by Loren Lockman
Published in Just Eat an Apple
There are over 25 million animal species on the planet, and virtually all of them fast when not well enough. You may have witnessed this first hand if you’ve ever had a cat or dog. Like other animals, when they are ill or injured badly enough, they will lie down and refuse food, not moving until they have substantially recovered.
Often, when people are sick, they lose their appetite. In our culture, we often encourage them to eat to ‘keep up their strength.’ Unwittingly, we are further teaching them to Not follow their instincts and intuition.
Unlike medicine – both conventional and alternative – fasting is about actually healing the body, rather than simply treating symptoms. It’s not that fasting actually ‘does’ anything. It doesn’t. Healing is an inherent power of every living organism. Fasting simply provides the body – any body – with the optimal conditions and opportunity to cleanse itself of accumulated toxins, and heal any prior damage. In this way, it’s evident that fasting is the best way to deal with almost every condition.
Though there is much misinformation out there, the body will never injure itself when fasting. It knows exactly what it is and is not capable of handling, and though we sometimes detoxify faster than we might like to, this is rarely if ever dangerous.
There are, of course, some potential dangers while fasting, though they are few and far between. There are many symptoms which may arise while fasting, and a few that almost certainly will: lowered blood pressure, lowered body temperature, and coated tongue.
Blood pressure is virtually guaranteed to drop while fasting, and will stay lower if intelligent lifestyle choices are followed after the fast. This is great news for the 50% of Americans who will die of the ravages of high-blood pressure, heart disease, or stroke. It’s worth noting for all fasters because below-normal blood pressure, while not inherently dangerous or problematic often results in orthostatic hypotension (standing up too fast and getting dizzy, in English).
This dizziness occurs when lower-than-normal blood pressure fails to provide enough blood to the brain upon rising. To insure that this doesn’t occur, rise slowly. From a lying position, sit-up first, standing-up only after you feel a sense of equilibrium.
Should you stand up too quickly, or feel dizzy at any time, drop to a sitting or kneeling position immediately, and lower your head between your knees. This will insure ample blood supply to the brain, quickly eliminating the dizziness. Rise again slowly after insuring equilibrium.
Your body temperature is also virtually guaranteed to drop while fasting. Again, this is not inherently a problem, though it means you will need to take extra precautions to maintain your body temperature, especially when fasting in the winter. Don’t wait until you’re chilled to warm up. Doing so means that you are wasting your body’s precious energy – energy that could be used for cleansing and healing. Rather, seek to stay warm. This may mean wearing more clothes than you would if not fasting. Keeping warm is generally not a problem when you are in bed and wrapped up in a comforter/blankets.
Your tongue will almost certainly become coated during your fast, possibly at the onset, and will likely remain coated during your entire fast. This is normal and is thought to indicate the degree of sludge in your colon. It has been said that once the tongue clears, the body is done fasting. Our experience is that the tongue will sometimes clear, and within a day or so become coated again, likely indicating that the body is working through pockets or layers of material. You can scrape your tongue, or brush the coating off with a wet toothbrush (no toothpaste). Don’t be surprised if it returns fairly quickly.
This coating will color your taste buds, and you may find the water tastes good one day, and not-so-good the next. It is not the water that has changed, but your perception of taste.
You will note that we mentioned in the first paragraph that animals routinely lie down, ceasing all activity until they feel well again. 25 million species can’t be wrong, and this is the ideal way to fast. Fasting is often thought of as abstaining from food, but this is really only part of the picture. To provide the body with the optimal conditions in which to heal, it’s important to provide complete rest. Because the digestive tract uses approximately 50% of the body’s daily energy, complete rest necessitates not eating. It also necessitates minimizing unnecessary brain function, as the brain is the second highest consumer of the body’s energy, using about 35%. You can certainly read, write, and think if you choose to, but your process will be more effective if you don’t do any more of these things than necessary.
Though you won’t be able to sleep all the time – unless your body actually needs that much sleep – you can give yourself the next highest possible states of rest in two ways; First, you might want to meditate throughout your stay. We offer two groups meditations in the library daily, and you are welcome to participate in both. Of course you can meditate any time on your own as well.
