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Dr. Colbert's Fasting Zone: Reset Your Health and Cleanse Your Body in 21 Days
by Don Colbert
Learn More | Meet Don Colbert
The Many Benefits of Fasting
As a doctor I have been able to look closely at the various popular methods of fasting. Some of them are good, while others can be downright dangerous.
Fasting is often thought of as taking nothing by mouth. Technically speaking, this is true, but it’s not the type of fasting I suggest for detoxification. I consider total fasting—not eating or drinking anything—to be unsafe. Your body must receive at least two to three quarts of water a day to sustain your life, for you can live for only a few days without water.1
Although there are many ways to fast, the kind of fast that will bring about the optimum health benefits described in this book is a partial fast. This type of fasting provides fantastic health benefits. For example:
- Fasting gives a restorative rest to your digestive tract.
- Fasting helps the body’s designed healing processes to automatically work by giving them a chance to rest from other activities.
- This rest from “digestion as usual” in turn allows your overburdened liver to catch up with its task of detoxification.2
- Your blood and lymphatic system also receive needed cleansing of toxic buildup through fasting.
- Fasting allows your other digestive organs, including the stomach, pancreas, intestines, and gallbladder, a much-deserved rest, which allows your cells time to heal, repair, and be strengthened.3
A powerful, natural way to bring relief to your body from the burden of excess toxicity, fasting is also a safe way to heal and prevent degenerative diseases.4 As you can see from the list above, the primary way that fasting allows your body to heal is by giving it a rest.
The Principle of Rest
As with all living things, you need to rest. Sleeping is not the only kind of rest you need. Your digestive system and other organs need a rest from their work as well.
This understanding of the human need for rest is not new to mankind. God introduced the principle of a Sabbath rest to His ancient Jewish nation. It is one of the Ten Commandments (Exod. 20:8). Israel was given specific instructions regarding this divine command to work six days and to rest on the seventh day of each week.
This principle of rest was important as well to their agricultural system. The Israelites were commanded to allow their fields to lie fallow every seventh year to give the soil the rest it needed to reestablish its own mineral and nutrient content. (See Leviticus 25:1–7.)
Today a decreasing number of modern farmers are following this biblical agricultural principle of resting the soil.5 As a result, the soil has become depleted of some of the minerals and other nutrients that our bodies crave for health. And chemical fertilizers do not succeed in giving us the abundant mineral content of healthy soil.6
It is interesting to note that in the animal kingdom, it is a natural habit to seek rest and to abstain from food, especially when the animal is sick or injured. A sick animal refuses to eat and finds a place to rest where it can lap up water and be safe. Some animals hibernate, resting for an entire season without eating.
Rest is also a powerful principle of healing for the human body and psyche. Every night as you sleep, you are providing refreshing rest for your mind and body, which aids health in a tremendous way. Sleep deprivation is a commonly known form of torture, emphasizing the fact of our innate need for rest.
Fasting may be considered an internal rest for the body, allowing it to restore stamina and energy to vital organs by activating the marvelous self-cleansing system with which it is designed.
Your Body’s Natural Detox System
To help convince you of the potentially healing benefits of fasting, let me explain briefly the marvelous natural detoxification system God designed for your body. Proper understanding of the innate healing power resident in your body will help you appreciate the phenomenal benefits of fasting.
The hardest-working organ in the body is the liver. Weighing about three pounds, it is also the largest organ inside the body, about the size of a football. It is designed to perform about five hundred functions for the health of the body. Let’s look at several of them:
- filtering your blood to remove toxins such as viruses, bacteria, and yeast
- storing vitamins, minerals, and carbohydrates
- processing fats, proteins, and carbohydrates
- producing bile to break down fats for digestion
- breaking down and detoxifying the body of hormones, chemicals, toxins, and metabolic waste
In just one minute your liver can filter about 1.5 quarts of the four to six quarts of blood your body contains. To appreciate the magnitude of this feat, you could compare your liver to the filter in a swimming pool. The filter would need to clean half the pool’s water every minute to keep up with what your liver can do. What an incredibly powerful filter your liver is! If it is working efficiently, it can filter out most of the bacteria and other toxins in your blood before sending the cleansed blood back into circulation.
