“The addition of food should be much rarer, since it is often useful to completely take it away while the patient can withstand it, until the force of the disease reaches its maturity. The man carries within him a doctor; you just have to help him do his work. If the body is not cleared, then the more you feed it, the more it will be harmed. When a patient is fed too richly, the disease is fed as well. Remember – any excess is against nature.”
Plato did it. Pythagorus did it. Hippocrates did it and prescribed it. Jesus did it. Moses did it. Leonardo Da Vinci did it. Ghandi did it. And without trying to draw any parallels between these great historical figures and me, now I’ve done it.
I’ve fasted for 5 days. After being told by the oncologist last week that I’m in very good health with no evidence of relapse, I felt ready.
“Instead of using medicine, rather, fast a day.”
Fasting has been capturing people’s imagination since Michael Mosley introduced us all to intermittent fasting through the 5:2 diet. (Documentary here) But fasting has obviously been around for a lot longer than that. It is an ancient practice. And continues to be practised particularly in the yogic and religious traditions.
What we know about fasting is that it rejuvenates the body. It cleanses and purifies. As the body is deprived of external sources of fuel, it turns on itself and consumes cells that are no longer useful. This can include dead cells, mutated cells and viruses. This process is called autolysis.
And fasting has begun to be used as a adjunct to chemotherapy as it apparently makes the chemotherapy more effective. After all the reading I’ve been doing, I can’t help but wonder whether the fasting is simply doing what Hippocrates said it would do. And the chemo is off to the side. Is it possible that people will just be put on a fasting regime for healing in the future?
But the most important thing I’ve learned about fasting is that after a 3 day water fast, the immune system can reboots itself. In a study done at the University of Southern California, the team found that the number of white cells seriously depletes while fasting but that after 3 days and the reintroduction of food, there is stem cell rejuvenation. You can read about this study here.
“When you starve, the system tries to save energy, and one of the things it can do to save energy is to recycle a lot of the immune cells that are not needed, especially those that may be damaged. What we started noticing in both our human work and animal work is that the white blood cell count goes down with prolonged fasting. Then when you re-feed, the blood cells come back. So we started thinking, well, where does it come from?”
Dr Valter Longo
Having suffered the great immune system crash last year, this study has been of great interest to me. I tried to go on a water fast as I was falling apart without properly preparing myself and only lasted a couple of days. I think now I may have triggered what they call a healing reaction which led to the complete crash as I didn’t follow it through. But that is simply a musing. I will never know.
Not only does fasting allow for rejuvenation, which is why it is considered to be of anti-ageing benefit, it also allows the body to cleanse itself. This means that fasting can be very uncomfortable for the first few days.
Our body eliminates toxins through 7 channels: liver, lungs, lymphatic system, blood, colon, kidneys and the skin including the tongue.
All of these experience some pressure while fasting as the body is beings to eliminate all unwanted cells and toxins. Bear these in mind as you read about my fast. If you want to know more about what each of these does, you can go HERE >>>
So on to my experience of fasting.
Because of the strain that fasting can put on the body in the early stages, it’s important to prepare. For most people, this includes eliminating coffee, sugar and meat from their diets for a few days beforehand. For me, It didn’t require all that much of a change. I thought my body was pretty clean as I eat a whole foods diet these days, mostly raw vegetables. But over the couple of days before, I increased my intake of water and juice. And didn’t eat until after noon each to day to shorten my period of food consumption.
I started the fast on Tuesday evening after dinner. For some reason, I craved a mung bean dahl with rice and leafy green vegetables as my last supper. And that’s what I had.
Day 1: Wednesday
I had decided to start my fast with 2 days of juices only. I made up around 2.5 litres of CABALA juice, a recipe advocated by Don Tolman. As you can see there is a lot of produce in there.
Here’s the recipe:
- 5 lbs. Carrots
- 2 Red Apples
- 1 Beet, 1/3 fist size
- 2 Yellow Apples
- 1 Whole Lemon (rind and all if able, otherwise just the juice)
- 2 Green Apples
I drank it over the day and a lot of water I probably had over 4 litres of liquid. As I had been doing 1 day fasts for the last few weeks (on Sundays), I didn’t think I’d find the first day would pose any particular challenge.
