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How my first intermittent fast led to a 14 day water fast!
Water fasting, intermittent fasting, Ayurveda, detoxification, Ketosis, digestive health, Mucoid plaque, re-feeding after fasting, Loren Lockman.
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Every so often — since my early 30’s, I’ve felt the urge to periodically give my digestive system a break through a mini detox of some kind. But never had I even contemplated a cleanse of this depth and duration!
I decided to start with Intermittent Fasting, and only consume Water for one day a week (having just read Deepak Chopra’s ‘Perfect Health: The Complete Mind Body Guide. It explained the ancient history, and deep reaching health benefits of Ayurveda. It also provided a breakdown of the various Ayurvedic categories which we all (more or less) fall into.
I learned that I was predominantly a ‘Kapha’ type (displaying laid back characteristics with tendencies towards a slower moving or sluggish digestive system) who’d benefit from regular exercise, and intermittently fasting one day a week. This was considered an ideal way to allow the body to better manage any congestive tendencies. It would provide the time needed for the body to cleanse and heal well (depending on the health status of the individual).
The more I thought about it, the more I realised, ‘you can’t possibly eat 3-5 times a day (for almost) 4 decades without coming up against some kind of negative consequence (be it visible or not!). The whole idea really struck a chord within me — I had to find out more.
During the first few hours of the intermittent water fast, I searched online for any additional information that might support a positive outcome, that’s when I stumbled on one of Loren Lockman’s fasting videos — what he had to say changed everything!
Loren is a powerful advocate highlighting the vast health benefits of water fasting. He’s gained over 30 years of personal and supervisory experience with thousands of guests who have sought his guidance at the ‘Tanglewood Wellness Centre’ in Costa Rica. Water fasting is most definitely one of his specialist areas of knowledge!
As I watched hours of his videos (covering every possible question you might have on the subject!), I realised that I wanted to take my fast in a completely new direction. I wanted to have a go at a more prolonged water fast. That’s when my intention to complete a simple intermittent water fast… became 14 Days Straight — just like that!
So the general idea is that through consuming only clean water (in the absence of glucose), the body will initially liberate a small amount of its stored glucose reserves (stored within the muscle tissue) as an energy source.
After a few days of using stored glucose reserves, the body shifts towards the predominant use of stored fat reserves (where the fat is transported to the liver, and converted into ketones) as its primary source of energy — a process known as ‘Ketosis’. By entering into a state of Ketosis (and essentially living off of the stored fat — a process considered to have multiple health benefits) the body simultaneously releases the toxins stored within the fatty tissue and eliminates them as waste.
Drinking lots of water throughout the day not only helps to transport these toxins out of the body, it also significantly improves the body’s level of hydration — a core principle in reinstating optimum function throughout all of the body’s cells, tissues, vital organs and systems.
Prolonged fasting (of around 3 or more days) will usually be enough to initiate a state of Ketosis. In the absence of food (and the energy required to digest it) the body is able to focus on decongesting, detoxifying and ultimately self healing — often in pretty extensive ways. For me the protocol appeared simple (at least in theory!), maintain a steady intake of clean water (approx. 3 litres a day) while taking plenty of rest to enable my body to complete the task as efficiently as possible.
Taking time off work and having a trusted person around to keep a watchful eye throughout the process (particularly when nursing pre-existing medical conditions) is recommended.
As appealing and idyllic as The Tanglewood Wellness Centre sounded, it really wasn’t a viable option for me at this point in time. Besides, I had already started! I was firmly into day one, and set on continuing to see where this path would take me — one day at a time.
I learned that during a prolonged water fast of 3 days or more, the body is able to begin a massive clean up of the digestive system, this includes the breaking down, breaking away and excretion of mucoid plaque!
The mucoid plaque is said to be formed from the steady build up of mucus which forms along the length of the bowel lining as part of the body’s protection against irritating substances and harmful toxins found in processed foods, pharmaceutical and recreational drugs (among other harmful substances).
This extensive plaque build up is thought by many naturopathic doctors to be the result of years of accumulated, compacted mucus and toxins which have hardened over the years. Over time, this mucoid barrier can become a hindrance to efficient uptake of vital nutrients and minerals.
