Agatha M. Thrash, M.D.
- Fasting is a means of providing the body with physiological rest. We can derive the greatest good if we simultaneously supply the body with physical rest, sensory rest, mental rest, and emotional rest. Spend the greater part of the day reclining in bed, or elsewhere.
- A short walk once or twice a day is permissible, and quite desirable. However, you should not engage in active physical exercise or work.
- You should be provided with distilled water to drink. Drink only as much as thirst demands.
- Do not take enemas or use laxatives. Let your colon rest during the fast. There is no danger in retaining a certain amount of waste matter in the colon throughout the length of the fast.
- The colon was designed to store feces. If there is a need for a movement, your body will accomplish it without the influence of forcing measures.
- Do not chew gum or take mints while fasting. The bad taste in your mouth is something that all fasters experience. Brush and gargle with water only several times a day if necessary.
- Do not take vitamins, minerals, or other supplements. Do not take drugs of any kind, including herbs.
- Do not dissipate energy by prolonged washing or grooming. If you are too tired to bathe or shower, a sponge bath will suffice. Avoid cosmetics.
- Keep warm at all times, but do not exclude fresh air from the room.
- Prolonged and intense reading, socializing, or television viewing can be taxing to the faster and should be limited.
- A sun and air bath once or twice a day is recommended. Early in the morning and late in the afternoon are the best times. It is always best to avoid the intense heat of the midday sun. No more than 30 minutes at a time should be allowed.
- Do not be concerned if sleep is limited to several hours per night. Less sleep is required while fasting, because daily physiological expenditures are less.
- Try to avoid harboring unwholesome thoughts and emotions while fasting as well. In other words, try to give your mental faculties a rest. The most important thing is to REST and CONSERVE ENERGY.
For more information contact: Uchee Pines Lifestyle Center, 30 Uchee Pines Road #75, Seale, Alabama 36875, Tel. 334-855-4764, www.ucheepines.org
Fasting for Spiritual and Physical Health
By Tammie Burak
Fasting and Spiritual Health
Throughout history and even today, fasting, the abstinence from food and sometimes water, has been practiced in a religious context and there are many references to fasting in the Bible. Some fasts in the Bible were total abstinence from food and water, for example when Esther required all Jews in Shushan to neither eat nor drink for three days. But there are also examples of partial fasts, as in the case of Daniel when he “ate no pleasant bread…neither flesh nor wine” (Daniel 10:3). In addition, the Bible provides examples of a range of motivating factors for fasting, such as grief or defeat in war or to show repentance.
Fasting in the Bible
Why did people fast during Bible times? Perhaps you’re wondering whether Christians should fast today. Does it make any difference to God whether we fast or not? Does fasting change us in any significant way? The Bible can provide insight and answers about Christian fasting.
Forty Day Fasts
Perhaps the earliest reference to fasting involved Moses while he was in the presence of God on Mount Sinai “forty days and forty nights” (Exodus 24:18), during which time, we’re told, “he did neither eat bread, nor drink water” (Exodus 34:28). Moses had been called on an errand by God. God had told him, “Come up to me into the mount, and be there: and I will give thee tables of stone, and a law, and commandments which I have written; that thou mayest teach them” (Exodus 24:12). God miraculously sustained Moses while they met together. When God calls a person to some special job, we can be sure that God will sustain them, even in a miraculous way.
Often, we see in the Bible people fasting as a sign of remorse and repentance. For example, Samuel called a corporate fast when “all the house of Israel lamented after the LORD” and returned to Him following the time of their idolatry (1 Samuel 7:2). After ridding the land of their idols, they gathered to Samuel at Mizpeh “and fasted on that day, and said there, We have sinned against the LORD” (vs. 6). Ahab (1 Kings 21:27-29), the people of Israel (Nehemiah 9:1) and even Israel’s enemies at the preaching of Jonah (Jonah 3:5) fasted to show their sorrow for sin and deep repentance. Christians may do the same today. When we become aware of the awfulness of our sins and humble our hearts in repentance, fasting may increase our sense of our need and dependence upon Christ for all our righteousness, though fasting can never add to the free gift of salvation that Christ has bought for us.
Ellen White commented,
A legal religion can never lead souls to Christ; for it is a loveless, Christless religion. Fasting or prayer that is actuated by a self-justifying spirit is an abomination in the sight of God. The solemn assembly for worship, the round of religious ceremonies, the external humiliation, the imposing sacrifice, proclaim that the doer of these things regards himself as righteous, and as entitled to heaven; but it is all a deception. Our own works can never purchase salvation (DA, 280).
The Bible, both in the Old Testament and the New, has many examples of fasting combined with earnest prayer. Further, there are examples of individuals fasting for personal reasons, for example when Hannah fasted and prayed that God would give her a son (1 Samuel 1:7-8), when David fasted and prayed for the healing of his infant son (2 Samuel 12:16), or when Darius fasted and prayed for Daniel’s survival in the lions’ den (Daniel 9:3).
