Whenever we are on the hunt for the perfect diet and trying to follow the latest trend, I want you to imagine a world a few thousand years ago before humans ate domesticated food. How did that look like? What did we eat?
We may not know the exact plant species that were eaten, but we know for sure that our ancestors have eaten a large variety of foods. Everything was local, seasonal, spray-free whole, unprocessed food straight out of the ground full with local microbes to replenish their very own microbiome. They drank chlorine-free water out of clear rivers and streams and gathered and hunted their food, so there was a certain amount of walking and running involved, right? There were no pharmaceutical drugs, no vaccines and certainly no roundup residue on their food.
And there were also periods of fasting. Sometimes it was done out of necessity, when there simply wasn’t any food available. In other instances, it was done for religious reasons. Various religions, including Islam, Christianity and Buddhism, mandate some form of fasting.
Now we have abundance of food, some of it processed, some fresh and we eat around the clock with 3 meals a day and snacks in between. But our digestive system needs resting periods – fasting times. Fasting stimulates autophagy. “The word autophagy is derived from the Greek auto (self) and phagein (to eat). So the word literally means to eat oneself. Essentially, this is the body’s mechanism of getting rid of all the broken down, old cell machinery (organelles, proteins and cell membranes) when there’s no longer enough energy to sustain it. It is a regulated, orderly process to degrade and recycle cellular components. It does two good things. By stimulating autophagy, we are clearing out all our old, junky proteins and cellular parts. At the same time, fasting also stimulates growth hormone, which tells our body to start producing some new snazzy parts for the body. We are really giving our bodies the complete renovation.” (source).
Breakfast is called breakfast because it “breaks the night-time fast”. We basically fast at night and our body has some time to do some of those cleaning jobs. A snack just before bedtime shortens that crucial fasting period as our body is now digesting the food. With a bit of awareness we can help our body and increase that fasting time by a few hours or even double it from 8 hours to 16 hours – this is called intermittent fasting.
Having an early and light dinner before bed and replacing breakfast with the a herbal tea or a detox tonic can work wonders on an overloaded system. With a light dinner at 6pm, no snacks in the evening, a detox tonic for breakfast and then a light snack at 10am would allow your digestive system 16 hours of rest. Lunch filled with mainly fresh, seasonal and organic vegetables could form the main meal and should be enjoyed in a relaxed manner without rush during a fasting and detox period. For a deeper cleanse you may want to look into juice fasting.
I have just completed a 3-week cleanse period over August, which included a 8-day juice fast.
In the week before the fast, I cut out dairy, meat and grains and replaced my grain and dairy based breakfast (porridge with kefir) with a green smoothie. My diet consists of whole foods grown on the farm so I could simply continue that. I had my mind set on the fast and in the week leading up to that I reduced my food intake and my last dinner was replaced by a vegetable juice.
The juices were predominantly made with fresh vegetables from the garden. For “breakfast” I added the juice from an apple and an orange to the vegetable juice, for lunch it was only vegetables and for dinner I enjoyed a homemade vegetable stock and bone broth with some sea salt, which satisfied my cravings for something savoury. In the garden we had plenty of fresh carrots, celery, stored pumpkins, beetroots, cabbages, cauliflowers, kale, spinach, silverbeet, yacon and jerusalem artichoke (the last two are great prebiotics as they are high in inulin). In the freezer I had 10 cucumbers saved over summer for this purpose, which worked very well. I also bought some organic turmeric and ginger and used that to give a flavour kick.
I did not have the usual detox symptoms on the first 3 days and actually felt great and did some light work in the garden. This is due to the fact that I do not smoke, don’t eat sugar and have never had a cup of coffee in my life. 90% of the food I eat comes from the farm and the other 10% are freshly prepared and homemade (like sourdough bread made from bought organic grains). But be aware that you may feel nauseated, hungry, lightheaded, have a headache, cravings and the like in the first 2-3 days. Your body does some hard work and if you are regularly drinking coffee, smoking, drinking alcohol and eating sugar, your body has cravings for these foods and habits. Trust me, it will pass and you will feel much better on day 4. It is a good idea to use the weekend for that detox period and stay mainly at home without any plans.
In the week after the fast, I started to introduce foods slowly and chose foods that are easy on the digestive tract. On day one, I broke the fast with a steamed apple. Then I had a vegetable juice for lunch and a light vegetable soup for dinner.
For the whole month of August I had no alcohol and Kai cut out his daily cup of coffee (Kai did a 3 day juice-fast and a colon cleanse programme out of Cherie Calbom’s book (see below) in that month). I continued to enjoy our KoruKai herbal teas, did some walks, meditations and enjoyed not having to cook every day. I was lucky that Kai could do most of the cooking for me, but I actually enjoyed cooking a couple of meals for my family during this time.
For more inspirations and information on fasting and detoxing I recommend Cherie Calbom’s book “Juicing, Fasting and Detoxing for Life” (2014)
For professional support, I can recommend Naturopath Rani from Harmonic Health. She has done a 30-day juice cleanse to heal an ovarian cyst (read her blog about it here). She can be booked for online consultation and individual and group juice fasting support here.
As always I hope you found this blog useful and will use it as a starting point for a deeper research into the topic.
For questions and comments please use the comment field below. Thank you.