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Diets, fasts and healing injuries for runners

When most people think of diets or fasting, they usually have weight loss in mind.  Even at the best of times this is a dubious practice. Changing the way you eat by reducing calories usually results in the body conserving energy and using calories more efficiently thereafter. Although a more efficient body is generally a healthier body (good!), the problem is that, as a result, many people actually gain weight once they finish their diet or fast (bad!). If you need to lose weight, the healthiest and most sustainable way to achieve this is to move. Get out there and go for a run!

If you’re already a runner, this doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for diets or fasting in your life. Far from it! (And this applies both to recreational runners who use movement simply in order to lose weight, as well as to professional athletes.) Besides the fact that a little extra cleansing never hurts :-), diets and fasting provide one of the most effective tools in order to prevent and treat the minor injuries often incurred through running.

How water fasting helps

glass of waterExcited and amazed, many people come to me with stories about the way that skin blemishes and moles disappear during their water fasts. This is a very visible example of the way that fasting can heal the body’s imperfections. Of course, it’s much harder to see beneath the skin, inside muscle, tendons and connective tissue, and actually observe first-hand the healing which takes place. Essentially, though, the process is the same, whether it’s happening on the surface of the body or deep inside.

So what actually happens? When you go on a zero-calorie fast (as in water fasting), your body no longer has to digest food. This means that a huge amount of energy is freed up, given that about a third of each day’s calories are normally consumed in simply digesting the food you eat. If you’ve never fasted before, I know this may sound paradoxical. How can you gain energy by not eating? Well, it’s because we derive energy not just from the calories in food, but also from calories through burning fat tissue: a process called ketosis. When you fast, it usually takes 2-3 days to reach this point efficiently (more info here). Once ketosis is up and smoothly running, though, your body turns the energy which would otherwise have been directed towards digestion towards healing instead. This is itself part of a more fundamental metabolic change during water fasting, in which the body directs its attention not towards the usual growth and reproduction of new cells (so-called ‘growth mode’) but towards the cleansing and healing of old cells (so-called ‘healing mode’).

It makes sense, doesn’t it, that a natural balance should exist between growing and healing, eating and not eating – just as it does between working and resting, and ultimately doing and being. Unfortunately, though, most of us never experience this deeper level of ‘healing mode’ because we don’t take the time to stop eating, to stop working, to stop ‘doing’ and just ‘be’ for a moment. As a result, not only do toxins gradually build up over the course of our lifetime, ultimately leading to chronic disease like cancer and autoimmune issues, but we’re also more prone to physical injuries than we have to be.

Of course, taking time out from running can help injuries to recovery. But it’s when you combine your rest time with zero-calorie fasting – thereby allowing the body to enter a deeper level of ‘healing mode’ – that you reap the greatest benefits. This applies both to forced rest when you already have a running injury, as well as to the kind of regular rest periods which help to prevent injuries in the first place. If you need advice about how to involve fasting into an athletic training schedule, whether as a preventative or palliative measure, I offer online consultations.

Fasting prevents and heals both acute muscle tears and sprains, as well as more chronic issues like tendonitis and plantar fasciitis in primarily two ways.

First, the kind of ‘healing mode’ described above means that the immune system raises its game. Searching out abnormalities in the body much more thoroughly than in everyday life, it targets growths of any kind – whether these are as innocent as moles or as insidious as tumours. Likewise, the immune system’s cells circulate through the body, identifying and then dissolving damaged tissue in a process known as autophagy. This also applies to the kind of scar tissue incurred through running – whether in terms of almost imperceptible micro-tears or more severe injuries.

Second, zero-calorie fasting is incredibly effective at permanently reducing inflammation. Inflammation is the body’s natural response to injuries of almost any kind. To prove the point, let’s take a look at some of the most common running injuries, such as those named above. Achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis: anything with the suffix ‘itis’ denotes inflammation. If you’ve every suffered a sprained ankle, then you already know how badly it can swell! Although inflammation does serve its purpose in the short term by protecting the injured tissue, the end result is often a slower recovery process.

As we all know, icing provides a powerful tool to combat inflammation, especially in acute situations. When it comes to more chronic conditions, though, fasting can offer a deeper, more lasting solution. To give an example, I’ve been suffering from a quite a nasty case of tendonitis of the wrist: repetitive stress syndrome caused by mostly by bad typing technique. It reached the point that my wrists became chronically and visibly swollen. So I took some time off to do a 5-day dry fast (read my journal here), which ended up completely reducing the swelling: a permanent reduction of my wrist’s circumference by a full centimetre (1/2 inch). Over the years, I’ve also successfully used fasting to heal Achilles tendonitis and plantar fasciitis.

A role for diets

bowl of fruitWater fasting can provide an extremely powerful healing modality, but let’s face it, you can’t be doing it all the time – especially as a runner. Unfortunately, water fasting and running are mutually exclusive, and to try and push out any miles while fasting or too soon after finishing a fast can itself only lead to injury (see my upcoming video).

Therefore, in order to maximise the efficacy of any fast, it’s important to back it up with sustainable lifestyle choices throughout the year. More than anything, this means taking a look at your diet in order to reduce inflammation. Because just as injuries cause inflammation, so inflammation from other sources increase the likelihood of potential injury, as well as slowing down the recovery of injuries already present.

In terms of what you drink, alcohol is probably the greatest offender. Even in relatively small quantities, beer, wine and spirits of all kinds are well known to cause cellular inflammation throughout the whole body – and especially so in joints. I don’t want to be a party pooper, but it’s a plain fact that if you’re trying to rehabilitate a running injury, then staying away from alcohol makes a lot of sense. In addition, sugar also causes inflammation. This means that high-sugar drinks should also be avoided, especially those which derive from a processed source source of sugar, as opposed to the natural sugar content of a fruit juice. (One exception, however, would be energy drinks consumed while actually running. In this case, your body burns the sugars so quickly that they don’t have time to cause damage.)

In terms of what you eat, several types of diet claim to possess anti-inflammatory properties. At first sight, many of these diets seem to contradict each other, but this is because the underlying anti-inflammatory biochemistry works in different ways for each diet. I’d rather not get side-tracked here with the details, so I’ll give just a few examples. The main thing is that everybody is different, and different diets inevitably impact differently on different people. If you feel like you need to change your diet, then the best thing is to try each one out for a while and see how you feel.

Paleo, low-carb, ketogenic diets

Two principles help to reduce inflammation here: (1) a big reduction in sugar intake and (2) the elimination of grains and especially gluten, which cause an inflammatory response in many people. The drawback, however, is that most of these diets incorporate a large quantity of meat, which, as one of the highest acid-forming foods, can cause a lot of inflammation in both the gut and throughout the whole body, especially in joints.

Vegetarian and vegan diets

vegan (cropped)By avoiding meat, you avoid inflammation. The vegan diet goes one step further by eliminating dairy products, which themselves can cause inflammation through a mild allergic reaction in the gut.

