Fasting and detox for health
WHICH KIND OF DETOX IS RIGHT FOR ME?
DIFFERENT WAYS OF DETOXING
ADDITIONAL PRACTICES TO SUPPORT THE CLEANSING PROCESS
What is the difference between fasting and detoxification?
Fasting is an ancient healing technique; most living beings naturally restrict food intake when they are ill, thus focussing the body's energies on getting well again. Most of the world's religions endorse fasting as a way of cleansing both spiritually and physically. Fasts may involve taking only water, herbal teas or eating only one type of food. Herbs are important to further support the physical cleansing of the body.
A detox is when one eats healthily, avoiding toxic foods, whilst following a herbal regime to help elimination of waste matter. It is possible to eat quite normal amounts whilst on a detox.
A detox is more appropriate for those of us who need to continue to work, look after our families and live in the modern world. It may be appropriate to undertake a fast if you are under the supervison of a naturopath or are on a spiritual retreat. Certainly fasting should be undertaken once one is used to detoxing and have a diet that is relatively low in toxic substances such as food additives.
What are the benefits of fasting or detoxification?
Detox and fasting are useful techniques in kick-starting your being into a healthier way of life. Choosing simpler, healthier foods gives the body a rest so that it can repair and cleanse itself. As toxic foods are eliminated from the diet, the liver and kidneys do less work processing ingested food and are free to work harder at cleansing the body of unwanted substances. This can be of great value for sufferers of many ailments including irritable bowel syndrome, hay fever and sluggishness.
As our choice of food becomes simpler, our taste buds grow more sensitive to taste. After having spent time fasting, food is appreciated much more. We become more aware of how foods affect us. We notice which foods are beneficial for our individual systems and which foods cause us discomfort. We also gain an insight into our emotional relationship with food. Some people experience feeling of lightness, extra energy and clarity. It is common for repressed emotions to be brought to the surface by the process of fasting or detox, thus bringing such problems to light where they may be accepted and addressed.
WARNING : Please read this carefully before undertaking a fast. Fasting and detoxification is not suitable for everyone.
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, have a long-standing medical condition, are on prescription medication, have diabetes or low blood sugar, have a toxic build-up (e.g. through drugs or alcohol misuse or prolonged exposure to hazardous chemicals). Please consult a fully qualified naturopath who will design an appropriate regime for you. In these instances professional guidance and careful monitoring is required. Remember, unless you are confident that you are fit enough to embark on a fast, do not attempt to do it yourself. It is probable that you will do more harm than good.
Mental attitude during fasting
It is important to have a sensible attitude towards fasting, as discipline and patience are needed to gain the full benefits of a fast. If you end the fast too abruptly you will, quite frankly, be in worse health than had you not fasted at all. It is not a practice to take lightly. If you are in any doubt, try a detox instead.
Good times for fasting
It is traditional to fast in the spring and in the autumn. In less affluent times gone by there was often an enforced spring fast on spring greens only, as the winter stores ran low. Spring fasts are definitely a good idea for those who suffer from hay fever. Autumn fasts strengthen the body in preparation for winter. You may need to use more cooked foods and warming spices to keep warm while fasting at this time of the year.
People who study moon phases and their relationship to behaviour on earth have come to the conclusion that the period after the full moon, when the moon is on the wane is the best time for fasting. One day detox regimes or fasts are best carried out on the day of the new moon.
Which kind of detox is right for me?
Levels of detoxification
There are various levels of detoxification; the selection of a regime suitable to you depends on your personality, your reasons for fasting; your general health and constitution; you obligations and commitments and your existing dietary habits. Think about these things carefully when choosing a method suitable for you.
New to wholefood?
