fasting: much more than a detox!
Updated: May 28, 2019
At the end of 2015, while I had been suffering from digestion problems for some time, I stumbled upon a video describing the benefits of dry fasting to heal a plethora of symptoms, including digestive problems. Since 2012, bloating, indigestion, intestinal problems, nausea, and headaches were part of my daily life. I had gradually reduced my consumption of grains and gluten, I went from vegetarian to vegan (mainly for ethical reasons), but I saw little to no improvement. I was desperate.
The video was a real trigger and I felt deeply that I had to try dry fasting. In 2009, I had experimented intermittent water fasting for a few weeks (combined with a spiritual practice). It was tough, especially mentally! I had embarked on that adventure without real intention, without having prepared myself, and developed a yeast infection (indication of a pre-existing imbalanced microbiome). In retrospect, I didn't get any significant benefits from that experience because the main factor to start fasting was missing: motivation. For me, the foundation to a successful fast is commitment to yourself.
I took a few months to reflect on the idea of a fast. I had no doubt it was an experience for me to try but I wanted to wait for the right moment to come up. It finally did at the beginning of April 2016, after several consecutive days of a 'crisis', whereby the stomach pains were intense and I had difficulty ingesting anything. I then made the decision to start fasting. It was my last chance to find some relief and I had high expectations. The months prior had allowed me to gather a lot of information about the different types of fast, along with their respective benefits. I opted for intermittent dry fasting (24h fasting followed by 24h eating normally) for an unspecified length of time because I wanted my body to let me know when it was time to stop. I ended up practicing my fast for almost a month.
Why dry-fasting ?
I had never practiced dry fasting and wasn't particularly scared at the idea of not drinking or eating for 24h. Instead, I felt it was what I needed.
There are different types of fasting:
Dry fasting (there are two sub-categories: soft dry fasting which includes contact with water, and hard dry fasting meaning no contact with water whatsoever, i.e. no showers, toothbrushing, etc.)
Juice cleanses are not really considered fasting because food is ingested (even if it is in liquid form). However they remain very useful in remineralizing the body.
1. Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting is when there is no food intake for a prolonged period. Intermittent fasting is recommended before undertaking a longer fast as it prepares the body and mind. It allows for a light detoxification and brings an energy boost due to the fact that the energy usually allocated to the digestion process is redirected towards removing toxins.
2. Water Fasting
Fasting for a minimum of 24 hours allows the body to undertake a deeper cleansing process. It is characterized by the production of ketone bodies, meaning the body no longer uses sugar (glucose) as a source of energy but fatty acids, which are then transformed in the liver to produce ketone bodies.
Personally, I don't think that drinking water while fasting helps to eliminate toxins. This ability to filter and excrete toxins comes from the ability of the kidneys to effectively filter blood to remove toxins. After 3 years now experiencing fasting, I can say that, I need to drink a lot less water than before to remain hydrated. My body simply adapted and became more efficient in eliminating waste through urine. Additionally, drinking water during fasting would contribute to the loss and excretion of minerals (mainly sodium and potassium) in order to maintain blood osmolarity when there is water intake (hydration).
3. Dry Fasting
Dry Fasting does not stop the process of producing urine since the fatty acid transformation into ketones produces water.
I can't really compare water fasting detox symptoms vs dry fasting detox symptoms because I do not have any significant memories of my fasting experience in 2009. However, I have often heard that, compared to water fasting, dry fasting :
- decreases hunger pains
- decreases fatigue
- decreases frilosity
- improves energy level
- has greater efficiency in cleansing the body
- allows a better recovery after breaking the fast
It is even said that one day of dry fasting is equivalent to 3 days of water fasting in terms of efficiency in the detox process.
