entirely vegan. (At the clinic we use modest amounts of low-fat animal protein.)

Fasting Yields Rapid Results

During our seven-day program, Connie lost eight pounds. (She didn't have much to lose in the first place and was there primarily to support me.) I lost 21 pounds. Most of it, of course, was excess salt and fluids; you simply can't lose that much fat in such a short a period of time.

Nevertheless, it had a huge effect on my health, appearance, and sense of well-being. My blood pressure dramatically declined. My blood sugar, which had been in the high-normal range, was lower; my cholesterol and triglycerides improved; and my energy returned. On a treadmill exercise stress test back at Whitaker Wellness, I performed as well as a healthy 30-year-old.

How is this possible? How could I have had such dramatic improvements in just a week?

The Scientific Basis of Fasting

Fasting has a number of unique attributes that no other therapy provides. It rapidly rids the body of excess sodium and fluids, which eliminates edema and lowers blood pressure. It promotes weight loss; water weight initially, but also fat loss; and it facilitates detoxification, mobilizing and eliminating toxins.

Fasting also gives the gut a break and allows it to repair itself, which often leads to improvements not only in digestive complaints, but in allergy symptoms and autoimmune disorders as well. It increases insulin sensitivity, which lowers blood sugar and eliminates virtually all aspects of metabolic syndrome. In short, fasting seems to reset your metabolism and break disease cycles, much like rebooting your computer.

Most importantly, improvements are maintained after the fast ends. Alan Goldhamer, DC, founder and director of TrueNorth, and the medical doctors who work with him have published two studies detailing fasting's effects on hypertension. In one of these studies, they followed 174 patients who came to TrueNorth with blood pressure in excess of 140/90. After undergoing a fasting regimen, 90 percent of these patients achieved normal blood pressure (the average reduction was 37/13 mm Hg), and all of them who had been on antihypertensive medications were able to get off their drugs. Moreover, the mean blood pressure of patients who were tracked for an average of 27 weeks after leaving the clinic was a perfectly healthy 123/77.

Fasting's effects on diabetes are enduring as well. John K. Davidson, MD, PhD, a retired professor at Emory University School of Medicine and founding director of the diabetes unit at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, describes in his popular textbook the use of seven-day fasts as initial treatment for obese patients with type 2 diabetes.

In addition to rapid and predictable improvements in blood sugar, blood pressure, and weight during the fast, Dr. Davidson reports that patients easily transitioned to low- to moderate-calorie diets. And, over five to seven months, they gradually achieved both their ideal weight and control over their blood sugar level without the use of insulin or other drugs.

The Pleasure Trap

What I find almost as remarkable as the health benefits of fasting is how it altered my food preferences. Prior to my fast, I knew I needed to clean up my diet, but, as I said, over the past decade I hadn't. Since my short fast, however, that has changed. I now find that highly processed, fatty, sugary, salty foods just don't appeal to me, and sticking with a good diet is not only easier, but, get this, more enjoyable.

According to Dr. Goldhamer, my experience is not unique. Fasting helps your taste buds adapt to lower salt, sugar, and fat intake. This process, which he calls "neuroadaptation," facilitates the adoption of a health-promoting diet. It also helps you escape your addiction to these unhealthy foods.

In his book The Pleasure Trap, co-written by Douglas Lisle, PhD, Dr. Goldhamer makes a convincing argument that many of the foods that contribute to our health problems create a physiological response similar to that of drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and other addictive substances. These foods are pleasurable to eat; so pleasurable that we become addicted.

Think about all the people who are 40 or 50 pounds overweight, disgusted with the way they look, and suffering with diabetes and the many obesity-related diseases that are ripping through our culture. They know their current habits are contributing to their ill health and leading them toward an untimely death. Yet they cannot or will not change their diet. They're caught in the pleasure trap of food addiction, and the quickest way of breaking it is fasting.

Our Genetic Programming

Dr. Goldhamer also discusses the hardwired physiological forces that drive hunger, satiety, and food preferences. Have you ever seen an obese animal in the wild? Just imagine the spectacle of squirrels in your backyard, most of them with potbellies and puffy cheeks and many so fat they can't even climb trees. It just doesn't happen, even though they have all the food they can eat.

