After several months of partying hard – which included not one, but three wine tasting excursions – some friends and I decided to do a five day fast. It was not the traditional, water-only fast; it was the fasting method of Otto Buchinger, the founder of “therapeutic fasting.” The Buchinger Fast is about regeneration and detoxification: a small amount of energy is supplied to the body, which enables it to focus on cell regeneration, thereby maintaining and encouraging health, therapy and disease prevention. Buchinger described fasting as a healing shock on the body, which triggers a multitude of biochemical reactions, including the production of stem cells in the brain and every organ of the body. During fasting, both age and cancer genes are silenced.
I have never fasted for more than 24 hours, so I was a bit apprehensive about it. I am one of those people who start to get hangry if I don’t eat regularly, and I also get headachy and nauseated when I am very hungry. But I was feeling the need to detox and reboot my body. We adhered to a calorie-restricted, liquid diet, starting with a “preparation day” and ending with a slow introduction back to solid food. My friend, K, gave us a guide. She has fasted a lot and I completely trusted her to lead us on our fasting journey. (If you want a copy of the guide, let me know in the comments below and I will send it to you!)
PREP DAY: NO CAFFEINE, NO ALCOHOL, NO NICOTINE; MODERATE TO NORMAL PHYSICAL ACTIVITY; ENERGY REDUCTION TO <1000KCAL
I started with a warm cup of lemon water (half a squeezed lemon), then went about my day as usual: 30 minutes of yoga, followed by housework and hanging pictures (we are still setting up our place in Mallorca). Then I went for a swim – 20 laps in the pool – to refresh. We are in the dog days of summer here! I cut up some fruit for lunch: a kiwi, a mango and some watermelon, of which I ate half. I really wasn’t hungry during the day – probably because of the heat. We went to the grocery store at around four o’clock, where I bought vegetables to make my broth for the next few days. I ate some of the soup (with the vegetables) and a small salad for dinner.
DAY 1: FLUSHING OUT THE INTESTINES
I started out by drinking a large cup – about 18oz – of warm water with two Tbsp of Bittersalz (food grade epsom salt) dissolved in it, soon after waking up. The purpose is to clear the colon so it can “sleep” during the next several days. I did my yoga and then the process began, about an hour later. I thought it would be a lot worse than it turned out to be. Sometimes it’s good to expect the worst! First the stools become soft, and then basically only liquid is expelled. I probably went to the bathroom seven or eight times over the course of the afternoon. I took it very easy. For lunch I squeezed some oranges and added some carrot/orange juice to make one cup, pressing out all the pulp in a strainer before I drank it. I swam 30 laps in the early evening. I didn’t feel hungry at all, surprisingly. I did look forward to my cup of broth for dinner, though, and savored it slowly. It satisfied me until bedtime.
DAY 2: I woke up feeling fine. I drank a cup of herbal tea and lots of water. Did yoga and things around the house. Swam 20 laps in the pool. Kept drinking water. I forgot to drink juice at lunchtime. We drove to Palma in the afternoon to pick up a few things, and I started getting very tired and sluggish. When we got home, I drank a glass of water with a magnesium tablet dissolved in it. I had read that you need to make sure to have salt and magnesium to counteract headaches, cramping and electrolyte shortages in the body. The funny thing was, I still wasn’t very hungry. Drinking lots of liquid definitely helps in that regard. I wasn’t even looking forward to my evening broth – it was a bit hard to get down, actually. Too many onions.
