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Learning about fasting and its benefits

Genevieve Tan Shu Thung
Genevieve Tan Shu Thung

Founder of the Sandhya Maarga Holistic Living Academy

Jakarta  /  Mon, August 29, 2016  /  02:40 pm
Learning about fasting and its benefits

For people who find it difficult to abstain from water, they may practice a water fast. During such fasting, only water is consumed. (

Fasting is defined as a willing abstinence from some or all food, drink or both, for a period of time. According to the principles of alternative medicine, the act of fasting is in itself therapeutic as it is beneficial for health. Fasting helps purify and rejuvenate the body by eliminating toxic matter and regenerating new cells to replace old diseased ones.

The practice of fasting is universal. Its benefits have long been known and are evident through historical and religious texts. Human beings around the world fast for religious or health purposes. Either way, the act still benefits the physical body. It is a natural way of cleansing and regenerating both the body and the mind.


Types of fasting

Various methods of fasting can be prescribed to an individual. Like Muslims during Ramadhan, some people practice complete fasting, meaning total abstinence from both food and drink from sunrise until sunset. This is normally prescribed in religious practice as it helps one detach from cravings for food and water to divert the mind to feed the soul instead — e.g. by thinking of God.

Those who cannot withstand the process and intensity of a complete fast may resort to partial fasting. Such fasts offer the same benefits of healing and cleansing the body. Although the process may be more comfortable for the individual, the speed at which detoxification occurs is slower. There are many subbranches of partial fasting, which is also known as selective fasting.

For people who find it difficult to abstain from water, they may practice a water fast. During such fasting, only water is consumed. From the view of alternative medicines, water is indispensable. Not only does drinking water help to expel toxins from the body, it does not place any pressure on the digestive organs, hence allowing them to rest completely. Instead of working on digesting food, the energy retained in the body can be allocated to cleansing and repairing damaged tissues within the system, thus restoring its balance.

Less rigorous fasting therapies include juice fasting. This is widely practiced all around the world. Such a fast enables the practitioner to last for a longer time to allow a deeper and more thorough cleansing of the body. While providing a base level of calories and nutrients to sustain energy, a juice fast alkalinizes the system and speeds up the detoxification process. India’s famous naturopath Dr. HK Bakhru in his book The Complete Handbook of Nature Cure focuses a lot on fruit juice fasting to treat diseases. When properly chosen, certain fruits and vegetables have therapeutic effects on the body, which can aid the healing process.

Another type of partial fasting is known as a mono-diet fast. This means eating just one type of food for a period of time. Those undertaking this fast limit themselves to one choice of food, particularly fruits such as apples, grapes or watermelon. The intestinal system only needs to provide a limited number of enzymes to break down the consumed food during a mono-diet. Therefore, foods that are easily digestible are the best options. During the process, the digestive system is able to work at its minimum level and can therefore rest so that healing and rejuvenation can occur.

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A good accompaniment to other partial fasts is drinking a mixture of sea salt (also known as Epson salts) and lukewarm water. This is called saline fast fruit fasting. The intake of salt water is usually prescribed in the morning before consuming any food. Salt water cleanses the body and is effective in treating common colds, digestive ailments, fever and more. It can help kill harmful bacteria in the intestine and flushes toxins from the digestive tract. During a juice fast, pulp from the fruit may build up in the intestine and ferment, causing gas and bloating. The salt water flush is effective in relieving this condition. This method is not harmful to the body and is therefore safe to be used as often as needed to restore the balance of the body’s systems. However, it is not recommended for patients suffering from advanced forms of appendicitis, ulcers, intestinal tuberculosis, hypertension or cancer to practice this technique.


Precautions and effects

Although fasting has immense benefits, practicing it in the wrong way may also bring more harm than good to the body. Therefore, as mentioned above, although fasting is generally safe, it is still recommended to seek professional guidance before proceeding with the therapy. Talking to another person who has fasted before can provide good insight about what to expect.

It is also a good idea to check with your family doctor to determine if you are physically fit to fast. A short fast of three days or less is usually very simple and can be undertaken without much concern.

A possible crisis can however accompany a long fast, including fainting, cramps, retention of urine, diarrhea, headaches, insomnia, slow pulse and vomiting. People suffering from certain health conditions may also face complications during therapy. This includes patients suffering from acute tuberculosis, acute malignancy, advanced diabetes, pregnant and lactating mothers and elderly people.

(Read also: This is what happens when you are hungry)

Precautions should also be taken for those who consume allopathic drugs. Natural therapists have discovered that medicinal drugs may sometimes not be assimilated by the body, eventually transforming them into poison. It is therefore encouraged that the fasting regimen be monitored by a holistic healthcare professional.

Selecting the right time and place to fast also plays a very important role. One may not be able to successfully complete a fast regimen if it is carried out in a very stressful environment. It is recommended that the therapy be carried out in a peaceful and calm environment so that the practitioner is not disturbed emotionally, which may disrupt the process of detoxification and healing.


Things to watch out for

During the fasting period, several symptoms may appear such as a foul taste or bad odor in the mouth, coated tongue, weight loss or tiredness. All these are signs indicating that the body is ridding itself of toxins and waste matter.

There are also signs indicating the time to break a long fast. A fast can be broken when natural hunger returns, foul breath disappears, the tongue becomes clear, the mouth is free of a foul taste, an improvement in skin-texture and vision is observed and there is a general feeling of well-being.


Benefits of fasting

The positive effects of fasting can be visible or invisible in nature. Generally, the practitioner will feel refreshed as blockages in the system are opened and toxins expelled from the body. One can also observe a reduction in metabolic activity during the initial fasting period.

Fasting helps to relax bodily organs, giving them necessary rest to restore vitality and health. Stomach muscles are relaxed, improving mobility and overcoming any distension. Due to this, the digestive process becomes more efficient. Digestive-related illnesses may also be healed such as gastritis and ulcers.

Through fasting, the healing of lung tissues also occurs more rapidly, thus relieving any symptoms of congestion. The therapy also helps strengthen cardiac tissue and effectively clear skin diseases, as toxins are eliminated from the system. Blood is also purified of toxic substances after a fast, and becomes less alkaline in nature.

(Read also: Six things you should know about your pee)

Glucose is stored as glycogen predominantly in liver and muscle cells. During a fast, this substance is exhausted. Fat is also removed from the kidneys, hence improving function, and impurities are cleansed and expelled from the intestines. Both the pancreas and spleen are believed to contract in size during fasting, returning to their normal sizes after fasting is completed.

There have also been records showing that fasting is beneficial for dental care as loose teeth become firm, toothaches vanish and diseased gums are healed.

Fasting can provide spiritual benefits too. It has been observed that by fasting, as the body becomes lighter, the mind becomes clearer as well. This in turn allows spiritual awareness to deepen. (kes)


Genevieve Tan Shu Thung runs an online holistic living magazine, which publishes articles related to holistic living at


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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.