Let's go back to my intermittent dry fasting experience. I started on a Monday with 24 hours of dry fasting. I was very motivated and temptations had no effects on me (it's pretty crazy what motivation can do to you!). The days I ate, I made sure to eat healthy and balanced meals. I drank fresh juices and stuck to a mostly vegan diet with the exception of eggs from time to time. Weekends I was fasting and not working were the hardest. Why? Because my mind was not focused on work and therefore I would start fantasizing about food. This made me understand the close connection between the food we eat and our mental state. At some point, I passed some kind of mental threshold where somehow, my body integrated the idea that it would not die in 24 hours without food nor water. I worked to calm my mind by doing yoga, gardening or reading. Whenever I had a thought about food, I engaged in an activity that was focusing my attention. After more than a week of this specific practice, I felt completely serene on the days I was fasting and was surprised not to feel particularly hungry when it was time to break the fast. I continued for almost 4 weeks and then one morning I felt it was time to stop the experiment. It was simply a feeling of certainty.
I lost a lot of weight during this fast but I could not tell you how much because it was not my goal, and I do not even own a scale! My close relatives obviously noticed my transformation by asking me what magic pill I had taken to lose so much weight in such a short period of time!
The results of my fasting experience
During and after this experience, major transformations took place within me at the physical, mental and spiritual levels.
1. Physical changes
Weight loss was the most obvious change. Although it was not my primary goal to lose weight, I was nonetheless happy to get back to the healthy weight of my early twenties. I lost three sizes and I had to buy an entire new wardrobe! Three years later, I have not gained any weight. I continue to eat a plant-based diet and limit my sugar intake (while not feeling deprived). My skin is smoother than before and I have less of a need to apply moisturizer on my face. Interestingly, I feel that my metabolism is much more efficient in all its functions. It's difficult to explain concretely but it's a very strong feeling. I also need to drink less than before. For many years, I had suffered from water retention and premenstrual syndrome. All this has disappeared permanently. I also feel much less hungry and I can do 20 km bike ride in the morning, without drinking or eating until about 1 pm. Before, it was inconceivable for me to start my day without having breakfast. Today, I do not pay attention to it anymore. My digestive problems are less frequent, but still remain present. I am on a slow healing journey but I am in a much better place than I was 3 years ago. I also have a lot more energy than I used to and my memory has improved a lot.
2. Change at the mental level
Fasting requires great discipline and motivation. These values transformed me during this experience. To have discipline and stick to it is absolutely essential not only during fasting but in all aspects of life. It is an essential for a fulfilling life.
I also experienced the direct link between food intake and compensating disturbing emotions. This is now a conscious process for me: when I want to eat (I said WANT, not NEED), I ask myself the question of what I'm trying to suppress. I uncovered reasons such as procrastination and anxiety that I previously compensated with food without even being aware of it.
3. Spiritual changes
Fasting awakened me to the sacred aspect of food. Although I grew up in a family where we eat organic food, we grow a vegetable garden, we do our best to minimize our ecological footprint, the divine aspect of food revealed itself to me. Nowadays, food is mainly industrialized and refined, soils are impoverished and full of pesticides, and meals must be quick to prepare and gobbled within minutes because life simply does not leave us the time to appreciate those moments anymore. With fasting, I rediscovered the need to know where my food comes from, to prepare it with love and respect (I can't believe a few years ago I disliked cooking!). Our connection to food is essential for our health and I realise now that when I prepare my meals with awareness, paying attention to my emotions, my intention, the way I handle the food, the vibration of the food goes up and does much more than nourish my physical body: it nourishes all my subtle bodies as well. I also became aware of the energetics of each organ of our body, beyond the simple physiological function. Traditional Chinese medicine, which I studied, and is several millennia old, carries the wisdom (similar to Ayurveda) whereby each organ is related to a specific emotion. I've gathered additional information through my own fasting experience, which I've been able to corroborate while doing energy work with both people and animals.
I started applying all that I learned to all family members including my dog and my cat. I fast my dog regularly and feed her based on the same principles I apply to myself. Cats are less adapted to fasting, it is therefore excluded but the food remains fresh and species appropriate. I'll talk more about it in another blog.
Dry fasting is now an integral part of my lifestyle. I practice intermittent dry fasting almost every day with a first food intake around 1 pm, and the second around 7 pm. I practice longer dry fast (48 hours and more), twice a year, in the spring and in the fall.
What's your experience with fasting? What benefits have you noticed? I'd love to hear about your own practice! Feel free to share your experience in the comment section below.