Are squirrels and other animals in their natural environment better disciplined or more expert at counting calories than you? Of course they aren't. Their caloric intake and energy expenditure are instinctively dictated. Humans have similar, inborn mechanisms governing food intake, and they, too, work like a charm; provided we eat the foods we were designed to eat. And therein lies the problem.

Our genetic programming evolved in the milieu of a natural, primarily plant-based, high-fiber diet. For more than 20 million years, there were no French fries, cupcakes, or ice cream available. To this day, indigenous people and others who eat a natural diet devoid of added salt, sugar, and fat get pleasure from their food, but they rarely if ever eat to the point of obesity.

Health Is Undermined by Our Unnatural Diet

Today's typical diet, however, is unprecedented in human history. Rich, high-calorie foods may have been available in centuries past to the royal and powerful (who were afflicted with modern diseases), but they were beyond the reach of most people. Only in the past 100 years or so have entire populations had unlimited access to meat, cookies, pizza, chips, and other fatty, sugary, salty foods.

Our bodies simply cannot handle these foods; they overwhelm our finely tuned genetic program. It's like watering your houseplants with a fire hose rather than a watering can that delivers optimal amounts of water! No wonder two-thirds of Americans are overweight, one third of them are obese, and millions upon millions of us suffer with horrific health problems.

You may blame yourself if you're overweight, but the truth is, you're simply following your genetic dictates. The problem isn't how much you eat; it's what you eat. We're not fat and unhealthy because we lack the discipline to keep our calories at a certain level. We have these problems because we're eating foods that the human body isn't designed to eat.  

I'm not saying that personal discipline plays no role in making food choices. It most certainly does. However, my newfound ability to eat right does not stem solely from old-fashioned willpower. If it did, I wouldn't have wound up in such bad shape in the first place.

Jumpstart Your Journey to Health

I have never felt as confident about my current and future health as I do at this time. I'm back on track, and I'm convinced that I will stay on track for the rest of my life. In fact, I'm so enthusiastic about fasting as a medical therapy that we've started a fasting program at the Whitaker Wellness Institute.

We now encourage patients who are struggling with obesity, diabetes, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, and other problems to jumpstart their one- to three-week Back to Health program at the clinic by fasting for three to seven days. They can then transition to our mini-fast with exercise program or simply adopt a healthy diet.

Although fasting is quite safe, physicians who condemn it as dangerous are simply biased and uneducated. It's much easier to do in a supportive setting such as TrueNorth or Whitaker Wellness. And I certainly wouldn't recommend that anyone who has a serious health problem or is taking prescription drugs undergo fasting without medical supervision.

That said, the "rules" are few and simple. Fasters need to drink a lot of water (eight or more eight-ounce glasses of water every day), relax and take it easy (walking is fine but no vigorous exercise), and avoid distractions that make the process more difficult (grocery shopping, cooking, etc.). Drugs should be stopped only by a physician. Fasts should be gently broken with fresh vegetable and fruit juices, followed by the gradual addition of whole, natural, unprocessed foods, which I guarantee you'll enjoy even if you never have before.

Do yourself a favor and seriously explore this safe, simple, proven therapy. Fasting can launch you into a healthier lifestyle and make your journey back to health easier, quicker, and more pleasant than you could ever imagine.


Fasting is best done in a medical setting. If you are taking prescription medications, have a serious health problem, or need to fast for a prolonged period, you should undergo this therapy only under medical supervision.

To learn more about TrueNorth Health Center, which specializes in short and prolonged fasts, call (707) 586-5555 or visit You'll find a wealth of information on fasting on this Web site, and you can also order Dr. Goldhamer's book, The Pleasure Trap, which I highly recommend.

For information on the fasting program at the Whitaker Wellness Institute, call (800) 488-1500.


Davidson JK. Clinical Diabetes Mellitus, a Problem-Oriented Approach. New York, NY: Thieme; 2000.

Goldhamer AC, et al. The Pleasure Trap. Summertown, TN: Healthy Living Publications; 2003.

Goldhamer AC, et al. Medically supervised water-only fasting in the treatment of borderline hypertension. J Altern Complement Med. 2002;8(5):643,650.

McCarty MF. A preliminary fast may potentiate response to a subsequent low-salt, low-fat vegan diet in the management of hypertension, fasting as a strategy for breaking metabolic vicious cycles. Med Hypotheses. 2003;60(5):624,633.