DAY 3: I had a restless night and woke up feeling like someone had hit me in the head. I also had cramping in my lower back and hips. After drinking my cup of tea, I struggled through my yoga practice. I went into the pool, hoping a swim would ease the cramping, and it did. Instead of a cup of fruit juice for lunch, I decided to eat a cup of watermelon. I only had prepared fruit juice, and it had ascorbic acid in it and a mix of fruits, which I thought had a higher carb count than the watermelon, which is 90% water anyway. You should really squeeze your own juice. I walked over to my neighbor’s house, where my local friends had gathered for tea. We compared our experiences thus far. K said she had been dizzy, grumpy and headachy the first couple of days. She was getting into the “elation” phase, the result of serotonin in the brain. My friend Z was having the worst time: she had been sick since drinking the epsom salt, with vomiting and diarrhea. It was two days in for her, and she wasn’t doing well. The green tea that my neighbor gave us sent her to the bathroom once again. I’ve read that you shouldn’t drink green tea on an empty stomach, as it can cause nausea. I guess the watermelon helped me there! K thought that the culprit might have been the vitamins that Z took on the first day. My neighbor had fared the best among us, with no problems to report. When I got home, I took a nap before preparing a new batch of broth. This one was much more flavorful, with lots of garlic, turmeric and ginger. No onions. I was fine until getting into bed. I had terrible cramping in my lower back again. The only time it didn’t hurt was when I stood up. I dissolved a magnesium tab in a glass of water and took an ibuprofen. Eventually the excruciating pain subsided and I was able to sleep.
DAY 4: I woke up feeling much better. I drank my tea and did a short yoga session. Then I had another magnesium drink because my back felt a little twingy. I thought a swim would help, but it actually exacerbated the pain, so I got out of the pool. I wrote in my journal to catch up on my fasting log. For lunch, I drank a cup of the mixed fruit juice, and boy did it taste good! We went to play nine holes of golf in the afternoon. On the way, I drank a “Ginger Shot”, which is a combination of apple, ginger, lemon and maça. I hadn’t had any coffee since starting the fast so I thought it would give me a boost. I felt great until the last few holes, when I started getting tired. It was very hot, so that probably contributed to the feeling. I rewarded myself with an alcohol-free beer at the clubhouse afterwards. Not on the list of things to drink, I know. There wasn’t a broth on the menu at the club, so I had a bowl of gazpacho. It was very tasty, but I only ate half. It was difficult to pick out the solid pieces of vegetables. At bedtime, my back was bothering me again, but not as much as the previous nights. I drank a glass of magnesium water and took an ibuprofen and went to sleep.
DAY 5: LAST DAY!! I slept well and woke up feeling great. Had my cup of tea and did my yoga. I cut up a fresh peach for breakfast and it was so delicious! K said that there was a reason for eating an apple on the fifth day – the acid in it helps to wake up the stomach. But she told me after the fact, and since I didn’t have an apple, I ate a peach. After a brief swim, we went to Palma to pick up the temporary tags for our car (we shipped it from the US… that is another story!) I was starting to feel hungry – I guess the peach woke up my stomach! So we went to an Arrosseria for lunch, where I had a small helping of risotto with mushrooms. Technically, I think you’re not supposed to eat lunch on the fifth day, but I was pretty satisfied with my fast. And rice on the fifth day is in the guidelines. After lunch, we did a little shopping for the house, then went home to rest before dinner. We met some friends at one of our favorite restaurants. I ate a couscous salad with avocado and a lime dressing. The big cheat was white wine, but boy-oh-boy was it delicious!! I drank lots of water, too. When I went to bed, I felt the twinges starting in my back, so I took an ibuprofen.
I woke up the next morning feeling like a million bucks! G said it was the wine, but I don’t think so. I felt totally recharged. So much so, I did over an hour of yoga. I had so much energy! So here is what I think about my five day fast: Overall, it was a good experience. It was easier than I expected. I feel recharged and energetic. My taste buds are stimulated and I have a renewed appreciation for food. I plan to be more conscientious about what I eat going forward, which includes cutting down on carbs. In fact, I am going to continue on with “intermittent fasting.” When I think about what’s going on in my body, on the cellular level, during fasting, I really am blown away!
Would I do it again? I think I might. The other ladies say they would do it again. They said the experience was great, despite some days of weakness. K said she loves “the feeling of cleanliness, lightness, power and loving the world.” I don’t think Z will do it again. For me, I think of fasting now in a different light. It’s not about denying the body food. It’s about giving the body the time and space to do what it needs to do to recycle waste and repair itself, “clean house” so to speak.
And we all need to keep up our houses, after all.
If you have fasted before, I’d love to hear your thoughts!