Fasting is becoming an increasingly popular activity which can range from a total fast where nothing passes the lips to a variety of semi-fasts ranging from an intake of water and fruit juices to fruits and vegetables.

The benefits of a fast are manifold. Time without imbibing allows the mouth a period of time to cleanse through the mouth’s natural saliva, which contains many antibodies and cleansing chemicals. The parietal cells of the stomach , the pancreas, liver and gallbladder are allowed a rest from the production of their digestive juices. The bowel muscle wall will not contract as frequently and the colon will be given some time to evacuate the faeces that can build up and adhere to the large intestinal wall.

The liver, the chemical factory of the body, can spend time on cleaning the blood rather than digesting new foods and the kidney can filter out some of the longer lasting toxins in the system. The fat stores that contain some of the body’s toxins that may have been stored there to avoid circulating them will discharge some of these toxins into the bloodstream and be dealt with better by the less-pressured liver and kidneys.

The islets of Langerhans, which produce insulin in the pancreas, will also have a rest. So, all in all, a body should benefit from some time away from food consumption. However, like all good things, there is often a reverse side. A total fast excludes all food but must include water at a level of one pint per foot of height per day. Water-restricted fasts must be followed only under the supervision of an experienced naturopathic physician and are only beneficial in certain treatment protocols.

I am not a great supporter of total fasts because I think that the cleansing effect can be achieved without starving the body. I prefer semi-fast diets and recommend the one below as a general guideline.

There is no set fasting technique that suits everybody. Individuals with any tendency to hypoglycaemia will not benefit from a complete fast. Others, who lack nutrients, may have malabsorption syndromes or chronic debilitating diseases such as cancer or AIDS may, in fact, make their situation worse with a complete fast.

The Eastern philosophies view each individual as having too much or too little air, water, earth, wood or metal, and therefore a fast for someone deficient in any of these humours may, once again, be detrimental.

Except under expert advice, any fast must include a suitable amount of water intake.

Specific semi-fasts may be tried on a trial and error basis over a 24-hr period. If the individual feels better, then a second day may be even more beneficial. Do not fast for more than 48hr unless advised by an expert.

A semi-fast diet

A short time on a semi-fast diet may help you feel generally better and it can be a great pick-me-up if you are chronically tired. It is better to start the diet on a day when you do not have to exert yourself physically.

Day I

Drink freshly squeezed or pressed fruit and/or vegetable juice at approximately four-hourly intervals. Quench your thirst with mineral water or herb tea, and make sure you drink at least two litres of fluid during the day. Some suggested juices are apple, orange, grape, pineapple, grapefruit, blackcurrant, mango, cranberry, carrot, beetroot and celery.


As for Day 1 but add up to one pound of grapes and three bananas. Only eat as much as you want.


Add raw and lightly cooked vegetables and any other fruit to anything you want from the previous days.

Day 4

Anything you want from previous days and add wholegrain cereals, nuts and seeds.

Day 5

As for Day 4 but add fish.

Day 6

As for Day 5 but add offal, poultry or game.

Day 7

Return to your diet as discussed with a nutritionist.