Whereas 30 years ago it was unheard of, nowadays veganism is big among athletes of all kinds, including ultra-runners. Scott Jurek, perhaps the greatest ultra-runner ever, swears by his vegan diet: both in terms of his ability to perform, as well as the way it has kept him free from illness and injury. I myself have been vegan for the last five years, and would certainly agree with this – except for the fact that you have to be careful and conscious to make sure you get enough quality nutrients. It’s too easy to fill up on empty carbs like pasta and bread, which can then leave you vulnerable not only to injury but also to ill health as well.

Fruitarian diets

One of the most extreme forms of diet is the fruitarian diet, which consists of only fruit and vegetables. In the same way that a fruit juice cleanse induces a similar but milder detox to that of a water fast, so a fruitarian diet extends this cleanse into a way of life, along with similar anti-inflammatory benefits.

Obviously, the main source of energy in a fruitarian diet is sugar, which, as mentioned above, tends to be a major dietary source of inflammation. However, just as the sugars in fruit juice tend not to cause a problem, so the same applies to fresh fruit itself.

Two main benefits of a fruitarian diet support healing and injury-free running. First, once fruit and vegetables leave the stomach and enter the intestinal tract, they already possess a perfect pH for the body, which is mildly alkaline. Unlike acid-forming foods such as meat and most grains, the body has no need to respond with an inflammatory response in order to protect the lining of the intestines. It’s no surprise that fruitarian runners like Michael Arnstein ( swear by their diet, and the way that it reduces the incidence of injuries.

Again, though, a fruitarian diet isn’t for everyone, and if you don’t get it right, you’re more likely to cause more harm to yourself than good. So my advice would always be to maintain some self-vigilance, and stop what you’re doing if your body starts responding negatively.

Whichever diet you choose, be careful!

With any extended diet, you run the risk of excluding and depleting certain vital nutrients if you’re not careful – and, of course, this can easily lead to further injury. The more extreme the diet, the greater the risks. So do your research and err on the side of caution. It’s certainly possible to eat badly on any of the diets described above – possibly even worse than on an average Western diet if, in addition to excluding nutrients, you also include a lot of ‘junk food’ as well. If you’re vegan, for instance, there’s a frighteningly large array of vegan snacks which contain high quantities of fat and salt. If a diet is out of your comfort zone, the temptation will be to compensate by eating these. Don’t. More importantly, don’t stay out of your comfort zone for too long, as this will only create an emotional backlash in the longer term. Any diet or fast you choose should be attainable. Know your limits, and make it a positive experience!

An ancient, natural process

I’m convinced that the body’s ‘healing mode’ – which is so lacking in modern life – is a natural biological process, ingrained into our genes for literally millions of years and shaped by our ancestors on the African savannah. It was perfectly natural for days to pass by when there was no big game to bring down and not much in the way of smaller prey either: days when there was nothing to eat at all. As much as fasting may have later evolved into a conscious decision, in the early days of our species we had no choice. Is it surprising that our bodies evolved to integrate such a lifestyle into our cells, growing during times of plenty and healing during leaner periods?

Nowadays, though, we do have a choice about whether or not to fast. As such, it’s always easy to find a reason not to do so. This holds especially true if you’re a runner and hooked on the daily endorphins of a runner’s high! Even beyond this, though, it’s easy for anyone to find an excuse not to fast. In the case of healing an injury, it’s easy to convince yourself that you need to eat in order to rebuild yourself. It’s also easy to feel like you need the comfort of food when your injury is making you feel low. Alternatively, in the case of fasting to prevent injuries, it’s easy to worry that taking the time out to fast will harm your performance out on the trail or the track. Actually, the reverse can be true, as described in my article here. Of course, there does come a point when too many days spent fasting and not running are going to impact on your times, but you’d have to be quite fanatical to reach this point! In the worst case, it’s always possible to focus preventative fasting on the off-season. There’s always a solution if you’re willing to find it.

Modern society is all go, go, go. As runners, too, we’re on the go, go, go! But it’s precisely the imbalance and relentlessness of that go, go, go which makes us ill, which causes injuries. Isn’t it worth stopping every now and then – just like our ancestors did – to take some time out to heal?

Summer smoothie to break a fast

A week ago I used this smoothie to break my 5 day dry fast with 2 day water fast introduction. Normally I prefer to break my fasts with a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice, but unfortunately orange season has long since past by this point in late summer. With a little inspiration, though, I improvised this recipe instead, based on the following ingredients:


1 summer apple (tart)
1 lemon
1 slice of watermelon
1 slice of fresh ginger
1 sprig of peppermint

summer smoothie in glassApples are a good choice at the end of any fast given how easy they are to digest. They also contain high quantities of malic acid, which both detoxifies the liver as well as softens and dissolves gallstones. While on one of my daily walks, I found an apple tree growing wild in a field, and picked the juiciest looking fruit I could find!

I also knew I wanted to involve citrus in the smoothie because the acids help to detox and reawaken the liver after the fast. This time, instead of an orange, a lemon was the obvious choice, given how readily available they are in any season.

Ginger and peppermint aid in digestion. I’m lucky enough to have peppermint in my garden, so I cut a fresh sprig.

Watermelon… I have to admit that the watermelon was pure indulgence! To be honest, on its own, the high sugar content and glycemic index of watermelon makes it a less-than-ideal fruit after a fast of more than one or two days. Ideally, you want to ease slowly back into sugars in order to avoid (1) the jitters of a sugar high, as well as (2) disrupting blood salt levels. (This is especially true after fasts longer than a week.) In combination with the apple, though, I wasn’t overly concerned, especially since the total caloric content of the smoothie came to a mere 120-150 calories. And after all, it was precisely the prospect of tart apple combined with sweet watermelon which tantalised my taste buds!


De-pip and chop the apple and watermelon, squeeze the lemon, grate the ginger, pick a few peppermint leaves off the sprig and place in a blender. Add enough fresh spring water to cover the solids (1-1.5 cups / 200-300 ml). Blend thoroughly, until no trace of individual peppermint leaf remains. Pour into a glass, add the remaining sprig of peppermint for both decoration as well as aroma, and enjoy!

Pure and perfect tomato soup to break a fast

This recipe is always a favourite at the end of a fast: warming, comforting and nutritionally perfect, packed with a wide variety of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants (such as lycopene, beta-carotene, potassium, Vitamins C and K). It’s so well loved that I found myself with a revolt on my hands at the end of this year’s 7-day fasting retreat, when I couldn’t find enough ripe tomatoes at the market to make this dish!

Ripe tomatoes are key in bringing out maximum flavour and texture, so I suggest buying the tomatoes a few days in advance and then either keeping them in the fridge (if already ripe) or setting them in the sun until they reach an ideal condition. I’d also suggest preparing more than one serving at a time, as the soup can be warmed up again later in the day.

