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Benefits and Contradictions of Water-Only Fasting

Part Two
by Dr. Frank Sabatino

Benefits and Contradictions of Water-Only Fasting

Benefits of Water-Only Fasting

Water-only fasting has improved many pathological conditions including chronic inflammation, autoimmune diseases (lupus, rosacea, rheumatoid arthritis), asthma, high blood pressure, ulcers, heart disease, irritable bowels, colitis, allergies, depression, anxiety and even addiction etc. as it also promotes significant fat and weight loss. In the early days of fasting, weight loss can be as much as 1-2 pounds per day.

However, this weight loss will taper off to some degree as the fast ensues, often reducing to a half a pound per day in the latter stages of more extensive fasts.

In a human study, weight loss caused by fasting was initially rapid, as much as 1.5-2 pounds per day during the first week of fasting followed by 0.5-1 pound per day by the third week of fasting. And as much as a 20 percent loss of body weight occurred by 30-35 days of fasting. (9) It is not always true, but usually the more obese the individual is at the start, the more dramatic the initial weight loss is.

It is important to keep in mind that fasting is just a profound process of deep physiological rest. That’s the main reason fasting is only recommended in a resting state.

Typically, other than going to the bathroom and simple activities of daily living, no other physical activity is allowed. The goal is to harbor as much energy as possible for the healing work at hand.

That means rest on every level, including all the senses. So, while watching TV, listening to music, playing on the internet, etc. are ok during the fast, the more time spent being quiet, serene, and introspective the better. It is so beneficial to give your eyes, your ears and your brain a total break in the action.

This not an easy thing in our culture. We are so inundated with information and stimulation that we are constantly being pulled outside of ourselves. So the thought of spending time with, and within, ourselves can sound like a daunting, almost frightening task. However, it is in this introspective time that information about what motivates our cravings and desires can be revealed.

Sometimes, only by slowing everything down and stepping back from the chaos and distractions around us, can we question and change the patterns and choices of our lives. We need to afford new choices an opportunity to breathe and thrive in our brains and neurological systems, making it easier for us to establish constructive healthier choices over time.

For this reason, fasting is also a profound tool for creating a more mindful self-aware life, and resolving compulsive addictive behavior.

Many people have dealt with and resolved the compulsive addictive use of drugs and food by fasting. In addition, fasting promotes a stability in brain chemistry that even helps with the pain of withdrawal from addictive substances. It’s never easy, but I have helped people even resolve the typically debilitating pain and craving of opiate withdrawal from heroin and dilaudid, and other drugs including cocaine, with significantly less pain and discomfort, utilizing the fasting process.

Even short periods of fasting, from 3-5 days, are extremely useful for changing food habits and addictions to sugar (refined candy, ice cream, cookies and pastry products), other refined carbohydrates (refined breads, pasta etc.), gluten, meat, and dairy products. And short fasting periods, can also jump start a successful weight loss program and promote a rejuvenation of the immune system by removing old white blood cells to trigger the stem cell activation of new white blood cell production.

Refeeding and Contraindications

I think that you can probably appreciate that the re-feeding period after fasting is crucial for the success of the fasting experience. In fasting centers, a common recommendation by supervising physicians is that the person take half the time of the fast to ease back into eating. So, if you fast 10 days, you should take another 5 days to break the fast. A conservative approach to re-introducing food and activity is in the best interest of all fasters at any age.

If there are two mistakes that are commonly made after fasting, they are eating too much too soon, and moving too much too soon. Food needs to be gradually introduced after a period of fasting.

Fasts are most successfully broken with a succession of diluted and full-strength fruit and vegetable juices, fresh fruit, fresh vegetables and salads, raw and cooked whole plant-based meals.

Even if you fast, fasting will always be just a small part of your life. You will be eating 99 percent of your time and if you decide to fast, it will be a very a very small percentage of your life. So, what you do before and after the times that you fast is going to be the most significant part of your health and weight loss program.

However, there are potential contraindications to fasting and people who are not good candidates for fasting. Some of these include people that have an extreme fear of fasting, people that are anorexic or bulimic, people with metastatic cancer and body wasting, pregnant diabetic women, nursing mothers, medicated diabetics (Types 1 & 2),people taking medication and people with specific metabolic genetic defects like porphyria when there is difficulty processing the porphyrins that affect red blood cell production and energy utilization in the energy factories of cells (mitochondria).

Just keep in mind that during a fast the body can express eliminative activity and healing crises by a variety of acute symptoms involving the skin, kidneys, intestines, liver, lungs and other body organs and systems. While these actions are in the best interest of the body, most of us have been brought up to fear our own vitality, our own vital action.

We have been conditioned to fear the acute symptoms of disease, even when these symptoms are typically the most direct expression of the body’s inborn ability to protect and heal itself, e.g., fever and discharge.

