Written by Mr. Crumbs.
Just after Christmas this past year, I didn’t eat or drink anything (other than water) for 10 days. 10 DAYS! Was it because there was so much excellent food over the holidays that my body couldn’t digest all that was in it? No. Did I grow a large hump on my back (like a camel), that allowed me to feast off of its fat reserves? Nope. Was I hungry? Absolutely for the first 3 days, but then not so much.
Several months prior, Mrs. Crumbs and myself had decided to fast as a way of detoxifying our bodies – giving the insides (particularly the digestive track) a chance to rest and heal itself. We had never attempted such a feat before and heard mixed reviews about fasting, but we figured it couldn’t hurt to give it a try.
Why fast? What brought on the idea?
Let’s rewind two years to the year 2010 when I had the pleasure of working with a gentleman from Europe who wasn’t too far from his 60th birthday. We talked about a myriad of topics: finance, economics, health, nutrition – pretty much everything under the sun. His views were so wildly different than mine (coming from the other side of the planet), but talking with him helped to broaden my own horizons on the various topics.
One afternoon he shared that in his early forties, he had been diagnosed with late stage prostate cancer. He had been an active biker and ate a mostly vegetarian diet. His oncologist at the time had recommended various treatments, ranging from chemotherapy and radiation to surgery and even the removal the prostate.
Thinking the doctor was crazy – with the slash, burn and cut approach – my dear friend took matters into his own hands and looked into alternative methods of treating and even possibly curing the cancer. One of those methods was fasting.
But wait… he’s survived for nearly 20 years, AFTER being diagnosed with late stage prostate cancer?
He embarked on a fast of up to 40 days, consuming only water. He was determined to fight his cancer naturally (against the advice of his doctor). Now approximately 18 years from his original diagnosis, his cancer remains in remission and he lives a pretty normal life.
So what changed? He integrated fasting into his lifestyle. He routinely and regularly completes long water fasts and permanently changed his diet to include more wholesome, nutrient dense foods. He keeps a fasting schedule to this day.
Curious and skeptical at the time, I began combing the web to validate his fascination and love of fasting. Article after article, page after page was filled with testimonials of people who love fasting. They raved about the health benefits, spiritual benefits and so on. You’ll even find that some declare fasting will cure cancer, HIV/Aids, acne, depression and fibromyalgia. Whether or not this information is true, I have no idea.
Despite all the nitty gritty details that the web will produce, my gentleman friend had exposed me to something I thought I’d never try: fasting.
Immediately after researching the benefits, I boldly declared to Mrs. Crumbs, “I’M GOING ON A 7 DAY FAST!”
(She thought I was crazy.)
No, I didn’t have cancer. And in reality, I just wanted to try it since the benefits seemed great, and there were virtually no risks. I started out doing the “Master Cleanse” aka, the lemonade diet.
The Master cleanse is when you basically make homemade lemonade (with fresh lemons) and add cayenne pepper to the mixture. You drink this mixture for the desired length of the fast (usually 10-14 days or so, in order to detoxify your body. I believe the original formula has you do a “salt water flush” early in the morning and drink a laxative tea in the afternoon.
I found this protocol unpleasant. While some love the taste of this concoction, the cayenne pepper made me gag and the laxative tea had me up at 3am. My first attempt at fasting lasted 3 days before indulging in a burrito (and I STILL remember how amazing that burrito was) from a local taco shop.
Fast forward to the fall of 2012 and the idea of fasting resurfaced between myself and Mrs. Crumbs. Unable to shake the idea of “not eating” for a week or more, we both decided to fast after the holidays. My plan was a 7-10 day water fast, hers was a modified 5 day smoothie fast. I chose to water fast for several reasons:
- Water fasts are generally the quickest way to detoxify. Some even consider this the only “real” way to detoxify your body and bring it back in check.
- Water fasts are the most difficult. I thought if I could go ten days on water alone, alls future fasts of juice or smoothies would be easy in comparison.
Benefits of Water Fasting
After your body has uses all the excess calories, it begins burning fat. By default, when you burn fat, you lose weight. Fasting merely to lose weight is a highly debated topic. Because your metabolism slows to a crawl, you must be EXTREMELY careful when you resume eating. Otherwise the weight will come right back. However, if food is reintroduced properly and in moderation, keeping the weight off is possible.
High Blood Pressure
This was one of the main reasons I chose to complete a fast this year. My blood pressure had been creeping up towards the 130/80 range, sometimes slightly higher. Fasting quickly brought it down to the 115/70 range. It fluctuates depending on the day, but bringing it down 15 points was nice!