Every day your liver produces about a half quart of bile, which helps to digest dietary fats, breaking them down into a form that can be used as fuel for the body. The bile also functions to eliminate toxins from your body, flushing them out through your colon. For a more complete discussion of these important detoxifying functions of your liver, please read my book Toxic Relief.7
Unfortunately when this natural filter gets overwhelmed with toxins, it cannot function well, much as a dirty air filter in your car cannot remove dirt from the air. Your liver may get overloaded with toxins from food and water; from food allergies; from bacteria and other microorganisms; from toxins in the air, home, or workplace; and from free radicals produced internally in the liver by the detoxification process itself.8 Like dust and dirt that accumulate in your air filter, these toxins make the liver work too hard; eventually it may not function efficiently. That is why fasting becomes important, to allow the liver to rest and catch up with its cleansing duties.
Some signs of liver toxicity include the following:
- pallid, yellowish skin
- a coated tongue
- bad breath
- skin rashes
- poor skin tone
- altered or bitter taste in your mouth
- dark circles under the eyes
- yellow discoloration of the eyes
- body odor
- itchy skin
A healthy liver is vital to your overall health. You should do everything you can to keep this champion prizefighter healthy and working at peak efficiency. Fasting is a wonderful way to improve the efficiency of your detoxification system. The first twenty-one days of my fasting program, presented in chapter 7, are designed to provide you with a nutritional program to support and strengthen your liver.
Restoring a healthy GI tract
Have you ever worked on a computer that was overloaded with files, programs, and unnecessary junk? If so, you realize that as a result of being overloaded, your computer works slower and slower, perhaps finally giving up the ghost and refusing to work altogether. Your GI tract can suffer a partial shutdown in a similar way as a result of overloading it with too much junk food.
When people consistently overeat or consume an inadequate amount of fiber, they are placing an enormous strain on their GI tract. Even worse, many people do their overeating late at night, which does not allow the GI tract to rest even when they go to bed; it is still digesting all that “food.” Ideally one should fast at least twelve hours every night or not eat anything after dinner until breakfast the next morning.
The small intestine has been designed for several major functions to maintain your health:
- It acts as an organ of digestion and absorption of nutrients to fuel your body’s energy level.
- It becomes a protective barrier to keep your body from absorbing toxic materials and other undesirable matter, such as large molecules of undigested food.9
- It allows ready absorption of needed nutrients, such as triglycerides from the digestion of fats, sugars from the digestion of carbohydrates, amino acids and diand tripeptides from the digestion of proteins—all vital compounds needed to ensure your health.
The Physical Benefits of Fasting
In the next chapter we will discuss the specific physical conditions that can be reversed and prevented through regular fasting, but here are some of the general benefits your body will enjoy.
Increasing energy and mental clarity
A wonderful benefit of cleansing the body through proper fasting is increased energy levels. Cellular toxins and free radicals impair the mitochondria (the energy factories in each cell), hindering them from producing energy effectively.10 As a result, you may suffer fatigue, irritability, and lethargy. But when you fast, you allow your cells to shed many toxins so they can again produce the energy you need.11 Along with increased energy, you will most likely enjoy improved mental functioning as your body cleanses, repairs, and rejuvenates its cells, including those in your brain.12
Boosting your immune system
Short-term fasting will also boost your immune system, which will help prevent disease and illness and give you a longer life. Along with an improved quality of life, you will discover that fasting even makes you look better. Your skin will eventually become clearer, giving you radiance you have not known since your youth.13 The whites of your eyes will usually become clearer—they may even sparkle.
Restoring nature’s delicate balance
When your body’s tissues are too acidic, precious minerals are lost in the urine and cells become less permeable, which means they are unable to excrete waste products effectively. In a sense your cells become constipated; they may be full of waste and cannot eliminate it efficiently. As the cells become more and more toxic, free-radical activity increases, and the toxic overload continues to build until your body starts to deteriorate and degenerative diseases occur.14
However, fasting brings back the natural balance. It alkalinizes and raises the pH of the tissues. This enables the cells to excrete toxins again and begins the process of detoxifying your body from head to toe.
Helping you lose weight
Fasting frees your body not only of disease-causing chemicals but also of toxic fat.15 If you are overweight and even significantly obese, one of the truly wonderful and healthful benefits of partial fasting is that it can help bring your body back to the normal, healthy size that God intended. A regular, sensible fasting or detox program can slim you down very quickly, and you will also experience the more important benefit of reducing the fatty areas in your body where dangerous toxins and chemicals are usually stored.