So that fear can surface during the fast if you encounter the symptoms and actions of elimination. This can create stress that is debilitating and counterproductive to the fasting process.

This is one of the reasons fasting is usually recommended under the supervision of physicians that have been trained in fasting care. Typically, when we supervise fasts there is a lot of hand holding, counseling, and monitoring of the fasting process. This helps the faster have a better understanding of their symptom picture and what is going on clinically so that much of their fear can be put to rest. If you are comfortable with the symptoms that may arise, or if you have fasted before, you can probably fast for a few days at home without professional supervision.

However, when fasting is done with proper supervision under proper resting and stress-free conditions, fasting is a remarkably valuable tool for promoting health recovery from a wide range of pathological conditions, in addition to promoting and supporting long term weight loss.

Case Study:

A young teacher from Canada came to me some years ago diagnosed with neurofibromatosis, aka Elephant Man’s disease. in this disease there are multiple small fibrous tumors (fibromas), along the nerve fibers throughout the body and brain. One of her larger tumors was located at the base of the brain blocking the main blood supply to her brain. So she had a shunt surgically implanted to allow blood leaving her heart to by-pass this blockage and feed the brain directly.

Because of these small tumors, she had constant small epileptic like seizures that made her life unbearable. She was on high dosages of Dilantin and phenobarbital to control the seizures. These drugs are hard on the liver and produce a toxic state in the body.

Although the intensity of the seizures was lessened by the drugs, the phenobarbital kept her in a semi-comatose state with no energy, so that when she came to me, she had been bedridden for some time.

She was carried into my center so weak and fragile, and put in bed as if poured off a spoon. It broke my heart to see this young professional woman in her early 20s just a fading shadow of what she could be, what she should be. She had no affect, no smile, just a blank shell in a dormant state of non-being.

After a period of vegan nutrition and vegetable juices, to help her withdraw from phenobarbital, she was put on a fast that lasted 30 days.

Again, please understand that the length of this fast was determined on per day-to-day basis, taking into account the reactions, physiological responses and vital signs that were monitored daily. However, many people come in with a finite period of time to both fast, and break the fast. Fortunately, her mother and family were committed to the vegan lifestyle and clinical fasting. So, we had the time to fast as long as clinically necessary.

During the fast, she became more and more coherent and energetic, even as the days of abstinence increased. Around the 25th day of the fast, her neurological system expressed a flurry of short frequent seizures related, in my opinion, to the previous patterning and exaggerated activity of her nervous system, and potentially tied in to a healing crisis. In the midst of this crisis, consistent with an attempt to eliminate the toxic load on her body after years of toxic medication and the assault on her liver, her belly button drained black bile from the abdominal wall.

After an extensive period of re-feeding, I happily carried her around the property of the retreat until she got the energy to walk on her own. Her seizure activity was virtually non-existent, and she was drug free. It was an incredible feeling to see her living and loving life. Her smile and the joy she radiated was an absolute joy to behold as we wove our way thru the perfume of gardenia bushes and orange blossoms that decorated the property of the fasting center, sharing the sweet taste of honey bell tangelos.

Unfortunately, when she went home, her and her family were browbeaten, pressured by her previous medical doctors, and relentlessly chastised for even doing a fast. She was put back on a variety of medications, subjected to a botched surgical procedure to remove a small tumor in her ear resulting in deafness, and after a series of medical crises, interventions, and mismanagement she was dead in two years.

Although time has a way of dissolving the hard edges of past emotion, I can still feel the pain and anger that I first felt at her untimely death. It still brings tears to my eyes.

Conclusion:

Just be mindful that fasting is a conservative approach for health and healing that is always available to you as a viable option before you entertain more debilitating drug and surgical interventions. And if other treatments and therapies have not worked for you, water-only fasting is a remarkable alternative that you may want to consider on your path to health and wellness.

References

(1) Lee C and Longo VD. Fasting vs dietary restriction in cellular protection and cancer treatment: from model organisms to patients. Oncogene 2011, 30:3305-3316.

(2) Cahill Jr GF. Starvation in man. N Engl J Med 1970, 282:668-675.
(3) Cahill Jr GF. Fuel Metabolism in Starvation. Annu Rev Nutr 2006, 26:1- 22.

(4) Cahill Jr GF et al. Metabolic adaptation to prolonged starvation in man. Nord Med 1970, 83:89.
(5) Saudek CD and Felig P. The metabolic events of starvation. Am J Med 1976, 60:117-126.

(6) Goldhamer A et al. Medically supervised water-only fasting in the treatment of hypertension. J Manipulative Physiol Ther 2001, June; 24(5):335-339.

(7) Cahill Jr GF. Fuel metabolism in starvation. Annu Rev Nutr 2006, 26:1- 22.
(8) Ibid

(9) Kerndt PR et al. Fasting: the history, physiology and complications. West J Med 1982, 137:379-399

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