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Health: The Benefits of Fasting

by Ms. S on October 19, 2010

Tavern on the Green

Tavern on the Green in Central Park, NYC

Last year, I was introduced to the concept of detoxing one’s body for through monthly meetings at Tavern on the Green in Central Park, NYC (organized by BeamGreen).  One of the more memorable speakers was a raw foodie who had a fascinating personal experience of transforming himself from near-death in his 20s to a glowing, ageless-looking and vibrant +60-year old through a raw food diet.  This exuberant raw foodie (and popular colon therapist) led an analysis of a few diet philosophies.

An Aha Moment: The Nourishing Benefits from Abstinence

While listening to the raw foodie talk about the macrobiotic diet, I had an Aha moment.  I realized that one large health benefit from practicing the macrobiotic diet is from the abstinence of certain foods (such as processed foods) and the restriction of foods in general (macrobiotic proposes eating until one is 80% full; and animal protein is conservatively “flavored” into the diet according to one’s unique needs).  Ever since that session, the benefits of abstinence has intrigued me.

I now think more about how much work my body must do from what I consume.  And, while busy breaking down my consumption (and it’ll be even harder at work if it is addressing consumption of unnatural foods), it is distracted from its remarkable ability to repair and restore itself.

Dr. T. Colin Campbell

Dr. Campbell is the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University

As I entered the world of detoxing, raw foods, and juice cleanses (until I got one month later), I was introduced to an amazing book, The China Study by Dr. Colin T. Campbell, which discusses the large body of scientific data that consistently tells us that too much animal protein is detrimental to health.  Through simply discussing the  findings from thousands of nutritional studies, the book turned my world upside down — it contradicted everything I had known about health — and raised many questions.  In desperately trying to understand how best to feed my daughter, I eagerly sought the opinions of a credible-seeming doctor who was familiar with The China Study and could recommend how to apply these findings into everyday living.

This search led me to Dr. , M.D.

Dr. Joel H. Fuhrman, M.D.

A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Dr. Fuhrman is the author of several books: Eat To Live: The Revolutionary Plan for Fast and Sustained Weight Loss; Disease–Proof Your Child; Eat For Health (a two volume set), acclaimed as a medical breakthrough for weight loss, disease reversal and prevention; and and Eating for Health: A Medical Doctor’s Program for Conquering Disease.

Dr. Joel Fuhrman, M.D.

Dr. Joel Fuhrman, M.D.

From the Introduction of his book, Fasting and Eating for Health: A Medical Doctor’s Program for Conquering Disease, I was fascinated by the story below.  Although it may seem long, if you take the minute to skim it, it may create and plant an influential seed.

The Story of a World Class Athlete

“Years ago, a 20-year-old world-class athlete and Olympic ice skating hopeful suffered a severe injury to his leg.  Forced to walk on crutches, he could not bear weight on his leg without excruciating pain.  His heel was so swollen and sensitive that the mere weight of a bed sheet caused intense discomfort.  Because he was ranked among the top two in the country in this event, the U.S. Olympic Committee encouraged him to seek treatment by one of the country’s leading orthopedic surgeons.”

Modern Medicine Was Not Helping

“After months of prodding, probing, and medical tests by the prominent doctor, and still unable to walk after a year in pain, the young man was quite discouraged.  His doctors offered him no solution to the swelling and acute sensitivity in his injured foot.  Then one day without warning, while in the hospital, a nurse instructed him to take a medication because the doctor intended to perform surgery the following morning.  Outraged, the young man refused to take the drug and demanded that his physician discuss the proposed surgical plans with him.

Later that day, the doctor stormed into the room and brusquely informed the athlete that experimental surgery was required to promote the healing of his foot.  The doctor explained that after exposing the injured tissues, he would use his scalpel to traumatize the area in a checkerboard pattern in an attempt to stimulate the area to heal.  When the young man refused to participate in such an experiment, the physician angrily told him that if he did not have the surgery he would never walk again.  Nevertheless, the young man rejected the surgery and left the hospital.”

An Alternative Solution: Fasting

“The young athlete was aware that a few years earlier his arthritic father had restored his health by fasting.  He remembered the articles and books he had read on fasting at that time and realized that the technique probably offered his best chance to recover.

Determined to give fasting its best chance, he traveled to Dr. Shelton’s Health School in San Antonio and fasted a total of 46 days.  At the end of the fast he was able to walk again.  In a little over a year he placed third in the World Professional Figure Skating Championships.

This Hardship Determined His Life’s Purpose

“At Dr. Shelton’s Health School, the young man saw asthmatics cured so they no longer needed medication.  He met colitis patients with bleeding bowels who recovered without drugs or surgery.  He observed people with chest pain who had been told they needed bypass surgery.  They were riding bicycles and jogging for the first time in years.  The young man saw for himself how the body could heal itself if the causes of disease were removed.