During the course of an extensive fast, the (black or green rubbery) mucoid plaque will eventually be excreted (said to be noticeably different from a typical bowel movement)! I have to say, it sounded perfectly feasible that the body would create a barrier of this kind in order to buffer the effects of alcohol, excessive salt intake, pharmaceuticals and other potentially damaging substances.
I could see how the expulsion of any amount of mucus build up would improve digestive efficiency and improved nutrient uptake further down the line.
Water fasting can provide a sufficient window for the body to restore optimal digestive health, key to maintaining an ideal state of health and efficiency overall. It was all making perfect sense to me.
The fasting phase was to be followed by a re-feeding phase. This involved eating small amounts of juicy fruit every couple of hours, over the course of a few days to a week — slowly re-introducing simple nutritious food and it’s digestion.
Loren’s recommendation was to continue to maintain a raw plant-based diet of mostly ripe juicy seeded fruits (including avocados, courgettes, okra, cucumber and red peppers), baby green leaves and very small amounts of freshly soaked fresh nuts.
Staying away from a diet which was responsible for causing the disturbances to good health in the first place was recommended!
If I was to maintain any significant benefit following the water fast, I would need to maintain a clean diet over the longer term (and this was no small commitment!).
I planned to allow things to unfold in a natural, and unforced way, after all, it was still only day one. I felt ready to go as far as I comfortably could and ride the ebbs and flows of this adventure!
14 Days Of Water Fasting
I’d already had nearly a day in the bag — so awesome! It wasn’t as difficult as I’d anticipated, and my commitment to the task was at a high. I tried to drink as much Water as I could — a little over 2 litres each day. Loren Lockman had recommended natural spring water, but living in the middle of the capital, fresh spring water wasn’t the easiest thing to come by (and I’m not a big fan of drinking water stored in plastic). I opted to continue using my MegaHome Water Distiller to generate clean drinking water.
In the morning, I experienced a small amount of nausea and vomiting which subsided within about an hour. Although I continued to suffer with small waves of nausea later in the day, it didn’t disturbed me too much, and I was happy to carry on.
I was beginning to feel more tired now, however, I noticed that my long standing lower back stiffness had completely disappeared! This to me was a very encouraging development (considering I’d been experiencing increasing lower back stiffness for more than 6 months now). I imagined this was related to an improvement in my body’s ability to properly hydrate itself (contributing to improved soft tissue health and flexibility). I was feeling pretty optimistic about continuing despite my increasing fatigue.
I noticed that I was no longer experiencing symptoms of hay fever which had begun a few weeks earlier. Another positive sign that boosted my determination to continue. I was beginning to experience more noticeable muscle weakness, but this was to be expected — and so I prepared myself mentally for more of the same. I also began to experience a bad taste in my mouth which proved impossible to get rid of. This I suspect was a symptom of the Ketosis and detoxification process. It wasn’t great!
I was fortunate enough to be off work during these first 4 days, allowing my days to remain light. I chose to take lots of rest while continuing to be inspired by more of Loren’s informative videos.
On day 5 and 7, I went back at work. Despite not feeling as physically strong as usual, I felt able to carry out 4 hours of work (with ample rest in between) without issue. In fact, I actually felt stronger whilst at work. This was possibly due to a boost of adrenaline to counter the increasing physical effort. However, I unfortunately did feel more tired the following day! It seemed my body really needed to direct its energy reserves towards the major detoxification effort (much to the detriment of my muscular strength!). But this was fair enough. I was really happy I was able to give my body the time needed to breakdown and remove the toxins, old food debris, and mucus build up which had inevitably occurred over the last 44 years!
With another 4 days off of work, resting became easy as I got progressively slower and physically weaker. My weight loss, abdominal flatness, and reduction in muscle mass was becoming very apparent — even my ‘cyclist legs’ appeared to be a tad on the slim side! I was definitely entering the deep end of the fast! The good part about this stage, was that I’d noticed the bad taste in my mouth had diminished along with the bouts of mild nausea (which I was thankful for).
