To many people, the idea of fasting for health benefits seems like a trend that's little more than torture. No food? No chocolate? No wine? As if!
Still, even though many detox-oriented products have bombarded the market in recent years, from cold-pressed juices to colon-cleansing powders, the idea of cleansing is by no means a novel concept. In fact, fasting is as old as humankind and also plays an important role in religions, cultures, and medicinal practices around the world. Learn why fasting is natural, vital to existence, healing, and even emotionally and spiritually beneficial.
Every major religion embraces fasting in one way or another, whether for purification, spiritual vision, penances, mourning, or sacrifice. It is also often used as a way to break the spell of gluttony. In yogic practices, fasting is an ancient healing modality part of the Ayurvedic tradition.
Medicinally, fasting was used an effective therapy prescribed by late philosophers, thinkers, and healers, such as Hippocrates, Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, and Galen. One of three so-called “fathers of Western medicine” Paracelsus is quoted as saying, “Fasting is the greatest remedy – the physician within.” And he’s not wrong. The body is more or less in constant “detox” mode, taking in foods, airborne debris, topical substances, and other sensations, and then reacting in a way as to balance their effects on the human body. The body’s task is to maintain an equilibrium, which requires balancing what is taken in and put out (detoxed). Intuitively, it makes sense – what goes in, must come out. Biologically, it is the foundation upon which humans were designed and by which we are able to survive.
But fasting is not just relegated to humans – all animals do it too. The difference is that they do it more instinctively than we do. When struck with a disease or dealing with an injury, many animals will fast, secluding themselves somewhere to rest, sleep and drink water, allowing their bodies to heal. Animals even fast when they feel slightly disturbed or in a funk, not necessarily when they are physically ill. After years of developing habits around food--both emotional and physical--it is hard for human adults to change their rituals, even when they are sick.
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So while the body can cleanse itself of toxins pretty efficiently, it still needs help to deal with the onslaught of toxins it confronts on a daily basis – often, it bites off more than it can handle. Fasting helps to give the body a break and let it focus on healing. Fasting may mean completely abstaining from food for a certain amount of time, or it may just mean taking on a detox diet, in which foods are carefully chosen based on their ability to heal the body, not threaten it.
So, next time you spot a cold-pressed juice joint or the latest “detox” craze-fueled product, remember that maybe there is more to this detox diet trend than meets the eye. Whether its mass appeal dies off or not, the premise is clear: fasting is timeless.
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