Sheldon, a respected naturopath, defined the difference between starvation and fasting like this - as long as hunger is lacking it is fasting, but when hunger returns you are starving. Fasting results in the resting of the digestive tract, mobilisation of the detoxification mechanism and an increase in the activity of the healing powers. It is an excellent introduction to observing the effects that certain foods have on you, and of course the effects of not eating at all. One of these is the release of toxins, previously stored in deposits of fat, into the system. This can mean that the liver, which is responsible for sifting out toxins, becomes overworked. To avoid this, it is advised that you take fruit juices, not just water, when you're fasting, as these can help to stimulate the body's own detoxification powers, while slowing down the rate of toxin release. You should not go into a fast straight from your usual diet, but have a day or two on raw vegetables and fruit, and similarly when you break the fast, have a couple of days on fruit and vegetables before going on to carbohydrates and then proteins.

It is better to start gradually with fasting, so maybe do it for one day the first time, 2 days the next and so on. Fasting on a regular basis of, say one day a week, is probably better than a long fast once a year. Apart from prevention of certain illnesses, fasting can be helpful in cases of acute febrile illnesses, skin rashes, GastroenteritisRheumatismAsthmaSinusitisCholecystitis and Colitis. When used as a preventive it is not uncommon to go through a healing crisis somewhere between the third and fourth day, where there is a drop in blood sugar, loss of appetite, coating of the tongue and acetone on the breath. After this healing crisis there is a gradual return to appetite. The tongue becomes clean and you feel generally better, almost as if you were walking on air.

There are, however, certain points to remember before starting a fast:

  1. Only do so when you can be sure of being relaxed, and not under pressure - physical or mental.
  2. Accept that you will not be able to smoke during the fasting period as it would make you very light- headed (as well as being a pollutant to the body).
  3. Obtain your doctor's clearance if you are known to have a severe allergy, or are taking a course of prescribed drugs.
  4. If you are seriously ill or very run down you'd do better to wait until you're stronger before fasting.
  5. Do not fast if you are hypoglycaemic or dependent on alcohol or drugs.

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