Upcoming Group Fast schedule
Fasting is a health practice which allows the body to go through spiritual and physical
metamorphoses. Christ, Buddha, Mohamed, Plato, Socrates, Mark Twain, Gandhi, and
Martin Luther King Jr. all used fasting as a way to reach optimum physical and spiritual
health. The process of fasting has a myriad of health benefits from detoxification
to allergy detection.
If done correctly fasting is a pleasurable experience which allows the body time
to relax from the rigors of normal digestion and to heal itself.
Dr. Bailey’s knowledge of fasting has led to nationwide recognition, including being
used as an expert source on fasting in the “Definitive Guide to Alternative Medicine”
in addition to Dr. Bailey’s own book on the subject, “The Fasting Diet”.
Here is an article about juice fasting written by Dr. Steven Bailey published in
magazine (Spring 2004 Issue 29):
Flowers Under the Snow, Some Thoughts on Fasting
By Steven A. Bailey, ND
This past winter, as snowflakes fell, I pictured daphne and daffodils, and the countless
hidden beginnings of spring. Similarly my thoughts were drawn to the awakening of
mind and body that happens during my annual spring ritual of fasting.
Having fasted every year for the past 35 years, I have the highest regard for this
practice. While experiences vary from person to person, and from one fasting experience
to the next, safety and proven benefits are consistent rewards reaped from a properly
In the ancestral environment, all food was organic. Fish and animals were wild or
free-range; foods were in their whole form; few people ate significant amounts of
sugar, fat or processed foods; there were no artificial preservatives or additives;
hybridization of plants was minimal and genetic modification non-existent. In this
ancestral environment, which remained essentially unchanged until just a few decades
ago, human digestive systems were no doubt up to the task of nutrient digestion
and elimination of toxins. But times have changed.
Now the typical American diet is high in processed foods, simple sugars, meat and
fat, and is chronically low in the fiber of fresh whole grains and vegetables, water
and variation. With this “western diet” has come the “western diseases”: cancer,
heart disease, diabetes and an array of digestive problems. Add the insults of pesticides
and antibiotics in our foods and you begin to appreciate the abnormal state of our
current digestive environment.
I marvel at the perfection of nature. Most whole foods contain enzymes that assist
in their breakdown within our own digestive systems. Now consider the imperfection
of human tampering. Not only do many of today’s processed foods lack such enzymes,
but they have been denatured with unnatural additives that defend the foods from
breaking down during long periods of storage. Meanwhile, the long-term effects of
antibiotics and chemicals in food, medicine and the environment cause significant
imbalances in the intestinal flora of many people. Stress, experienced through our
adrenal response, reduces blood supply to the digestive system and can also maintain
a chronic negative influence on digestion. All of these factors tend to assault
the digestive system. Poor dietary choices, food allergies and sensitivities, infections
and parasites are still other factors negatively affecting digestive function.
Fasting and detoxification (cleansing programs) can play an important role in responding
to these common concerns. Beyond fasting, long-term improvement in the normal diet
is critical to sustaining good health.
Reasons & Criticisms
Though religious practice is the most common reason for fasting, medical fasting—once
quite a common practice before the advent of the age of pharmaceuticals—is becoming
more common in the American consciousness and experience. Medical fasts include
therapeutic, preventive, weight loss and detoxification programs. Speaking holistically,
I would say that medical fasts include spiritual benefits in the healing processes
that derive from them. It is this intangible spiritual element that holds the mystery
and the wonder of fasting.
Critics of fasting commonly raise the specter of starvation, maintaining that the
human digestive system is made for 24-7 function and needs no rest or special attention.
Such critics extol the virtues of modern “safe foods” and jeer at the absurdity
of needing detoxification support. These critics misrepresent fasting and ignore
much of what science has found out about digestion and detoxification.
To say that our digestive systems are made to work tirelessly, and that toxins are
readily eliminated, ignores much of the truth. Are we not a nation of people who
suffer from heartburn, acid reflux, ulcers, colitis, stomach cancer and an array
of environmental and chemical illnesses? Rates and levels of obesity continue to
rise while toxic man-made chemicals are found in all of our bodies regardless of
diet. There is no doubt that we need to find ways to enhance digestion and elimination.
