If you have never fasted before you should not fast for more than 24-36 hours initially...
- Stop taking fluids containing caffeine the previous day. The withdrawal of caffeine normally causes headaches. People used to taking a lot of
sugar find fasting very difficult. Keep up your fast though and when you have completed it you should try using less sugar.
- Don't fast without fluids for longer than three days.
- When you break your fast start by eating something light. Don't eat a large plate of food. Get back to normal slowly. It is normally a good time to break the habit of overeating, if you have a problem with it.
- The body excretes an excessive amount of toxic waste during the first three days. Shower or bath regularly and brush your teeth more than
usual because you may have foul smelling breath, especially during the first three days.
- Normally you do not need to stop your normal activities. You can fast even though you work a full day. You can even indulge in light forms of
sport and exercise. You can for instance use the times that you would be eating for prayer and put as much time as possible aside for fellowship with the Lord.
- If there are medical reasons why you cannot fast don't feel guilty about it. Diabetics and people suffering from a heart disorder should rather not fast. Consult your doctor if you have any doubt about it.
- Drink plenty of water while you fast. Dehydration can be very dangerous, and since your body is not getting the water it normally gets from food, you will need to drink more to make up for it.
- When you have fasted for more than three days it is important to remember to:
- Start eating small portions of food eat slowly chew your food well stop eating if you experience discomfort wait for the feeling of discomfort to disappear before eating again don't do too much too soon.
- Prepare yourself physically. Fasting can actually be a cleansing opportunity for the body, but you don't want to make yourself sick. Eat a good meal prior to beginning your fast. Don't gorge yourself, but don't go into it on nothing but a snack-size meal.
- Remember why you are fasting. When your stomach growls, or you feel hungry or weak, recognize it as an opportunity to remember the
purpose of your fast - not a weakness or something to grumble about.
- Stay away from food. The sight or smell of food will probably make fasting more difficult physically, and if food is easily accessible, you may subconsciously begin to snack.
- Discreetly inform close friends, family, or associates that you are fasting so they can support you instead of inadvertently undermining your
fast by offering food.
- Do not fast if you are seriously ill. Don't use a minor illness as an excuse, but consider your own health and the possible risks associated with fasting. Even in some religions, such as Judaism, you are required not to fast if you are pregnant, or such.
- If you are taking medications, ask your physician before fasting and continue to take them as instructed by your physician.
- If you do not want anyone to know you are fasting, try going out of the workplace for lunch or going into another room when people start to eat.
- Be aware of your body's signals. Hunger and lightheadedness are normal when fasting, but if you start to feel excessively weak or pass out, you may be endangering your health.
- As you begin your fast, you may hear from concerned loved ones and friends who urge you to protect your health. And they are right. You should protect your health. But I assure you, if done properly, fasting will not only prove to be a spiritual blessing, but physical blessing as well.
- By all means, consult your doctor before you begin your fast. But, be aware that many doctors have not been trained in this area and so their understanding is limited. Even so, it would be wise to ask your doctor for a physical exam to make sure you are in good health. You may have a physical problem that would make fasting unwise or dangerous. Also, if you are under any type of medication, make sure you talk to your doctor before changing your regime. Prudence and caution are in order.
- When you are assured that you are in good health, you are ready to begin your fast. Follow the guidelines in the Physical Preparations and Maintaining Nutritional Balance and Health parts of this website.
In spite of the absolute safety and benefits of fasting, there are certain persons who should NEVER fast without professional supervision. For example:
- Persons who are physically too thin or emaciated.
- Persons who are prone to anorexia, bulimia, or other behavioral disorders.
- Those who suffer weakness or anemia.
- Persons who have tumors, bleeding ulcers, cancer, blood diseases, or who have heart disease.
- Those who suffer chronic problems with kidneys, liver, lungs, heart, or other important organs.
- Individuals who take insulin for diabetes, or suffer any other blood sugar problem such as hyperglycemia.
- Women who are pregnant or nursing.
