Sunday, May 12, 2013

More about a 12-hour to 6-week water fast

I've always had plenty of food to eat, and I was raised believing that fasting happened only once monthly for 24-hours as a religious practice.  So fasting for six weeks seemed superhuman.  But today, thanks to the internet and Youtube, I've found a comfortable understanding of the mysterious Biblical mentions of fasting and more.  And I've fasted as much as twelve days.

I'm writing this post about fasting for a person who asked me to please tell more about the water fast I mentioned in an earlier post on how I reversed my gum disease.

As I understand fasting today based on my own experience and exposure to people like Jesus, the Essenes, Hippocrates, Plutarch, Benjamin Franklin, the Natural Hygienists, Elson M. Haas, Nathaniel Bronner (QuickFasting), Michel Gingras (Yogayak), Herbert Shelton (Father of Modern Fasting), Paul Goldberg, and miscellaneous Youtube peers, fasting is all about water and rest, and a bit of judicious fasting is good for us.  So I'll jump right in with some bold statements, and then some words to address our concerns and fears about fasting.  I'll end by telling my own story.

Here is some bold talk about fasting:

First, Benjamin Franklin said "The best of all medicines are rest and fasting." Hippocrates said, "To eat when you are sick is to feed your sickness."  Plutarch said, "Instead of using medicine, rather, fast a day."

Second, skillful fasting is less dangerous than careless eating.  In fact, eating is the biggest complication of a skillful fast.  Water and rest are healing.

Third, Herbert M. Shelton claimed "In more than thirty years of conducting fasts, I have conducted over twenty-five thousand fasts, ranging in duration from three days to more than two months. I have conducted about six fasts that have gone sixty or more days, the longest being sixty-eight days. I have had literally hundreds of fasts that have lasted from forty to fifty and more days."

Fourth, aaroncohen at Youtube (actually Aaron's wife, I believe) video logged herself fasting 120 days in three forty-day fasts in a span of 134 days.  I believe this would qualify as abusive, excessive, and extreme.  Still, she did not die.

Fifth, fasting can improve or heal a long list of chronic and incurable conditions.

Now, here are some more measured words to address our fears and concerns:

Detoxification can be the second greatest danger of fasting.  Pure water and rest are the straight and narrow path (perhaps the quick and bold path) to healing and detoxification.  Shelton said he found that anything (even enemas) besides water and rest was unhelpful in fasting.  But many of us are full of toxic waste, so the fasting purge of toxins from our body can be alarming and distressing.  We can address detoxification in three ways.  First, we can apply lots of water and rest.  By water, the Natural Hygienists mean distilled water.  And by rest, we mean rest in bed.  Second, we can be aware of the symptoms of detoxification and the general schedule of a fast's progression so they don't alarm us (Nathaniel Bronner at Quick Fasting does a good job of describing these).  Third, we can detox our body gently.  We can switch from soda to water, then we can switch from night snacks to night hydration, then we can try fasting for a weekend (60 hours) several times until we are comfortable with the pattern.  These things alone will bring us amazing health and happiness benefits.  And they will prepare us in the event we decide to fast for a longer period.

But the greatest physical danger of fasting, in my experience, is the tendency to overeat after a long fast.  This leads to gastrointestinal unrest that can take weeks to resolve.  It is very wise to follow strictly the Natural Hygienists' prescribed routine for ending a fast.  I succumbed to temptation to compromise, and I suffered as a result.  I recommend that the day you decide to end a long fast is the day to tell the people around you that you have been fasting and that you need their help making sure you end it safely.

And finally, here's my story:

I was raised fasting monthly in the LDS style.  When I was a little child, I would skip breakfast.  From about twelve years old, I would abstain from food and water for about 24-hours (2 meals).  So for me, fasting meant abstinence from food and water.  Nothing more and nothing less.

 As I read the bible, references to long fasts intrigued me.  I knew it was fatal to abstain from water for very many days, especially in the climate of my homeland, Mesa, Arizona, USA, with typical late summer daily lows of 85 F (30 C) and daily highs of 110 F (42 C).  So I wondered what these references to long fasting could mean.  And I was totally mystified by the sayings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount about "anointing" the "head" and "washing" the "face" during fasting.

I kept up the practice of monthly "dry fasting" until I was in my mid 30's, when I began to understand that there was a vast store of goodness, wisdom, knowledge, and experience in the world beyond my own faith tradition.  Mormonism has an core principle of receiving all truth, wherever it comes from, and for learning from the best sources.  So I untethered myself from my childhood understanding and re-oriented myself to knowledge that immediately filled my understanding and blessed my life.

I learned that water is an important part of fasting.  I learned that thousands of people have fasted 40 days.  I learned that in the first few days of fasting, bad smells arise (ketosis), and that later more bad things come out (detoxification), which clarified to me why Jesus said to wash.  I learned that after the first few several days of fasting, the skin dries, which clarified to me why Jesus said to anoint (apply oil or ointment).