I was wrong. From about 11 am, I started to feel a bit queasy and headachy. But at the same time, there was a deep sense of aliveness in my body as if the cells were awakening. I went about my usual business – studying, teaching without any great difficulty.
By 10 pm, I had a horrible phlegmy taste in my mouth and my tongue was covered in white mucous. My mind was very clear but a bit fuzzy. I know that sounds like a contradiction but there was a clarity while I found it difficult to maintain my attention on one thing. That lack of attention got worse over the coming days.
Day 2: Thursday
I woke up feeling great! I had slept well and my stomach felt empty but I wasn’t hungry. I made another batch of juice. The day went well. Teaching and studying again. I had my last juice. My tongue still felt yucky and I bought a tongue scraper. But there was nothing momentous to report.
Day 3: Friday
The first day of only water. I was a bit light-headed at 6 am and the taste in my mouth was rotten. my tongue was still coated with thick white gunk. I had bought a tongue scraper but it really made very little difference. By 9 am as I sat down to study I felt very clear and productive. I was a little shaky though.
I started to find myself reaching out for food. Not because I felt hungry but because that’s what I always do. Nuts, fruit, my hand got really close before I realised it was happening. It made me aware that food is a way I pass the time. I had so much more time on my hands!
The productive state didn’t last long. I was overcome by a restlessness. I would flit from study to reading, meditating, back to study, start watching uplifting videos on YouTube, go back to study, do some yoga, read some more – you get the picture. Nothing could hold my attention for very long.
Day 4: Saturday
The light headedness came with me into Saturday well and truly. I woke up at around 5.30 when the dog started barking. After some journalling and meditation, I started to contemplate extending the fast beyond the 5 days. I was going really well!
But by 7 am, I realised I had been optimistic. I was really weak, dizzy and a little nauseous. I made a conscious decision to ride it through since I had stopped around this point last time. I was meant to go out Saturday morning but thought that I would be better off to stay home and rest. I went back to sleep and had an “eating dream”. In it I was preparing food for others and starting to just stuff it into my mouth. Then remembering I was fasting I became quite distraught at the idea that I had undone all my good work. It was a relief when I woke up.
My tongue started to clear, but my nose began to run uncontrollably and then stopped an hour later. My nemesis herpes started to rear its head, threatening an outbreak with some tingling. But it moved around and nothing ultimately manifested. (This is a real win since it suggests my immune system is functioning quite well)
By about 1 pm, full blown nausea set in. I rested, again not really being able to give anything attention for too long. Later in the day, I started to vomit. I gave myself a pep talk to keep going. Ultimately I threw up about 10 times. I was drinking lots of water, but the bile and stomach acid were collecting in my tummy and I could only keep it there for so long. Along with bile, up came some “interesting” brown gunk and white mucous.
Eventually I decided to go to bed although I didn’t feel all that tired. It was about 11 pm. But the acid in my stomach started to burn my throat and I did some “internet” research. I read somewhere that the acid and bile collect because there is nothing in the stomach to trigger the passage to the small intestine opening. There needs to be something solid on the move. So I took the tiniest apple I could find and grated about ⅓ of it and ate it. It gave me immediate relief and I slept like a log.
Day 5: Sunday
The worst had passed. I had slept well but still felt tired when I got up. However, I soon discovered a very prominent red rash on my legs. I had read about rashes occurring but this was really red and angry. Blotches all over my knees and down into my calves. I was beginning to crave food too.
By early afternoon, the rash had got redder and I was still feeling a little nauseous. Obviously toxins were on the move in my body. I suspect that the chemo from 2 years ago was amongst them. I sent a photo of my legs to a friend who is fasting in Thailand (far more exotic than Melbourne). She was horrified and thought I might be detoxing too quickly. But how do you stop the juggernaut when it’s underway?
