DANGERS OF FASTING
Although fasting (also known as detoxification or cleanse diet), can help to cleanse the body of harmful toxins, it also has potential dangers and should never be undertaken without qualified medical supervision. Fasting, particularly a water fast, can deplete the body of nutrients and energy. It may lead to lowered blood pressure, heart failure, low blood sugar, profound fatigue and gout.
Fasting for any period is not advisable for pregnant or lactating women, children, adolescents, anyone over 65, diabetics, anyone with a history of an eating disorder or who is severely underweight, or people suffering from gout, kidney disease, a bleeding ulcer, cancer, heart disease or cerebral disease.
DETOXIFICATION DIET WARNING
Like fasting, a cleanse diet or detoxification diets can place stress on various organs of the body and can have uncomfortable side-effects such as headaches and nausea. It is wise to consult a doctor or nutritionist before embarking on a detoxification programme, especially if you suffer from a chronic disease or are diabetic. Pregnant or lactating women should not follow this type of diet.
FOLLOWING A DETOXIFICATION DIET
On the day before the cleanse diet is due to start, avoid coffee, tea, sugar, alcohol and cigarettes altogether. Eat a last meal of raw or lightly cooked vegetables around 6pm. On the first two days of the diet, eat only fruit and raw vegetables, preferably organic – grapes, apples, pears, watermelon and papaya are good choices. Drink only bottled mineral water.
For the next five days, eat only fruit for breakfast. For other meals, eat raw and lightly cooked vegetables, nuts and seeds, sprouted seeds, whole grains such as brown rice, and skinless poultry and fish, which should be grilled, poached or steamed. Avoid wheat, dairy products and red meat. Drink herb teas, water, and fruit and vegetable juices.
FASTING AND RELIGION
For thousands of years, people from both Eastern and Western cultures have used fasting as a way to purge the body, atone for sins, purify the soul and be more receptive to spiritual insights.
Virtually every religion uses fasting as a spiritual discipline. Devout Jews observe Yom Kippur by abstaining from food on the Day of Atonement. And because Jesus fasted for 40 days in the wilderness, some Christians fast during Lent, the 40-day period of penitence leading up to Easter Sunday.
Muslims undertake a month-long fast during the sacred month of Ramadan in order to express devotion to the divine and enhance spiritual growth. During this time, Muslims deny themselves food and drink between dawn and dusk, but the fast is broken with food and prayer after sunset. They also abstain from sex, sexual thoughts and smoking.
For centuries, Native American tribes have observed a ritual called the Vision Quest Fast when they want to seek guidance from the spirit world. Seen as a spiritual rite of passage, the Vision Quest Fast is believed to heighten the individual’s capacity for receiving dreams and visions from the Great Spirit. The seeker fasts in solitude in the forest or wilderness and waits for the appearance of a vision. This vision usually comes in the guise of a bird or animal that brings blessings and communicates divine wisdom.