On day 10, I began to experience an unusual abdominal feeling — a strange (but mild) contracting and gurgling sensation in my intestines. This continued intermittently for a further 3 days. Could this be due to the release of mucoid plaque?
I was now in my second week at work (for approx. 2 – 4 hours a day, twice weekly). I knew the progressive weakness would soon become an obstacle (despite the fact that I’d organised frequent rest gaps throughout). I was starting to look pretty slim and walking fairly slowly now. Would I be able to continue into week 3? As much as I knew that I could continue on longer, I didn’t feel at all comfortable about cancelling any work related appointments at such short notice. I decide to think it over and re-assess the situation the following day.
After some reflection, I decided that continuing my fast would seriously jeopardise my ability to work. I chose to break my fast later that day (hoping to counter the increasing weakness before work the next day)… and fortunately, it did!
So I’d completed a my first water fast, and was feeling great. Amazingly, I’d managed 14 days straight on my first attempt (and under less than ideal conditions).
I broke my fast with the most delicious pink grapefruit — one sweet — juicy quarter at a time. Talk about incredible! I savoured every moment of that first taste of deliciousness. These were good times for sure!
One of the most surprising things I found, was that I didn’t experience any feelings of strong hunger at all during the entire process! A few cravings towards the end, but not hunger. I was so committed to getting the most from the fast, that my focus shifted completely away from thoughts of eating entirely (despite still providing 3 square meals a day for my son)! I had the occasional moment of habitually attempting to taste the food that I was preparing, but fortunately always overcame my lapse in memory right in the nick of time! My focus remained very much on the possible health gains, and going as far as I could… one day at a time.
Despite feeling really good afterwards, it still took me a few weeks to regain my physical strength fully. But yes, all the benefits — the disappearance of back tightness, sinus congestion and hay fever have remained. The other beneficial health effects included:
Anyway, I was ready to enter the re-feeding stage, and I have to say …I was excited!
Over the course of two weeks, I decided I didn’t want my fast to be in vain, by reverting back to my old ways (despite being vegan)! I’d originally set out to detox, cleanse and challenge my dietary habits and improve my relationship with food. I intended to move forwards with renewed commitment in making healthier food choices.
As much as I wanted to follow Loren’s recommendation to switch to a fruitarian diet following the fast, I knew the transition would be big! It would be especially difficult to maintain whilst continuing to provide home cooked meals for my 10 year old son! I opted to take it one day at a time and follow Loren’s fruitarian recommendation for the first couple of weeks. I did however aim to steadily increase my raw plant food intake over time, while still enjoying the cooked vegan food that I’d prepared for our evening meal (alongside a good sized salad or other raw accompaniment).
I continued to experiment with raw food recipes and found that my son was quite keen to try the raw dishes I that made. He was now eating much more salad than I’d ever seen him eat which was an unexpected bonus.
Overall, my first water fast gave me a lot of insight into what to expect and how to better prepare myself in the future. It’s shown me that there really are no limits to how well I can do with fasting in the future. I can now appreciate that fasting (given the right mindset, conditions and suitability) can be a relatively trouble free experience!
Ultimately, the success of any fast will come down to making an informed choice with a good dose of determination thrown in the mix! I’m thankful that Loren Lockman had put out so much valuable material on the subject. His words really helped me clarify the potential benefits of a water fast — giving me the confidence I needed to create a positive first experience.
I feel sure that I’ll complete another fast in the future. Next time, I’d definitely give more consideration to the amount of rest required to successfully complete a long fast. I do however feel the small amount of time spent working during the early stages actually helped change the focus and pace of my day (and not become too self absorbed with what I was feeling on a personal level). It also kept me mindful of both my limits and capabilities. Perhaps I would have continued for too long if I wasn’t required to work… who knows!
On balance, I’m pretty happy with the way things turned out.
Disclaimer: The information provided is in no way intended as a replacement for medical advice, nor does it suggest that you follow the same protocol, or indicate that your experience will in anyway be similar to what I have described. I recommend you seek your own medical advice before embarking on a fast of this kind. I also recommend that you exercise your own due diligence, conduct your own research as well as listening to your own internal guidance before going ahead.
Best Wishes on your journey.
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