Ingredients (serves 3):

— 12-15 tomatoes (4-5 per serving)
— 3 cloves of garlic (1 clove per serving)
— olive oil, balsamic vinegar (optional)


tomato soup saucepanDice the ripened tomatoes, slice the garlic and place both in a saucepan. Gently bring to a boil and then immediately take off the heat to cool. If the tomatoes are sufficiently ripe, this is all the heating they’ll need to release their juices and melt together into a perfect soupy texture. If you see that this isn’t happening, you can try keeping the lid on the saucepan as it cools. Alternatively, you can bring the soup back to the boil for a moment. (However, this kind of additional heat does damage the vitamins.) There should be no need to use a blender here to create the perfect texture!

After the saucepan has cooled down enough, serve warm. You can add a dash of olive oil and/or balsamic vinegar to the bowl, but it’s worth trying pure and simple first, without the ‘excitement’ of any other added tastes. It’s no surprise that in Hungarian the word for ‘tomato’ (paradicsom) is the same as that for ‘paradise’. At the end of a fast, this soup truly is divine!

Dry fasting and the Marathon Monks of Mount Hiei

One of the most extreme forms of dry fasting concerns the practice of the so-called Marathon Monks (gyoja) of Mt. Hiei, Japan. According to tradition, aspiring Zen Buddhist monks can volunteer to undertake a seven-year challenge which involves completing 1000 marathon and double-marathon runs alone on the sacred mountains surrounding the city of Kyoto. As if this weren’t hard enough in itself, they also survive on a minimum of both sleep and calories.

Through the rigours of their training and the thousands of hours spent running in solitude along forest paths, the Marathon Monks hope to find enlightenment. In typical Japanese fashion, failure is not an option. Each monk carries a symbolic rope and dagger with him at all times. If, for any reason, he is unable to complete one of his runs, suicide by either hanging or disembowelment is the only honourable option.

Each year, training takes place in a 100- or 200-day season in which the monk must complete a rugged course varying between 30km and 84km. There are no rest days and no excuses for not finishing. The only consolation physically is that speed isn’t an issue. The goal isn’t to reach to the “finish line” (that is, the monastery from where he started) as soon as possible. Rather, each day is a pilgrimage, and finishing the daily course too soon is actually seen as a sign that the monk hasn’t spent enough time contemplating his prayers while running and during the brief stops at various shrines along the way.

As if the relentless running weren’t superhuman in itself, the greatest challenge of the dyoja embodies an entirely different practice. This takes place at the end of the fifth year of training, when the monk replaces movement with stillness, extreme yang with extreme yin, and he undertakes doiri: a nine-day dry fast, the intent of which is to bring the monk close enough to the threshold of death that he gains insight on life.

This is more than just ‘any’ nine-day dry fast. Stillness here embraces every sense of the word. Of course, this includes no food or water, which be expected of any dry fast.  But true stillness here also means no movement and – in order for it take place fully consciously – no sleep for the duration of the fast. Instead, the monk sits motionlessly in continuous prayer with two assistants present at all times, in order to prevent him from nodding off. The only break to this continuum is a brief daily walk to a nearby well in order to fetch water – not for himself, but instead to provide an offering to Fudo Myo-o, the ninth-century Buddhist priest who founded the monastery on Mt. Hiei.

In his book The Marathon Monks of Mount Hiei, John Stevens describes the process leading up to and including the dry fast:

In order to prepare for doiri, the gyoja (marathon monk) tapers down his intake of food and water to prepare for the fast, usually limiting himself to one simple meal of noodles, potatoes and soup during this time… The first day is no problem, but there is some nausea the second and third day. By the fourth day the pangs of hunger usually cease. By day five, however, the gyoja is so dehydrated that the saliva in his mouth is dried up and he begins to taste blood… Defecation usually disappears from the third or fourth day, but very weak urination generally continues right to the end.

The 2.00 am water-taking ritual helps revive the gyoja. As he steps out of the hall made stuffy by incense smoke and poor circulation, the pure, bracing mountain air helps clear his head. Gyoja claim further that they absorb moisture from the rain and dew through their skin during this walk outdoors. The round trip to the well takes fifteen minutes the first day, but near the end it requires an hour, as the gyoja seems to move in a state of suspended animation.

The doiri – the actual period without food, water, rest or sleep is seven and a half days (182 hours) – is designed to bring the gyoja face to face with death. Hiei legend has it that the original period of doiri was ten days; when almost all of the monks died it was shortened just a bit. It was further discovered that the humid months of summer were too dangerous – the deaths of the two doiri monks mentioned in the modern chronicles both occurred in August…

As doiri nears conclusion, the gyoja experience a feeling of transparency. Nothing is retained; everything – good, bad, neutral – has come out of them, and existence is revealed in crystal clarity…

After finishing doiri and regaining his strength again, the monk resumes training a few weeks later, transformed, reinvigorated. From this point on, every step of his daily marathon becomes an expression of life.

In addition to doiri, the marathon monk can choose to undertake another fast following completion of his seven years of training: the 100,000 Prayer Fast and Fire Ceremony, an eight-day dry fast in which the monk sits continuously in front of a sacred fire, casting prayer sticks into the flames. Again, in the words of John Stevens:

One hundred days before the ceremony, the gyoja embarks on a stringent fast [diet]. All grains – rice, wheat, soy beans and the like – plus salt and most leafy vegetables are prohibited. Consequently, the monk is obliged to live on potatoes and other root vegetables, boiled pine needles, nuts and water. The fast [diet] dries the gyoja out, almost mummifying him, so that he will not expire of excessive perspiration during the eight-day fire ceremony in which he will sit in front of a roaring fire, casting in prayer stick after prayer stick. Although this fast is one day shorter than that of doiri and a few hours of sitting-up sleep is [sic.] permitted, most gyoja feel that this is the greater trial – it is in the early stages “like being roasted alive in hell.” Here again, the gyoja eventually becomes one with the fiery presence of Fudo Myo-o, consuming all evil and purifying the world…

Considering the rigours of their spiritual path, it’s no wonder that over the centuries the marathon monks have been considered as ‘living buddhas’.  In days of old, they also enjoyed the unique privilege of being allowed to appear before the emperor without wearing shoes: a crime for which anyone else would have met certain death! More important than the external recognition, though, is the internal transformation – both physical and spiritual – which inevitably takes place. Having completed their seven-year challenge, having experienced the purification of both the running and the fasting, many of the monks continue on their own initiative, training and fasting well into old age.

Through their example, the marathon monks offer inspiration to the rest of us.
Even if we manage only a mile or two each day, even if we fast just a little bit, it can only do us good!

Dry fasting

When you tell most people you’re thinking of doing a dry fast – that is, a fast in which you eat or drink nothing at all – they think you’re crazy.  That either you’re a crazy religious fanatic.  Or that you’re just crazy-crazy, with a tendency towards suicide.  Here in the modern world, we’re conditioned to believe that fasting without water is plain and simple stupid, if not dangerous, with little or no possible health benefits.

I week ago I might have said the same thing.

Like everyone else, I had formed a judgement not based on knowledge and experience but upon ignorance and fear.  This fear is ingrained at the very heart of our modern consumer society.  Consume, consume, consume: this includes the ‘need’ to eat and drink almost constantly, as much as the ‘need’ to go shopping and travel on expensive holidays.  We are like the “hungry ghosts” described in Tibetan Buddhism: insatiable beings with huge mouths, constantly trying to fulfil our inner needs through devouring the outside world…  Modern consumer society conditions us to believe that we really do need expensive holidays and non-stop eating.  That without these things we’ll suffer and die.  As a result we fear life without expensive holidays and wide-screen TV’s – not to mention life without continual eating and drinking.  We don’t even consider the possibility of existence without these things – even for a short while.  And so we live locked into a consciousness of narrowed horizons, narrowed possibilities.

matrixIn giving up eating and all the other things you believe you “really do need”, though, you won’t die.  No, far from it.  You’ll wake up.  You’ll begin to free yourself from the matrix, untying the cynical subconscious knots which tangle you into consumer society – the same consumer society which is slowly destroying our planet…

As someone who has practised water fasting for a decade now, I know on a bodily level that there’s no need to eat every day.  Through the annual experience of 7- and 10-day water fasts (as well as occasional longer water fasts), I know firsthand the cleansing and healing that only a zero-calorie fast can provide.  And yet still I was duped by the myth that dry fasts are inherently bad for you.

Then I started reading about the work of doctors and scientists in Russia, where dry fasting isn’t such a taboo subject.  (Isn’t it also interesting that Russia succumbed to the tide of consumerism and big business only recently?  In my mind, it’s no coincidence!)  In fact, dry fasting was successfully used after the Chernobyl disaster to heal victims of radiation exposure when other therapies had failed.

Despite these facts, many people continue to think that dry fasting is stupid and dangerous because you don’t flush the body out with large quantities of water, as happens in milder fasts.  Without drinking, how can you wash the toxins out?  Won’t they just stay in your body and poison you?


Just think of animals.  When they’re ill, injured or need to heal, what do they do?  They stop eating.  Do they compensate by drinking large amounts of fluid?  No.  They stop eating and drinking.  They begin a dry fast until healing or dying.

This should be natural for us humans too, and the idea of dry fasting still exists in ancient cultures as a means of purification – both spiritual and physical.  The problem is that here in modern life we have forgotten this ancient wisdom.  No wonder.  We have become addicted to the drugs of modern medicine, which deals with hiding symptoms without addressing root causes of illness.  It’s easier and more comfortable to pop a pill than stop eating and drinking for a few days.  Of course, it’s also more profitable for the big businesses of the pharmaceutical industry as well…

Aren't they pretty?

Aren’t they pretty?

Once you have experience in water fasting, though, dry fasting provides an even more powerful healing experience.  The mechanics of a dry fast work on several layers.  First, denying yourself fluids doesn’t mean that you’ll immediately dehydrate.  As your body breaks down and burns fat cells through the process of ketosis, free hydrogen molecules are released – which then go on to bond with oxygen molecules in the blood.  Hey presto: water!  Dr. Sergei Filonov, an expert in dry fasting, estimates that every day the body is able to produce over a litre of metabolised water this way.  It is through this water that toxins are removed from the blood, and during any dry fast the need to urinate should continue – even if less frequently than usual.

Another reason that dry fasting provides such an effective detox is that the fluid which normally fills the intercellular space begins to dry up.  Yes, without drinking you do dehydrate to a degree.  As a result, the pressure inside each cell becomes greater than the pressure outside (in the intercellular space).  Consequently, the fluid within each cell begins to leak out into the intercellular space, carrying with it toxins which would normally remain locked within the cell.

Through denying yourself water, you also deny any harmful bacteria and viruses of the water they need to thrive.  Any inflammation in the body occurs through a build-up of water – and so inflammatory problems can be healed through dry fasting.  In addition, Dr. Filonov explains how there are areas of, effectively, “stagnant” water in the body, which are hard to flush out using extra water.  As we all know, stagnant water provides an ideal breeding ground for harmful organisms.  Just think of mosquitos.  Do they prefer fast-running streams or swamps?  By drying up the “swamps” inside our body during a dry fast, we can rid ourselves of harmful bacteria and parasites.  This is only the beginning…

Unfortunately, very little reliable information on dry fasting is available in English.  The only detailed information is found in an automated Google translation of Dr. Filonov’s book Dry Medical Fasting: Myths and Reality.  The translation is almost unreadable, but it’s better than nothing!

Next: my first experiences with 36-hour dry fasts.

Juice fasting

If you don’t feel ready to try out water fasting, then juice fasting is a great place to start.  Otherwise known as a “juice diet”, it involves the elimination of solid food from your daily consumption.  In other words, instead of eating and drinking, you only drink.

Beyond this single restriction, the possibilities of how to juice-fast are virtually endless.  Fundamentally, though, there are two basic categories: juices based on fruits or those based on vegetables.

If you’ve never tried a juice fast before, you’ll probably find it easier to begin with fruit juices, given that the high sugar content will provide your body with plenty of calories to get through the day.  In fact, you may well find that you have more energy than usual!  Consequently, it’s no problem to live on a fruit diet while continuing your usual life and work.  The only complaint about fruit-juice fasts tends to be that people sometimes find it too acidic on the stomach.  Often, though, this occurs because the stomach itself is chronically over-stressed through eating heavy meals.  By first avoiding acid-forming foods such as meat, alcohol and coffee, your stomach will stop producing so much acid to begin with, so that when you decide to take on a fruit diet, the natural citric acid contained in the fruits doesn’t upset your stomach.

Any fruit juice works well, but the two most popular diets consist of either apple juice or citrus juices (especially orange juice).  In their own way, both are extremely good for you, especially in terms of how they work on the liver.  The malic acid in apple juice gives your liver a rest as well as helping to soften any gallstones, while the citric acid more prevalent in orange juice provides a thorough detox.

The health benefits of a fruit-juice diet tend to be strongest in the context of a so-called “mono-diet” – that is, you drink the juice of only one fruit.  If you’re new to dieting and fasting, though, you’ll probably find that a variety of juices will seem less boring.  That’s okay :-).  If you already feel challenged by not having anything solid to chew on, then there’s no need to make life any more difficult by further limiting the framework of your diet!  Believe me, most people are addicted to chewing (just think, for instance, about the worldwide success of chewing gum…), and so any juice fast presents an emotional challenge, even if physically you’re ingesting plenty of calories.

Given the low calorie content of most vegetables, vegetable-based juice fasts tend to involve both a physical and an emotional challenge.  For this reason, it makes sense to try one after having first gained a little experience with fruit-juice fasts, if only so that you can better identify the source of any psychological resistance during the fast: whether you’re reacting emotionally to the physical challenge of fewer calories or whether it’s a question of a purely emotional reaction to the lack of solid food.  Sometimes it can be difficult to disentangle the two feelings.

In addition to a diet based on vegetable juices, vegetables also offer the possibility of a soup diet.  For many people, the warmth of soups offers comfort, which can compensate for the deprivation perceived by restricting what you eat.  Whatever format you choose, though, a vegetable-based juice fast is as equally beneficial to your body as a fruit-juice fast.  The reduction in calories catalyses detoxification through the burning of fat, virtually all vegetables help to improve your blood pH, and the abundance of vitamins and minerals can only do you good!

