Several traditional practices are rapidly gaining acceptance in mainstream society, including herbal medicine, meditation and the fermentation of grains. Fasting is one of the least understood of these ancient traditions. It is such an old practice, animals have been observed fasting in their natural habitats. Fasting offers benefits to anyone with a clear understanding of purpose, benefits, and safe practice.
## Safety Concerns
Experts have largely turned their backs on fasting as a dangerous and/or worthless practice. This at best results from misunderstanding. The danger is almost completely attributed to goals of rapid weight loss. Abstaining from food altogether causes quick loss of water weight and depression of metabolism.
Other safety problems are related to micro-nutrient deficiencies common with S.A.D. (standard American diet), autoimmune disorders, liver or kidney disease, and prescription drug use. Fasting is otherwise not a dangerous activity. It is important to understand the types of fasts. Traditional use always occurred inside a medical and/or religious context, and the removal of context is the underlying danger.
## Fasting Foods?
There are as many ways to go about fasting as there are cultures that have used the practice. Some do call for complete abstinence of food intake, but many include easily digestible foods. Some examples are:
1. The congee fast is an ritual originating in ancient Asian cultures. Short-grain brown rice is eaten exclusively. Herbs may be included for different conditions. Ginger is commonly used by the elderly. Walnuts are included for men with reproductive concerns. The rice is cooked overnight on low heat to preserve beneficial enzymes.
2. Porridge fasting is common to ancient European cultures. It is very similar to congee. Barley, oats, and other indigenous grains are cooked slowly.
3. Hinduism prohibits all but select foods during ritual fasts. Acceptable foods include Sago, potatoes, other starchy vegetables, peanut products, and milk products like yoghurt and ghee.
4. In the Christian tradition, a Daniel fast is popular for re-energizing the body and cleansing impurities. Fruits, vegetables, legumes and specific grains are allowed. Anyone interested in healthy dieting or veganism can recognize the wisdom in this Biblical tradition.
5. Kitchari is an Ayurvedic practice using only brown basmati rice fermented before cooking. Sea vegetable, cayenne, sesame seeds, ghee and sea salt are all acceptable additions.
6. Modern versions of the ancient practice typically include a variety of vegetable and fruit juices.
It is generally agreed upon by fasting experts that simply abstaining from one meal a day is insufficient to access benefits. These practices do have a purpose, but it is unrelated to health goals.
## Optimal Length
Restrictive diet fasting gives the practitioner a sense that the ritual can continue indefinitely. This is not a good idea without nutritional assessment of the diet and use of appropriate supplements.
Someone new to the practice will do best to begin with one day per week. Mahatma Gandhi fasted for different periods of time, yet he abstained from food one day per week every week after the age of 40.
Congee fasts typically last three days. The goal, whether detoxification, recovery from illness or simply giving the digestive system a day of rest, is the primary factor determining length.Fasts longer than three days require supervision.
The primary benefit cited by fasting professionals and practitioners is detoxification. Modern medicine assumes that the body’s detox mechanisms are sufficient. It assumes adequate micro-nutrient intake is enough for removal of toxins.
The fasting mechanism for detox is ketosis, burning of body fat, which is beneficial even for those with a healthy diet. Minimal consumption of fasting foods will incur ketosis at night and at several points during the day. This slowly releases fat soluble toxins for elimination. Other benefits proven in research include:
1. Reduction of stress and severity of depression
2. Treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, Type II diabetes, high blood pressure, lupus, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s, and psoriasis and eczema
3. Balanced hormone levels and increased production of growth hormone
4. Reduced risk of heart disease
5. Reversal of atherosclerosis
Beginners will experience difficulty abstaining from food. Rest assured that this discomfort becomes more manageable with practice. Meditation will help with the discomfort and augment the benefits of this ancient practice. Eat in good health!
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Guest Post by: Nancy Parker was a professional nanny needed and she loves to write about wide range of subjects like health, Parenting, Child Care, Babysitting, nanny background check tips etc. You can reach her @ nancy.parker015 @ gmail.com
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