This man was so impressed with what he witnessed and experienced that he sought out other practitioners who used fasting and natural diets to heal patients.  What he learned from them excited him so much that he later decided to attend medical school and become a physician.  At medical school, however, the patients were treated with conventional modern methods.  Given large amounts of medication to control their symptoms, they rarely got well.  No cardiac patients stopped taking drugs because their angina disappeared.  No hypertensive patients stopped taking medication because their condition improved.  No arthritic patients recovered and threw away their pills.

As a medical student, the young man saw patients suffer and die needlessly, while under the care of modern medicine.  Through it all, he remained convinced that people could get well if only they knew how to use fasting and natural diet to restore their health.

This young man was I.”

– Dr. Joel Fuhrman

Dr. Fuhrman Ice Skating

Dr. Fuhrman as a contender for the '76 Olympics

Health: Let’s Get Out of the Way

This story reminded me of how little we understand — or how much we forget — of the brilliance of nature, of our own bodies.

The Benefits of Fasting

“Built into our cells are natural mechanisms that can clean cholesterol, fat, and debris from our arteries; restore health to joints that are attacked by arthritis; and bring us to a level of health that we may never have anticipated.  The key to unleashing these wonderful functions lies in the nutrients the body has to work with.

As Dr. Fuhrman shows us, the right nutrients can turn on these abilities, while the wrong nutrients — which are all too common in the standard western diet — can leave these abilities buried forever.  The most amazing results, however, come when the body is given a complete rest from the work of digestion and assimilation of food.

Therapeutic fasting goes back thousands of years, of course, and was long regarded by doctors as being more appropriate for philosophers than physicians.  Researchers, however, have investigated what occurs when the body takes a short break from nutrients.  They have studied the biochemical events that occur in the bloodstream, in the joints, in the fat tissues, and in the brain, and have found astonishing results.

… Scientific journals have now embraced this knowledge, and a growing number of doctors are putting it to use in their daily practice.  Individuals should work with these doctors, rather than fast on their own, because while fasting is safe, it is also powerful and should be monitored as health returns.”

– Neal D. Barnard, M.D.; President, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine; Foreward from Fasting and Eating for Health: A Medical Doctor’s Program for Conquering Disease

Celery Root Soup with Granny Smith Apples

As Ms. C noted during her 3-Day detox juice cleanse, preparation is key to help your body adjust while giving it a digestive rest.  Below is a recipe by chef Tal Ronnen whom we discovered after learning about his book The Conscious Cook on Oprah. The book is full of incredible recipes so I highly recommend it for daily use, and his dairy-free soups are perfect for any pre or post cleanse diet.

Celery Root Soup with Granny Smith Apples Recipe by Chef Tal Ronnen

Ingredients:

  • Sea salt
  • 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium celery roots, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 quarts vegetable broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup thick Cashew Cream
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 unpeeled Granny Smith apple , very finely diced

Instructions:

Place a large stockpot over medium heat. Sprinkle the bottom with a pinch of salt and heat for 1 minute. Add the oil and heat for 30 seconds, being careful not to let it smoke. This will create a nonstick effect.

Add the celery root, celery, and onion and sauté for 6 to 10 minutes, stirring often, until soft but not brown. Add the stock and bay leaf, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the Cashew Cream and simmer for an additional 10 minutes.

Working in batches, pour the soup into a blender, cover the lid with a towel (the hot liquid tends to erupt), and blend on high. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into bowls. Place a spoonful of the diced apple in the center of each serving, and serve.

Serves 6

Energy Optimization: More to Come!

This topic will be the first of a few write-ups that are related to “Energy Optimization” sessions that I will be leading next week in NYC.  Stay tuned for more!

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Shadow Jackson December 10, 2010 at 9:01 PM

I’m currently on a 40 day fast and I would like to have a doctor’s consultation, but I’m scared that doctors won’t understand. Do you know how I can find a doctor (who is familiar with the benefits of fasting) to talk to?

Ms. S December 14, 2010 at 11:39 AM

Dr. Joel Fuhrman is a medical doctor who has written about fasting. He would be an ideal start. I wrote a little bit about his background here: http://thesfile.com/health-fasting/.

Melinda de los Santos May 26, 2012 at 5:00 PM

To keep this short, I had fasted before twice: each for a full 21 days (I meant to make it 30.) I did it because I had just quit smoking, and I wanted my lungs to process out the residual toxins.

Anyway, I’m compelled to do it again after having heard my friend just had surgery for appendicitis, and just found out she had gallstones.

I have Dr. Sheldon’s book, which is comprehensive, yet fascinating. (I would recommend THAT one to skeptics in the medical community.) I HAVE been recommending, by word of mouth, Dr. Fuhrman’s book because it’s intelligently written, and a smooth read.

My two cents: If you think you can’t fast or are afraid to, JUST GET DR. JOEL FUHRMAN’S BOOK, AND CHALLENGE YOURSELF FOR THE FIRST THREE DAYS. IF YOU GET PAST THAT, THE REST WILL BE A BREEZE!

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