You might wonder how long a juice fast is sustainable.  Given the high caloric content of a fruit-juice diet, you can thrive physically for long periods of time, even months!  It’s mostly a question of how long your ego is willing to accept the restrictions to chewing and the limited palette with regard to taste.  On the other hand, most people undertake vegetable-based juice fasts for shorter periods because they more severely limit your caloric intake  Nevertheless, there are always solutions if you feel inclined towards a vegetable-based juice fast but lack the courage.  One possibility is to juice or at least to purée vegetables containing more calories, such as potatoes.  Another is to combine fruits into an otherwise vegetable-based juice fast.  One such version is to consume fruit juices early in the day, switching over to vegetable juices and/or soups later on in the day.

The possibilities really are endless.
So just do it – your body will thank you!

Intestinal wash as preparation

What on earth does an intestinal wash have to do with water fasting?
In one sense, nothing.

But… after you get over the shock of it :-), there are certainly good reasons to contemplate such a cleanse before undertaking a water fast, especially in the case of a fast lasting more than a day or two.  The sad fact is that most people’s bowels are covered with a sticky, tarry muck called mucoid plaque, which interferes with the absorption of nutrients through the intestinal wall and into the bloodstream, as well as providing a perfect breeding ground for harmful bacteria.  (According to an old saying, ‘all illness begins in the gut.’  Mucoid plaque is one reason why.)  Gradually hardening into a black rubbery substance glued to the intestinal wall, it can accumulate over the years in increasingly thick layers, to the point that it can even begin to obstruct the flow of food.  It’s also one reason why so many people develop beer bellies as they grow older.  People often carry around literally kilograms of the stuff inside them without even knowing – except for the fact that they often feel low on energy, or suffer from minor digestive complaints, or gradually develop more systematic health problems as they grow older…

In the end, though, who cares?  It may not be a pretty thing, but why should it interfere with a water fast?

It’s a very simple issue.  The intestinal wall is a membrane allowing nutrients to pass from the digestive system into the bloodstream when you aren’t fasting.  When you are fasting, it allows toxins flowing through the bloodstream to pass into the digestive system, from where they can be safely eliminated.  Think about it: if under normal circumstances mucoid plaque blocks nutrients from entering the bloodstream, then it’s also going to inhibit toxins from passing through the intestinal wall and into the digestive system.

If you happen to be a vegan, especially a raw vegan who avoids gluten, then there’s nothing to worry about.  Your diet will keep your intestines sparkly clean, as nature always intended.  But for 99% of everyone else, mucoid plaque is a fact of life.  The worst offenders are meat, dairy and flour-based grain products.  The digestion of meat requires your stomach to produce large quantities of hydrochloric acid.  Although the stomach can cope with such an acidic environment, you’re intestines can’t, and so they emit a protective lining of mucous to coat the intestinal wall.  This mucous eventually hardens, just like that in your nose during a cold.  Voila: mucoid plaque.  As far as dairy products are concerned, just think about what happens to the bottom of a cooking pot in which you heat up milk…  Many grain products, especially those containing gluten, induce a minor allergic reaction in the gut – often so mild that you don’t notice.  How do your intestines respond?  Just think of summer allergies: more mucous…  When consumed as a flour-based product, the situation is exacerbated.  Just think of the consistency of moist flour: it turns into into a thick, gluey paste.

I hope I’ve convinced you :-).

Exactly how to cleanse (or not to cleanse) your bowels is of course your choice.  Personally, though, I recommend a yogic technique called Shankhaprakshalana, otherwise known as Varisara Dhauti.  Unlike an enema, it washes the entire digestive tract.  Unlike colon hydrotherapy, it is much gentler and more natural.  Unlike both enemas and colon hydrotherapy, it is totally noninvasive.  Believe it or not, most people who try it actually enjoy the experience!

Intermittent fasting

If a one-day water fast feels too frightening, beyond reach, that’s totally okay.  Today in the modern world many people feel the same.  Rather than pushing yourself into something you’re not ready for, intermittent fasting is a less extreme, more easily achievable goal – and it still offers significant health benefits over the long term.

Intermittent fasting consists of simply extending the natural fast you undertake each and every day: the one between dinner and break-fast.  By lengthening the time without food from around 12 hours each night to 16 hours, you allow your entire digestive system to rest more fully.  This is time during which it can regenerate, time in which your whole body can begin to heal – especially given that you’ll be asleep and in ‘healing mode’ anyway during much of this time.

Intermittent fasting is something which works best when done everyday: something which is built into your daily schedule.  In order to reach a daily fast of 16 hours (that is, restricting your eating within an eight-hour timeframe), most people find that the easiest solution is to skip breakfast.  As much as the food industry has relentlessly hammered home the message that breakfast is ‘the most important meal of the day’, this is entirely untrue.  The morning hours are a period of natural detox; by eating, you disrupt this process, bringing it to a premature end.  Historically, only modern society has emphasised breakfast.  The Romans, for instance, never ate before the afternoon.

At first, though, leaving out breakfast will probably leave you hungry, perhaps even low on energy.  Consequently, you may soon find a certain resistance building up inside you against intermittent fasting.  This is all to be expected until you break out of your old biorhythm of more frequent eating.  But it’s just a matter of time.  A few days.  In the worst case, a week or two.

I always hear the excuse: “I can’t skip breakfast.  I work.  How am I going to survive until lunch.”  Don’t worry, if the Romans were able to conquer most of Europe on an empty morning stomach, so can you!  It’s just a question of allowing your biorhythm to adapt.  In the meantime, one solution to quell your suffering 😉 is to drink a low-calorie morning coffee (eg. with low-fat milk or soya milk).  The caffeine will provide energy while naturally suppressing your appetite, and an intake of less than 100 calories will impact only minimally on morning detox.  This isn’t the best solution for the long term, but it won’t hurt while you adjust.

On a totally non-scientific basis, I feel in my own body the benefits of daily intermittent fasting to be approximately equal to that of ‘regular’ eating plus a weekly 24-hour fast.  Interestingly, if you add up over the course of a week the extra four hours of fasting incurred through daily intermittent fasting (7 x 4hrs = 28hrs), you end up with a duration similar to a one-day fast.  Perhaps this is one reason why, after you’ve grown comfortable with the routine of intermittent fasting, it will be much easier to contemplate moving on to trying a 24- or 36-hour water fast – which itself can provide a springboard to longer, more healing fasts in the longer term.

5 day dry fast with 2 day introductory water fast

The following article outlines the experience of my first 5-day dry fast. I do not recommend such a long dry fast to anyone, unless they already have plenty of experience with both 7-day water fasts as well as 3-day dry fasts!