There are also incidents of corporate fasting, as when, in 2 Chronicles 20:3, King Jehoshaphat proclaimed a fast as the nation prayed for deliverance from their enemies, when Esther proclaimed a fast as she and her people pleaded for deliverance from Haman’s evil plot of destruction, or when Ezra called for fasting and prayers as they sought direction and protection from God concerning their return to Jerusalem from Babylon (Ezra 8:21-23).
Because proper fasting, not abstemiousness to the point of weakening the body, tends to clear the mind, it can prepare us to better receive God’s guidance through the Holy Spirit’s communication with our minds. Combined with a humble attitude of submission to God’s will, fasting and prayer can prepare us to “receive more of the Spirit of God,” as we can see in the following quote:
Instruction was given me in the night season that I must bear a decided message to this people. You greatly need to experience a deeper heart work. It is your privilege to receive more of the Spirit of God, as you engage in fasting and earnest prayer. (Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, 13 January 1910, 22.
Fasting and Physical Health
Throughout the ages, people have also used fasting to strengthen or regain physical health. Fasting is truly an ancient cure, although the practice may be considered extreme in contrast to this age of fast food and overindulgence.
The rationale behind fasting is that by withholding food from the body, energy normally spent digesting food can be invested instead in repairing the body’s cells, organs and tissues. The result is rejuvenation and an overall sense of well-being, which is why some people incorporate regular fasting as a part of a healthy lifestyle. Keep in mind that fasting should always be monitored by a health professional and that fasting is not recommended for people with certain medical conditions.
Some health clinics offer supervised fasting programs in which patients drink only water for 2 – 3 weeks or longer. Remarkable cures have been documented on this type of fasting program including Type II diabetes, high blood pressure, sinusitis and even deafness. During a lengthy water fast, the body quickly burns up its stores of sugar then switches to fat-burning for energy. By God’s design, toxins are kept safely out of circulation by storing them in fat cells, so as fat is broken down and metabolized during a fast, toxins are released and removed from the body. This fat-burning during fasting has a significant detoxifying effect. As more and more toxins are released and removed, symptoms that may have been present for years begin to be eliminated. Typically, water fasting follows this pattern:
• Days 1 – 2: Blood sugar and sugar stored in muscle tissue is burned.
• Day 3 and beyond: Fat is burned, ketones are released and feelings of hunger disappear; signs of inflammation (pain and swelling) are gradually eliminated.
Water fasting is not the only type of fast that brings physical benefits. Freshly made vegetable and fruit juices along with cleansing herbal teas can assist the body in its rejuvenating process during a fast. There are many books available on juice fasting that may be helpful in planning a juice fast. Preferably, use organic fresh, raw fruits or vegetables for juicing. You can add spirulina to increase nutrient content and fiber such as ground psyllium to aid bowel movement which supports the detoxification process. Juices made from leafy, green vegetables are excellent for detoxifying the body.
Length of the Fast
Metabolic detoxification doesn’t really begin until the second or third day of fasting, but even fasting for one day can be beneficial in that it allows the digestive organs to rest and recuperate. You may want to go on a one day juice fast from time to time simply to rest the digestive organs while still supplying vital nutrients with freshly made juices.
Dr. James and Phyllis Balch, in Prescription for Nutritional Healing state:
A three-day fast helps the body get rid of toxins. A five-day fast starts the healing process. A ten-day fast should take care of most problems before they arise – a fast this long is good twice a year. Do not fast on water alone! Fasting over three days should be supervised by a qualified health professional.i
If you are planning to fast, you should work with your health-care provider to determine the length of your fast. Regarding the length of a fast, Dr. James and Phyllis Balch make these recommendations:ii
1. The tongue is cleared of its coating,
2. The breath is sweet,
3. You are very hungry.
Conditions Improved by Fasting
Fasting enables the body to return to normal functioning and regain its vitality. A number of positive benefits from fasting include: iii
• Weight loss: this becomes especially apparent after the third day of fasting.
• Risk factors decrease: high blood pressure, excess weight and metabolic disorders improve.
• General health improves.
When Not to Fast
Severe cardiac disorders or severe organ diseases rule out fasting and can actually be harmful. Check with your health practitioner before undertaking a fast. However, you can still benefit from the detoxifying principles employed in fasting by incorporating in your diet an abundance of fresh, unprocessed raw vegetables and vegetable juices.
Fasting has both spiritual and physical benefits which can lead us to a greater realization of our dependence upon God. He alone is our only source of health and salvation.
Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies; Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s (Psalm 103: 2-5).
i. James Balch and Phyllis Balch, Prescription for Nutritional Healing (Garden City Park, New York: Avery Publishing Group Inc., 1990), 324-325.
ii. Ibid., 325.
iii. Ernst Schneider, Healthy by Nature: The Healing Power of Natural Agents (Madrid, Spain: Editorial Safeliz, 2008), 309-310.