Intentional fasting has been practised in practically all cultures, with accounts of Christ, Buddha, Moses, Mohammed, and countless others undergoing long water fasts for spiritual as well as physical benefit.
Hippocrates (the father of Western medicine), Socrates and Plato advocated fasting, while Pythagoras required a 40-day fast of his students as an entrance requirement. Animals with injury or illness will abstain from food until their health is improved. Most people have experienced a loss of appetite with the flu and other infections. Many of the more serious, chronic diseases lose their taste for food.
Both animals and humans have a natural intuition to fast during ill health. Even unintentional fasts (as when people have been stranded without food) usually cause significant improvements in the health of the people involved. Mark Twain wrote much on the health benefits achieved by shipwrecked fasters in the 1800’s. Pain, discomfort and inflammation are reduced by fasting. For many, the improvements found in their fasting experience have been a springboard to the healing of long-accepted health conditions. (1)
Regular gentle fasting is a great way to cleanse and remove toxins from the body. Mungday cleanse is a superfood vegetable broth, created to give your body optimal nutrition and trigger it’s natural ability to cleanse and heal.
Derived from this ancient wisdom, we have designed this cleansing broth, using organic ingredients, sourced from certified organic farms. Mungday Cleanse gets its magic from the amazing yellow mung bean or moong dahl, which is the Ayurvedic prescription for cleansing. A mono-diet of this ancient legume, especially if prepared with digestive herbs and spices, resets the entire system.
Ayurveda teaches that heavy, sticky, toxic waste accumulates in our digestive tract and can eventually overflow into our channels and tissues, hampering cellular nutrition and waste disposal. It is here, in the tissues and channels, that it can precipitate the manifestation of a disease. Since imbalanced agni (digestive fire) and accumulating, overflowing Ama (toxins) is considered the root physical cause of ALL disease in Ayurveda, we really need a simple way of keeping a lid on this constant accumulation of toxins (2).
Regular cleanses or fasts are the perfect antidote to this problem, but long-term cleanses can be very difficult. We have to muster a fair bit of motivation to make them happen as regularly as they should… and getting your partner, family or friends to support you can be even harder! There’s got to be an easier way (2).
Well, there is… intermittent fasting in the form of a liquid diet day. Liquid diet days are like a reset button, a clean slate for your digestion and metabolism. They provide a lovely day of rest to help the fire in your belly burn bright and digest all that pesky toxins lying around. And, unlike the longer cleanses, they are really easy to do and incorporate into life. So easy in fact, they can be done every week (2).
Ayurveda has espoused the benefits of fasting for thousands of years… and now Western science is demonstrating many benefits too. You may have heard of the 5:2 Diet popularized by Dr Michael Mosley following his BBC documentary ‘Eat, Fast and Live Longer’? In that documentary and the proceeding book, ‘The Fast Diet’, he outlines current research on the benefits of intermittent fasting (2).
In a nutshell, they include:
- Improved blood-pressure
- Improved insulin resistance
- Reduced total cholesterol – a marker of imbalanced metabolism
- Reduced Insulin-Like Growth Factor (IGF) levels – a marker of cell growth and potential for cancer; and
- Increased brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels – shown to stimulate nerve growth in the brain, related to memory and learning and reduced anxiety and depression (3).
It may help you to live longer too. At this stage, longevity experiments related to fasting have only been carried out with fruitfly, rodents and monkeys but in these, fasting has shown to increase lifespan by up to 20% (4)! Evidence suggests that dietary restriction can have health benefits for humans, too, though it is unclear whether it can increase longevity.
One piece of research not mentioned in Dr Mosley’s book is the work of Dr Matt Piper from the University College of London’s Institute of Healthy Ageing. His team has discovered that fasting from protein, particularly one essential amino acid called methionine (found in meat, fish, brazil nuts, sesame seeds and wheat germ) is the most important factor for replicating this 20% increased longevity (4). Therefore, carrying out fasts that are rich in animal protein (like the approach recommended in the 5:2 Fast Diet) may actually be counter-productive. If your aim is to live longer, plant-based fasts may be more likely to do the trick (2).
So, western science agrees. Intermittent fasting can help us to live longer and has been shown to decrease our risk of developing some of our biggest health concerns – depression, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and dementia. Ayurveda would add ALL other diseases to that list too!
This is great news but is it really enough to motivate us to do our one-day fast week in, week out, for the rest of our lives? In my experience, there are some direct benefits of regular fasting that are more likely to keep us inspired for the long-haul.
- Better elimination
- Improved digestion
- Reduced cravings (especially for processed sugar, bread, pasta, meat, alcohol and eating out)
- Stabilised blood sugar
- Feeling lighter and brighter with more energy
- Improved complexion
- A greater appreciation of food generally
- An increased awareness of the difference between true hunger and boredom
- Slow, steady weight-loss or easy weight-maintenance.
This entails preparing a cleansing vegetarian soup and eating it all day long, along with some herbal teas like fresh ginger tea or a tea made from equal parts ground cumin, coriander and fennel (I also allow myself a couple of cups of normal tea (2). And that is it!
You can have the soup as three distinct meals or just drink it throughout the day every 1-2 hours. If you are prone to low blood sugar then eating regularly is best. You can also have a little basmati rice at dinner if you feel you need it. The first couple of liquid diet days can be difficult but after that, it gets easier and easier because the fast itself helps to stabilize your blood sugar.
It is also important for your digestive fire to NOT launch straight back into heavy foods the next day. Have stewed fruit or a light Ayurvedic porridge for breakfast instead of bacon and eggs. Build your fire back up slowly with small pieces of wood before adding the big logs (2).
If you’re going to fast regularly, choose a day that will fit in with your lifestyle – when you are unlikely to be doing a lot of physical activity, socialising or super-demanding mental work. They become a pleasant ritual; a day of deeply caring for oneself and one’s digestive fire. It is actually a sweet relief not having to think about food or cooking for the day – once your fasting soup is made in the morning, you’re sorted.
So there you have it folks, Ayurvedic intermittent fasting or liquid diet days are an easy, effective and wonderful thing to do for your ongoing preventative health regime. Not only do they reduce toxins and support a strong digestive fire, they also calm your cravings so you tend to make better decisions. But, even if you make a few unhealthy choices in-between, it is okay because you are constantly pressing the reset button; constantly making a fresh start! So, they also eliminate the accumulation of food-guilt…perhaps the worst toxin of all (2)!
- Dr Lindah Melos, ND – Naturopath Physician
- Nadia Marshall Director of the Mudita Institute, Ayurvedic Consultant & Cook, Health Writer
- Dr Michael Mosley author of The Fast Diet
- Science Daily
Fasting Image Source: The Health Orange