Here’s a brief overview of the book Fasting and Eating for Health: A Medical Doctor’s Program for Conquering Disease by Joel Fuhrman, M.D. *
This book is groundbreaking. Yet it explores an ancient technique for restoring health.
According to Dr. Fuhrman, each cell of our body is a little factory. It processes raw materials (food and water) into a usable product (energy) and waste. The waste produced as a byproduct of this metabolism is called endogenous waste (waste from inside the cell). Endogenous waste includes free radicals, which are chemically reactive molecules with unpaired electrons. When they become excessive, the body must control them to avoid cellular damage. On the other hand, exogenous wastes comes from outside the body, usually from our food supply. These include toxic chemicals, pesticides, and other pollutants. The body has mechanisms in place to protect itself from free radical damage and to eliminate exogenous wastes. Given the typical processed modern diet and our polluted environment, our protective mechanisms are under constant stress and often unable to keep up with the excessive demands placed on them. Eventually, the stress on our body shows up as premature aging and serious illness.
How to facilitate removal of cells damaged by free radicals and to detoxify the body? Dr. Fuhrman’s book proposes a simple and age-old way: fasting. He says “Hundreds of studies have found that in many species dietary restrictions can increase longevity by approximately 50%. These studies also show that any fat at all on an animal’s body has the effect of shortening life span.” Fasting, then, is a natural restorer of health. The goal is to provide extended rest from digestion and toxic products in the diet. This gives the body time to 1) Remove and repair cells damaged by free radicals and 2) remove the toxic exogenous waste from the cells.
Dr. Fuhrman recommends fasting for at least 2 weeks for some conditions. People who are seriously overweight and very ill have been known to fast even longer with excellent results. Any fast longer than a day should be taken only with a doctor’s care.
To truly heal and detoxify the body, a plant based, natural food diet must replace the former toxin producing diet. Withdrawal symptoms from a former unhealthy diet are common. “Fatigue, headaches, diarrhea, coated tongue, or even a skin rash may occur or intensify at first. These symptoms rarely last longer than two weeks.
One easy way to give the body time to detoxify, is to have a 12 hour period of time every day where you don’t eat. This is important because it takes approximately 8 hours to digest any food in the digestive tract. The body prioritizes the different processes and detoxing comes after digestion. So the body takes the 4 hours after digestion to remove toxic waste materials. This 4-hour period can also be a time of discomfort. Many people experience headaches when they haven’t eaten for a while. This is usually just a symptom of the detox working. Eating during this time period will often stop the headache, but it will also stop the detoxification process. Better to just sleep through it. I typically quit eating right after dinner and then don’t eat until breakfast the next morning. That means I sleep through those 4 detox hours, no problem. Also eating after dinner usually entails high calorie, rich, processed foods (ice cream, cookies and milk, crackers and cheese, etc). These are then totally eliminated from the diet. It works very well for me. But you can choose your 12 hours whenever they work for you. My daughter goes from Midnight to noon the next day for her detox because she often has to work late at night. She loves it. My son does a 16 hour detox most days, eating only 2 meals a day. It works well for him. If you have never done this before, give it a try. It’s a wonderful way to quickly improve your health.
More in the coming days on headaches and the ins and outs of a long term fast.
*Joel Fuhrman was a world-class ice skater, placing second in the US National Pairs Championships in 1973. Luckily for his future patients, he was severely injured and was forced to change directions. He had always been interested in health (aren’t all athletes?). With the encouragement of his future wife, he decided to go to medical school. He is now considered by many in the medical community to be a rising star in the field of nutrition. He is a best selling author of a number of books including Eat to Live and Super Immunity as well as a book just about healing Diabetes called The End of Diabetes.