dates back to Biblical times and beyond to the ancient Chinese,
Egyptians, Greeks and Romans.
for religious observance is practised by four major religions —
Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism. The psychology of fasting is
consistent with asceticism or self-denial — it appeals
to those for whom sacrifice has become the route to salvation. Fasting
is also erroneously believed to play a part in the spiritual effect
derived from the cleansing process and ridding the body of toxins.
therapy, it is the depriving of the body of food for a period of time —
but not of fluid. Many political protesters have survived long periods
of time on juice or water and without ingesting solid foods. Some
adherents of "holistic" medicine use fasting as a recuperation therapy
when they become ill. Fasting has also been used to treat diseases such
as headaches, stomach ulcers, asthma, and diabetes although there is
little or no evidence of its efficacy.
can be dangerous and should only be carried out under the supervision
of a medical practitioner or a registered dietitian. For those morbidly
overweight, fasting (starvation) is a drastic remedy for losing weight.
not recommended because prolonged fasting leads to dangerous metabolic
imbalances. Supplemented fasting, under skilled medical supervision
however, in which individuals eat small amounts of protein combined
with exercise, instruction in nutrition and behaviour modification,
have shown favourable results.
to the idea that fasting "cleanses", an abnormal state known as ketosis
is brought about by incomplete breakdown of fatty acids into ketone
bodies; which may result from low-carbohydrate or starvation diet. The
rapid loss of water, sodium and potassium during fasting leads to
decreased blood volume which produces postural hypertension and
fainting. Severe potassium depletion can also cause a fatal heart
rhythm disturbance. The after effects of prolonged fasts (in effect,
starvation) can also cause anaemia, osteoporosis, and kidney or liver
have been many reports of deaths and near deaths of people undertaking
unsupervised fasting in recent years. In 1979, a 49 year old man died
of bronchial pneumonia — the result
of a thirty day distilled water diet sponsored by Dr. Shelton's "Health
School" in Texas. In 1985, in Melbourne, Australia, a three year old
girl died of malnutrition and pneumonia following a twenty-seven day
water diet fast recommended by a naturopath. Nine year old Mellissa
Larochelle of Ottawa, Canada, died on March 16, 1990 after being on a
water-only diet for forty days. In 1987, six "patients" at the
California Health Sanctuary at Hollister, California died following
prolonged fasting and thirty-six year old David Blume of Philadelphia
also died of malnutrition on October 6, 1979, while trying to survive
on raw wheatgrass juice.
Age. (Melbourne) 1986. Water diet
couple found guilty of manslaughter. March 26.
K. 1992. A Consumer's Guide to
Alternative Medicine. Prometheus Books, Buffalo, NY.
Murry. 1989. The Psychology of
Healing. Element Books Ltd., Longmead, Shaftesbury, Dorset, UK.
H.M. 1978. The Science and Fine Art
of Fasting. 5th. edition. Natural Hygiene Press.
Jack. 1993. Mystical Diets.
The Herald (Melbourne) 1985.
Parents to trial after fast death. May 12.
Edwards, H. 1998 Alternative,
Complementary, Holistic & Spiritual Healing, Australian