Fasting has been used to manage various chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes, obesity, allergy, autoimmune disorders as well as depression and anxiety. It is especially useful for chronic conditions, refractory to conventional treatments.
The 5 stages of prolonged water fasting, as used in the practice of Dr. Yuri Nikolayev, the Director of the Fasting Clinic of The Moscow Institute of Psychiatry.
Dr. Yuri Nikolayev treated more than 7,000 patients suffering from various conditions by using therapeutic fasting. The average duration of a fast would be 30 days.
Dr. Yuri Nikolayev (1905 – 1998) was first exposed to the practice of fasting in his early childhood. Whenever he or his brother Lev would get sick, their mother treated them with 2-3 days of fasting. He was very inspired by Upton Sinclair’s book The Fasting Cure. The two communicated in letters. These letters together with Sinclair’s book would have a profound influence on young Yuri’s personal experience with fasting as well as the implementation of therapeutic fasting in his medical practice.
Dr. Nikolayev cautioned that the hunger treatment should be administered only under carefully controlled conditions. The patient and his relatives must approve the procedure and the patient is thoroughly examined before the treatment starts.
Food Deprivation – Eating Cessation – The First 2-3 Days
During this first initial stage, the patient is being given a solution of MgSO4 (magnesium sulfate, otherwise known as Epsom salt) to trigger complete bowel discharge. The bitter after-taste is usually masked with a sip of juice. For this purpose, lemon water is used.
In the initial phase, the patient is very sensitive to any reference to food – visual, olfactory, or even a mere discussion about food. Any perception of food triggers salivary effects and may cause stomach cramps. Sleep is reduced and superficial, patients are irritable and may develop exacerbation of their symptoms. Weight loss is between 800 grams to 1 kg per day, blood pressure remains stable, while the cardiac rhythm may be easily intensified and irregular.
Acidosis Phase Day 3-5
Between the 3rd and 5th days of fasting, food no longer stimulates the patient. There are occasional headaches, dizziness – especially upon waking or going from sitting to standing. Nausea and generalized weakness are also reported.
The tongue is usually coated with a white layer. Blood sugar may decrease to 65% of its initial level. The feeling of nausea is due to the increased blood acidity. In reality, as the body adapts to the lack of food intake it starts burning its own fat, and the incomplete oxidation may result in products that increase acidity.
The protocol demands increasing water intake, as well as exercise – 3 hours daily.
This active routine is that helps the body ventilate, and sweat. This engages organs of elimination to eliminate toxins from the body (skin, kidneys, bowels, liver). Daily colonics are also used for this. During this stage ketosis has started. Your body is using fat stores for energy.
Burning fat has several benefits for your health—the first being weight loss. Ketosis is a predictable way to target fat stores that otherwise remain untouched even with a healthy lifestyle. Additionally, getting rid of that extra fat has a detoxifying effect on the body. Your body’s natural defenses use fat stores to store toxic metals and other toxins so they can’t wreak havoc on your system. However, during ketosis, these toxic metals and toxins are safely expelled from your body as fat reserves get used up. This cleansing effect may temporarily alter some people’s complexion or cause other signs of a healing crisis.
Compensation and Balance Day 4-7
During the 4-7 day the body suddenly regains balance and the overall status of the patient is radically altered. With the feeling of gone, the patients feel strong, motivated, with significant improvement in mood. After the tenth day, weight loss stabilizes at 200g/day, the white tongue coating clears and the tongue regains its pinkish color.
During stage three, your body starts to enter into a “healing mode.” This healing process begins as your digestive system takes a rest from daily toxins. Consequently, free radicals are reduced and oxidative stress decreases.
Fasting causes a kind of “mental power stress” that provides health benefits. This is a kind of mild stress that is comparable to the stress caused by the discipline of exercise, which ultimately makes you stronger and your immune system more resilient.
When the cumulative effects of this stage add up, they can be the catalyst for significant health improvements. Limiting free radicals and oxidative stress is the cornerstone of healthy aging. This healing process seems to improve health for some.
Another tremendous benefit is the accomplishment of personal goals and growth. Getting this far, the benefits becomes personal and extremely empowering. Fasting, especially beyond the first seven days, takes tremendous dedication. What you get out of the fast in these later stages can be a culmination of all the earlier stages plus the accomplishment of a personal challenge.
Breaking the Fast – Reintroducing Foods
Once the patient passes the crises and gains a feeling of euphoria. The symptoms begin to disappear, until the stored energy source is consumed. This occurs after about 30 days. By that time, the patient’s tongue is clean, his skin color is a healthy pink, bad breath disappears.
Food is reintroduced gradually. Diluted fruit juices are used first, then whole juices and grated fruit mixed with yogurt. Cooked vegetables and boiled cereals follow. Near the 40th day, normal eating is resumed. The doctor said the hunger treatment gives the entire nervous system and the brain a rest. The body is cleaned of poisons and the tissues and glands renovated.
Normal Alimentation (eating)
The fourth to the sixth day after breaking the fast the appetite of the patient may be significantly increased. This is when, at his request, he may be provided with more fruits, bread, and plenty of vegetables.
If the fasting cure was successful, the pathologic disorders of the patient will show improvement. Their blood pressure and the glucose levels stabilize at their initial values. The increased appetite and the increased mood usually last for 2-3 weeks after which they resume to normal.
(Dr. Nikolayev was a vegetarian; therefore his recommendations were low meat consumption). There are many variations of these fasts also.
In conclusion, therapeutic fasting may be a very powerful tool in optimizing wellbeing, it should be implemented with the most caution possible and under medical supervision. Prior to implementing this or any fast/diet discuss your options with your doctor.