Julian Whitaker, MD

Julian Whitaker, MD, America's Wellness Doctor, is a graduate of Dartmouth College and Emory University Medical School. In 1979, he opened the Whitaker Wellness Institute, which has treated more than 45,000 patients and is the largest alternative medicine clinic in the country. The author of the popular monthly newsletter Health & Healing, as well as numerous books, including Shed 10 Years in 10 Weeks, Reversing Diabetes, and Reversing Heart Disease, Dr. Whitaker is a vocal proponent of freedom of choice in the medical arena and founder of the nonprofit Freedom of Health Foundation. For more about Dr. Whitaker and his natural approach to health and well-being, visit and

Health & Healing Newsletter

Dr. Julian Whitaker's Health & Healing is an eight-page monthly newsletter dedicated to alternative health and nonconventional therapies.


Submitted on May 30, 2010 - 1:40pm

Although the notion of electing to go without food for prolonged periods of time to improve one's health has not been something commonly considered in recent times, fasting has a long and important history. In fact, fasting played a vitally large part in early human survival. Fortunately, this ancient knowledge is making a dramatic comeback and is beginning to transform the way modern healthcare providers view their responsibilities to patients.

Human beings have the capability to survive extended periods of fasting. This was certainly known in our hunter-gatherer days, since many humans were forced to live through periods when little or no food was available to them. However, since the advent of agriculture and increasing technological advancement, modern humans have largely lost their awareness of this powerful, innate capability.

For example, the 1937 edition of The New Standard Encyclopedia stated that for humans, "Generally death occurs after eight days of deprivation of food." By 1956, this grim pronouncement inched somewhat closer to reality. That year's edition of the American Peoples Encyclopedia stated that survival time in men during water-only fasting ranged from 17 to 76 days.

In actuality, the "authorities" writing in these encyclopedias had no idea what they were talking about, but their conclusions are consistent with what most people might think. However, if we go back in time to earlier writings, we see that more "primitive" cultures were often more aware of the extent of our fasting capability. In the Bible, for example, Moses, David, Jesus, and Elijah were said to have fasted for up to 40 days.

Physiological Benefits of Fasting

Fasting can be thought of as a period of profound rest, during which time your body is free to rapidly undertake a wide variety of beneficial physiological activities, some of which are described below.

1. Neuroadaptation

Fasting helps your taste sensors adapt to a low salt intake. By allowing your body to "neuroadapt" to low-salt food, fasting rapidly facilitates the adoption of a health- promoting diet. This process of neuroadaptation appears to take place more rapidly during fasting than merely eating a low salt diet.

2. Enzymatic Recalibration

During fasting your body induces enzymatic changes that can affect numerous systems ranging from detoxification of endogenous and exogenous substances to the mobilization of fat, glycogen and protein reserves. These changes seem to persist after the fasting process, which may explain some of the dramatic clinical changes seen in patients after fasting.

3. Weight Loss

Although fasting is not generally recommended as a primary weight loss strategy, weight loss is a predictable consequence of fasting. Most people average a loss of approximately one pound per day over the course of a fast.  (When weight loss is your primary concern, a health- promoting diet coupled with exercise is usually your best approach.)

4. Detoxification

Fasting is generally thought of as a tool to facilitate detoxification, promoting the mobilization and elimination of endogenous substances such as cholesterol and uric acid and exogenous substances such as dioxin, PCBs, and other toxic chemical residue.

5. Insulin Resistance

Fasting appears to have a profound effect on insulin resistance, which is thought to be intimately involved with diabetes and high blood pressure. When your body produces adequate insulin, but it is ineffective due to resistance at the cells in the liver and elsewhere, your blood sugar levels rise. This can lead to serious clinical consequences.  Fortunately, after a period of fasting, this problem is often dramatically improved.

6. Natriuresis

Water-only fasting induces a powerful natriuretic effect, which allows the body to eliminate excess sodium and water from your body. This process allows for the resolution of chronic problems with edema and helps reduce the increased blood volume associated with high blood pressure.

7. Reducing Gut Leakage

When chronic inflammation involves the intestinal mucosa, a condition arises whereby small particles of incompletely digested foods can be absorbed into the blood stream. This introduction of foreign peptide molecules to the blood stream may stimulate an immunological cascade of effects collectively known as gut leakage. In genetically vulnerable individuals, gut leakage may be associated with the aggravation of numerous clinical entities including arthritis, colitis, asthma, allergies, and fatigue.

