Rebooting the System With a Juice Diet or Fast
Brad West, ND
Animals, ancient peoples and many brilliant, traditional and elder doctors have used fasting or juice dieting with incredible success. Fasting is only one part of a total health optimizing program and not a panacea, though many chronic, stubborn or frustrating ailments can often be reduced or eliminated. Even severe conditions, such as asthma, allergies, hypertension, lupus, Type II diabetes, Parkinson’s, schizophrenia, CFS/FMS, acne and IBS have been treated successfully with fasting. Seasonal, periodic or extended juice dieting/fasting act like “a reboot of one’s system,” enhancing cellular detoxification and the return of homeostasis, youth and often a lightening of not only the body, but also the mind and spirit.
Beginning a Fast
The ideal time to begin a fast is when hunger disappears or at the first sign of illness, fever or sluggish feelings. A short fast can be implemented at any time, and even a one-day, water-only fast or master cleanse (mix of organic lemon juice, grade B or C maple syrup and cayenne pepper) can be helpful. Have patients choose a weekend or period of time when they can prepare themselves mentally, gather supplies and set up a good game plan. Decreasing stress and activities while making sure to maintain or even increase exercise will be essential to burn fat (ketosis) and retain muscle mass. More rest during the fast, balanced with up to two hours of lower-intensity exercise, often provides better results. Walking up and down hills in a peaceful place, yoga, moderate weightlifting and light aerobic activity are ideal. Patients’ energy will often increase during this time and can be directed towards detoxification, weight loss and healing, instead of other highly demanding bodily functions, such as immune, digestive and stress responses.
A positive mental outlook towards fasting is important. Benefits include weight release, clearer skin, increased elimination, tissue repair, decreased pain and inflammation, increased concentration … in essence, total rejuvenation. Perhaps the greatest benefit is the satisfaction that one can play a major role in optimizing his own health.
What Can be Consumed
Only fresh, organic juices, broths and pure water should be taken by mouth while fasting, and filtered or distilled water are required, as well. Consuming juice would be considered an elimination diet, since carbohydrates and nutrients are ingested, possibly decreasing ketosis and other benefits. The quantity of juice and water should be dictated by thirst and symptoms, although drinking at least six quarts of fluids is the standard recommendation by most experts (see the accompanying book recommendations). Losing vitamins or minerals usually is not of concern during a fast; humans have adapted biochemical mechanisms to exist for long periods without food. Serum potassium levels should be monitored weekly for longer water-only fasts, as well as comprehensive blood work and frequent UAs.
Staying warm and cleansing the skin with lukewarm water is encouraged, but extremes in temperature can be innervating and should be avoided. Dry-brush massage and low-heat Far Infrared (FIR) saunas are ideal for increasing lymph flow and detoxification. This is a good time to consider all forms of hydrotherapy, as well. It is essential that patients avoid deodorants, most soaps, fumes and synthetic chemicals.
Sunlight is required for healthy cells, mind and body, so patients should obtain 10-25 minutes per day. For deeper healing, rest is the most important aspect of the fast, so a nap or two during the day to balance the increased detoxification and exercise regime is a good idea. For longer fasts, less sleep at night will likely be required, due to lack of digestive energy utilization and more daytime rest.
Enemas and colonics are not always necessary during a fast, but this will depend on the type of fast and the patient’s individual health (water-only fasting requires no daily enema). However, many patients report that daily morning enemas dramatically improve symptoms. If there is concern about constipation, extra emphasis on pre-fast meals of fresh fruit and vegetables will assist with elimination, and a gentle laxative can be used the night prior to beginning the liquid diet. Colonics and coffee enemas can also be utilized periodically to increase cleansing and detoxification of the liver and skin, in particular.
Body temperature usually decreases during a fast, along with blood pressure, pulse and respiratory rate. This is further evidence of the inherent wisdom of the body to conserve energy. Staying warm will help. Using a hot water bottle to stay warm at night, and dressing warmly during the day as well as increasing exercise will promote warmth and sweating.
Side Effects of Fasting
Most discomfort during fasting is usually brief as the body works quickly to restore homeostasis. Early on, patients may experience headaches, dizziness, nausea, a coated tongue, body odors, mild palpitations or mucous discharge. These side effects are generally normal, encouraged and should only be followed up if extreme or persistent. Fasters may experience all, any or none of these effects. If they are intolerable and persist, breaking the fast very slowly with a small amount of orange or watermelon may be all that is needed, and it may be possible to resume fasting when the side effects disappear. Sometimes simply chewing the fruit and spitting it out can be enough to get back on track and eliminate uncomfortable side effects or thoughts.
Patients can keep their mind from focusing on food by reading a book (especially a book on fasting), listening to music, writing a letter, going for a walk or watching a movie. Comedies and/or light-hearted, non-dramatic entertainment and friends are highly recommended at this time. Do not spend too long at any one activity. Balancing rest, exercise and honoring the body and nature are keys to a successful fast.
It is imperative to avoid coffee, tea, soda, cigarettes, toothpaste (brush only!) or anything else by mouth except pure organic broths and juices, water, herbal teas and perhaps no-sodium carbonated water. Patients should avoid the smell and sight of food, if possible. If it is necessary to prepare food for other family members, remind patients to satisfy their senses with the aroma, and remember they have had a lifetime of eating and will again shortly, with renewed senses and gratefulness.
Breaking a Fast
“Any fool can fast, but it takes wisdom to break it,” the saying goes, which underlines how important and challenging it is to break a fast. Foods need to be simple, vegan, whole and organic, easily digested, eaten slowly and chewed thoroughly (31-50 times per bite), while limiting the quantity at first. Overeating can undo the benefits derived from a fast and is fairly common, even with experienced fasters. So, advise patients to be careful and to make a plan. Review their plan and emphasize the types of foods to start with. Another key is to avoid sodium for the first week or two at least, to avoid water retention and strong food cravings. It is also an opportune time to identify food allergies and intolerances as foods are reintroduced, so have a plan to do this.
Seasonal juice dieting or fasting is one of the quickest ways to decrease inflammation, increase the elimination of wastes and enhance the reparative processes of the body. Although fasts are generally safe, a physical exam or evaluation prior to undertaking a fast is a must, and if any medications are being taken or any chronic conditions exist, alterations may be necessary. Supervising and guiding the process before, during and after the fast is ideal, and can be essential for success. This allows for an evaluation of progress during and after the fast for safety, motivation and a wonderful opportunity to educate patients, making for a successful experience for everyone.
Further Reading About Fasts
Consider books by these authors:
- Herbert Shelton, DC
- Paavo Airola, PhD
- Steven Bailey, ND
- Joel Fuhrman, MD
- Alan Goldhamer, DC
Brad West, ND is a graduate of NCNM. He has studied with renowned doctors Dick Thom, ND, DDS and CFS/FMS expert Jacob Teitelbaum, MD as well as completed an internship for hygienic physicians at True North Health in California, where chronically ill patients are supervised on long-term, water-only fasts. Dr. West uses detoxification and deep healing through drainage/homeopathy, nutrition and food-as-medicine, fasting and internal-cleansing, exercise therapeutics and physical medicine. His emphasis is on chronic disease treatment, prevention, nature-cure, endocrinology, BHRT, gastroenterology and environmental medicine.