Additional Fasting Considerations
- Water-only fasts that last for more than several days need to be undertaken with complete rest and under medical supervision because of the extreme danger of over-toxification, breakdown of vital body tissues, and loss of electrolytes.
- I personally recommend and practice water and juice fasting, especially if you are going to fast for an extended period of time. This type of fast will provide you with more energy than absolute or water-only fasts and still lead you into the humbling experience of denying your desire for solid food that you can chew.
- If you plan on fasting for several days, you will find it helpful to begin by eating smaller meals before you abstain altogether. Resist the urge to have that "last big feast" before the fast. Cutting down on your meals a few days before you begin the fast will signal your mind, stomach, and appetite that less food is acceptable.
- Some health professionals suggest eating only raw foods for two days before starting a fast. I also recommend weaning yourself off caffeine and sugar products to ease your initial hunger or discomfort at the early stages of your fast.
- How long you fast, the kind of fast you undertake, and how you adjust your work schedule depends mostly on your occupation. Persons with office jobs, pastors, or homemakers may find it easier to continue their duties and fast for longer periods of time. In fact, on the basis of my personal experience, worldwide travels and the many letters, which I have received, I am confident that many, many thousands of pastors and lay men and women have already completed a 40-day fast!
- Though there are many who engage in strenuous physical labor and have enjoyed their extended fast, if you are so engaged, you may wish to fast only one or more days of the week, limiting yourselves to partial fasting if you are so engaged. Or you may look to weekends as the prime time to abstain from food. Remember, too, fasting during major holidays is not always a good idea. Families may be inconvenienced, and temptations to eat can be overwhelming.
- Reasons for schedule adjustments, especially during an extended fast, are two-fold...The first is physical. Throughout your fast, you may feel somewhat weaker than normal. During the first few days, you may feel tired and irritable. Lightening your workload and cutting down on strenuous exercise would be a very good idea to maintain your health and your morale.
- I know the prospect of going without food for an extended period of time may be of concern to some. But there are ways to ensure that your body is getting the nutrients it needs so you can remain safe and healthy during your fast. For an extended fast, I recommend water and fruit and vegetable juices. The natural sugars in juices provide energy, and the taste and strength are motivational to continue your fast. Try to drink fresh juices, if possible. Off-the-shelf juice products are acceptable, as long as they are 100% juice with no sugar or other additives.
- If you are beginning a juice fast, there are certain juices you may wish to avoid and certain ones that are especially beneficial. Because of their acid content, most nutritionists do not advise orange or tomato juice (these are better tolerated if mixed with equal portions of water). The best juices are fresh carrot, grape, celery, apple, cabbage, or beet. They also recommend "green drinks" made from green leafy vegetables because they are excellent "de-toxifiers."
- Fruit juices are "cleansers" and are best taken in the morning. Since vegetable juices are "restorers" and "builders," they are best taken in the afternoon.
- I usually dedicate a portion of my 40-day fast to a special liquid formula, which I have found to be effective over many years. A few recipes and my comments are on this page, as well as a helpful schedule.
- One gallon distilled water
1-1/2 cup lemon juice
3/4-cup pure maple syrup
1/4-teaspoon cayenne pepper.
- The lemon juice adds flavor and vitamin C, the maple syrup provides energy, and the cayenne pepper -- an herb -- acts to open small blood vessels which, I believe, helps the body as it cleanses itself of stored toxins. (A word of caution: although I use this formula with no ill effects, cayenne pepper could cause severe physical reactions in persons with a specific allergy to this herb.)
My favorite juice is a mixture of 100% pure white grape juice and peach juice. The juice is available in frozen cans under the Welch label. Most knowledgeable nutritionists recommend:
- Watermelon -- just put it in the blender without adding water
- Fresh apple juice
- Green juice -- blend celery, romaine lettuce, and carrots in equal proportions. (Vegetable juices like this one are important, for they supply the electrolytes necessary for proper heart function!)
