Our health depends a lot on what we eat & drink, besides several other factors like the ventilation in houses & offices and the quality of air we breathe, amount of sunlight, effect of AC, radiation and quality of water, side effects of medicines and stress in life etc. In effect, everything we put in our body esp. the stomach, affects our health. Stomach is not a dustbin, & therefore we should not put anything & everything into our stomach, both from the point of view of quality & quantity. Diet should be carefully chosen & controlled. While we derive taste, pleasure, energy & health from the food, it also poisons our system. Ayurveda system of medicine is based on the surmise that, diseases are mostly due to inadequate functioning of the stomach, caused due to accumulation of toxic substances in the stomach & if these are removed, diseases are likely to be cured. Therefore, when our health deteriorates, the line of treatment is from the stomach, mainly by getting rid of its undesirable substances & poisons. In the “Nature cure” system of curing the diseases, one of the tools is “fasting” (short one or a long one). It does not materially affect our normal working, since even small quantity of food is sufficient to keep an individual healthy. So in a way, fasting is a good method to clean our overloaded & food-poisoned system, by allowing the accumulated waste to go out of the system, without any fresh input for some time. Generally for this purpose, fasting for 12 to 72 hours or even more is advised, during which light warm water should be taken. Even as a normal routine, a person should skip food once in a week, once in a month & three times in a year, taking light warm water & fruits during these days.
Fasting should be done with positive attitude, & normal activities including exercises should continue even during fasting. It does not weaken the body by itself, but the fear & anxiety that fasting will weaken the body due to starvation, is likely to affect our system. Many have fasted for long periods from 40 to 90 days even. As a system, curative fasts usually go beyond three days. However, these must be done under the supervision of a trained practitioner, who should first of all remove all the doubts & apprehensions beforehand. Fasting also needs advance preparation, esp. in a diseased condition. One should only take fruit & vegetable diet, low in starch & protein and rich in positive alkaline mineral elements, so as to purify the system sufficiently & then only fasting should be commenced. The fasts could be classified into four types (a) Regular fast with no food, but only sufficient water to quench the thirst (b) Dry fast with no food & no water, which is a powerful method. (c) Seven day fast, with no weakening effect (d) Longer duration fast, with fasting from one to seven or more weeks, as per individual cases.
During fasting, use of fruit juices, which are rich in mineral salts, is necessary for neutralizing & eliminating purposes. These are also rich in vitamins and have antiseptic & toxic qualities. These must not be taken in pure or large quantities, but in diluted condition e.g. juice of one orange mixed in two glasses of water, at room or natural temperature. During fasting, one may face some reactions e.g. excessive gas formation, increase or decrease in temperature, which is not of a serious nature, accumulation of saliva in the mouth and vomiting and offensive odour of perspiration etc. But all these are no cause of any worry. Also any fast must be broken in the right manner. A fast of longer duration requires more care & precaution in breaking. The body organs being inactive for some time have to be trained to return to normal activity gradually. Generally the fast is broken on the first day, by some mild fruit juice e.g. orange, lemon or lime etc., with the quantity being limited to juice of say one orange at a time. This undiluted fruit juice should be gradually increased, followed by fruit diet, then raw vegetables & salads, and later on, the regular vegetarian diet. There is another aspect associated with fasting viz. achieving discipline within ourselves. It involves nurturing positive feelings in our minds, to have the attributes of an ideal human being, so that we do not listen, speak, hear or even think ill about any other person. Some call it the process of self-purification. It makes positive impact on our life, as it fosters clear thinking by sobering of our minds, develops self-restraint & patience, and develops tenacity when faced with adverse situations in life, develops moral strength and checks undesirable tendencies. After the fasting period is over, normally we emerge as a better human being.