For those who can tolerate it, fasting may be the best means of feeling better. Fasting is drinking only water for an extended period of time. One of the oldest known medical treatments for cleansing the body, fasting is also used for healing a variety of ailments. Naturopaths are some of the most vigorous supporters of fasting, believing that the primary cause of physiological and emotional disease is accumulation of collected wastes and blockages. During a fast, clean water is essential to prevent dehydration and flush waste out of the body. Fasts can range in duration from a day to 30 days or more to treat serious illnesses. Beginners should always fast with medical supervision in order to carefully monitor electrolytes, blood pressure and other factors that could indicate that the fast be broken. An hour-and-a-half massage is very beneficial each afternoon of the fast. Meditation and short walks are also helpful for relaxation. Benefits of a typical 7-day fast can include:
- Elimination of excess weight
- Elimination of approximately 5 to 10 pounds of toxic chemicals trapped in the average adult's cell, tissue and organ storage areas
- Regaining the energy and feeling of youth
- Heightened consciousness and increased mental clarity
- Elevated mood and stress reduction
- Enhanced and deepened spirituality and faith
As fasting has become more and more mainstream, science has extensively researched the benefits. Studies have shown fasting to be beneficial for attenuating hypertension, irritable bowel syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia. Other research has indicated that fasting improves the immune system as well as mental health. Fasting has been shown to alleviate symptoms of mental illness where conventional treatments have had limited or no results. In a major clinical trial conducted in Japan, fasting therapy proved 87% effective in alleviating a wide variety of psychosomatic and psychiatric disorders. The study, which involved 382 patients who underwent a complete fast for 10 days, determined that fasting improves the ability to adapt to external stress and frustration. In other studies, fasting has been shown to alleviate a number of diagnosable mental disorders, such as anxiety, depression and neurosis. Fasting is contraindicated in some psychiatric conditions, such as anyone with a history of anorexia nervosa. It may be inappropriate for people with other eating disorders, although it can be a useful psychological intervention for bulimia nervosa and binge eating in some individuals. Russian researchers have successfully used therapeutic fasting to treat schizophrenia. In 1972, Yuri Nikolayev, director of the fasting unit of the Moscow Psychiatric Institute, used fasting to successfully treat over 6,000 patients who suffered from various mental disorders including schizophrenia. About 70% of the schizophrenics Nikolayev treated with fasting improved so remarkably that they were able to resume an active life. Fasting as a treatment for schizophrenia is discussed further in the upcoming chapter on schizophrenia. In 2010, I conducted a study that explored the use of fasting as a means of reducing the symptoms of depression. A total of 286 participants were enrolled in the study, 211 of whom were classified as depressed. The study results found that participants who water fasted for an average of 7 days were significant less depressed than those who did not. While fasting can be highly beneficial for mental, physical and spiritual health, it is highly advisable to seek the advice of a health professional familiar with fasting. This can significantly increase the chances of a successful and restful fast. One of the primary purposes of receiving supervision during a fast is to maximize the healing effect and minimize any potential for harm. To learn more about how fasting and other alternative therapies can benefit mental health, visit http://drrandifredricks.com.