Citation: JackInspector. "Fasting For a Healthy Body?: An Experience with Fasting (exp49123)". Erowid.org. Dec 28, 2005. erowid.org/exp/49123
In some of the new age slash yoga communities fasting is being considered the ultimate way to clear one's body of toxic waste materials, slugged and clogged up intestines, give the stomach and intestines ease and rest, plus alot of other health claims.
My experience comes first, then I comment the whole thing.
Note: these are the procedures I was told of (and did), and how they supposedly work. So if you have another theory its fine with me, I am just explaining how it was all introduced to me!
I was already active in a strict yoga group when I decided to start fasting. According to ancient yogic scriptures the body should observe a complete fast at least 2 days a month, but better 4 days a month. The fasts are done according to the lunar calender, on the days of ekadashi, fullmoon, and newmoon. Ekadashi is simply 11 days before full and new moon, and from the fullmoon/newmoon to the next ekadashi there is a gap of three days. The theory behind following the moon when fasting is that the moon when in these positions, especially in the ekadashi position has a very strong effect of the earth's water, meaning it is being pulled towards the moon. From that theory they (scripture makers) deduced that the same effect must take place in our body, which is as we know today 60% water. Therefore fasting at the above mentioned dates should benefit body and mind. End of theory, lets move on to practice. Another pseudoscentific explanation for fast I was told that the body is only able to absorb the amount of food for 28 days of a month, thus 4 days extra of food is wasted anyway, so why eat it! I accepted it because I thought it sounded reasonable. More to come further down in the article.
Now we have the days on which to do the fast, and the theory behind it; so here is an explanation of how to do the fast.
Since I was well dedicated to yoga and heard so much about its beneficial effects I decided to go for the 4 fasts a month procedure.
It's basically simple: the night before you fast you eat a simple meal (I ate huge meals sometimes with regret the day after because I felt heavy. So a simple meal is recomended.) Do also make sure you drink plenty of water the evening before. When you wake up in the morning ready for the fast you can do one of two: either play it the hard way and deny yourself any water at all, or you wake up and drink an enormous amount of water (1-2 liter), which will hopefully make your fast easier.
Now to the main fast: There is no drinking or eating anything from dawn till the next dawn 24 hours later. It is really extreme. The body gets lethargic after a few hours, brain goes into hybernation so you just wanna sleep, limbs get cold (even in hot summer weather), and speech is slow and slurred. No one does much on these fasts except hanging around, trying to read a book, or do some work. The extra time not spent eating was preferably spent doing extra meditation on those days, or like me, give a long yoga class in the evening with no food the whole day. Strangely enough even though mouth was dry and thoughts were slow my daily yoga class with students lifted me up and gave me energy to complete the fast till nighttime. If you reach bed at night without cheating (no food, no drink) then you can consider yourself pretty strong and determined.
The next morning fasting was broken by drinking a cup of lukewarm, saline water mixed with the juice of half a lemon. This was supposed to reactivate the dormant intestines, and help clear out any sludge that might have been in there. After half an hour you eat banana, because it is soft, sweet, full of nutrients, and gentle on your digestive tract after a long fast. Wait another half hour to let the banana gently enter your gastrointestinal tract before you commence to breakfast. Now you are really hungry and probably had fantasies of all the food you want to eat the previous day. But wait a sec. don't overeat now. Eat something gentle like fruit in pieces, with natural yoghurt and some honey on top. That tastes delicious and refreshing after such a long fast. Be also sure to drink lots of water during the day. 3-4 liter is not too little!
If you did this correctly you should have stools coming out. Depending on how much salt you put in the water, the stools come out accordingly, from soft, to extreme diarrhea.
After a fast I generally feel lighter in body and mind, at least for the first day, but strength is reduced because of the previous day fast.
This procedure was followed strictly 4 times a month. The longest gap is 10 days before next fast, and the shortest time only 3 days. I try to explain it again: ekadashi is 10 days before fullmoon, or newmoon, but from fullmoon or newmoon to ekadashi is only 3, so in between fullmoon fast and the next ekadashi fast there is only 3 days where you can eat normally.
I personally felt that this procedure was very extreme, and tiring, and eventually I gave it up after 2 years. I just couldn't take being more or less inactive for 4 days every month for years. It is time wasted for me. I also experimented with fasting on only fruit juices, which was far better in the sense that I had a source of energy in the juice, and the fast got better. In the end I gave up fasting altogether, which I will explain soon.
So I told you already. I did give up fasting eventually, and don't ever want to do it again. When I did it I hated it, for several reasons. First of all how it made me feel during the fast. I felt misarable, sad, lethargic, unmotivated, phsycially weak, cold, and sleepy. I also used to get headaches, and a chemical reaction in my body must have released epinephrine into my blood to try raise my energy levels. This led to restlessness and irritability, which again would interrupt my work.
