When I was perhaps 17 or 18 I discovered a fantastic book called The Miracle of Fasting by Paul Bragg. This small no-nonsense book inspired me to step into fasting in a big way. My experience of water fasting was profound, cleansing not only but body but also the mind and emotions. Sometimes standing in the bath releasing from an enema I would be in tears, crying and releasing old stuck or suppressed emotions. It was profound and liberating.
As an aside, it turns out that were some dubious circumstances surrounding certain aspects of Paul Bragg’s claims regarding himself and his healing experiences. I won’t bother to say much more here, and instead will refer you THIS ARTICLE on www.ahealedplanet.net. Read it when you have time, if it interests you, although for me the questionable story surrounding Bragg doesn’t detract from the timeless art and science of fasting.
When I was 17/18 getting into fasting in a big way, I didn’t talk much about my fasting experiences with other people. I did at first, but most people freaked out. The majority of people around me simply didn’t understand. A truly surprising number of people actually stated outright they believed (sincerely) they would surely die if they didn’t eat even for just 24 hours. They looked at me in disbelief when I said I’d done a 12 day water fast. They believed it was scientifically impossible. I could only smile, and keep my words to a minimum.
It is now coming to light in the Western scientific field of health and medicine that intermittent fasting is a very worthwhile and health promoting practice.
Even the BBC has done a story on Intermittent Fasting (see the Related Articles link below). Here’s some information from Wikipedia on what’s referred to as Intermittent Fasting (I.F.)
A number of subsequent studies have shown beneficial effects of IF in animals.
- “Reduced serum glucose and insulin levels and increased resistance of neurons in the brain to excitotoxic stress.”
- IF was found to “Enhance cardiovascular and brain functions and improve several risk factors for coronary artery disease and stroke including a reduction in blood pressure and increased insulin sensitivity” and that “cardiovascular stress adaptation is improved and heart rate variability is increased in rodents” and that “rodents maintained on an IF regimen exhibit increased resistance of heart and brain cells to ischemic injury in experimental models of myocardial infarction and stroke.”
- May “ameliorate age-related deficits in cognitive function” in mice.
- Correlation with IF and significantly improved biochemical parameters associated with development of diabetic nephropathy.
- Resistance in mice to the effects of gamma irradiation.
- Lifespan increases of 40.4% and 56.6% in C. elegans for alternate day (24 hour) and two-of-each-three day (48 hour) fasting, respectively, as compared to an ad libitum diet.
- Rats showed markedly improved long-term survival after chronic heart failure via pro-angiogenic, anti-apoptotic and anti-remodeling effects.
Studies on humans suggest similar beneficial results.
- In the early 1960s, one study of fasting as a method of weight control noted that “[We] have noticed an improvement in the last few months in the ability of these patients to keep their weight under control by observing one fast per week [water only]. This allows them to be more liberal with their diet on the other days. I cannot overemphasize the fact that they prefer this to perpetual daily denial with no alternative.”
- Alternative day fasting (ADF) may produce significant improvements in several markers such as LDL cholesterol in as little as eight weeks.
- ADF “may effectively modulate several risk factors, thereby preventing chronic disease, and that ADF may modulate disease risk to an extent similar to that of CR.”
- Serum from humans following an IF diet had positive effects (reduced triglycerides in men and increased HDL in women, as well as reduced cell proliferation and increased heat resistance) in vitro on human hepatoma cells.
- IF is hypothesized to confer protection from toxic chemotherapy treatments, allowing higher doses and therefore more effective treatment for cancers.
- IF may function as a form of nutritional hormesis.
- Work at the National Institute on Aging in Baltimore, USA found evidence that fasting for one or two days a week could protect the brain against some of the worst effects of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other ailments.
Here’s a few quotes from an article on www.healthavenger.com on Intermittent Fasting:
The story so far is that intermittent fasting, as it’s known, lowers levels of cholesterol and other blood fats called triglycerides. What Associate Professor Heilbronn wants to nail down is what causes this effect – is it the fasting itself or any weight loss resulting from it?
Of course rats are not humans, but at least medical scientists are exploring the benefits of fasting in controlled experiments:
Research at the National Institute on Aging in Baltimore, US reveals that restricting food in rats is good for their brain cells as it helps boost levels of a substance called BDNF (brain-derived neurotropic factor) that helps protect human brains from Alzheimer’s disease. Research scientist Leonie Heilbronn at the University of Adelaide’s Discipline of Medicine is trying to find out if fasting every other day can help reduce cardiovascular disease in humans.
For the scientifically minded, here is a very comprehensive write-up in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Whilst our medical scientists figure out how and why fasting is beneficial, I highly recommend WE THE PEOPLE take matters into our own hands. Fasting is nothing new. It’s been practised for aeons. It’s been prescribed and utilised in various healing modalities for thousands of years (Ayurveda, Chinese medicine, Western medicine in Greece, traditional naturopathy, etc.). Self-education is key for those of us on a Path of Freedom. Self-health is vital. Fasting, like spiritual enlightenment, is not about taking on something new. It is not about attaining and adding to what you are. It’s about releasing, reducing, simplifying, and letting go.
As I mentioned, fasting for me is a multi-layered experience. There’s the physical cleansing it produces, yet perhaps more importantly is the fact it helps clear the mind and purify our emotions. All of these things combined help to purify the seat of what Taoism refers to as shen or spirit in the body — what we refer to as the Heart or the Hrdaya. Fasting also helps break the attachment we have to food. Many people are unknowingly addicted to food and very attached to certain tastes and sensations they derive from the food they eat. Often-times we get attached to foods which actually don’t serve us in the long-term. Disease is typically the result. Over eating is also common for many people, and water fasting is a great way to start loosening up the bondage we have to foods and the sensation of feeling full. There is great Intelligence in the emptiness, and we can lose touch with that Intelligence when we’re always full.
Here are some additional links to articles online about fasting, from a more main-stream perspective:
- Bowerman, Susan (10 December 2007), “Feast, fast and reduce risks”, Los Angeles Times, retrieved 21 February 2010
- Silver, Cheryl S. (9 July 2004), “Eat Less, Live Longer?”, Genome News Network, retrieved 21 February 2010
- Yang, Sarah (14 March 2005), “Fasting every other day, while cutting few calories, may reduce cancer risk”, UC Newsroom, retrieved 21 February 2010
- Dobson, Roger (13 February 2010), “How fasting could help you slow down the ageing process”, Daily Mail, retrieved 21 February 2010
- Mosley, Michael (5 August 2012), “The power of intermittent fasting”, BBC News, retrieved 9 August 2012