Chances are if you haven’t fasted, you know someone who has. I have done successful annual cleanses myself with Isagenix (a meal replacement system) but I haven’t tried a water or juice detox – I’d be way too hangry! After overindulging during the holidays, I found the cleanse a great way to lose a couple of those extra pounds and get me back on the healthy eating wagon. I have a couple of friends that are intermittent fasting with varied results, and my husband has told me about his experience with an olive oil and lemon juice fast (yuck!).
There are, of course, different types of fasts, just as there are different reasons for fasting. There’s a liquid fast, where you drink just water or vegetable juice for about three days. A cleanse generally includes the addition of some food and can be done for a longer period of time. An intermittent fast is an approach that has planned periods of fasting and eating (healthy food) throughout the day or the week and is usually done long-term. “Intermittent fasting has superior outcomes compared to other fasts”, says Aftab Ahmed et al (2018). For more information on intermittent fasting see here.
Fasting dates back to Hippocrates when he would recommend it for certain health conditions. Fasting was and is still used in some religions. There’s hunger strikes and fasting for tests and surgeries.
Our body is designed to detox naturally but we often don’t give it all the nutrients it needs, and we’re inundated with more toxins now than ever before. Fasting allows your body to detox and heal. Weight loss is common, along with increased energy, lower heart rate and blood pressure and a prolonged lifespan. If you do a liquid fast or a cleanse you lose bonus weight because it literally cleans out all the crap stuck to your intestines.
And in case you think you’re not exposed to many toxins, sadly, there are thousands of them which are detectable in every one of us, including metals, tobacco smoke by-products, phthalates, PCBs, dioxins, furans, pesticides, herbicides, and disinfectants (Murray, 2012). Toxins are stored in our fat and when we break down that fat they are released into our bloodstream.
According to Michael Murray, N.D. and Joseph Pizzorno, N.D., you may want to detox if you:
- Are less healthy and vibrant than others your age
- Have low energy levels
- Have difficulty thinking clearly
- Often feel down or depressed
- Get more than 1-2 colds per year
- Suffer from PMS, fibrocystic breasts or uterine fibroids
- Have sore achy muscles for no reason
- Have bad breath and stinky stools
And they also recommend improving your liver function if any of these apply to you:
- More than 20 pounds overweight
- Presence of gallstones
- History of heavy alcohol use
- Use of steroid hormones (anabolic, estrogens, oral contraceptives)
- High exposure to cleaning solvents, pesticides, antibiotics, diuretics, NSAIDs, thyroid hormone
- History of viral hepatitis
There is significant scientific research that shows fasting is helpful for obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, allergies, eczema, IBS, depression and it helps prevent cancer and diabetes.
If you’re thinking of trying a fast of any kind, be sure to consult your physician. If you have a high toxin load, the toxins could exceed safety levels in your blood, and some fasts (longer than three days without food) require supervision. You should not fast if you’re pregnant, a child or teenager, have diabetes, GERD or kidney stones, an eating disorder or have medication that needs to be taken with food. Side effects can include headaches, diarrhea and tiredness while your body eliminates toxins.
If you'd like to use essential oils to support your cleanse or fast or to help with the side effects, consider these:
- Citronella promotes weight loss, boosts metabolism, energy and digestion, promotes detox, helps headaches
- Peppermint helps diarrhea and headaches, promotes bile flow, tones digestive system, helps curb appetite, aids liver function, stimulates digestion, energizing
- Rosemary promotes bile flow, detox, energy, helps protect the liver and aids liver function
Ahmed, A., et al, 2019, Impact of intermittent fasting on human health, https://scholar.google.ca/scholar?q=fasting+scientific+studies&hl=en&as_sdt=0&as_vis=1&oi=scholart
Murray, M & Pizzorno, J., The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, 3rd edition, 2012