Ayurveda & Fasting
Fasting is used since ancient times for spiritual rituals for purification, religious meanings, and quest of longevity and health as well as mental challenges.
Recent scientific investigations confirm the value of fasting and prove its importance as a mean that can help to find health.
But, just like with each tool, it is not to be used by anyone and under any circumstance.
Nowadays it seems like the world is crazy about fasting, claiming it as a cure for almost everything, and almost everyone, which is not only absolutely false but extremely dangerous as well.
In fact, there are multiple ways to fast, applicable only for and under specific conditions, with also precautions to take.
WHAT IS FASTING?
Fasting is described in all the Ayurvedic classics as Langhana, a method aiming at cleansing and depleting, which opposite is Brihmana, increasing and stoutening.
It is advised for people having:
- Ama ( toxins )
For people having little Ama it is recommended.
For people having moderate quantity of Ama, it is advised to be used along with Deepana (digestive) medicines.
For people having severe quantity of Ama, only a Panchakarma therapy is advised in order to expel out the toxins and vitiated Doshas at their root.
- Suffering from light excess weight, Pitta and Kapha predominance, Fever, Vomiting, Diarrhea, heart diseases, constipation, heaviness, nausea, diabetes, skin diseases, etc.
Fasting is not as it is claimed to be, eating nothing for some days or weeks.
In all cases, it has to be gradual and evaluated accordingly to how you react to it.
The different types of fasting include:
- Consuming only light foods (white rice with cooked vegetables, cooked moong or red lentils, cooked fruits etc.)
- Abstaining from solid and drinking only water or infusions.
- Abstaining from both food and water.
The easiest way is first and foremost to always eat little less than your appetite, in quietness and chewing well. This way, you ensure an optimum digestion and prevent the creation of toxins, which are only undigested or improperly metabolized food.
Also, always eat only when the previous meal is properly digested. If you still feel heavy and not hungry, skip the meal.
Below are enumerated not exhaustively, the most common and trendy ways to fast nowadays:
- George Oshawa Macrobiotic diet #7 : eating only brown rice for 7 days
- Water-lemon-honey fast : fasting for X numbers of days only on this preparation
- Juice / smoothie fast : fasting for X numbers of days only on juicing
- Fruits fast : eating only fruits, mostly raw, for X numbers of days
- Post chemotherapy : fasting for multiples days or weeks in order to remove the toxins
- Excessive exercises : not eating and training daily
- Sauna fast : not eating and sweating a lot in order to promote more weight loss
- Kitcharee fasting : eating only Kitcharee for X numbers of days, generally 3 days to a week.
Those are just fashions. They are far from the ancestral medicines wisdom and only excessive measures that can lead to more diseases and disorders if not applied per your constitution and various factor that only a Dr. or practitioner can assess.
Also, with monodiets, only eating one kind of food for some time the mind starts to reject it hence the food is no longer nourishing and sustaining that is why in the beginning results are seen but with time long lasting troubles are created.
FOR HOW LONG?
Intermittent fasting is the safest and most adequate way to fast.
Actually, there should be between 12 to 14 hours between your last and next meal. It can be done overnight by eating early dinner around 6 or 7 PM, and taking the breakfast between 7 and 9 AM. This way, your body will have time to process the previous day and make you ready and sleep soundly for the coming one.
Long term fasting is not at all recommended neither in Ayurveda nor in Chinese Medicine, no matter the condition of the patient.
It is likely to lead to more imbalanced Doshas and disorders.
Also, one should enter and come out of the fast gradually. Fasting for 3 days and indulging on the fourth will destroy completely all the benefits, if any. Post fasting, you have to be careful for twice the time of the fast, with quantity half than what you used to eat, and the food should be very light starting with warm soups and progressively going to solids.
The season in which one undergo fasting is of extreme importance. Winter is the best time for fasting, for anyone, while Summer is not suitable for it ( it can lead to dehydration, irreversible damage to organs such as kidneys ).
When your body and mind is ready for it, being totally determined for it.
BENEFITS AND DANGERS
- Clarity of senses, sharpeness
- Wastes and Ama expulsion
- Lightness and enthusiasm feeling
- Real hunger
Excessive or improper fasting leads to:
- Deep emaciation or deep obesity
- Dizziness, vertigo
- Digestive disorder, lack of digestive strength
- Loss of functions and senses impaction ( sleep disorder, delusion, poor vision, loss of hearing,
- Loss of vital energy ( Ojas ) and exhaustion
- Non elimination ( faeces, urine )
- Pain in the abdomen and chest
- Stress, frustration, anger
- Anorexia and bulimia, eating disorders
MYTHS AND COMMON TABOOS AROUND FASTING
The role of the Ego
I am more than convinced that Ego always comes into play in regards of fasting. The mind can bow the body at its will and often people forget to listen to their body’s signs to pursue their quest, forgetting in the same time that health comes from the alignment of Body and Mind both. The Sage Krishnamurti well describe this in his book, Freedom from the Known. People going to live in the forest, only eating some fruits in order to try to attain some spiritual realms or those who mortify their body in the hope of some enlightenment of God, are merely disconnecting from the Source itself and from themselves.
Fasting & Individualization
Fasting or specific diets should be absolutely personalized and evaluated accordingly to multiple parameters. For one individual, only a soup a day can be his detox plan and for another it would be 3 meals a day with specific food. Your optimal cleansing or health recovering plan can only be optimal if it is personalized, which only an Ayurvedic or holistic practitioner can determine. Such overall global regimen as mentioned above lack of understanding the importance of individualization and often cause much more harms than the benefits they claim.
Fasting & weight loss
In the Ayurvedic view, obesity is mostly a disorder of the metabolism. Eating or not eating is unlikely to solve the problem to its root cause, especially if you see your weight fluctuating randomly. For deep solution and healing, the metabolism must return back to normal and fasting can only weaken the metabolism more. Increasing at first the catabolism but after putting the body into starvation more further increasing the anabolism or weight gain, also called as Yo-yo effect. Ayurveda has a variety of methods for long lasting stable results that would be recommended by an Ayurvedic practitioner, including Panchakarma therapies.
Know that Agni, the digestive fire, is not only responsible for the digestion but also for the cleansing and elimination of accumulated toxins, hence it is not something to play with to follow trends or prove yourself you are up to the challenge. I know, you can be desperate and willing to try a fasting that would fasten your recovery, I have been in that state of mind myself and tried for 21 days, willing to lose some weight. I can only say that not only it did not help on the long run but it distorted my mind and my body and their relationship that only Ayurveda solved…and eating!
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-Dr. Manan Soni & Emmanuelle Dessaigne