If you are unused to wholefoods, try 3-10 days on the wholesome diet. A few days before, start taking the a herbal detox mixture (the one available from the Haelan Centre Holistic Pharmacy is ideal, or try Ortis Pure Plan, take until the course is finished. Other supplements are discussed in the recommended supplements section. Thereafter try to follow the wholesome dietary principles for one or two days a week, soon you will find your taste buds changing and you will begin to avoid unwholesome foods without even thinking about it.
New to fasting and detox?
If you eat wholefood but have never completed a fast before, choose the beginners one-day detox to start off with. This is an ideal choice if you are unable to take time out to focus on yourself or if you want to do a short simple cleanse. There are two options given for each meal depending on whether you have a hot or cold constitution. Again, the Ortis or Detox Mixtures are ideal accompaniments. Start to take one of them a few days before the detox and continue until the course is finished. You may choose additional supplements from the recommended supplements section.
Is a fruit or juice fast right for me?
Fruit and freshly pressed juice fasts are commonly recommended in magazines and popular health books, and although for the right person they can be beneficial, they are certainly not the right choice for everyone. Those with yeast imbalance or candida overgrowth; irritable bowel syndrome; weak digestion or a cold constitution (feel the cold, pale, thin) should avoid fruit or juice fasts. Also they are problematic for people who have problems with blood sugar balance. If you do not suffer these problems, a juice fast is an ideal choice if you have heat signs, or a tendency towards them (red face, overweight, robust nature). Those with a fairly balanced constitution might like to try the juice fast on a hot summer day. It is a fast for the impatient - raw fruit and vegetables have the most rapid cleansing action. Remember though, it is very important to take care to introduce the more acidic foods (grains, proteins) slowly in order to benefit from such a fast.
Should I try the Ayurvedic cleansing fast?
The Ayurvedic cleansing fast is an ideal choice for people who are used to eating wholefoods on a regular basis. It is a well designed fast, offered as an alternative for those people who are unable to undergo Panchakarma a longer, more complex Ayurvedic cleansing practice.
This fast requires patience and discipline, ideally one should have time and space to meditate, particularly on the days of the actual fast. As well as being physically cleansing, it can have a remarkable healing effect for individuals suffering from stress due to fast paced modern living.
The Ayurvedic fast is an ideal choice for those with constitutions not suited to the juice fast.
Different Ways of Detoxing
Bioforce Detox Box
All you need to detox in a box. The eminent herbalist Alfred Vogal has designed this programme which has recently been updated to cater for the modern individual's needs. The box contains teas, tinctures and dietary instructions.
The wholesome diet is ideally followed for at least ten days. It is an ideal diet to follow if you wish to detox, but carry on eating normally. To deepen the detoxifying effect of the diet use the supplements discussed in the section Recommended herbal and nutritional supplements for Detox and Juice Fast.
Eliminate the following:
Refined food (white rice, white pasta, white bread)
Pre-packaged food (tinned foods, packet foods and ready meals)
Sugar (brown and white) and chocolate
Tea and coffee (if you drink more than 3 cups of tea or coffee every day, cut back to just one in the morning)
Hydrogenated fats (e.g. Flora and most margarines, biscuits, cakes, pies etc.)
Fried foods should be kept to a minimum, totally eliminate deep fat fried foods
Red meats, non-organic meat and farmed fish
Base your diet on whole grains, vegetables and smaller amounts of pulses, nuts, seeds and dairy products. Wherever possible, use organic ingredients, your body is then spared the extra work of processing artificial pesticides. Use fruits and vegetables that are in season, they will have travelled a shorter distance and there will be less loss in nutrients. See our recipe section for a selection of wholesome diet food ideas.
For snacks use fresh and dried fruit, nuts, oatcakes and rice cakes.
Allow 3-4 hours between meals.
For ideas on changing to a wholefood diet, see also Eating for health.
Example menu for a day using detoxifying herbs
On rising: large glass of water, with a squeeze of lemon if liked.
