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How to Fast the Healthy Way

Updated on September 27, 2012

Fasting is often touted as a fantastic way to purify and cleanse the body, leading to a vast spectrum of health and psychological benefits. The question is, how much of this is true and how much of this is a myth? If it is true, how do we go about fasting in order to not incur health risks and reap the most out of the experience?

In this article I will attempt to succinctly outline the truth about fasting for health reasons (weight-loss included), and do my best to provide guidelines for those who want to give it a shot. Please note, I will not be covering fasting within a religious context because most spiritual doctrines have their own guidelines and practices.


When To Avoid Fasting

The following conditions will necessitate medical supervision during any length of fasting..

  • During pregnancy.
  • If you suffer from malnutrition.
  • Heart or kidney diseases.
  • Hepatic insufficiency.
  • If you are hyperglycemic.

Is Fasting Healthy?

Unfortunately, there is no scientific consensus as to whether fasting is inherently healthy, due to sheer number of variables involved. In this section I will look at how fasting measures up to the most popular reasons it is employed.

Fasting for weight loss

Fasting with the sole ambition of losing weight is generally considered to be a counter-productive practice for the following reasons:

  • The majority of weight loss is temporary fluid loss and not actual weight loss.
  • Fasting also slows your metabolic rate leading to weight gain once you resume your normal diet.
  • Using fasting as a quick-fix to rapidly lose weight on demand detracts from the core principal of losing weight healthily. Weight loss requires a long-term commitment to eating the right foods, gaining control of your appetite and exercise.

However, there are notorious exceptions. In a study published by W. K. Stewart and Laura W. Fleming on the post-graduate medical journal, they supervised a patient who managed to fast for over a year (on a diet of only water and mineral supplements), losing a staggering 300 pounds and achieving his target weight of 180 pounds. Interestingly, there was very little subsequent weight gain once the fasting ended, and no detrimental side effects. Obviously, this man's odyssey was conducted under strict medical supervision.

To quote a popular phrase from T.V, don't try this at home kids!

Fasting For Cleansing Purposes

The success of fasting in order to detox will depend on your current diet. If your present diet is high in fat and low in nutrients (this applies to roughly 51% of Americans today) it may well help the body fight a buildup of waste products.

The gist of it is this: Due to the fact that the body no longer needs to spend a large amount of energy on its digestive organs, it is now able to spend that energy on other self-repair functions and enter a form of maintenance mode. It can focus on clearing up skin conditions, closing wounds or creating new cells. There are even reports that old people have regained their eyesight (I cannot independently find confirmation of this, despite trying, but apparently there are a lot of people who claim this as true) after having undergone prolonged fasting!


Fasting May Benefit

According to Elson M. Haas, MD fasting may be particularly beneficial for those afflicted by:

  • Colds and flus.
  • Headaches.
  • Asthma.
  • Insomnia.
  • Food allergies.
  • Several skin conditions.

How To Fast The Healthy Way

Step one - The first step, regardless of whether you want to incorporate certain fasting routines in the long term, or you're attempting a one-off, is to get cleared by a medical professional.

Step two - Gradually prepare for your fast, it should not be a spur of the moment decision. Before the established fasting date, begin to progressively reduce the amount of sugar, caffeine and nicotine.

Step three - If you are a fasting novice, don't attempt anything too drastic at first. Especially if you smoke, or if you tend to have coffee or alcohol everyday. An abrupt stop to these chemical dependencies can shock the system and cause upsets. Limit your first fasting session to no longer than 12-14 hours and see what comes up (please excuse the terrible pun).

Step four - Bear in mind that it is absolutely normal to feel irritable, dizzy or have sharp headaches as a result of the detoxification. If you manifest particularly violent symptoms it may be worth including a single meal into your fasting routine rather than weather the storm.

Step five - Unless your objective is a one-off twenty four hour fast, consider your long-term options. One very popular type of fasting is the intermittent fasting routine.

Step Six - Most clinics and therapists recommend a juice fast rather than a water fast. Not only do raw foods provide a modicum of calories and valuable mineral nutrients, they also make the entire ordeal far less uncomfortable.

Step Seven - Once you have completed the fast, make sure you return to your normal desired diet progressively and slowly. Even a short fast can lead to sickness and nausea if we overdo it.


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    • thooghun profile imageAUTHOR

      James D. Preston 

      6 years ago from Rome, Italy

      Thank you all for your time and patience!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Good info. I sometimes fast for 8-12 hours on the weekend. It helps me prepare for the week to come.

    • youcanwin profile image

      Neha J 

      6 years ago from Delhi

      Nice tips for fasting, Thanks


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