In the spirit of research, this week NH21 put the theory of fasting into personal practice, and to resounding success! I have a longstanding dermatitis only on my right hand. As a test I took a photo on day 1 and 5 of cold-pressed juice cleanse, and must say I was surprised by the result. Dermatitis is an inflammatory condition. Juice cleaning is promoted as anti-inflammatory. I knew the theory, but seeing the results in practice is truly inspirational.
Thanks goes to Natasha Ozora and the team at Nourish’d Cafe & Juicery in beautiful Cape Town – www.nourishd.co.za
“Never underestimate the health benefits of having a good time!”
If we spend all our time becoming healthy there may be no time left to enjoy the things that we want to be healthy for. Social eating and conviviality increase the pleasure of food and of being alive. Yet, excess and over-indulgence can accumulate in body tissues resulting in lethargy, malaise and a tendency towards ill-health. Just as a responsible car owner would commit to its annual service, so too might we each take occasional steps toward easing the burden of digestion to promote systemic cleansing and the removal of toxicity from the body.
By relieving the body of the work of digesting solid foods, fasting is a safe and effective method of helping the body detoxify, enabling the system to rid itself of toxins whilst facilitating the healing and repair of damaged body tissues. However, this is not for the faint hearted; as the saying goes, things may get worse before they get better! Like throwing a stone into a muddy puddle, the dirt will rise to the surface, which can make people feel quite sick in the short-medium term. Also, allowing for the body-mind connection, this physical sickness can manifest in mental and emotional disturbances. Often accompanied by uncomfortable symptoms known as the detox crisis, commitment to an extended period of detoxification requires a significant physical effort and strength of mind. However, many people find that the tangible improvement in overall quality of life is well worth the small sacrifices and discipline involved.
Intermittent (occasional) fasting is one of the world’s most ancient health practices. Humans have actually been fasting throughout evolution. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors didn’t have supermarkets, refrigerators or food available year-round; sometimes humans couldn’t find anything to eat, and our bodies thus evolved to be able to function without food for periods of time. If anything, intermittent fasting is more natural than eating breakfast, lunch and dinner (and snacks). We are often told of the importance of eating three meals a day, however this advice did not originate from a physical requirement, but rather an industrial need to have people work from 9am-5pm each day; forcing them to eat at the beginning, middle and end of a shift.
When we fast, several things happen in the body on the cellular and molecular level. For example, the body changes hormone levels to make stored body fat more accessible. By relieving the body of the work of digesting foods, fasting allows the system to rid itself of toxins; enabling healing and repair of damaged tissues. It has been clinically observed that during a period of fasting;
- The process of toxin excretion continues, while the influx of new toxins is reduced.
- The immune system’s workload is reduced, allowing it to concentrate on existing inflammation and allergies etc.
- Fat stored chemicals such as pesticides and drugs are released from body tissues.
- Physical awareness and sensitivity to diet and surroundings is increased.
A fast can help to cleanse the liver, kidneys and colon; purifying the blood, aiding weight loss, diminishing water retention and improving the appearance of the eyes, hair and skin. But fasting does come with a word of warning; despite the benefits of fasting, it must be undertaken with care. A body that is overloaded with environmental pollutants can produce unpredictable reactions as the cocktail of chemicals hits the bloodstream.
Common side effects of fasting include headaches, nausea, dizziness, skin rashes, increased body odour, aching limbs and muscles, insomnia and more. Fasting is contra-indicated during pregnancy and breast feeding, in infancy, for people with kidney and liver disease and anyone who regularly takes prescription drugs. Yet, for those who can weather the initial storm the rewards are great; increased energy, concentration and even intuition, as well as decreased pain and inflammation are commonly reported.
Prolonged fasting is not advisable to all people. Naturopathic doctors from America’s prestigious Bastyr University warn that, “fasting deprives the body of critical nutrients required to perform adequate detoxification.” For this reason, many fasting programmes include freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable juices and herbal teas; as well as encouraging plenty of fresh, clean water, gentle exercise and therapeutic massage. For people keen to try this ancient practice; a safe and effective first-step is to simply skip dinner; instead drinking a cup or two of herbal tea and going to bed early. Another option would be to delay breakfast for a short while; perhaps drinking a glass of water and engaging in a short stretching and breath-work session, instead of diving straight into coffee and eggs upon waking.
Bear-in-mind that it takes many years for a functioning body to wear down; and it can take time to build it back up to peak condition again. Fasting is not a magic-bullet that will miraculously cure disease. But with patience and practice, we might remember that the human body is most often born in peak working condition, and only begins to break down when environmental and lifestyle factors are introduced later in life. Removing the factors that inhibit normal function, such as poor quality foods, can go a long way towards resetting the body to default; that of normal function and natural health; the un-diseased state of being.
Fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of vitamins, minerals, enzymes and other important nutrients. Juicing is an excellent way to add more fruits and vegetables to the diet, and because fresh, raw juice contains the whole fruit or vegetable except for the fiber, it contains virtually all of the plants health-promoting components in an easily absorbable form. Fruit juices help to cleanse the body and nourish it with important antioxidants that offset the damage caused by free radicals. Vegetable juices are the restorers; they boost the immune system, remove acidic waste materials, and alkalize the blood. Vegetable juices are rich in chlorophyll, the pigment that gives plants and algae their green color, and which helps to purify the blood, build red blood cells, detoxify and heal the body, and provide rapidly available energy.
In the cold-pressed juicing process, dietary fiber is removed from the whole fruits and vegetables. This speeds up the absorption of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals to support the body’s energy needs during the detox period.
However, as dietary fiber is required for proper digestion, acute constipation can sometimes occur. It is important to alleviate this, as the body must quickly rid itself of the toxins released from body tissues. This is particularly important during longer programmes. In support of the detox, the following practices are encouraged:
- Drink plenty of clean water.
- Regular walks to gently elevate the breath and heart rate.
- Restorative yoga i.e. twists and inversions.
- 100% aloe juice, a digestive tonic and plant fiber.
- Bouncing on a mini-trampoline to stimulate the lymphatic system.
- Dry skin brushing to remove toxins that are released through the skin; the body’s largest organ.