The definition of a true fast means abstaining from all foods and drinking only water for the length of the fast. Some people use a fast as a means of losing weight, and taking part in a fast for a few days is thought to help cleanse the body and fire up the metabolism.
Before considering taking part in a fast, it is recommended that you speak to your doctor first. If not carried out properly, fasting can be dangerous to the health and people with certain medical conditions such as diabetes should not take part.
Benefits of Fasting
The main benefit of fasting is detoxification. Many people who fast say that they have more energy, their skin looks clearer, and they don't feel so sluggish. The other main benefit of fasting is weight loss; however, if you are very overweight it is not recommended that you take part in a fast without first taking medical advice as fasting could put an additional strain on the heart.
Different Types of Fasting
Some people decide not to take part in a full fast but instead restrict themselves to one food or certain types of food. This is a partial fast. If the aim is to cleanse the body, then some people choose to just take in water with some lemon juice to aid the cleansing process and may also eat cleansing fruits such as grapes.
Another option during a partial fast would be to concentrate on cleansing vegetables – usually those high in chlorophyll such as cabbage, celery, chard, kale and lettuce.
One popular food for a partial fast is brown rice. Rice contains vital B vitamins that can help the body cope with stress, and it is thought to be beneficial to those with digestive problems. During a rice fast, some might choose to consume citrus juice such as orange or water as well.
During a liquid fast only liquids that contain a high level of nutrients are consumed. This type of fast might be less daunting for those who aren't comfortable with the idea of taking part in a full fast. Popular liquid fasts include fruit juice and vegetable juice fasts, and broth fasts, where only vegetable or meat broths are consumed.
Another type of liquid fast that has become popular in recent years is the cabbage soup diet. The fast typically lasts seven days and the creators of the cabbage soup diet plan – a soup that also contains peppers, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, celery and carrots, as well as V8 vegetable juice, spice mix, etc. – say that participants in this type of fast can lose up to 10 pounds during this time. People taking part in this fast are advised to consume plenty of water and to take a multivitamin for the length of the fast.
Fruit Juice Fasting
Some prefer to take part in a juice fast and consume only pure fruit and vegetable juices during this period. The fruits and vegetables will provide important vitamins and minerals so might be a better option for some people who have concerns over taking part in a full fast.
Another popular way of fasting is a partial fast where only fruit is eaten. This kind of fast does provide some nutrients and is ideal for people who want a gentle cleanse but don't want to go without food completely.
During this type of fast, people will eat one day and not the next. Water, black coffee and diet drinks are usually consumed on the fasting day and a normal meal pattern is introduced the next day. Studies have shown this type of fasting to have many health benefits such as improved insulin sensitivity and increased resistance to stress.
If a person is not in the best of health then they should not be considering fasting. Anyone else considering a fast should first consult their doctor.
During the fast, it is important to keep fluid levels high by regularly drinking water, to keep activity at a minimum to help reserve vital energy, and don't fast for too long. 24-48 hours for a fast is quite long enough for most people. After the fast, it is best to stick to lighter meals for a few days in order to prevent any stomach upsets.
The Dangers of Fasting
When not carried out properly, fasting can lead to low blood sugar, anaemia, muscle weakness, headaches and fatigue. Fasting can also cause an increase in the stress hormone cortisol, which can contribute to anxiety, palpitations and stress.
If you are in any doubt as to whether you should undertake any form of fasting, please consult with your medical practitioner first.