A new year often brings about many resolutions and a desire to achieve a healthier body. In our fast paced daily lives a juice fast seems like a quick and easy way to lose some weight and reset our bodies.
To fast is to go without any food or certain types of food for a period of time. Fasting is perhaps the quickest method of eliminating toxins from the body, while also allowing the digestive system to rest and repair itself. However, while some fasts are beneficial, others are harmful. Water fasts, for example, or extended fasting of any kind can be dangerous.
Juice fasting offers the satisfaction of fasting and cleansing the body in one of the quickest ways possible. Best of all, it accomplishes its task with complete safety. Juice fasting is drinking only fresh fruit or vegetable juice for a one to three day period.
The Benefits of Fasting
Why is it that when we become ill, we often lose our appetites? Why do you suppose that sick pets refuse to eat? It is because in times of physical crisis, the body attempts to correct and balance that physical crisis. A short fast brought on by nausea leaves us feeling better, with more energy, and a healthy appetite.
Water fasting has been recommended by many health educators in Europe and America for over a century. The idea of fasting in Western culture began with Hippocrates and his mono (single food) diets. He served his patients whole-grain barley that was ground and cooked into meal (gruel) along with water or diluted wine. The idea was that by simplifying food and liquid intake, the body’s natural self-healing, cleansing, and regenerating abilities would speed recovery. But Hippocrates was not the only historic figure to recommend fasting. The Bible contains many references to fasting. Jesus fasted with his disciples on many occasions, not only to heal disease, but for spiritual uplifting- to overcome the desires of the flesh. Centuries before Jesus, Hindus and Buddhists were practicing fasting for similar reasons.
After three thousand years, however, the methods of fasting introduced by Hippocrates have been abandoned. Absent from the teachings of modern preventative medicine is the common-sense information that fasting cleanses the body through eliminative channels. Modern preventive medicine omits fasting and instead focuses its emphasis on feeding the body; on vitamins, exercise, and sleep habits. Yet, in order to remain healthy, the body’s eliminative organs must function efficiently, as well. While poor elimination may not be the sole cause of disease, it should not be discounted as a contributing factor.
Brief juice fasts that help the eliminative process are an ideal preventive health measure. During a juice fast, the body is stimulated to greater metabolic and eliminative activity. Pounds are shed, the skin tightens and clears, hair shines, eyes brighten, the intestines and other digestive organs rest and purge themselves, and less sleep is required.
Many who perform this fast report experiencing a physical “high”. Unlike the post-Thanksgiving holiday laziness and sleepiness many report as a result of overeating, most juice-fasters attest to feeling stronger and more energetic, both physically and mentally. Many people prefer to eat lightly when traveling or when focusing attention for prolonged periods of mental work. Brief juice fasts such as those described in this article can be used by healthy adults to increase energy levels and mental clarity.
Juice fasting can also boost the faster’s confidence through the experience of discipline and self-control required to perform the fast. Once you prove to yourself that you can fast for three days, you may feel more in control of your diets as well as other aspects of your life. Through fasting, you learn by doing that you control your body and appetite- not the opposite. But, psychological benefits aside, it is wise to keep in perspective the main purpose of juice fasting: to keep the body healthy. You can consider the mental and emotional gains derived from fasting as “spiritual dividends.”
If you are at all apprehensive about juice fasting, you are probably not ready for it. You may never be. But don’t lose heart. You can cleanse and repair your body more slowly, but similarly, by eating a “whole foods diet,” rich in whole grains, beans, fresh vegetables, fruits, and other foods that have not been processed, de-natured, or altered; and by drinking plenty of fresh juices. In fact, for many folks, especially those with health problems and the elderly, it is probably best to add whole foods and fresh juices to the regular diet before attempting a fast.
Physical Changes During the Fast
If you follow the recommendations set forth in this article closely, physical discomfort during juice fasts will be minimal. It is possible that you may experience minor irritations such as runny nose, sore muscles, temporary fatigue, loss of appetite, and so on. However, these symptoms will pass; and when they do, you will feel better both physically and mentally. If, for some reason, a symptom arising during the fast persists for several days, merely discontinue the fast.
