Fasting is the art of abstaining from all or certain foods. Animals instinctively fast when ill. Ancient cultures, philosophers and physicians across time have fasted for healing and spiritual purification. Fasting is a great way to assist the body in its natural healing processes. When fasting, the body's energy is not diverted for purposes of digestion. This allows the digestive tract to rest, thus enabling the body's energy resources to work solely on concentrated cleansing throughout all body systems.

There are a few different ways to fast. The most restrictive is a water fast, necessitating the consumption of water over a specific period of time. Less strict is a juice fast, which permits only the ingestion of fresh raw fruit and vegetable juices. Then there is the cleansing fast, a type that utilizes herbs, fibers and clay to draw out old matter and assist the body in a deep detoxification process.

These options may seem severe or even impossible to some people. Fasting is not for everyone. However, for those who are committed, fasting is a valuable approach to natural healing. Fortunately, when given the proper rest, nourishment and love, the body can regenerate and heal in less time than one may think. Providing the blood with dense, high-yield liquid nutrition, we stop contributing to the accumulation of waste matter and are able to release that which no longer serves us.

How to decide which fasting method is best for you depends on your current state of health, health history, and health goals. Your lifestyle and schedule demands are also things to consider. I usually begin with a cleansing fast to remove the layer of plaque-like mucus that accumulates on the walls of both the small and large intestine. Removing this layer of mucus, between meal consumption, assists in the subsequent absorption of nutrients. It also gives my body a chance to produce a refreshed, protective barrier on the intestinal walls. After seven days on the cleansing fast, I often follow with a one or two-day juice fast, as I selectively integrate whole foods and prepare my digestive system to absorb nutrients in food form again. I then begin strengthening and rebuilding a healthy new protective lining by consuming probiotics and amino acid-based intestinal integrity builders.

During fasting, I always ensure that my electrolytes are balanced by using some form of micro/bio-available nutrients in juice or purified water. This works well in combination with a cleansing or juice fast. Personally, I have not tried water fasts, but I have read of many people who do the natural hygiene method of water fasting. This approach has been observed for long periods of time with profound results. For more information on this type of cleanse, I recommend reading books on the topic or visiting this informative web site -- "www.living-foods.com/articles/naturalhygiene.html".

When considering how long to fast, one has many options. Your decision should be based on what health goals you want to achieve and also what you are willing to do to meet those goals. It takes seven days to cleanse the bloodstream, seven weeks to cleanse the Iymph glands, and seven months to cleanse the entire glandular system. Some naturopaths suggest that it takes seven years to change all the molecules in the body. Others simplify the equation by maintaining that it takes one month of cleansing, accompanied by proper nutrition, balance and minimal toxic intake, for every year of life one has engaged in poor lifestyle habits and been exposed to toxic consumption. Complete regeneration requires consistent care in order to thoroughly purify, strengthen and heal.

While in the process of reclaiming your delicate internal balance, you can look to nature's cycles for guidance in determining a cleansing time frame. The moon completes its cycles from new moon to new moon in twenty-eight days. A woman's menstrual cycle is also twenty-eight days. A baby's gestation period is 280 days. A chicken's eggs hatch in twenty-one days and most duck eggs hatch in thirty-five days. Having observed these natural cycles, some consider the number seven to be of great importance, not only in patterning natural methods of health care but also in making other life decisions (this
is because all the numerals mentioned above are divisible by seven).

I have outlined my seven-day "Oh Tara" cleanse, as well as Dr. Bernard Jensen's views on the body's natural healing cycles, based on this premise. Although great results are obtained with even just a day or two of cleansing fasts, I have seen how the effects are enhanced when the full seven-day cycle is completed. You may research further and talk to your doctor about what is right for you. Another suggested book is "The Mucus-less Diet Healing System" by Arnold Ehret or go to www.altmedicine.about.com/od/detoxcleansing/a7dayjuicefast.html for further information on fasting and healing.

When we eat fresh, organic food, drink plentiful purified water, regularly eliminate waste and consistently rest and exercise, great results can be attained Many people enjoy sustainable results when they fast for seven days every seven weeks for seven months as outlined in Dr. Jensen's book "A Tissue Cleanse Through Bowel Management." I have experienced regained health and vitality every time I fast, whether it is for one day each week, a couple of days in a row every month, or for a complete seven-day period. I tend to do more of the shorter fasts, although I feel much more rejuvenated when I commit to the full seven days. Usually, I find my self coming up with excuses why I don't have time to complete the week-long cleanse.

This has led me to compromise by doing the shorter cleanses, yet doing them more frequently than I would the longer versions. While fasting, and in general most of the time, I do my best to avoid gluttonous eating habits by eliminating sugar, coffee, syrup, glucose fructose concentrates, and fried or overcooked and processed foods. I consume a minimum of sixty-five percent fresh raw fruits and vegetables and their juices, as well as nuts, seeds, roots and herbs. Maintaining this balance and following food-combining principles, along with thorough chewing habits, works well for me. It should work well for you, too.

After completing a fast, I re-introduce foods selectively so that I can prepare my body to absorb nutrients again in solid form. During this transitional phase, I take the opportunity to test for possible food allergens by using a self-designed chart that allows me to compare those foods that digest well with those that cause immune responses. The chart is easy and can be found on my web site here www.alderbrooke.com/reintroduction_chart.php. Most of the material is derived from Dr. Stephen Bailey's book "The Fasting Diet," which I highly recommend.

For a summer fast, I suggest eating a single fruit of your choice in a day. If you like how you feel, try three days of just eating this same fruit. Or consider that a single fruit for a day or two is a great segue into a liquid fast. Try some mixed carrot, beet and celery juice drinks. Dr. Norman Walker suggests that for therapeutic benefit it is best to consume at least a pint, or ideally, two pints of this juice mix to obtain the maximum benefit.

I hope you will think about how fasting can be a worthwhile adjunct to your daily health practices. I have outlined below an example of what a typical day is like on a seven-day cleansing fast. You will notice that, even though you are not consuming solid foods, your body is nevertheless receiving constant hydration and cleansing support. The dual benefit of being hydrated and purified provides for a sense of fulfillment while allowing the body to evacuate more regularly.

Here are some tips for fasting:

Tara Alder is an internal Cleansing Specialist certified by the international Association of Colon Hydrotherapy. She can be reached by telephone at 541.513.7894 or email at taralyn@alderbrooke.com. Her web site is www.alderbrooke.com.