Research has proven the amazing benefits of meditation, which provides a level of rest that is in some ways, deeper than sleep. Please note, meditation can never replace sleep, which is a physiological necessity. If you don’t know how to meditate, there are simple meditation instructions here in the book.
The second way to achieve very deep levels of rest when not sleeping is to emulate the other species: lie down and close your eyes. Doing so dramatically reduces the body’s energy consumption, providing very deep levels of rest. When we lie down and close our eyes, the heart rate slows down, the respiratory rate slows down, and brain waves become more normalized and uniform. These physiological changes show us that the body is in a resting state, and that energy has been freed up for cleansing and healing.
Closing our eyes is important because we take in 70% of the body’s information through the eyes, and as long as they’re open, we’re expending a lot of energy processing the information they provide to us. Remember that we are attempting to allow the body to use all available energy for cleansing and healing, rather than shunting energy aside for other purposes. Any unnecessary activity consumes energy, making it unavailable to the body.
Your body goes through several distinct phases when you begin to fast. After your last meal, the body looks to your digestive tract for any nutrients or calories that it might need. This source of nutrition might last for 8-12 hours. Once your body has depleted this source, it goes to the liver for glycogen stores there.
Of all the nutrients available to the body, the only one that the body must have 24 hours per day is glucose, and glycogen is a glucose precursor, so the body converts it to glucose. The body goes to the liver stores first, because it always seeks to be as efficient as possible, and the liver provides the most readily available source of glucose.
The liver’s glycogen stores will last between 8-12 hours, at which point the body, maximizing efficiency, goes to the next most readily available source of glucose – muscle tissue. In a process called neoglucogenesis, the body converts muscle tissue to glucose. Don’t worry — if you’re fasting correctly and minimizing your activity, (and therefore your caloric needs), you won’t consume much muscle tissue during this stage of the process.
And in fact, your body doesn’t want to lose any more muscle than it ‘feels’ it can afford to, so as your fast continues, the body will switch over to a less-efficient, but safer long term source of fuel: adipose tissue, or long-term fat stores. How long it takes for this switch to occur depends on your body composition; the higher your muscle/fat ratio, the longer the body can ‘safely’ consume muscle tissue. In order to minimize the consumption of muscle tissue throughout your fast, it’s important to minimize your activity. Though this may seem counterintuitive, as your activity levels increase, your body’s caloric needs increase too, and your body will consume more muscle – a more efficient source of fuel – to more easily meet the higher demands.
The switch from consuming primarily muscle (with some fat) to consuming primarily fat (with some muscle) is very important for two reasons: first, we store toxins in the body primarily in our adipose tissue so wholesale cleansing doesn’t begin until this stage of the process, and second, because the switch only takes place in the complete absence of all nutrients. This means that ‘juice fasting’ (which is a misnomer as juices supply both calories and nutrients) is far less effective than true fasting, because the body never moves into the most beneficial part of the process.
People sometimes have suggested that juice fasting is much more gentle, and this is true. The reason for this though is simply that it is much less effective, in much the same way that using a sponge to smooth a piece of wood is much more gentle than using a piece of sandpaper.
Rest assured, that fasting – done properly – provides the body with the optimal conditions in which to heal itself, and there is nothing better that you could do for yourself.
The keys, as mentioned earlier, are to eliminate or minimize all unnecessary activity, to provide your body with the deepest levels of rest possible, to drink enough water (covered later in the book), to maintain your body temperature, to rise slowly to minimize the likelihood of passing out, and to relax in the knowledge that you are providing yourself with an amazing gift.
The benefits of fasting are numerous and include not only a much higher-functioning physical body, but also more mental clarity, and a deepened sense of connection to all life.
Loren Lockman can be reached at the Tanglewood Wellness Center at 202-652-4694, info@TanglewoodWellnessCenter.com, or there is more information at http://www.TanglewoodWellnessCenter.com/