Performing the Fast
Try not to push yourself too hard while fasting. Keep the one to three days as free as possible of appointments or errands. Instead, relax, read, do light exercise, work in the yard, or go to the beach. If you feel the urge to sleep, do so. As long as you drink the recommended two-to-three quarts of liquid each day, extra sleep will do your body good. Normally, you will require less sleep during fasting, as less sleep is required to balance body functions.
If you are so inclined, take a simple warm-water enema every morning of the fast. An enema will speed the removal of waste from the large intestine.
In place of regular meals, drink one or two 8-ounce glasses of fresh vegetable or fruit juice. These can be drunk “as-is” or diluted with spring water. If you become thirsty between meals or fresh juice, drink another glass of juice, or lemon water that has been sweetened lightly with raw honey or pure maple syrup. Drink enough glasses of juice and lemon water to equal a total of two to three quarts of liquid each day.
Breaking the Fast
After the fast, let your body adjust to solid foods at first. There is a tendency for fasters to wake up the morning after the fast and eat everything in sight! It is much better to break the fast with a breakfast (or dinner if you are breaking your fast at night) of simple foods such as fresh fruits or steamed vegetables. By the time you are hungry for a second meal, you can resume normal light earing. Keep in mind, however, that the stomach shrinks considerably during fasting. Smaller portions of food eaten more often will prevent the uncomfortable feeling of overeating that may occur when breaking a fast.
Fasting Do’s and Don’ts
You may have to adjust the juice fast to your own needs and desires. This section will give you some guidelines for getting the most from a juice fast. For example, the recommendation to drink two to three quarts of liquid per day is vital to the fasting process, and if ignored could cause dehydration. The way you break the fast is also important: take small, simple meals more often until the stomach expands to its pre-fast condition.
Fast for one day, two days, or a full three days. If halfway through the first day you feel that it will be too stressful to continue fasting, simply break the fast as instructed. If the fasting process is going to be one long punishment for you, it’s better to change it to suit your needs, or to abandon it all together.
To some degree, during any type of fast, the blood pools in the abdominal region of your body. There is nothing bad about having more blood in this area, but it does mean that there is less blood in the head. This could cause dizziness if you attempt too many quick starts. So exercise care in your activities.
Many people experience surges of energy during one or all of the days. They have an urge to set new records for the number of miles they can walk or hours they can work. Try not to overdo it. Instead, be moderate and channel your energy into the internal housecleaning that is taking place. Some mild exercise will be beneficial, but avoid hours of walking or overly-strenuous work.
Also, try to stay close to home. Traveling during fasting is not advised, especially driving long distances. In certain ways the mind and reflexes may not be as sharp as during your initial fast. Caution should be your guide. If possible, spend lots of time outdoors in the sun, tinkering in your garden, and so on. Sunlight will stimulate various body-cleansing processes. For this reason, I recommend juice fasting in sunny weather- preferably in spring and summer. Once you have performed your first juice fast successfully, you can tailor your next fast to your own special needs.
The following summary of a typical day on a juice fast may serve as a handy reference guide. Use this guide during your fast:
- Begin each day of the fast with a simple warm water enema, if you are so inclined.
- Each morning drink one or two glasses of fresh vegetable of fruit juice.
- Between breakfast and lunch you may drink another glass of juice or lemon water if desired. Drink one or two glasses of vegetable or green juice for lunch, and have the same for dinner. You may substitute fruit juice if desired.
- Get plenty of rest and relaxation. Do some light stretching and walking. Spend lots of time out of doors. And don’t force yourself to follow a schedule or meet deadlines.
- Break the fast either after a few hours; or one, two, or three days with a simple meal of fresh fruit or steamed vegetables.
If these recommendations are followed, your first fast should be a happy and worthwhile adventure in self-education, and self-help. It will enable you to take a giant step forward in safeguarding your future health and happiness.