|Fasting for Wellness
To Feast is Fine... To Fast, Divine!
By Ed Bauman
Ed Bauman, PhD, is a popular nutrition and health instructor and Director of Bauman College, longtime OPEN EXCHANGE lister, featured in our Schools & Certifications program.
I have had the pleasure of leading Vitality Fasting Retreats for the past twenty years. In that time I have fasted each spring and summer with groups ranging from 15 to 48. Retreats are held in a residential setting in nature away from the noise, food, stress and work responsibilities of everyday life.
The program provides a full day and evening schedule of health promoting activities, flowing from yoga to meditation, to group juice preparation, to a sharing circle, to guided exercise, hiking, swimming, hot tubbing, arts, crafts, optional private massages and nutrition consultations, and finally to evening health and nutrition classes.
The experience of being in nature, living in community with kindred souls, having ample time and space to be alone for reflection sets the table for a deep internal process to happen.
What is a Fast?
Clinically speaking, fasting is abstinence from solid food. Fasting is also a time honored holistic practice that allows one to step in and out of stress and toxicity and live well within to manifest peace for one and all. I lead a Vitality Fast, with fresh, seasonal organic juices, warm mineral broths which include seaweed, flax seeds and savory culinary spices, with a variety of herbal teas to address seasonal, group and individual needs.
Having a variety of liquid foods provides the body with essential nutrients to both cleanse and rejuvenate tissues and organs. Fasting supports cell and tissue cleansing of the organs of elimination, the liver, bowel, lymph, skin, lung and kidneys. This allows the body to be a "self-cleaning oven." Using a dry brush for massage, a tongue scrapper to clear bacterial waste in the mouth, self-administered enemas, encouraging adequate exercise and rest, enables the body to peel off layers of dead cells allowing new, fresh, vibrant cells to replace them.
One of the challenges of the fasting process is to remain centered, grounded and present to the moment. When one takes in less food, blood sugar is less stable until the body shifts into an adaptive fasting metabolism. Until one adjusts metabolically and can manage the stress of eating less and detoxifying more, spaciness, fatigue and irritability will be experienced. Often, first time fasters can't easily let go of their attachment to work, family, politics, television and material attachments. A fast is best accomplished in a natural retreat setting to allow one to connect more deeply with nature, spirit, peace and quiet.
The body is in a constant state of ingestion, digestion, assimilation and elimination. Fasting simplifies the intake and digestion of food, providing a rest for the digestive system. The soothing, healing alkaline-forming minerals and phytonutrients in the teas, juices and broths enable the layers of the intestinal mucosa to be free of food and chemical antigens (substances that provoke an immune response) that cause inflammation and tissue degradation. Pure fresh liquid food requires few enzymes to digest and provides significant amounts of enzyme precursors, such as potassium, magnesium, zinc, vitamin C and B complex. Juices allow the liver, pancreas and gut to replenish diminished organ reserve of nutrients needed for optimal digestion, assimilation and blood sugar regulation. A fast is a terrific digestive tune up for a sluggish system.
As blood is enriched with alkaline rich, micro- and phytonutrients, it delivers them to body systems that have been chronically acidic and suffering from free radical damage and oxidative stress. Cells and tissues, once pH balanced, slough off metabolic waste and cell debris. A well-fortified fasting immune system will seek out areas of chronic infection and with targeted herbal support, diminish the variety and toxicity of pathogenic organisms and their waste products.
Supervision and Breaking the Fast
Having an experienced fasting supervisor is most important to help a person know how to understand the changes in body, mind and emotion while fasting. Likewise, a fasting guide can help a person know when it is time to break the fast and resume eating solid foods. Often, fasters don't want to come down and deal with the challenge of returning to the "unreal" world they call home. There is justifiable concern about falling back into the traps of living in a hectic, polluted, and confusing world. When not fasting, I advise people to liquefy their solid foods by eating slowly, chewing well and blessing their food, friends, family and Mother Nature. Namaste!