8. Sympathictonia

Hypersympathictonia (increased tone of the sympathetic nervous system) is thought to be associated with many problems ranging from digestive disturbances to anxiety disorders. Fasting appears to have a profound normalizing effect on the overall tone of the autonomic nervous system.

In all there are many mechanisms through which fasting may be having its profound effect. Further research into these and other areas should prove illuminating.

A Serendipitous Survival

In light of the clear misunderstanding of fasting by the medical profession, the unexpected, successful fasting experience of Henry Tanner, M.D., is truly remarkable. In 1877, Dr. Tanner was a respected, middle-aged physician living in Duluth, Minnesota. He had suffered for years with rheumatism and had consulted with seven fellow physicians, all of whom considered his case to be "hopeless." He also suffered from asthma, which chronically disrupted his sleep. He spent his waking hours in constant pain.

Tanner had been taught in medical school that humans could live only ten days without food and in this knowledge he found solace. Not believing in suicide, he determined that he would simply starve himself to death. As he stated later, "Life to me under the circumstances was not worth living... and I had made up my mind to rest from physical suffering in the arms of death." But fate had an agreeable surprise for Dr. Tanner. By unwittingly invoking a constellation of health-promoting responses associated with water-only fasting, he rapidly recovered.

By the fifth day of his fast, he was able to begin to sleep more peacefully. By the eleventh day, he reported feeling "as well as in my youthful days." Fully expecting that by this point he should be near death, he asked a fellow physician, Dr. Moyer, to examine him. Not surprisingly, Dr. Moyer was amazed.

According to Tanner's recollection, Moyer told him, "You ought to be at death's door, but you certainly look better than I ever saw you before." Henry Tanner continued to fast, under Dr. Moyer's supervision, for an additional 31 days, a total of 42 days in all.

When fellow physicians heard his story, which was sensationalized in the press, they responded with disbelief and intense criticism. Though widely rebuked as a fraud, Tanner at least had the last laugh. After his fast, Tanner had no symptoms of asthma, rheumatism, or chronic pain and lived a full life until he died at the age of ninety.

Human Fasting Capabilities

Many fasts of longer than 100 days have been documented in recent scientific literature, the longest of which was 368 days. At the TrueNorth Health Center in California, we routinely supervise water-only fasts of up to 40 days, and in certain circumstances, even longer.

In our experience, fasting has never been lethal and is often remarkably helpful. During our 20 years of supervising the care of more than 5,000 patients, fasting has proven to be both safe and effective. It has provided many patients a new lease on life.

Reawakening to an Ancient Truth

Throughout most of the 20th century, which witnessed a period of remarkable medical innovation in surgical techniques, radiation therapies, and new "miracle" drugs, the self-healing mechanisms that are unleashed during water-only fasting were largely unappreciated. 

However, as the century drew to a close, something extraordinary began to occur. After decades of collective awe of modern medicine and its purveyors, a strong undercurrent of disillusionment began to appear. There came the beginnings of a philosophical revolution that would lead health science in a promising new direction.

This new direction centers on the realization that health and healing are best supported when the biological roots of our nature are understood and respected. This new philosophical approach is based on the awareness that health and healing are natural processes. As a result, the focus of attention has increasingly shifted away from the traditional medical emphasis on drugs and surgery toward an exploration of the circumstances and requirements necessary to unleash and enhance these natural processes.

Fortunately, unlike health problems in the past, including such phenomena as water-borne diseases, nutritional deficiencies, and epidemics of tuberculosis and pneumonia that at one time were confusing puzzles - our present day epidemics of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer are not nearly so mysterious. It is becoming increasingly clear that the majority of present day health problems are the result of modern dietary excesses.

Simply put, most of our health problems are the result of our eating too much of the wrong things. We ingest too much fat and protein (especially animal fat and animal protein); too much refined sugar and other refined carbohydrates; and too many drugs, including tobacco, coffee, tea, alcohol, and soda. It is not surprising that nearly 50% of American teenagers are overweight when you consider that the average teenager consumes 25% of his or her calories from soda pop.

