Is fasting good for you?

Yes! No! Maybe, depends… But let’s start with “yes”.

If you’re feeling manky on the inside, bleary-eyed, fuzzy-tongued, blotchy-skinned and the household has to wait 5 minutes to visit the loo after you, then yes, a fast is probably a good idea. If you’re feeling mentally blocked and physically sluggish and clogged, yes again. Spiritually jaded? Yep. Need a clear mind? Yes.

The trick is how to go about it. Consider the SSS approach: Sensible, Subtract, Supervised.

How do you think your body feels about being suddenly starved? It’s so easy to Google and pounce on a cheap, convenient 7-day Cabbage Soup Cleanse, or strip your innards with a 10-day Lemon Detox and suffer potential consequences: headaches, nausea, aching muscles, fatigue, emotional distress.

Or, you could take a good look at how you’ve been treating yourself recently and choose the body’s preferred method – the Sensible approach: eat, drink, rest properly for a while and then see how you feel.

The body has its own cleansing system – the lungs, lymph system, kidneys, liver, colon and skin – and may recover beautifully, given a break from indulgence. The problem is that its natural ability to cleanse is overwhelmed by dirty dozens it was never designed to launder: polluted air, water and highly processed food with alien additives, refined by chemical processes and contaminated by toxic pesticides, herbicides, and antibiotics (in the case of meat). Poor body.

You could take “Sensible” a step further and “Subtract” known troublemakers from your diet like stimulants (coffee, tea, alcohol), sugar and wheat-based products, then see how you feel. So far, so good: you haven’t yet done a thing yet that the body would consider gross negligence.

But if you struggle with discipline or are just too busy then go for “Supervised”: visit a trusted source like your naturopath, GP, or recommended dietician for advice. Here is what naturopath Irene Van Wijk says for “yes” case:
“There are many types of fasts from just juice, to ones that include some foods.

I prefer one where some light food is still eaten, like mung bean and brown rice soup. You could try a short one first over a weekend. Overall, it depends on your current health status, diet and lifestyle, so there is no one-size-fits-all fast. It can be really beneficial to give your digestion a bit of a rest and it can clear your thought processes.

During a fast, you need to drink plenty of water, chew your foods well, never eat to the point you are full and try to eat twice daily, unless you are very hungry. If you are cold, drink warming teas, adding things like ginger, cinnamon, rosemary to your tea. And once you stop the fast, don’t overeat! It’s best to do the fast under supervision if you have any health concerns.”

If you’re pregnant or lactating, the answer is a big “no”. If you have a life-threatening condition, diabetes, kidney failure, certain fevers or fatigue, it’s “no” again. If you’re on certain medications, it may not be advisable. If you’re fasting to lose weight, “no”, fasting does not work as a realistic, long-term solution.

Sometimes fasting is a “Maybe, It Depends” argument. If you’re health is compromised, a good cleanse can potentially clear certain health issues like psoriasis, eczema, arthritis, constipation, colds, back aches asthma, bronchitis, insomnia and the list goes on, but unless you’re deeply in tune with your body, then advice from someone who can assess your needs is the smart way to go.