Fasting Guidelines

 

Ayurveda places foremost importance for health on agni—digestion.  Caraka declares (Ca. Ci XV.3-4): “On it’s proper functioning depend life-span, complexion, strength, health, enthusiasm, corpulence, luster, immunity, energy, heat processes and vital breath.  One dies if this fire is extinguished, lives long free from disorders if it is functioning properly, gets ill if it is deranged, hence, agni is the root cause of all.” In another article—Guidelines for Eating--we have given suggestions for  eating which help promote good digestion. The subject of this article is fasting—one of those mentioned in the above article.

 

The theme of fasting is based on the notion that the digestion, as well as elimination, may be improved by regularly restricting food intake. The concept of fasting, according to Ayurveda, is not the common practice of going for days and weeks on end without food. This practice is risky, even dangerous, when not done with professional guidance and knowledge.  Ayurveda reminds us that our digestive secretions derive from our food of previous meals. Protracted starvation of nutrients leads to deficiencies in producing/secreting digestive products in the stomach, liver, pancreas, and duodenum, for example. Restarting digestion that has been suppressed from fasting is a delicate process, which when not managed properly, will lead to a generalized toxic condition.

 

Digestion tends to be overtaxed by large quantities or heavy kinds of foods, taken untimely. As digestion slows or decreases in effectiveness elimination tends to be adversely affected, too. When the fire of the digestion is reduced then ama or toxicity is generated. Ama is considered to be sticky and irritant. The stickiness slows elimination and the irritant quality leads to inflammatory reactions in the colon, specifically, and in the body generally. As elimination slows there is increased putrefaction of digested food and toxic gases—indole, skatol, and methane, for example—are produced. The presence of these result in increased flatulence in the short run but when chronic are the basis of arthritic and other changes in structure and function of the body. Research now strongly indicates the involvement of defective digestion in many physical and mental ailments.

 

Ayurveda suggests that fasting regularly—weekly, for example, does provide benefits. Fasting on a simple, light diet for one or meals in the week helps rekindle digestion, clean up the GIT, and prevents harmful accumulations of toxins. When the digestion is proper then elimination will tend to be proper. According to the verse above health and long life are directly benefited. Here are some guidelines for fasting: Fasting should be accompanied by daily intake of 1t sat isobgol (psyllium) in a glass of water. The doshic considerations are:

·        Vata considerations for Vata body types or/and imbalances: 

1.      Fast on orange juice or similar juices  / fruit during regular meal times only; add pepper or similar pungent spices and some lemon juice for additional effect

2.      Fast for 2-3 consecutive meals one day per week only

3.      No snacking; plain (hot) water ok

4.      Consider fasting on Saturday for the pacification of Saturn energy (bones, joints), Monday for Moon energy (emotional considerations), or Tuesday for Mercury energy

·        Pitta considerations for Pitta body types or/and imbalances:

1.      Fast on pomegranate juice or similar juices / fruit (also try carrot, romaine, celery juices) during regular meal times only; add cilantro or/and  lime juice for additional effect

2.      Fast for 3-4 consecutive meals one-two days per week only

3.      No snacking; plain (hot) water ok

4.      Consider fasting on Tuesday for pacification of Mars energy

·        Kapha considerations for Kapha body types or/and imbalances:

1.      Fast on apple juice or similar juices / fruit  (also try carrot, romaine, celery juices) during regular meal times only; add pepper or similar pungent spices for additional effect

2.      Fast for 3-6 consecutive meals one – two days per week only

3.      No snacking; plain (hot) water ok

4.      Consider fasting on Thursday for pacification of Jupiter energy

 

 

 

 


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