If you are fasting in an environment where your process is being supported by a facilitator who knows how to interpret any issues that come up and can help you to get through with the addition of some extra nutrients, then there is not really a lot that can go wrong during a detox. The main danger I have found lies in the transition before and after the fast.
The body instinctively knows what to do when there is no food coming in. The first few days it draws on the glycogen stores, next it briefly uses a little muscle protein, before shifting by day 3 into ketosis and drawing from the fat stores in the body. This is an entirely spontaneous process triggered by the body’s own intelligence. Ketosis then continues for as long as the body has work to do in removing waste products. You basically fast till your hunger goes away, and continue fasting till your hunger returns. That is the sign that it is time to eat again for the moment. It may be 3 days or 10 days. Your body knows. Later you can do another fast and once again the body will switch over to ketosis and get rid of some more rubbish.
There are so many versions of detoxing. Over the past 50 years, I have undertaken the following fasts ranging from 1-14 days: fruit-juice-only; vegetable-juice-only; broth-only; herbal-tea-only; herbal-capsule-only; lemon-water-only; salt-water-only; smoothies-only; traditional-medicine-only; milk-only and water-only.
Add to that, intermittent fasting with all its variations; plus a wide range of diets tried over the years such as liquid-only (smoothies, soups and blended salads); Pritikin, Atkins, SOS, plant-based-only; keto; vegan and raw vegan.
Our bodies are amazingly resilient and adaptable and intelligent. Regardless of what diet or detox I followed, my body seemed to maximise the opportunity to clean up, detox and extract the nutrients necessary for its survival. I’d mostly feel amazing and go on to whatever I had a whim for next. Sometimes I’d blame a substance for causing a symptom; other times I’d give credit to food or herb or supplement for making me feel fantastic.
The biggest danger came with how quickly I transitioned INTO the fast, and how quickly I adapted BACK OUT afterwards to so-called normal habits. That is where mistakes were made and I’d come unstuck.
There’s an old saying – any fool can fast but it takes a lot of wisdom to break a fast wisely. This proved true in my case.
Imagine, as your fast comes to an end, your body/mind is functioning better than ever. It has had only clear liquid nutrients for 4-5 days and has had the opportunity to get some of the backlogged waste out. You are feeling calm, clear, focused, ready to embrace your life again. Then suddenly, what the stomach is faced with is fish and chips or a big roast dinner, some alcoholic drink or coffee and cake. I learned the hard way on these things which are all very hard to digest at the end of a fast.
It signified a total lack of respect for what the body does during a detox. The liver, kidney, lungs, stomach, intestines have all been purified. The body is feeling pretty chilled, then suddenly it has to step up to maximum output to process hard-to-digest things and so more waste dumps are created and by then I had already lost the benefits of the fast. What a waste of time and effort.
There are so many ways to abuse our bodies after a detox. After transitioning badly I suffered my body’s objections – headaches, overloaded liver, body aches, constipation, and if I continued to be unwise, these symptoms would worsen to deeper aches, gout, arthritic pains, migraines, palpitations, sore throats, colds, coughs, hay fever.
You can also START INTO a detox unwisely, without adequate preparation. At times, I’ve started fasting from a place of toxic overload rather than gradually weaning off heavy stimulating food and drink first. This meant I would suffer a lot as I tried to get through the first few days of a detox. It would be painful, and I would give up within 48 hours unless I had support. A diet rich in stimulating food, heavy to digest food, overly fatty or excessive protein or sugar or too much food of any kind; too much-processed food; or too much alcohol, coffee, black tea, cigarettes – all these things will be sitting in your belly and if you stop eating, the first few days your body will spontaneously start to clear out the backlog of excess indulgence, and then the liver, intestines, kidneys and bloodstream will all be overloaded, like trying to clear a drain without first removing the sludge. I suffered. It hurt and became very hard to continue.
As Westerners, we are only beginning to learn the deep appreciation that many other cultures have always had, for how to pace ourselves, how to wean off eating and drinking habits that are excessive, and how to detox gradually to our bodies’ capacities. An old Ayurvedic teacher in India once explained to me that westerners are ‘delicate flowers’ and don’t realise they can’t start into a long detox without adequate preparation and knowledge of how to adjust back afterwards.
So take it lightly and easily when you decide to go on a fast – get good support, be kind to your body, love your body, it’s the only one you have.
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