In the face of the current unprecedented epidemics of disease caused by dietary excess, it is understandable that the ancient healing method of water-only fasting is beginning to make intuitive sense to many people. Going without food for a period of time provides the ultimate opportunity for the reversal of the consequences of dietary excess, a chance to let an overfed and overburdened body take steps to restore health.

Rest assured that the appeal of fasting is not based solely on mere intuition. With the recent publication of the first-ever large-scale study conducted on the use of water-only fasting with life-threatening illness, what was previously considered intuitive has become scientifically apparent. Water-only fasting offers extraordinary potential for health and healing, and for some conditions it appears to be the most effective treatment available.

Fasting and High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure (also known as hypertension) is the leading contributing cause of morbidity and mortality in industrialized societies, and is the leading reason for visits to doctors and for the use of prescription medication. It is diagnosed when a patient's pressures exceed 140/90 mm Hg. The human and financial costs of this condition are staggering.

In 1984, doctors at the TrueNorth Health Center began to investigate the use of fasting in the treatment of this devastating condition. Our study involved 174 high blood pressure patients, all of whom were admitted to the Center for treatment involving water-only fasting.

The results of the study were astonishing. Every patient experienced blood pressure reductions sufficient to eliminate the need for medication, and over ninety percent of patients achieved completely normal blood pressure. A stunning reduction of over 60 points in systolic (upper) blood pressure was noted in those patients with highly elevated pressures (known as Stage III Hypertension), where systolic pressures are greater than 180 mm Hg. These results represent the largest effect size ever shown in lowering blood pressure, and they are estimated to be five times the effect expected from medications alone.

With assistance from our colleagues at Cornell University, our study, "Medically Supervised Water-only Fasting in the Treatment of Hypertension" was completed and accepted for publication by the peer-reviewed and indexed Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics. It appeared in the June, 2001 issue of JMPT.

A second study, also conducted at the Center, was recently accepted for publication in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. In this investigation, we evaluated the effect of water-only fasting on 64 patients admitted with so-called "borderline" hypertension. These are individuals who have systolic blood pressures between 120 and 140 mm Hg.

Patients with blood pressures in this range are often led to believe that their blood pressures are "normal." For example, a patient with a systolic blood pressure of 138/88 would be considered "normal" by conventional medical standards, despite the fact that they are five times more likely to die from a heart attack or stroke than an individual who has a systolic blood pressure of 110 mm Hg. Sixty-eight percent of all deaths attributed to the effects of high blood pressure occur in individuals whose systolic blood pressure is in this range.

The patients in our second study had a mean reduction in systolic blood pressure of 20 mm Hg. The average patient in the study, beginning with a systolic blood pressure of nearly 130 mm Hg, ended his stay with systolic blood pressure of just below 109 mm Hg. This represents a very substantial improvement in health. As just stated, he is now five times less likely to die from a heart attack or stroke than he was before.

Fasting Studies Draw Attention

As a result of the publication of these studies, the fasting program at TrueNorth Health Center attracted the attention of the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE), a large, national labor union. In March 2001, the Center's residential health education program, including the supervision of water-only fasting, became a fully covered medical benefit for all union members and spouses who have high blood pressure or diabetes.
In conjunction with this association with IUOE, the doctors at the Center are conducting a third fasting study. It is a prospective study with long-term follow-up to evaluate the use of fasting in the treatment of high blood pressure and diabetes. We are looking not only at the clinical outcomes of the patients (improved health and reduced morbidity), but also the effect on long-term costs of care for the patients who undergo fasting compared to those who choose conventional medical care.

The initial results are outstanding. Based on data from the first group of subjects with one-year follow-ups, the average cost reduction for fasting patients compared to patients receiving conventional medical care appears to be substantial. Once a large enough number of patients have completed the program and the long-term outcomes are calculated, we expect to publish additional papers documenting what appears to be a tremendously cost effective approach to managing these high risk, high medical cost, high blood pressure and diabetes patients.

Hope for the Future

Hopefully, these results of the TrueNorth Health Center's studies will be a contributing force in both a philosophical and practical revolution in health care. With clear and convincing evidence to guide them, and substantial cost savings to motivate them, other unions and insurance companies may decide to encourage and support the use of fasting for those they serve. In doing so, they could make available to the millions of sick and suffering patients the most profound health rediscovery of our time: the understanding that fasting allows the body to heal itself without the risk and excess cost associated with conventional medical care and drug use.