Throughout history, people have noticed that when they become acutely ill, they lose their appetites. The early Hygienic physicians reasoned that there must be some physiological reason for this loss of appetite. Through observation and experimentation, they discovered that fasting - the complete abstinence from all substances except pure water, in an environment of complete rest - allows the body to make a unique physiological adaptation.
In the fasting state, the duration and intensity of the symptoms of illness, such as inflammation, mucus production, fever, diarrhea, etc., are often dramatically reduced. Fasting has been found to be the most efficient and powerful means available to facilitate self-healing.
Further experimentation and observation found that fasting is also effective in the resolution of chronic disease. Chronic disease, including heart disease, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, respiratory illness, autoimmune disease, etc., can be the result of several different factors. These factors include inappropriate diet, such as the consumption of animal products and refined foods, the use of drugs, including tobacco, alcohol, coffee, etc., a lack of adequate sleep or exercise, or exposure to environmental stressors such as pollution, radiation, excess noise, etc., or excess psychological stress and hereditary factors.
Fasting is an important tool in resolving the symptoms of acute illness and chronic disease, but its benefits are not limited to dealing with symptoms.
Making the transition to healthful living
It is difficult to break habits and patterns of behavior established over many years. The typical Western lifestyle leads to taste buds acclimated to stimulating foods, muscles that are flabby, and a nervous system that depends on stimulatory drugs (such as caffeine) to keep it going despite a lack of sleep. Often, as people attempt to change their diets and lifestyles, they find healthful foods unappetizing, exercise painful, and the symptoms of withdrawal from stimulants unbearable. The slow process of detoxification that accompanies the cessation of bad habits can cause unpleasant symptoms that persist for weeks or months.
Speeding up the process
Fasting is a method of speeding up the detoxification process. It can be an intense and sometimes unpleasant experience, but it is highly effective. After fasting, healthful foods often taste delicious, and pernicious habits often have much less appeal. Fasting is the most efficient means available to overcome dependencies of a variety of drugs, including caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, marijuana and others. Educational programs available at institutions specializing in fasting supervision help people to develop the skills necessary to select and prepare healthful foods, develop a sensible exercise program, and find emotional support.
Overcoming signs of illness
Some individuals appear and feel healthy but still manifest abnormal signs, such as high blood pressure, elevated blood levels of cholesterol, triglycerides, glucose, uric acid, or liver enzymes, etc. Fasting is often extremely effective at allowing the body to eliminate the signs associated with disease.
Many individuals have adopted a health-promoting diet and lifestyle to overcome disease. They may be completely free of all signs and symptoms of disease but choose to use fasting as a preventive measure to allow the body to eliminate the metabolic products that can accumulate within the cells of the body despite our best efforts. Fasting may offer its greatest potential in the prevention of disease. Fasting also can be used as a diagnostic tool in uncovering sub-clinical pathology that may exist.
Doing it right
Whether fasting is used in the transition to a healthful diet and lifestyle, to overcome the signs and symptoms of disease, or as a preventive measure, it is a powerful tool for helping sick people to get well and healthy people to stay healthy.
The most important advice about fasting is: Do it right or don't do it. Complete rest, a supportive environment, and professional supervision are required to ensure that fasting will be a safe and effective experience.
The following case studies will give some insight into the many ways people can benefit from fasting.
J.W., a 36-year-old female, 5 feet 4 inches tall and 215 pounds, decided that she wanted to quit smoking, lose weight, overcome her "food addictions," and resolve a 15-year history of chronic constipation. She also suffered from severe back pain and sciatica. She had, in her own words, tried "everything," and in desperation came to the Center for Conservative Therapy's residential health care program on the advice of a friend who had undertaken a fast there two years earlier.
After her initial examination and two days of preparatory feeding, J.W. underwent a fast of 12 days. She experienced numerous symptoms during her fast but did not experience any significant craving for cigarettes despite her one-pack-per-day habit of over 20 years duration. She also did not experience any hunger after the second day of fasting. She did experience nausea, a foul taste in her mouth, headaches, and low back pain. After 12 days of fasting, J.W. underwent a 14-day re-feeding program. By the fourth day of re-feeding, she was having normal bowel movements for the first time in many years. She lost a total of 31 pounds. During her re-feeding time, she received chiropractic manipulation and physiotherapy for her joint dysfunction, in conjunction with instruction on stretching and proper body use. At the time of her release, she was free of sciatica and felt prepared to face the "real" world.
At her six-month follow-up, J.W. had managed to lose an additional 15 pounds, had successfully become an ardent non-smoker, had completely normal bowel function, and had remained free of back pain and sciatica.
M.T., a 46-year-old male, was suffering from macular degeneration [loss of central vision], high blood pressure, joint pain, and fatigue. Despite his efforts at making dietary changes, his symptoms continued to progress, which was upsetting to him. Blood pressure medications were only successful at reducing his blood pressure to 180/110, and they seemed to be interfering with his sexual function.
After three weeks of fasting and two weeks of re-feeding, M.T. was a "new" man. His blood pressure normalized without medications at 114/74, and his joint pain completely resolved. At his follow-up a year later, he reported no return of the visual problems from macular degeneration, and his blood pressure was 120/74.
S.S., a 34-year-old female, had been ill for several years. She had been previously diagnosed as having chronic fatigue immune deficiency syndrome, Epstein-Barr viral infection, and chronic candidiasis. She reported a history of depression, panic attacks, palpitations, and sleep disruption. She seemed sensitive to everything she ate, including fruits and vegetables.
S.S. underwent a fast with the hope of reducing her extreme hypersensitivity. Her fast was quite difficult, and after just 12 days it had to be discontinued due to extreme emotional volatility. She had a slow recovery, but within four months of her fast she reported substantial improvement. She was much less fatigued, was sleeping better, and could tolerate a wider variety of whole natural foods. S.S. will undergo another fast soon.
A.S., a 74-year-old female, had been diagnosed as having breast cancer 10 years ago. She had undergone a lumpectomy, but had refused all other medical treatment. Since then, she has been totally committed to healthful living and has been absolutely compliant with all the diet and lifestyle recommendations.
Once each year she comes to the Center for "preventive" fasting. She usually fasts for 10 days without significant symptoms. On her most recent fast, although she arrived feeling great, by the second day she had a fever of 101 degrees and was in extreme discomfort. It was not until the eighth day that her fever broke and she felt wonderful again. I believe that this represented a significant healing crisis, since all her laboratory results were within normal limits. She has had no recurrences of cancer and continues to do well.