By Naini Setalvad
Apart from rejuvenating you, fasting, if carried out the right way, can often cure diseases
“The best of all medicines are rest and fasting.”
– Benjamin Franklin
We Indians are all-too familiar with the concept of fasting. Fasting is advocated by all religions – Hinduism (Shravan, Navratra), Christianity (Lent), Jainism, Zoroastrian (Boman Mahino), and Islam (Ramzan).
Fasting or ‘upvas’ literally means to get closer to God. Scientifically, it is the simplest way to give your entire body system a time to rest, cleanse and rejuvenate. People who have been chronically ill have been healed by undertaking fasts. We all know that children, animals, and birds give up eating until they show signs of recovery.
This gives us a clear idea of the healing effects of fasting. Fasting is one of the most important of all natural remedies. It is the most efficient method of relieving the body overloaded with food and consequently toxins. It is an established fact that people do not die of fasting; on the contrary, they feel much better. No wonder periodic fasting is advocated by all religions.
A real fast is the complete abstinence from all substances except pure water, in an environment of total rest. It could be for a day, a week or even 40 days! Why was this done? For self-discipline, self-control and to improve health. Jainism advocates eight days a year only on water. Unfortunately, people treat it as a weight loss tactic.
Dr Otto Buchinger, an internationally famous authority on fasting, cured himself of severe rheumatic fever by fasting for 20 days. Dr Ann Wigmore cured herself of cancer and many others after that with wheatgrass therapy. Basil Shackleton tells us the miraculous story of how he adopted a diet of only grapes and overcame a long-standing kidney disorder. The Institute of Naturopathy and Yogic sciences (Jindal’s) advocates supervised fasting.
There are bacteria in the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe, leading to diseases. Nature cure dictates that all treatments should begin with a fast of only water or lemon water. This gives important organs like stomach, intestine, liver, and kidney a chance to rest and to cleanse, overhaul and purify the body. Breaking the fast is even more important than the fast itself. Wrong methods could affect the digestive system; therefore we have to resume a normal diet slowly and gradually after the fast; initially with water, followed by fruit juice and vegetable juice.
If a purely water fast is too daunting, you could try a fast of fruits and fruit juices, or of vegetable juices.
If you have the willpower, try a mono fast (i.e. one food item, like only bananas, papayas or grapes) for a minimum of seven days.
There are countless cases on record of miraculous cures by fasting. I, for one, have fasted on apple juice on numerous occasions in the last decade when I was suffering from gallstones. The pain was so bad that I literally begged for surgery. It is a decade now – but my gallstone attacks have never returned. I have also fasted on lime water with rock salt to reduce period cramps and combat low blood pressure.
It is amazing how mankind followed the laws of nature by fasting just before the festive season begins, automatically cleaning the body of accumulated junk caused by highly salted, sugared, and processed foods, thereby cleansing the palate, so to speak, before the feasting begins.
Changes that may take months (or even years) with careful eating may occur more quickly if a properly supervised fast is undertaken. This is an important consideration because once people begin to realise their health potential, they become a likely candidate for a lifelong commitment to healthful living. Addictions to drugs such as alcohol, cocaine, nicotine and caffeine are examples where fasting can dramatically reduce the often protracted withdrawal symptoms that prevent many people from becoming drug-free. Most people are surprised at how easy it is to quit smoking or drinking with the help of fasting.
Many factors need to be considered before a fast is undertaken. Therefore, it is important to fast systematically with the help of a qualified nutritionist. Your behaviour and attitude changes when you undertake a fast. You tend to become calmer, and healthier. This immediately makes you work at optimum levels. Many diseases are cured. Common colds, coughs, and allergies disappear. Some cancers have been cured on a fast of wheatgrass.
We tend to be creatures of habit, and the ways that we are accustomed to eating and living feel as natural to us as breathing. That is why it is so difficult for people to stop bad habits. But fasting brings your present lifestyle to an abrupt halt. It gives you an opportunity to pause, reflect and decide how you are going to conduct your life afterwards. This enables you to make a break with your past and set off in a new, more positive direction.
After fasting, you tend to be conscious about what you are eating, and why. Fasting heightens your awareness, as well as your appreciation for food. By fasting, we learn to eat with reverence.
My advice to everyone is to undertake a fruit fast once a week and every year, if possible, a fast for eight days. It does not ensure a longer life, but you will feel healthier and on top of the world.
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