I tried fasting two or three days.  This was huge for me.  After I had fasted for three days, my appetite was changed forever.  My appetite for food had always been so strong that when I would sit down to a meal and bow my head for prayer, the smell of the food would torment me, and I would feel an ache in my stomach, anxious for the prayer to end.  After fasting for three days, the smell of food became satisfying to me.  I could fill my appetites on a long, deep waft of the aroma of good food.  I became aware of the difference between thirst and hunger, and when before I would have thought I was hungry, I began to realize I needed a drink of water.  I even began to understand that many times when I felt anxious, irritable, desperate, or pressured, part of my discomfort was often thirst for plain water.

I began to study occasionally all I could find about fasting.  I found Nathaniel Bronner's Quick Fasting on the internet and began to understand about the detoxification process of fasting.  I found Youtube videos by Michel Gingras and others and began to have a calm reassurance that fasting was venerable, safe, and normal.  Then I discovered the Natural Hygienists and Herbert Shelton and felt I finally had a professional prescription for fasting.

On April 6, 2010, when I was 43 years old, an unhappy report from a periodontal exam spurred me to begin a long fast.  The fast ended up lasting 12 days.  I blogged and vlogged the fast.  Then I began a routine of frequent water rinsing plus faithful nightly sonic brushing and water flossing.  2 1/2 years later my dentist pronounced my teeth problem-free.

After the 12-day fast, I felt I finally understood why Jesus said when you fast not to let people know about it.  Of course the Ego wants enlargement, but I think fasting, especially longer fasting, helps cure that.  More problematic is the fact that people worry--a lot.  Fasting is a lot easier and more effective spiritually if few people are nagging you.  When you decide to end your fast, if it has been a long one, then my recommendation is to tell everybody who eats with you, "I have been detoxifying on nothing but distilled water for XX days, and I have to gently ease my body back into the digestive routine with nothing but XXXX juice for the next XX days.  Please keep an eye on me and help me stay on the wagon."

In the three years since my 12-day fast, I have, without any fanfare or thought, often fasted 22 to 24 hours.  I think a couple of times I have intentionally fasted around 48-hours.  My body weight was somewhat low (72 inches or 183 cm tall and 160 lb or 73 kg) before I began that fast, and my weight has been even lower (150 to 155 lb or 68 to 70 kg) since then.  I don't plan to fast a long time again until I either get my weight over 160 again or feel a new need to fast.

2020 update: In August 2018 I fasted 14 days unexpectedly, and it went perfectly; I followed the Natural Hygienist refeeding routine very well. I lately weigh solidly over 160 lb and control my canker sores with live and active yogurt or homemade sauerkraut.


Anonymous said...

Hey Tom,
I maintained very poor oral hygiene few years back and when my friends started asking me about my yellow teeth I started brushing my teeth vigorously which caused gum recession. But I noticed the recession only after I saw some black spots around my teeth and my teeth started looking ubnormally taller. Can you tell me what is the black spots around my teeth?? Are they my roots?? And can I just maitain good oral hygiene, rinse my mouth with plenty of water after eating to get my gums regrowth?? Due to some reasons I have drastically lost my weight so my mom won't allow me to fast. So can you give me some alternative solutions?

Thomas Gail Haws said...

I don't know what the black spots are. Have you been to a dentist? Do you have a good dentist? I think you can fast for 12 to 16 hours every day and it will be helpful. I don't think your mom will object to a 12-hour fast (6 p.m. to 6 a.m.)

Have you read my top ten actions post? Can you search Google for Tom Haws Gum Disease and look at that post and any others that interest you for ideas or inspiration?


Anonymous said...

I am a Muslim but thoroughly enjoy reading your posts on spirituality as well as the informative posts about fasting and oral hygiene. I wanted to know your thoughts on manifestation. And also to say thank you because your blog has helped me realize a lot. Although we come from different upbringings, I can appreciate the fact that you are an enlightened being with peace in your heart. God bless you and yours.

Thomas Gail Haws said...

Wow! Thanks for your very kind words.

Hmm. Manifestation and morality. I see so much of what appears to be amoral thinking around subjects like manifestation that I often don't know what to think. I believe there is more going on around us than meets the eye. And there are gifts some of us have that are unbelievable to others. It is good to discover the "magic" of positive energy, but it is even more important to use all the energy we have to love and bless the entire world and our families--to stop hating, stealing, hoarding, and mocking.

Unknown said...

You are truly an inspiration Mr. Haws and sharing your story and testimony has given me a great deal of hope. From your story I have purchased a Waterpik and now my entire family sleeps with a cleaner mouth. It's life changing. I plan to grab this peridontal disease by the horns and make up for years of inadequate dental hygiene and dentist-phobia. Despite skeptics, I do think it's possible for the body to heal itself from "incurable" diseases. I'm on day 2 of a fast to kickstart detoxification, not sure how long I will go yet. Anyhow... Thank you for this ministry ;) !!

Thomas Gail Haws said...

I'm so happy that the Waterpik is making a difference in your family! "Your teeth want to go swimming tonight." :-D

You are very welcome.