This is probably a side effect of your body not working very hard (and thus causing immense relaxation), but you are able to think much more clearly when fasted compared to regular eating habits. Decisions were easy to make and “stressful” situations were much more manageable. I found that fasting helped me to put things in perspective.
Yes, your vision can sharpen! An odd, but pleasant side effect. It doesn’t mean you can leave your contacts or throw your glasses in the trash can, but it’s possible for your eyes to function more efficiently.
A 2008 study at the University of California at Berkeley found that eating every other day decreased the rate at which cells produced, an effect known to reduce the development of cancers. In animal models, intermittent fasting was found to reduce cancer growth on the skin and in breast tissue. (source)
If fasting has the potential to treat and even possibly cure cancer, why isn’t this being evaluated more often instead of the latest and greatest drug?
It’s hard to explain the science behind this one, but research shows that those who fast live longer. Does simply going without eating prolong life? Probably not. My guess would be the continuous removal of toxins and allowing the body to rest from it’s daily work.
Isn’t this the new craze? People across the world are jumping on the “let’s deteox and be healthy” bandwagon, shouting for their food to be void of GMO’s and pesticides. What these people don’t realize is that their “fad” is truth – fasting allows the body to rid itself of toxins. Introducing and maintaining a proper diet filled with real and nutritious food really is better for you!
Your digestive system will love you for fasting. It takes about three days into the fast for your system to completely shut down. Liquids in, liquid out. After breaking the fast (safely and carefully of course), you’ll find that your bowel movements behave as if they’re on steroids. I’ll spare you the details, but it’s pretty incredible!
These are just a few of the benefits of fasting. I encourage you to do more research on this topic yourself if you truly consider attempting a water fast.
My Personal Experience With a 10 Day Water Fast
Days 1-3. The first few days were rough. It was during this time that the detoxifying symptoms were the worst. There was hunger, splitting headaches… it was rough. I am a coffee lover (as most parents are). Nothing beats pouring a hot cup of freshly brewed coffee into a ceramic mug, sipping the java goodness before starting the day. I attribute the pure misery of days 1-3 to caffeine withdrawal. At the same time, Mrs. Crumbs cooking dinner for the kids and knowing I couldn’t eat was brutal.
Days 4-6. These days were relatively easy. By this time my digestive system had shut down and the hunger pains had disappeared. My tongue was often coated with a thick white film. This is apparently normal and another detoxification symptom. I started losing weight – 1 – ½ pounds per day – but there was no problem going to work, playing guitar at church or performing any other daily physical function.
Day 7. I will never forget this day – ever. This was the most miserable day I have ever lived on planet earth. I came home from work feeling great, not hungry, thinking clearly… And then my life was flipped upside down. My wonderful wife pulled a freshly baked loaf of rosemary bread from the oven. I was immediately angry and I wanted that bread. But it wasn’t even possible at this point.
You see, once your digestive system shuts down (around the three day mark), it takes a few days to bring it back up to speed. You do this by very slowly introducing food to your digestive system… drinking juice for 1-2 days, fresh fruit for another couple days, steamed vegetables for another day or two… taking anywhere from 7 – 14 days to bring your digestive system back up to fully operational. Eating any solid food while in a fasted state can lead to severe discomfort and even hospitalization!
Back to the bread… I wanted that bread so much that I had to go upstairs, take a shower and wait for everyone to finish eating dinner. I simply could not bear even LOOKING at the bread!
Day 8-10. These days were almost an exact replica of days 4-6. By the end of day 10, I had lost 15 pounds and was ready to eat again.
All in all, I enjoyed my 10 day water fast. It was challenging, but the health benefits were well worth it. My digestion improved, blood pressure was lowered and I may have reduced the possibility of getting cancer. I plan on doing it again later this year, and probably continue to fast at least once or twice a year from now on!
Have you attempted any sort of fast? What was your reason? How long was your fast?
This post is shared at (Sun) This Chicken Chick, (Mon) Natural Living Mamma (Tue) Cooking Traditional Foods, Premeditated Leftovers, Granny’s Vital Vittles, Real Food Forager, Like a Mustard Seed (Wed) This Chick Can Cook, Gastronomical Sovereignty, Natural Mother’s Network, Kelly the Kitchen Kop, Day2Day Joys, Frugally Sustainable (Thu) Beyond the Peel, GNOWFGLINS, The Nourishing Gourmet, Thank Your Body (Fri) Green Thickies, Food Renegade, Allergy Free Alaska, Small Footprint Family, My Cultured Palate
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. While fasting provided a great benefit to me, it is not for everyone. If you consider fasting, please consult with a medical professional. For those with health problems, fasting can be dangerous. At the same time, fasting may help. Please research the topic objectively and speak with a professional before attempting.