I decided to have a bath with magnesium chlorate and bentonite clay, both being well known to help draw toxins out of the body. It was pleasant, although the rash stung as it made contact with the water. I also spent a few moments on the rebounder to give my lymphatic system some assistance.
By 6 pm, I was ready to break the fast. This is as important as the fast itself. The digestion has slowed down enormously and cannot cope with too much food as it’s reintroduced. I made a juice and then an hour later, had some grated apple and a spoonful of sauerkraut to start the process of repopulating my gut. I must confess it was my intention to stop there but it was family dinner and there were big bowls of vegetables on the table, so I picked at a small piece of potato and cauliflower. Mea culpa!!! It seems really funny to think that eating potato and cauliflower make me “naughty”.
There were a number of things I did each day to support my body through the fast and its detoxing:
- Drank a lot of water. At least 2 litres a day but some days 4. Probably I should have drunk more.
- 10 minutes of yoga.
- Dry skin brushing.
- Coffee enemas twice a day. You can find out more about them here >>>.
- 5 Tibetan Rites – 5 exercises that help to balance the hormones. Find out more here >>>.
- Tongue scraping
Movement helps to keep everything circulating so it can be flushed out of the system. Particularly since our lymphatic system doesn’t have anything to pump it around the body. This is where dry brushing helps too.
Day 6: Monday (today)
All I’ve had so far is a juice and a warm cup of plain miso soup. Shortly I’ll have a smoothie with banana and berries. Soft digestible food as my stomach gets used to eating again.
I woke up with a bit of nausea, a bit of phlegm in my lungs and a little pain in the stomach. Perhaps I overdid it last night? Who knows. But a few hours later, I feel great. I feel clean and fresh. Part of my brain keeps thinking I should eat but I really don’t feel hungry. My husband tells me I look a little thinner but really well.
And I’ll be doing it again. It feels as though I’ve really just begun the deep cleansing process. But this week I have to organise to get some blood tests. I have the results from last week when I saw the oncologist and it will be interesting to see if this fast has made any difference to my counts. Particularly to the white cells. My immune system. I’ll let you know.
One of the things that has surprised me is that I didn’t really experience the emotional roller coaster that I read usually happens. Sure there were times when I thought maybe I’d stop but nothing really overwhelming. I don’t know if that’s because I’ve cleared so many emotions over the last 2 years or if I was just lucky. Whatever it was, it was interesting. Next time could well be different.
If you are inspired to do a fast, there are all types of resources out there. I’ll post my favourite ones below. I was definitely encouraged by seeing Tyler Tolman in Melbourne a couple of weeks ago. A few healers had told me not to do a fast because it interferes with the metabolism and that this is particularly bad for people who have been diagnosed with cancer. But Tyler pointed to some studies, albeit done in the early 20th century, that showed that fasting improves the metabolism. And of course, we are hearing more and more about the benefits of intermittent fasting.
Please seek out support if you want to undertake a longer fast. It is now on my radar to do a 10 day water fast, just like the masters I referred to above did. But I have yet to find an appropriate person to support me. I want someone to call if it gets really tough, mostly to reassure me and tell me my body is doing my thing. There are fasting retreats and a few practitioners around who can guide you. But I don’t know anyone in particular to recommend so I won’t.
I joined the Tolman Online Juice Fasters group on Facebook during this journey, having signed up for Tyler Tolman’s free online juice fast. I found the people in there very experienced and happy to provide me with support. Sometimes you just need to check in with someone.
I hope you have found this interesting. And be sure to check out the links below.
Have you ever fasted? What type of fast did you do? And for how long? How did it make you feel? I’d love to know about your experience so please let me know in the comments here or on the Facebook post.
Until next time …
Be happy. Be well.
And so be it.
Greek Medicine: Fasting and Purification
The Yogic Life: Water Fasting – For Detox and Healing
All About Fasting: Water Fasting (I found this site particularly useful)
Don Tolman: Why Fast?
Tyler Tolman: Water Fasting Benefits and Is Fasting Good For You Or Dangerous to Your Health?