Caution: When You Should Not Fast
Some health conditions and other situations prohibit fasting for certain individuals. While the following list is not exhaustive, it does include some major conditions that prevent you from fasting. Please consult your physician before considering a fast, regardless of your state of health.
- Do not fast if you are pregnant or nursing.
- Do not fast if you are extremely debilitated or malnourished, such as patients with AIDS, severe anemia, or any severe wasting conditions.
- Do not fast before or after surgery, since it may interfere with your ability to heal.
- Do not fast if you suffer from cardiac arrhythmia or congestive heart failure.
- Do not fast if you are struggling with mental illness, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, severe anxiety, anorexia nervosa or bulimia.
- Do not fast if you suffer from severe liver or kidney disease.
- Do not fast if you are a type 1 diabetic.
- Do not fast if you are taking anti-inflammatory medications, aspirin, antidepressants, narcotics, or diuretics. (Medications such as thyroid hormones and hormone replacement therapy are safe to take during a fast. Always consult your physician before fasting if you are taking any medication.)
- Do not fast if you are taking prednisone. You will need to first wean off this medication slowly under a doctor’s supervision. (You may continue to take low doses of hypertension medications during a fast as long as you are monitored by a physician. However, this does not include diuretics.)
As a physician, I try to help wean my patients off most of their medications prior to supervising a fast for them. If your physician cannot wean you off your medications, then it may be safer to stay on the cleansing and detox fast outlined in chapter 7.
For any extended fast I recommend getting a checkup or physical exam by your doctor first. Have him or her do blood work and a baseline EKG. I normally perform a SMAC 24. This includes kidney function tests (including creatinine and blood urea nitrogen [BUN]), electrolytes, liver function tests, blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglycerides. Along with the SMAC 24, I also perform a complete blood count (CBC), urinalysis (UA), and EKG. These tests should be performed prior to the fast.
During the fast I may perform a SMAC 24 and urinalysis once or twice a week, if needed. During each office visit, tell your doctor if you are experiencing any severe weakness, fatigue, or light-headedness. Tell your doctor if you are having any irregular heartbeats. If you develop an irregular heartbeat or pulse, you should be examined by your physician and should probably terminate the fast.
During a fast it is critically important to make sure your blood potassium level remains in the normal range. Low potassium can cause dangerous arrhythmias of the heart and death.16 That’s why it’s vital not to take diuretics on a fast.
Juice fasting, however, supplies large amounts of potassium in the fresh-squeezed juices; therefore, it’s very unlikely that you will develop low potassium while on a juice fast. Water-only fasts are more likely to cause low potassium levels, especially if you are taking a diuretic medication. Commonly during a fast the uric acid level becomes elevated. This is no cause for concern since it is a normal response of the body to fasting. However, if you have gout, you will need to be monitored more closely by your physician and will need to drink adequate amounts of clean, pure water, not tap water.
Children under the age of eighteen should not follow a strict juice fast unless they are closely monitored by a physician.
The Benefits of Healthy Eating
Whether physical conditions prevent you from fasting or not, there are steps everyone can take to improve intestinal health and establish a healthy eating plan. I recommend that, in addition to using the detoxification and fasting program presented in this book, you do the following:
- Always avoid overeating.
- Reinoculate the bowel with supplements containing friendly bacteria: Lactobacillus acidophilus for the small intestines and bifidobacteria for the large intestine. These good bacteria can also help prevent damage to the lining of the GI tract, thus maintaining normal intestinal permeability. (See the appendix for recommended supplements.)
- Refrain from excessive eating before bedtime.
- Determine to decrease the stress in your life, especially when eating, by choosing to eat in a relaxed, peaceful atmosphere.
- Stock your pantry with health-first items, and eliminate processed, refined, devitalized, and sugary foods.
- Take a good fiber supplement such as psyllium husk powder or Ketozone fiber. (See appendix A.)
Fasting and establishing healthy eating plans are the first two steps to help you feel and look better than you have in years. However, to keep your body detoxified from the harmful toxins in our world, you will usually have to fast repeatedly to detoxify the body and achieve vibrant health.
Regular fasting is a healthy, biblical way to cleanse your body and soul. In the next chapter we will look at the benefits we can experience when we embark on a health-first lifestyle that incorporates regular fasting.
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