Breakfast: porridge, toasted sourdough-rye, gluten free or yeast-free wheat bread spread with honey, fruit spread or tahini paste, dandelion coffee or herbal tea
Mid-morning: dandelion coffee or herbal tea
Lunch: Have a large glass of water while preparing food. Steamed vegetables with tahini and brown rice
Mid afternoon: dandelion coffee or herbal tea
Dinner: Take a large glass of water while preparing food. Then have a some fish or chicken with a large salad including watercress, alfalfa, and carrots. Vegetarians can have some homemade hummous with toasted pumpkin seeds and spelt crackers. Follow, if liked, by a baked apple stuffed with mixed dried fruit and nuts with cinnamon served with natural, organic, acidophilus yoghurt. Take with organic cream or oatly cream if liked. Take fennel or chamomile tea.
One-day beginners detox
See Recommended herbal and nutritional supplements for Detox and Juice Fast.
If it is a warm day or your constitution is hot (red face, overweight aversion to heat) follow the HOT recommendations.
If it is a cool day or your constitution is cool (pale, thin, aversion to cold) follow the COOL recommendations.
Dandelion coffee or herbal teas may be taken either hot or cold throughout the day.
On rising: psyllium husk drink of choice, followed by a large glass of room temperature water with a squeeze of lemon or lime if liked.
HOT: 3 different types of fresh fruit (not including melon)
COLD: apples, pears and raisins simmered until soft with cinnamon and cardamom
Lunch: while preparing take a large glass of water
HOT: raw salad with 5 different types of salad ingredients including sprouts
COLD: steamed mixed sprouts and vegetables
Be sure to chew thoroughly
Dinner: take psyllium husk drink of choice and a large glass of water
HOT: as for lunch, or have the COLD type selection
COLD: broth made from a selection of vegetables with added garlic and fresh or dried herbs (basil, chives, tarragon, bay leaf, parsley, thyme). Make with homemade vegetable stock or make up stock with Vecon paste. If you like, have a couple of NOW oatcakes or rice cakes.
For the next three days, have similar menus, slowly introducing small amounts of these foods: porridge, brown rice, millet, nuts and seeds, yoghurt and cheese, pulses and tofu. Follow the wholesome diet principles. Continue to take herbal drinks and herbal and nutritional supplements. Continuing the psyllium drink for the same length of time would also be beneficial.
First read: Is a fruit or juice fast right for me? Also check you have read the warning about fasting. See Recommended herbal and nutritional supplements for Detox and Juice Fast
Spend at least three days on the wholesome diet. Try to only eat as much food as you can hold in your two cupped hands, at each sitting. On the day before your fast choose especially light foods, particularly for the evening meal.
For the actual fast take three or four drinks of freshly pressed carrot juice instead of meals. If you do not have a juicer the Biotta vegetable juices are ideal alternatives. The recommended amount is 300ml of juice diluted with an equal amount of filtered or bottled water. You can try mixtures of beetrootand carrot (use one part beetroot to three parts carrot juice) or carrot and apple juice (mix half and half). If you feel slightly cold add some juiced fresh ginger root. If you wish, you may add half a teaspoon of spirulina or wheatgrass powder to the juices, which will add to their cleansing effect and supply you with more nutrients and energy. Spirulina helps alleviate symptoms of mild low blood sugar levels.
End the fast by following a one-day beginners detox diet for a day, gradually introducing new foods over a four-day period until you are following the wholesome diet again.
Ayurvedic Cleansing Fast
This fast removes toxins from the body, mind and emotions and improves the overall functioning of the body. It gives an experience of strength, tranquillity, energy and vitality to the individual. It also increases immunity and develops the inner healer.
Thank-you to Rebecca and Sascha of Ayuseva for recommending this diet.
Please check you have read the Warning about fasting before you embark on a fast.
During the preparation, the actual fast and for five days afterwards, a fasting drink should be taken throughout the day. This drink helps to keep the body strong and balanced through the fast. Ghee (clarified butter) should also be taken internally to induce the elimination of aam (toxins).
4 cups of water
2 teaspoons on cumin powder
2 teaspoons of coriander powder
20 rose petals or 2 teaspoons of rosewater (optional)
4 cardamom pods
2 teaspoons of fennel seeds lightly bruised with the back of a spoon
1 pinch of asafoetida powder
4 fresh basil leaves
1 pinch of black pepper
Half a teaspoon of ginger juice (chop fresh ginger and wring out the juice) If you have a tendency to coldness then add half a teaspoon of ginger powder
Mix everything together in a pan and bring to the boil. Simmer gently for about 5 minutes, remove from the heat and keep it covered for a further 20 minutes. Filter and keep warm in a flask to drink regularly throughout the day. If the mouth goes dry then add one teaspoon of honey to the flask.
Herbal support during the fast
It is recommended to drink herbal teas as well as the fasting drink. Ideal teas to take are the Ayurvedic Blend Higher Release, Yogi Detox Tea and dandelion coffee (you can add cardamom, liquorice and cinnamon sticks). They are all naturally sweet in flavour and thus help with cravings. If possible consult a herbal practitioner (either Chinese or medical) to prescribe herbal remedies specific to your needs. If you do not wish to do this you can follow the guidelines below.
If you have no history of bowel problems then Cytoplan Colon Cleanse Capsules may be taken as directed over the period of the fast. If you do have bowel problems take Lepicol twice a day in the morning and afternoon. Bioforce's Calendula complex contains herbs that stimulate the lymphatic system, take before meals or three times a day. Milk thistle capsules (taken twice a day before meals) help to support the liver. You might also like to drink a calming grounding tea like vervain, which can help if stress and other emotions come to light during the fasting period. Vervain tea is also a good tea for inducing a meditative state of mind, it also strengthens the liver.
Preparation for fasting
It is extremely important to prepare the body prior to fasting by eating only mung soup or mand for three to four days; the soups may be taken with or without ghee. A teaspoon of ghee may also be added to herbal teas. For instructions on how to make the soups and ghee see Ayurvedic Recipes.
These days of preparation are followed by one and a half days of total fasting on just a fasting drink, room temperature water and herbal teas as required. Continue to take the herbal remedies. As much as possible remain in silence and meditate. Apply ghee onto the temples and the soles of the feet and apply Siddha paste around the navel.
How to make Siddha paste:
1 small onion
Half a teaspoon of dry ginger powder
Quarter of a teaspoon of black pepper
2-4 cloves of garlic
2 pinches of asafoetida
4 pinches of rock salt
Chop the onion and put it into a blender with the garlic and all the spices. Push everything through a sieve in order to make a fine paste. Apply on the stomach all around the navel area and leave for at least 15 minutes. This paste is also an excellent remedy to apply on any area that is painful such as the lower back or on strained or aching joints muscles and tendons.
Breaking the Fast
On the evening of the second day a small meal of mung soup or mand should be taken. It is important to break the fast in the correct manner. If the digestion is not strong enough, inappropriate food will not be processed correctly and more toxins will be put into the system. If you choose to eat the wrong foods too soon, you will undo all the good work you have done. Five days is the absolute minimum time to wait before reintroducing a wider variety of foods. The recipes for the following are described in the recipe section under Ayurvedic recipes.
First day: Mand with spices but no ghee. Eat and chew the soup; don't drink it.
Second day: Mand or mung soup with ghee
Third day: Peya with spices and ghee
Fourth day: Mung soup and rice or vilepi with ghee. In the evening take vegetable soup
Fifth day: Vilepi, mung soup or vegetable soup and rice with ghee.
Additional practices to support the cleansing process
Herbal and nutritional supplements
Herbs have an important role to play in supporting the eliminatory pathways. Taking appropriate herbs, ensures that toxins and waste matter are released from the bowels, the urinary system and the lymphatic system. Herbs and spices can also help to keep the body warm during fasting and can help to calm the mind and emotions.
Anti-oxidant nutrients help to fight free radicals which speed up degenerative processes in the body. Free radicals are produced in response to the toxic substances in food, air and water.
Recommended herbal and nutritional supplements for Detox and Juice Fast
Psyllium husk drink: take 2 heaped teaspoons twice a day for two weeks. Choose either:
Psyllium husk alone
Lepicol where there is irritable bowel or candida overgrowth
Psyllium husk, psyllium seeds and linseed equal parts where there is constipation
The first two drinks may be taken on a long-term basis. It is very important that you drink at least one and a half litres of water per day when taking psyllium.
Nature's Own Antioxidant Formula OR Nature's Own Smoker's Formula (similar formula but slightly stronger) x 1 per day: take for 30 days, one tablet per day in the morning.
Ortis ten-day detox or the less potent (and less laxative) Ephytem ten-day detox - take either one for the full ten days. Follow instructions on packaging.
If you have a large appetite, suffer from cravings or mild blood sugar imbalance: take spirulina, blue green algae or wheatgrass tablets or powder starting on the same day as the Ortis mixture, continue for ten days. For dosages and to select the right green food for you, see the Green Superfoods page.
For extra liver support you might like to take a Milk Thistle capsule or tincture twice a day before meals. Milk thistle has a synergy with dandelion, so try to drink dandelion coffee during the day or take Cotswold's Milk Thistle and Dandelion capsules.
Herbal teas: Yogi Detox Tea; Yogi Calming Tea; Yogi Stomach Ease Tea; Ayurvedic Higher Release Tea; dandelion coffee; vervain tea; chamomile tea. Drink instead of tea or coffee freely.
Dry skin brushing
Dry skin brushing induces elimination through the skin and encourages the flow of lymph. Using a sisal brush, brush towards the heart in long sweeping strokes. 20-50 brushes for each leg from toes to buttocks; 10-25 strokes for each arm from fingertip to upper chest. Ideally skin brush before taking a salt bath.
Sea Salt Baths
Sea salt, particularly Dead Sea Salt encourages elimination through the skin. Add 3 or 4 handfuls of salt to a warm bath and relax for at least 20 minutes. Add appropriate essential oils if you wish. Then thoroughly but gently scrub the body with a loofah or sisal pad in circular motion working towards the heart. After you bath wrap up warm, dry your hair and go straight to bed. A seaweed bath may be taken if you have dry skin.
Sauna and Steam
Sitting in a sauna or steam room induces sweating and elimination of uric acid thus aiding detox. If you feel light headed or have blood pressure problems, do not use the sauna or steam room. After a sauna, aromatherapy oils are very well absorbed.
Massage and aromatherapy
If you plan to have a professional aromatherapy massage, then tell the practitioner that you are detoxing and they will design an appropriate blend for you. Massages are relaxing and using the more diuretic essential oils will aid the detox process.
Use Fleur's Cellulite Bath Oil and Cellulite Massage oil or make up the following blends:
For 10ml of base oil add eitheror
2 drops of geranium2 drops of sandalwood
2 drops of roman chamomile2 drops of frankincense
1 drop of fennel1 drop of juniper
Always use good quality essential oils, we recommend the Absolute Aroma range. Massage towards the heart and never massage varicose veins.
Being outdoors / air baths
Be sure to take a gentle stroll and try as much as possible to practice deep breathing as toxins are expelled through the breath. Additionally, being in natural surroundings is beneficial for both body and soul. If it is warm enough, wear loose minimal clothes to give your body an air bath.
Flower essences for detox and fasting
Following is a selection of the Bach flower remedies that may be suitable for balancing the emotions during fasting. It should be noted that many and varied emotions can rise up when the ingestion of food is limited, so any of thirty eight remedies may be appropriate.
Written by Julia Moore CHEK level 1 Holistic Lifestyle Coach