A fast has been in the air for a while now. First, my last multi-day fast took place already half a year ago, and my body’s been asking for some general cleansing over the last month or two. Second, and more specifically, I’ve had nagging and quite severe tendonitis in my wrists since last autumn. (Too much bad typing technique on the laptop, combined with way too much heavy DIY building work last summer!) I wanted to spend some time dealing with this, especially because I feel as though the chronic inflammation in my wrists is slowly seeping out and spreading an underlying inflammation into the rest of my body.

Why a 5-day dry fast? And why precede this immediately with 2 days of water fasting?

In an ideal world, the best thing for my wrists would probably have been a 3-4 week water fast. In the end, like the old saying goes: only time can heal. And only a water fast is capable of such an extended duration. As strong and as intense as a dry fast can be, there’s no way it’s ever going to last 3-4 weeks! Unfortunately, though, a 3-4 week water fast just wasn’t going to fit into family life over the summer. So I thought the best thing I could do with the time that I did have – about a week – was to dry fast for as long as possible.

Up until now, I’ve struggled to get comfortably past the 3-4 day mark while dry fasting. Especially at night, I tend to get a really uncomfortable ache around the top of my pelvis / lower back which prevents me from sleeping, and this makes life a general misery!

This time, I set out to with greater resolve to find a way of reaching the 5-day mark. In the intervening period since my last dry fast, I’d given a lot of thought as to how I might maximise the chances. Theoretically, at least, I thought I had found a way.

I decided to apply two approaches, both of which were designed to minimise dehydration over the course of the five days.

  1. During the dry fast, I intended to walk as much as comfortably possible without tiring myself out in the process and then regretting it afterwards! In practice, for most of the fast this equated to a daily 5-8 km (3-5 miles), divided up into four short walks. The reason for regular walking is that, during ketosis, the process of breaking down long fat molecules into ketone bodies releases free hydrogen molecules. These then bond with oxygen molecules in the blood to form H2O: so-called ‘metabolic water’. Theoretically, therefore, the more fat burnt through gentle exercise, the more metabolic water produced by the body and the slower the process of dehydration. In my case, this was especially important because I have low body fat to begin with, which means that the amount of fat my body otherwise burns while fasting tends to be considerably below average.
  2. Unless you precede a dry fast with a long calorie-reducing dietary transition, it means that the dry fast itself begins with your normal carbohydrate-based metabolism still intact. Instead of releasing water, carbohydrates actually require water in order to metabolise. This means that the dry fast begins with a double whammy of dehydration: (1) from the dry fast itself and (2) from burning carbohydrates during the first couple of days of the fast, until ketosis is well established. This doesn’t cause major problems for short dry fasts of 24-48 hours, but in my experience for anything longer you run into trouble before long! My strategy, therefore, was to begin this dry fast with ketosis already established through a 2-day water fast. And there it was: my allotted 7 days of fasting offered the potential of a perfect storm of a 2-5 day water-dry fast.

What actually happened?

Based on prior experience, I know that two days is of water fasting is enough for me to reach a pretty good level of ketosis. Still, I wanted to maximise this further, so I applied another couple of ideas. First, I made sure that I was already tapering my calories the day before the water fast began, and, in addition to skipping breakfast as usual, I had a light dinner of only salad and olives. Second, I decided to practise the yogic technique of shankaprakshalana the following morning, at the beginning of Day 1. Here’s what happened…


Shankaprakshalana is an intestinal wash to clear the entire digestive tract. Without going into graphic detail here, the idea is to drink large quantities of salt water and practise certain yogic stretches in order to facilitate the water’s movement through the bowels: stomach, small and large intestines, until being excreted through the colon. (Your body doesn’t absorb the water due to the high salt content.) After a while, with each successive glass of water, the liquid passes increasingly easily through the whole system, until what comes out down below is almost as clear as what goes in above. For anyone interested in applying shankaprakshalana in their own fasting, I suggest doing a little research first in order to get correct and precise instructions!

My main reason for practising shankaprakshalana was to make sure that my entire digestive tract was completely clear. As much as I don’t normally have problems with bloating and abdominal cramping while fasting, I was determined to maximise my chances here, and I was hoping that shankaprakshalana could help ‘bio-hack’ the 5 days of dry fasting.

In retrospect, I believe that shankaprakshalana actually conferred two further unanticipated benefits. First, and almost incredibly, I felt absolutely no hunger through the fast (with the exception of a couple of brief and entirely insignificant tummy-rumbles on Days 4 and 5). I’m sure this must be due to the fact that, with an entirely empty digestive tract, the entire system was able to shut down much faster than usual. I also suspect that the lack of hunger is the reason behind the fact that, compared to other extended fasts, I enjoyed a much more neutral relationship with food than usual during the refeeding process. Simply no temptations!

Second, by fully emptying the intestines before their natural rhythm, the shankaprakshalana denied me the possibility of extracting the full caloric content of the previous lunch and dinner, minimal as it already was. Hey presto: another fast-track to depleting glycogen and beginning ketosis as soon as possible.

The proof of this was in my experience of Day One.

As might be expected, I was a little tired in the hour or so after finishing shankaprakshalana. It’s totally normal to lie down and rest. Normally, though, you’d follow this with a simple, nourishing meal called khicheri (also known as khichdi or khichri), composed essentially from a mix of boiled rice and mung beans.

My stomach, however, remained completely empty, along with my entire digestive system. To my surprise, I felt completely depleted not just for an hour or two, but also for the whole remainder of the day. Normally, the first day of a water fast means that I’m flying high with both my glycogen– and ketosis-based metabolisms engaged, but now I realise that my sugar and glycogen supply had been prematurely ‘cut off at the pass’, leaving no energy before ketosis was able to compensate. I did feel ketosis beginning to kick in at about 2pm but it was too little too late, and so I spent most of the afternoon feeling rather like a walking corpse. By the evening I had the shivers and my heartbeat was pounding, as can sometimes happen while fasting.

And so, completely exhausted, I hit the sack and slept over 8 hours.


The day began with a morning walk: part of my regime to gently burn calories in order to produce metabolic water. It’s true that ketosis was still only evolving, still only gaining momentum, but I was keen to apply theory to practice in the hope of preventing dehydration as much as possible. Perhaps it seems counter-intuitive to have applied this idea so soon, while I was still water fasting, but think about it. Water absorption through drinking takes place from the ‘outside in’. You drink, and the water gradually soaks inwards through the body. Metabolic water, on the other hand, spreads from the ‘inside out’. It comes into being on a cellular level and gradually works its way outwards, through the intercellular space and into the blood and lymph, until your body either uses it up or excretes it as urine. The two processes, therefore, are entirely different.

I felt confident that walking was the right thing to do, especially in light of my decision to begin dry fasting early that afternoon. Of course, this meant that I didn’t reach a full two days of water fasting before beginning the dry fast, but, within my 7-day time limit, it did consequently leave me with some transition time at the end of the five days of dry fasting – assuming I managed it. And so, first I would rehydrate with only water and herbal teas (ie no calories), essentially returning to a brief water fast for a few hours at the end of the last day. After that, I would gently add fruits and vegetables into the equation, thereby fully ending the fast with calories.

Through the morning of Day Two, I had a little more energy than Day One, but still surprisingly little compared to my experience of other water fasts. By what would have been lunchtime, though, it was already time to begin the dry fast. Fingers crossed and anchors away…


I had another walk in the afternoon, this time to the beach. (I’m fortunate to be spending this fast in a little village on an island in the middle of the Danube, surrounded by nature, fresh air and fresh water.) One of the biggest concerns in my campaign against premature dehydration was the temperature. In the middle of July now, we’re enjoying a summer of sun and temperatures in the low 30s Celsius (about 90F). Sweating was almost unavoidable. On the one hand, I could stay indoors and ignore the wonderful weather. On the other hand, I could take a more fatalistic approach and enjoy the day’s beauty for what it had to offer, sweating or no sweating. I chose the latter. In the worst case, I’d just have to break off the dry fast a little early and continue with water fasting for the rest of the week.

In the end, I did sweat, but probably not very much. (Of course, it’s impossible to tell exactly.) By the evening, though, I was beginning to feel a familiar, dull ache developing along the upper edge of my pelvis and lower back. I have to confess that this did rather worry me, especially because on previous dry fasts, the first signs of this symptom generally appear later, on Day Two. Looking to put a bright face on all this, I wrote it off to the effects of the sweating, combined with the fact that I’d already done nearly two days of water fasting, which – hopefully – meant that I was further on my trajectory than during previous fasts. Anyway, it wasn’t anything serious at this point. I just hoped it would go away by the morning.

However, by the middle of the night the aching had grown worse, and I had to get up to do some stretching focused on my hips, waist and lower back, before meditating and going back to bed. For the first time, I also felt a dull ache in my wrists, precisely in the areas worst affected by the tendonitis. This, for me, was an extremely promising sign. As I’ve experienced on so many previous fasts, injuries tend to reveal the fact they’re healing through a dull ache or ‘healing crisis’ which can last for several days or longer.


Day Two of the dry fast passed similarly to Day One, but with more energy. Similar walks. Similar sweating.

Throughout the day I began to feel my lower back again if I lay for too long in one place. Fortunately, though, it never developed beyond just a distant threat, and when it did start to drift into the foreground, walking always helped. In fact, it was today that I established the routine which would continue for the duration of the fast. This consisted of four 30-40 minute walks spread through the day: at dawn (5am), mid-morning (10am), late afternoon (5pm) and just before going to bed at night (10pm). It’s true they weren’t perfectly evenly spaced through each 24-hour cycle, but I wanted to avoid the heat of the day as much as possible. In addition, the aching tended to be worse at night, so having the walks spaced slightly closer together during the evening and night supported the pain relief. Finally, this is just the way things evolved, by following what my body was asking me to do :-).

Again, I woke at 2am, after three hours of sleep. But the aching this time was less insistent. The night of Day Two also established the basic pattern for what would continue for the duration of the fast: 3 hours of sleep, 2+ hours up and about (stretching, meditating, walking), and then another 3 hours or so of sleep. It’s true that the lower back pain may have contributed to the interrupted night. But it’s also true that this is exactly how my sleep patterns usually transform anyway while fasting, with the second sleep of the night gradually diminishing in duration. On longer fasts, this often means that it recedes almost entirely, and 3 hours of sleep becomes the norm for me, with no issues of tiredness weighing me down through the day.


I felt a little groggy upon waking and, for the first time during the fast, suffered from low blood pressure. This became immediately evident upon trying to stand up, as dizziness struck. All things considered, though, five days had elapsed since the beginning of the fast as a whole. It’s completely normal to experience a significant drop in blood pressure by this point during any zero-calorie fast. In fact, compared to previous fasts I was surprised that it hadn’t already affected me.

I also felt a little weaker compared to the day before. My knees seemed to wobble while walking, although it didn’t really affect my tempo, which, according to my wife remained completely normal. At times like these, it’s good to get outside observations, because there’s no way you can completely trust your objectivity during any fast longer than a day (that is, beyond the point that your glycogen runs out).

The weakness also expressed itself during uphill walking, which quickly left me out of breath. But perhaps the hardest moments came while standing up from a reclined position. First, psychologically it felt like I had to summon enormous strength to get my arse out of a fully reclined position. Second, physically it really was harder, and often brought on the dizziness associated with low blood pressure. I soon realised, though, that deep breathing before rising helped to provide both energy as well as support a more stable blood pressure.

In addition to issues of weakness, I also woke with a drier mouth: something which remained through the whole day and continued beyond. It was like a quantum leap into the next phase of the fast. In fact, to be more precise, it was really only on Day Three that I began to refer to the feeling as ‘thirst’. Nothing too drastic. It was more the feeling of a sticky, pasty mouth which didn’t particularly appeal. But when I asked myself: do I need to drink?, the answer remained the same: no, it’s just an attractive, comforting proposition. After self-questioning like this a few times at various moments throughout the day, the thought stopped crossing my mind altogether. In other words, I began to accept the feeling, and so it stopped bothering me.

Again, the aching lower back returned at night. Again I awoke after 3 hours of sleep and followed my usual routine before returning to bed for a second round of rest.


In every respect I had more energy today. Getting up no longer felt like a Herculean task, and there were no issues with blood pressure, both now as well as later in the day. On my morning walk, I experienced for the first time ever (while dry fasting) the feeling I love so much about water fasting: something I’d describe as an ‘expanded eyesight from the heart’ in seeing the world, in which all things flow together and become One in a single visual dance. I interpret this to mean that I still have a lot to learn from dry fasting. This is because a similar process took place in my water-fasting past, in which the feeling of Oneness began to reveal itself only once I was completely comfortable, both physically and emotionally, with living on water alone.

I spent most of the day by alternating various gentle activities with lying on my back, at approximately one-hour intervals. By the evening a real sense of calm and tranquillity filled my being. It really felt like things had stabilised today.

And perhaps they had. It’s been hinted at in the rather scanty literature on dry fasting that if you reach the end of the third day of dry fasting, then things do become easier.

Another sign in this direction: I needed only two hours of sleep during the second half of the night, bringing my total sleep quota to five hours instead of six.


Compared to Day Four, I was a little thirstier and a little weaker – not consistently so, but rather with definite ups and down. Nevertheless, compared to Days 1-3, I was certainly feeling much more ‘up’.

It’s also worth noting that for the first time during this fast I felt a slight tightening in some of my muscles, especially the hamstrings. From the start, I had determined to exercise vigilance towards dehydration, and it’s true that dehydration can cause such symptoms by forcing muscles to contract until they eventually begin to cramp. On the other hand, I continued to urinate at a steady volume (600-700 mls / day) – something which demonstrates how much metabolic water can be synthesised during the ketosis of a dry fast.* In addition, my lips and hands showed no signs of drying out. And absolutely no signs of headache or nausea. In other words, beyond the slightly tight hamstrings I presented with no signs of dehydration at all.