Second reason why I gave up fasting was because I wasn't very convinced it worked at all. Taken from my present medical knowledge (which was absent at that time) I see many flaws in the 'fasting cleans the body' statement.
Dry fasting induces extreme stress on the body. Cortisol is released into the bloodstream, which induces several metabolic pathways to release energy, first in the form of carbohydrates, but also fat to produce energy. The carbo storage in the body is not high and is spent fast in fasting. The brain needs fuel even when on fasting, and only sugars can feed a healthy person's brain. But when the carbo stores are all spent the brain still needs energy. That it now gets from fat metabolism. Small fat molecules called ketonebodies are products of fat metabolism, and are also able to penetrate the brain to give energy. This however is not very good. Ketonebodies produce acidic waste, which acidify the blood. The blood must have a very constant pH so that organs can work properly, and when there's a drop in pH there's a dysfunction of the internal organs. This state of ketoacidosis, which is common in diabetics and can cause coma and even death. Fasting for one day doesn't cause death of course, but many of the same pathomechanisms are induced, and they are very unhealthy for the body. Sorry, but it will take too long to write more about this topic here.
Reason 3 why I gave up fasting has only one word: pseudoscience. Some of the same people who propagate fasting also propagate alot of pseudoscience which is used to convince those doubting it that one should really do it. It's close to brainwashing when you know the truth. These pseudoscience yoga practitioners will tell you a lot about all the dangerous things that are hiding inside your body and kill you slowly.
Here are some examples: They will claim that your intestine clots up from the inside, saying that mucoid plaques attaches to your intestine and gradually blocks the passage of stool. They then claim that this is the reason why one gets constipated. They also use simple graphics; e.g. a whiteboard with a simple colon drawn upon it, for then to draw those plaques with a green marker. In that way it looks logical. Old stool gets attached to the bowel wall, and there it stays till you fast and flush out your system. I myself was convinced that I had those nasty plaques in my bowels. My doubts started when I palpitated my abdomen to check if there really was any plaque there. But no, my abdomen felt very smooth and active, and besides no nasty plaque came out after doing fasting. Even for 2 years.
My final conviction came a bit later. Now I work in the medical field as a student doctor. I have asked experts in gastrointestinal diseases if such an event might occur. And they all deny there is such a thing. I have personally attended to several colonoscopies where we look into the large bowels of patients, and have never seen those plaques anywhere. So to me that myth was busted big time.
Further research led me to Latin America where this strange belief actually started. Indigenous people there believe in a disease where plaque attaches to the intestines. Of course these are primitive tribes, and have no way to check the authenticity of this. Somehow, probably because a lot of new age cults tend to spread around the world to get inspiration they come to a lot of groups and tribes where they learn all about these strange, but nonexisting diseases. When they come back to the west they love to propagate that they have discovered something modern science didn't know, and doesn't care about. So they start their own clinics, with the knowledge they have coming only from some far away tribe in the jungle. They use this newfound 'knowledge' to mudsling medical doctors for their ignorance, and propagate: 'YES, I will make you well!! Forget the doctors, they know nothing'. This mentality spreads, and people tend to mistrust doctors.
But from my own experience I went in as a believer in the toxic plaque theory, but luckily I was aware enough to do my own research into their claim, which I find very faulty, and in some instances dangerous!
There is just one more point I would like to add to all of this. It is about the supposed toxic clean-up a fasting will do for you. I remember hearing about toxins many times when I did fasting. 'fasting removes toxis bla bla bla and you get healthy' - that kind of stuff. On my own request I asked an experienced yoga and natural health promoter what these toxins really are. He looked at me and said: toxins are all that is not supposed to be in our body. So the claim is that the toxins are removed during fasting, but while we are eating we just get more and more toxins into our body. Of course the body is well aware of toxins, and have several ways of ridding itself of it, among some through the liver, kidney, respiratory tract, and skin. This takes place all the time, not just during fasting. Besides this toxin removal requires energy, which is at a lack when fasting, so putting all together, fasting would be less efficient in removing toxins, if it does at all.
The difference from the 'new age' version of medical definition of toxin is quite broad. Toxins from a medical point of view include: breakdown products of metabolism that have no bodily function, pollution from e.g. smoking or factory smoke, heavy metal poisoning, insecticide poisoning etc. etc. There has been done research on this topic. Fasters have been measured to see how much toxin they excrete during the fast, and it has been compared with non-fasters. Conclusion was that fasters have no benefit in comparison with non-fasters in this field.
As for my conclusion:
Fasting was a strange experience executed because of a belief in a false theory where moon, water, mexican indians, and yoga teachers played an all-decicive role in the fast game. What I see so clearly now because I have the proper knowledge was invisible when I started, because I chose to trust in those who knew 'more' than me. But in the end it seems I'm the one who knows the most.
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