The fasting diet that I recommend begins with a three-day pre-fast diet consisting
predominately of raw fruits and vegetables. This is followed by the fasting, or
non-food days, consisting of five or more days of organic vegetable and fruit juices
followed by a gradual return to a healthy diet. Some choose to extend their fast
for many weeks, often including water-only fasting or a master cleanser program.*
I have witnessed remarkable changes in people as a result of this simple fasting
program. Chronic and acute problems of all kinds respond favorably to fasts of 5
to 10 days showing benefits in digestive, skin and respiratory problems as well
as infections and inflammatory conditions like arthritis. Longer, or sequential
programs may be needed for chronic conditions such as heart disease, hepatitis,
toxic and hypersensitive conditions, chronic viral illnesses, and a wide array of
other complaints. Such dependable and naturally derived benefits do not come with
a long list of risky and unpleasant side effects, and the expense is minimal.
The last extended fast that I did was in the spring of 2003 at the time the US began
military action in Iraq. This particular fast was not directed toward any health
concern; rather it involved considerable meditation, study and mindfulness of what
was happening to this planet and her people. In an effort to come to grips with
the anguish and fear felt by myself and expressed by my patients, I found that fasting
offered comfort and quiet in an otherwise sorrowful world. My spring fast included
a preliminary juice fast, a 34-day water fast, and juices again before returning
to normal eating. I experienced a profound change in my state of being which endured
for months after and has continued to sustain me in the face of our ongoing human
The spiritual aspects of fasting derive not only from the discipline and austerity
required to do it, but also from the focus and clarity that it provides. This is
a self-evident state. From a body, mind and spirit paradigm, fasting can integrate
the healing process beyond our ability to quantify or intellectually express it.
People often report to me about their fasting experiences. I hear about physical
changes, emotional crises, relationship breakthroughs and heightened spiritual experiences.
Many people come to realize that their current careers or life situations are not
satisfying their needs. Sometimes it is an unhealthy level of stress in the workplace,
other times it is a realization that their heart is not in what they are doing.
These people have been thankful for the clarification that fasting brings. A few
have given immediate notice, while most have added “major changes” to their list
of requirements to continue into their healthy future.
One common area of change experienced during a fast is the frequently reported “clearer
mind” that eases emotional responses and supports the undisturbed quiet of meditation
and prayer. Insight, intention and focus gained during a fast are powerful allies
of spiritual practice.
With the lengthening days of spring, we emerge from winter’s sleep into the wide-awake
days of summer. It’s the time to stretch and breathe in deeply while planning a
summer of playing again in this beautiful world. Vegetables and fruits will soon
return in abundance, and our diets will improve. Welcome spring, what a great time
for cleaning, inside and out!
*You can read about these programs in Dr. Bailey’s book, The Fasting Diet, published in 2001 by Contemporary Press/McGraw-Hill.
Dr. Steven Bailey is a naturopathic physician who practices in Portland, Oregon.
Dr. Bailey’s 22nd Annual Spring Cleanse is scheduled to begin on April
22, 2004. Join Dr. Bailey, Dr. Josie Schmidt and the staff of the Northwest Naturopathic
Clinic, PC for the occasion. Information and registration is available at the office
in Portland, Oregon by calling 503-224-8083 or by visiting the clinic website at
There is no argument that starvation is harmful. It is a condition in which humans
or animals digest the proteins of their own muscles and organs for use as fuel or
sugar. This process is called gluconeogenesis. Proper fasting has nothing in common
with starvation because it involves fuel sources exclusive of proteins.
Calories are derived from juices and broths, stored fats and a process of cellular
recycling called autolysis. When fat reserves reach a critically low point, starvation
occurs any time there is an inadequate intake of calories. Most of the world’s starvation
occurs in people who are eating, but never have enough total calories. The less
fat reserve we have the shorter we can fast before starvation occurs. Few Americans
are in such jeopardy during medical fasting programs.
I always have a follow-up visit with my fasters. I hear about their experiences
and discuss diet and future concerns. During the past two years, the “clearer mind”
state of fasting has shown an interesting outcome.
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