*If there are any chemists out there reading this, could someone please tell me how much metabolic water is actually released by breaking up chains of fat molecules? In other words, how much metabolic water is produced by burning 1 kg. of fat?

While wandering through nature on my pre-dawn walk, I began to feel the end of the fast approaching – something which filled me with a sense of subtle loss and regret, despite the physical challenges experienced over the course of the week. Again, this was something I’d never really experienced while dry fasting. Just like the expanded feeling of Oneness with All, though, I am familiar with this feeling from water fasting. Why? Because, perhaps more directly than any other practice, fasting opens up the opportunity to directly experience here on this material earth and material life our deepest Self or Soul (call it what you will). It offers us experiential contact with that element of ourselves which precedes physical birth, and, in our hearts, remains free and independent from physical needs throughout our physical life. Of course, what represents these needs better than food and drink? By experiencing that we can live without such physical sustenance, we eventually remember and embrace that deepest Self inside us. – Or, at least, we’re able to do so once we’ve given up our resistance to the challenges of fasting, both physical and emotional.

Please excuse me while I wax lyrical!

Back now to Day Five and the beautiful bitter-sweet sense of loss in soon returning to food… Well, despite those poignant moments out there next to the Danube, my feelings about daily sustenance gradually morphed as the day progressed into wild fantasies about liquid and what I was going to drink after breaking the fast. It’s hard to know whether or not this truly represented an authentic feeling caused by the slight increase in thirst, or whether it was just the usual anticipatory excitement often experienced on the last day of so many fasts – especially those which might go beyond our usual comfort zone.

Continuing the trend of the previous few nights, the ache in my lower back bothered me less and less. In fact, tonight it was completely negligible. I also had no need for a second sleep, so I’m writing this here and now on 3 hours sleep and am perfectly lively and alert!


I broke the fast in two ways. First was a glass of spring water, ending the dry fast once the full five days of dry fasting had elapsed. Second was a smoothie a few hours later, ending the fast in its entirety through the reintroduction of calories.

On my last dry fast, when that first water touched my lips and flowed through my mouth, my initial reaction was the pure sensuality of it. Surprisingly, this time what struck me was how quickly my stomach felt full – in fact, after a mere 100 mls or so (less than half a cup). Perhaps this was to be expected. It was the longest fast I’d undertaken in which absolutely nothing entered the stomach, giving it a chance to expand. Accordingly, it had contracted instead. Duh!

By the time I’d taken in my first calories, I’d already drunk nearly a whole litre (quart) of water – taking care never to drink too much too soon, especially during the first hour or so, and always respecting the limits of what felt comfortable for my stomach.

Interestingly, the pure liquid of water during the first phase of breaking the fast exercised two clear detox symptoms: an increased taste in my mouth of ketosis and a slightly runny nose – both of which lasted for only an hour or so.

In terms of gradually reintroducing calories, my first preference is usually for oranges, but unfortunately we’re too far into summer for them to be in season. So my smoothie consisted instead of an apple, a slice of watermelon, half a lemon and a thin slice of ginger. The apple is extremely easy on digestion, the lemon – as is true of oranges and other citrus fruits – helps to reawaken the liver for other types of food, the ginger aids digestion, and the watermelon was pure indulgence :-). Yes, it has a higher calorie content per weight than might be ideal, but it provided the perfect counterbalance to the palette. And let’s face it, the sugars weren’t going to kill anyone, given that the entire smoothie (approximately 800ml / 4 cups, with the added spring water included) rang in at only 130-140 calories, spread over the following three hours.

For my next meal – which I’ll cook as soon as I finish writing this article! –  I’ll turn to a very simple but wonderful old favourite of mine: pure, unadulterated tomato soup, the antioxidants of which (once again) are perfect on a sleeping digestive system.

I’ll be writing up full recipes for these both soon on the blog of (links directly to blog).

Final words

Last night, during those last few hours, I felt an incredible sense of gratitude: towards the fast, towards the Earth which provides us with a bounty of food, towards Life – both the infinite life within as well as the material life here on the outside.

I’m also grateful my tendonitis has begun to improve. The tingling and numbness in my fingertips has completely gone. The diameter of my wrists has returned fully to normal. The stiffness in my fingers (especially in the morning) has completely gone. I can fully see the tendons running along the back of my hand and along the underside of the forearm. The ugly lumpy bits on the tendons of my forearms have considerably smoothed out. I haven’t yet enjoyed much increased flexibility in the wrists, but I know from past injuries that flexibility is always the last symptom to improve during serious cases of tendonitis. Fingers crossed for the future then!

In addition, I’m grateful that my strategy for approaching this fast succeeded. In the end, then, theory was indeed confirmed by practice! Or perhaps it would have succeeded anyway, as I naturally gain greater experience with dry fasting. In any case, I think the use of an introductory water fast is something I’ll continue to experiment with on future occasions.

The fact is that, without any obvious symptoms of dehydration, I could certainly have continued this fast further.

How far? How long?

Who knows, only time will tell. It will have to wait until the next occasion.
But of course, that’s part of the fun!

Physical and spiritual cleansing: from fear to love

Does the thought of water fasting frighten you?

It’s completely natural to feel fear before and even during your first few water fasts.  After all, unlike our ancestors, you’ve probably never gone without food for more than a few hours, let alone a few days.  Food is comfort.  Food is pleasure.  And yes, food is addiction.  Taking away food means taking away your emotional foundation.  It means living on your own two feet, without anything to lean on.

Is it worth it?

Absolutely!  Water fasting causes the deepest cleansing both physically to your body, as well as spiritually to your consciousness.  Nothing else can heal every cell of your being to the same degree.

This isn’t always an easy process to begin with.  Just as the emotional tension of everyday life creates tension and pain in the physical body, the opposite also happens – and so the physical detoxification of a water fast can also catalyze an emotional detoxification, especially during your first few water fasts.  What does this mean?  Just as physical detoxification can create aches and pains in your body as toxins are released and expelled, so the emotional and spiritual detoxification of a water fast can sometimes bring up painful memories and feelings buried deep in the subconscious.

Water fasting offers you the opportunity to free yourself from these long forgotten blocks – blocks which otherwise limit your potential as a human being, as well as taking much of the joy out of life.

The first step is always the hardest, but with a little practice and experience, you’ll look forward to the healing metabolism unlocked by water fasting.  The aches and pains of your first few water fasts will disappear, and instead you’ll experience lightness and energy in your physical body.  Likewise, the emotional ups and downs of your first few water fasts will evolve into a deeper and clearer level of consciousness.  States of being and presence which most people experience only in meditation become completely natural while fasting.

And you’ll experience love.

As you begin to release your physical and emotional blocks, a growing feeling of love is inevitable.  Love for yourself and your body.  Love for the world around you.  Love everywhere.  Normally we’re too blinded by our own little dramas, too locked into our stressed-out, cramped little lives to notice.  But love is and always has been here, within us and around us.  It’s the only thing left when you take everything else away.  By taking away food through water fasting, you catalyze this process.  Not a bad reason to begin, don’t you think?