- Some nutritionists recommend warm broth, especially if you live in a colder climate. You may find their recipes helpful:
- Boil sliced potatoes, carrots, and celery in water.
Do not add salt.
After about a half-hour, drain off the water and drink.
- Gently boil three carrots, two stalks of celery, one turnip, two beats, a half head of cabbage, a quarter of a bunch of parsley, a quarter of an onion, and a half clove of garlic
- Drain off the broth and drink up to two or three times daily.
- You may find the following daily schedule helpful during your fast. I recommend you print it and keep it handy throughout your fast.
- 5:00 a.m. - 8:00 a.m.
Fruit juices, preferably freshly squeezed or blended, diluted in 50 percent distilled water if the fruit is acid. Orange, apple, pear, grapefruit, papaya, grape, peach or other fruits are good.
- 10:30 a.m. - noon
Green vegetable juice made from lettuce, celery, and carrots in three equal parts.
- 2:30 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Herb tea with a drop of honey. Make sure that it is not black tea or tea with a stimulant.
- 6:00 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
Broth from boiled potatoes, celery, and carrots (no salt).
- I suggest that you do not drink milk because it is a pure food and therefore a violation of the fast. Any product containing protein or fat, such as milk or soy-based drinks, should be avoided. These products will restart the digestion cycle and you will again feel hunger pangs. Also, for health reasons, stay away from caffeinated beverages such as coffee, tea, or cola. Because caffeine is a stimulant, it has a more powerful effect on your nervous system when you abstain from food. This works both against the physical and spiritual aspects of the fast.
- Another key factor in maintaining optimum health during a fast is to limit your physical activity. Exercise only moderately, and rest as much as your schedule will permit (this especially applies to extended fasts). Short naps are helpful as well. Walking a mile or two each day at a moderate pace is acceptable for a person in good health, and on a juice fast. However, no one on a water fast should exercise without the supervision of a fasting specialist
- Although fasting can be an indescribable blessing, it is not always easy for everyone. In this time of discipline, self-sacrifice and reflection, do not be surprised if you experience mental and physical discomforts.
- To begin, you may experience some inner conflict when you deny yourself the pleasure of eating delicious food. Any sort of fast may sometimes leave you feeling impatient and irritable. During a 3-day fast, this struggle can intensify toward the end of the second day. That seems to be a favorite time for the "self" to rise up and say, "This is as far as I want to go. I have done enough."
Troubleshooting Physical Problems
- Physical Effect - Coldness, bad breath and heightened body odor, changes in elimination (constipation or diarrhea), light-headedness, changes in sleeping and dreaming patterns, aches and pains. A white-coated tongue at the beginning of a fast may be a part of the body's pattern of throwing off toxins. Also expect to go the the bathroom often (you will be drinking lots of water!) Suggested Relief - After the first two weeks of an extended fast, many of these symptoms subside. Continuing aches in a certain area of the body usually means elimination of fatty tissue is going on in that area, which is not harmful. However, any extensive pain should be examined immediately. YOU SHOULD STOP FASTING IF YOU ARE EXPERIENCING SEVERE PAIN OR SWELLING.
- Physical Effect - Headaches or stomachaches may be a result of salt, sugar, or caffeine withdrawal. Suggested Relief Eliminating those items from your diet prior to fasting is the best way to avoid these pains.
- Physical Effect - Lower back pain may indicate that you are dehydrating: Suggested Relief: Drink more fluids
- Physical Effect - Dizziness may be caused by a sudden change in position, such as rising suddenly from a chair. Suggested Relief: Stop for a second or two, then recover. Move slowly. (A word of caution: these conditions may be symptoms of other problems requiring medical attention).
- All the experts agree that "breaking the fast" is the critical phase of fasting. While your body is in the resting mode, your stomach shrinks and your intestines become idle, so solid food must be re-introduced very slowly to avoid kidney failure or digestive distress. In fact, after a 40-day fast, you should make a careful transition for at least three days before returning to eating meats or fats or normal foods.