Fasting, Religious Wisdom

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By: Dr. Carlos Viana

Religious dietary recommendations, sometimes prohibitions, like folk sayings and remedies have an uncanny insight into the human condition. As a clinical nutritionist, I enjoy trying to unravel the basis for these laws. Likewise, I am interested in traditional methods of cooking foods. Why do spinach and potatoes or cloves and ham seem to go so naturally together? Spinach, a great natural source of iron, contains oxalic acid which can raise uric acid and aggravate a gout attack. However, cooked and eaten with potatoes, the alkalizing quality of potatoes reduces inflammation and prevents a uric acid reaction. Meanwhile, everyone knows that pork has to be cooked well because these animals may more easily become infected with bacteria and parasites. Cloves, used traditional pork recipes, have natural oils that kill bacteria and parasites. Interestingly, reflecting the dietary prohibitions of the Old Testament, clinically, we have found pork to be detrimental to all metabolic blood types.

Spring reminds me that every major world religion and many indigenous belief systems incorporate fasting. “Fasting” means abstaining from food or some types of food. The idea of the fasting in spring has been fixed firmly in all religious disciplines as a mechanism to purify oneself and become more receptive to their deity’s message. The Christian Bible has thirty-three passages about fasting during what they call the Lenten season. Pope John Paul II stated that Penitential fasting is therapy for the soul. In fact, for Catholics all days of Lent are supposed to be fasting days. Muslims throughout the world will be fasting during the sacred month of Ramadan. The Jewish fast of the firstborn takes place in the spring, during Passover.

As a natural physician I am aware that beyond religious faith, fasting is an ancient healing strategy. Many traditional cultures, including Oriental, East Indian, and Native American, have long regarded short periods of abstaining from food as curative and revitalizing. Hippocrates prescribed fasting. Fasting was practiced by Plato, Socrates and Mahatma Gandhi. In modern Europe, clinics that support therapeutic fasting are quite common. In Sweden it’s practically a national sport. Eating once a day, intermittent fasting is proven to boost brain health and lower your risk for brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. For one, it reduces obesity and can help protect against diabetes — both increase your risk for developing Alzheimer’s. Proponents of fasting offer thousands of testimonials from recovered asthmatics, arthritics, insomniacs, ex-sufferers of migraines, skin, digestive disorders, and other ailments. They maintain that apart from serious conditions like tuberculosis, ulcers, diabetes, hypoglycemia, blood, liver, kidney and heart diseases- systematic voluntary abstention from eating is almost always a healthy first response to illness. One of my medical heroes whose influence prompted me to become a colon hydrotherapist, Dr. Bernard Jensen, has supervised over 50,000 fasts at his center in Escondido, CA.

There are two kinds of fasting. The “water fast” induces rapid internal purification but shocks the system. Dr. Rudolph Ballentine, MD., author of “Diet & Nutrition – A Holistic Approach,” says that the average American lacks the proper reserve nutrients necessary for healthy water fast. Dr. Ballentine recommends a supervised, gradual “juice fast” using natural vegetable and fruit juices to provide essential vitamins to sustain metabolism, and minerals which neutralize and removed toxins that are released. Although abstaining from food is often not as difficult as you may imagine, it is useful to plan. Having medical supervision is the safest way to start your fast. Fasting is not recommended at times of high stress. During the first two days, when you may feel weak and out of sorts, it’s nice to be able to be with supportive loved ones, and to rest when you feel like it.  Acupuncture works very well to support you through this “rough’ period.

One should begin to reduce portion amounts and eat lighter foods several days before all solid food is eliminated. While fasting, be sure to drink enough water to internally wash the system. Enough is: 1 qt/ 90 lbs of body weight (1 lt./each 30kg). Colonic irrigation not only augments the cleansing process, it also helps to hydrate the body.

At Viana Healing Center we routinely supervise patients through a fast where, besides water, only brown rice is eaten for two weeks. Eating no proteins or fats, your body will begin to quickly break down its own excess deposits. This not only helps with weight loss, but we’ve seen it drastically improve skin, allergies, colon and other problems. The duration of a fast depends on one’s medical condition, body weight, lifestyle and other individual factors. In many of our supervised patients, we combine the brown rice fast with periods of taking light, natural foods, almost exclusively vegetables.

If you are one of the people on the list above, not healthy enough to completely fast, but would like to eliminate or reduce certain food for religious or health reasons, be sure to be checked by a professional. Consult with a clinical nutritionist to help you make the right food choices in the safest way. Sometimes, eliminating red meat, dairy and/or gluten containing products like wheat, can drastically improve your health. Adding dietary supplements might be recommended. Always read labels to make sure your vitamins are free from artificial or unwanted ingredients like sugar and starch fillers.

Get the Point! As a student of ecclesiastical discipline I see that the religious obligation of fasting is rarely observed in its integrity nowadays. What a pity, fasting brings into harmony our mind, soul and body. Fasting and abstaining from excessive food results in the lightening of the capabilities of the mind and the soul.

CARLOS VIANA, Ph. D. is an Oriental Medical Doctor (O.M.D.) having studied in China; a US Board Cert. Clinical Nutritionist (C.C.N.), a Knight/Deacon (Licentiate – SMOCH), an Addiction Professional (C.Ad.), Chairperson of the Latin American Committee of the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology (IAOMT), a Rejuvenating Cell Therapist specializing in Age Management, has a weekly radio program, writes and lectures extensively. For information: VIANA HEALING CENTER, Kibaima 7, St Cruz TEL: 585-1270 Web Site: