Fasting has been an important aspect of cultures around the world for many thousands of years. It was originally conducted as a means of deepening one’s spiritual condition. God instituted fasting for some really good reasons. It’s not only good for the spirit, but also the soul and the body.
There are many types of fasting. Generally, fasting refers to abstaining from food, sometimes also from drink. But some fast from other consumables, such as media fasting, spoken fasting (mute for a period of time), or fasting from a particular favorite activity.
Food fasting may refer to full or partial fasting: a fast may exclude all foods, or only desserts or only lunch, for example.
Fasting may extend for varying lengths of time. Some people do intermittent fasting on a regular basis for health reasons: they eat only between limited times (say, 7 a.m. until 3 p.m.) and fast until the next day. Other fasting may involve a one-day fast, a three-day fast, or an extended fast of up to 40 days (as Jesus did, and others in the Bible).
When fasting from liquids as well as solid food, it is important to limit beverage fasting to no more than one day. Water is fine to consume on an extended fast.
DISCLAIMER: If you have a medical condition, talk to your doctor before embarking on a food or beverage fast of any length of time. This applies to those who, for example, have diabetes, take medications, and are pregnant.
It is good for physical health. More and more research shows that fasting is one of the healthiest ways to cleanse the body’s systems.
- Recent research shows that fasting is good for those entering cancer therapies (chemo or radiation).
- Fasting improves heart health by lowering blood pressure, cholesterol, and body fat percentages
- Fasting releases the body from the ongoing work of digesting and appropriating nutrients, so that it can perform important work of eliminating built-up toxins. This is why we don’t feel hungry when we’re sick: our bodies are trying to clean out the junk.
- “Fasting helps boost immunity in all sorts of ways. Autophagy clears out toxins and wastes that are bogging your system down, while simultaneously stimulating regrowth and vitality of cells in every single organ and metabolic process” **
- Fasting decreases inflammation, and thereby improves inflammatory disease conditions.
- Fasting helps in weight loss. This may seem a “duh” bullet point because of course you’re going to lose weight if you don’t eat; but because fasting helps clean out toxins, continued bodily functions run smoother after a fast. Try not to make weight loss the primary function of fasting. First, you’ll likely gain the weight back within a few days. Also, fasting is for much deeper purposes: spiritual, emotional, and health purposes.
- Research shows that fasting is also beneficial to the brain and emotions. By clearing out the body’s “garbage,” your mind becomes clearer and your brain doesn’t have to fight the toxin-induced fog. You feel lighter and less burdened. Neurons fire more accurately. Fasting helps regenerate the protective coating of neuropaths.
- Part of the “junk” that fasting clears out are cancerous and pre-cancerous cells.
- “When the body is in a fasting state rather than a fed state, the immune system hunts down mutated cells, and breaks them down. The white blood cells and killer T cells, for instance, are highly energized when you’re deprived of food, and they become very active. This discovery is considered so important, that it won the Nobel Prize for researcher Dr. Yoshinori Ohsumi in 2016.” *
- “When the body has no other fuel, it feeds its cells and does cleanup work by metabolizing cancerous growths and breaking down yeasts, mold, fungi, viral, bacterial, and many other aberrant cells and growths.” *
- “One study shows fasting to be regenerative for insulin production, as the pancreas repairs itself during a period with no food. The results weren’t short term; months later, they remained.” *
- “New studies show that fasting may actually ward off neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and even improve our memory and mood.”*
More important considerations for fasting are the spiritual ramifications. God has much to say about fasting in His Word:
- Joel 2.12-14 Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil. Who knoweth if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him; even a meat offering and a drink offering unto the LORD your God?
- Nehemiah 9.1-3 Now in the twenty and fourth day of this month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, and with sackclothes, and earth upon them. And the seed of Israel separated themselves from all strangers, and stood and confessed their sins, and the iniquities of their fathers. And they stood up in their place, and read in the book of the law of the LORD their God one fourth part of the day; and another fourth part they confessed, and worshipped the LORD their God.
- Daniel 9.3-5 And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes: And I prayed unto the LORD my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments; We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments.
- Esther 4.3, 15-17 And in every province, whithersoever the king’s commandment and his decree came, there was great mourning among the Jews, and fasting, and weeping, and wailing; and many lay in sackcloth and ashes… Then Esther bade them return Mordecai this answer, Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish. So Mordecai went his way, and did according to all that Esther had commanded him.
- Acts 13.23 And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.
- Psalms 35.13 But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth: I humbled my soul with fasting; and my prayer returned into mine own bosom.
- Mark 2.18 And the disciples of John and of the Pharisees used to fast: and they come and say unto him, Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but thy disciples fast not?
- Matthew 17.19, 21 Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out? … Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.
- Acts 13.2, 3 As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them
From these verses we see that:
- fasting strips us of our focus on the flesh
- it prepares us for communing with God’s Spirit
- it steers our focus to things other than our physical needs (Colossians 3.2 Set your minds on the things above, not the things on the earth)
- it sharpens our minds, spiritually and physically
- it hones our prayers
- it is a physical demonstration that we are putting aside things of the flesh to concentrate on God and take Him seriously
- it positions us to receive direction from God.
God directs us to fast because He knows it is good for us; it is a blessing that we cannot comprehend unless we actually do it.
When you are fasting, you can take the time you usually use for preparing meals, and use that time in Bible reading and prayer.
Preparing for a fast:
If you’re going to go on an extended fast, it’s best to do some prep work:
- Stop eating junk food for several days or a week prior to the fast. You’ll need to give your body some healthy nutrients before going into a fast.
- Prepare your home. Remove junk foods from your view. Talk with your family and explain what you’re doing. It will be important to have the support of your family.
- Some people leave home when they fast, so the temptation of food is not around, and to have some quiet spiritual time.
- Prepare yourself mentally. Going without food is tough. If you plan for an extended fast, be prepared to suffer intense hunger, food cravings, anxiety, and anger for a day or two. Starting on Day 3, these usually abate and you are able to continue in peace.
- Some people, when on an extended fast, allow some beverages, such as unsweetened hot or iced herbal teas, protein drinks, or smoothies.
- Consider what kinds of physical activities you will be able to perform while on your fast. People respond to fasting in varied ways. Some have energy; some must lie in bed all day.
- While you are fasting for spiritual and physical detoxification, please also consider other substances to remove from your daily routine. These would include any chemically-laden personal care products. If you are fasting, and your body is trying to remove toxins, PLEASE discontinue use of commercial products, so you are not shooting yourself in the foot, so to speak. While your body odor may increase, please do not resort to using deodorant or antiperspirant that contains harmful substances. A wet washcloth will do a fine job of cleansing any body parts. Essential oils, diluted with a carrier oil, provide a pleasing scent with the added bonus of antimicrobial power. If you have oral odors, you can brush your teeth (and tongue) more often. Simply brushing with water will do the trick; you can swish with a cup of water with a drop of peppermint or clove essential oil mixed in. When washing your hair, use a clean, non-toxic shampoo like Castile for hair and body. Rinse with diluted vinegar. Discontinue use of lotions. Check labels for all your products: whatever you put on your skin goes into your body. Note also that commercial air fresheners and scented candles contain toxins, and are not recommended while detoxifying (or any time at all).
- Have healthy food available for when you come off your fast.
While you are fasting:
Continue to take your prescription medications while fasting. Talk with your doctor if you have any questions or concerns.
You can also continue to take supplements while fasting. Be aware that you may feel nauseous when you take some supplements on an empty stomach. If you have issues, consider taking them at different intervals, or cutting down how many or what types you take while you fast.
Day 2 of a water-only fast is usually the toughest. That’s when the rubbery legs set in, brain fog might be stronger, and your energy levels plummet. Know that this falls within the normal realm. If your body is warning you of something, though, pay attention and consider alternatives.
Fasting moves your body systems into a whole different realm of activity. Your body is getting rid of toxins, and those toxins have to get out somehow. The routes for elimination are urine, feces, exhaling, mucous, and pores (sweat). Don’t be alarmed when you notice some physical, emotional, and mental changes while fasting (Note: fasting reactions will be more severe if you have a lot of toxins in your system. This can be due to body care products, environment, or eating a lot of sugar / processed foods.):
- Body odor: Toxins are usually stinky. You may wish to shower or bathe more frequently; use only water, and apply natural products if needed.
- Skin changes: especially if you already have occasional skin breakouts, you may have more of them as your body detoxes through your pores. This may look like acne or some kind of rash. Keep your skin clean with water, and use natural, organic products as needed.
- Feeling cold: Since you’re not consuming calories, you don’t generate heat as you normally do. Prepare with extra layers of clothing, socks, blankets, and maybe a space heater if this happens to you.
- Headache: Headaches are a common side-effect of fasting. Headaches will certainly be more severe if you are used to eating a lot of sugar and processed foods. It’s because you’re going through withdrawal. This is also likely to happen if you’re a coffee drinker (or soda or chocolate, or other high-caffeine source) and you’re giving up caffeine. Hang in there! The headache usually diminishes after the second or third day. In the meantime, you may want to take warm baths, take some turmeric supplements, incorporate neck & shoulder massages, practice yoga, meditate, do stretches or exercises, and/or take naps. Try diffusing essential oils such as lavender, peppermint, Frankincense, and/or rosemary. Meditate with calming music. Massage diluted peppermint oil into your temples.
- Heart pounding: if this rises to alarming levels, you may need to break your fast with some bone broth, herbal tea, or other healing remedy.
- Muscle cramping: Be sure to perform some kind of stretching / exercise often during your fasting days. A lot of detoxifying happens with the constriction and relaxation of muscles. Take a walk, do mild stretches, dance, etc. You may need to supplement with magnesium: a good source is stinging nettle tea.
- Thirst: When you fast, your body is craving water so it can flush out toxins. Be sure to drink plenty of filtered water. You may want to experiment with amounts of water you drink at any one time: too much can lead to a “sloshy belly,” and nausea. Pay attention to your thirst, and drink accordingly.
- Oral changes: your tongue may develop a white coating. Simply use your toothbrush and some water. Rinse with a drop of peppermint or clove essential oil in a cup of water. You can gargle with that mixture, as well.
- Changes in your urine: the color and frequency may change. Be sure to drink plenty of filtered water. Sometimes people like to drink an herbal tea (unsweetened, no additions).
- Change in your stools: the color, texture, and frequency of your stools may be different.
- Energy levels: When you don’t eat, you aren’t consuming calories for energy. Get plenty of rest. Detoxifying is serious work that takes energy. If you feel light-headed or sick, you may not be a good candidate for an extended fast.
- Emotional changes: you may be more prone to crying or feeling anger. Make sure to spend ample time in prayer and meditation and resting.
- Mental changes: as your body releases toxins, you may begin to feel clear-headed, able to break through that “brain fog.”
After the fast:
An important aspect of fasting is what you eat AFTER the fast. After you’ve spent the time and energy to fast, and after you’ve cleaned out your toxins, you want to rebuild and feed your body with clean, healthy foods. DO NOT give in to whatever insane junk food cravings you have. Be very careful, and consume cautiously at first, with maybe some warm bone broth. Graduate to easily-digested raw greens. Stay with healthy, organic foods so you can build your strength and body systems back up. Be very careful with any personal care products you use.
Please prayerfully consider a fast unto the Lord. It is a powerful way to draw near to God (James 4.8a Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you). It really is life-changing.
Robyn Openshaw (aka The Green Smoothie Girl) has done extensive research about fasting. I highly recommend reading the information in these links: