Therapeutic fasting

Therapeutic fasting

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In therapeutic fasting (also called medical fasting or fasting therapy), you do without food and luxury foods such as coffee, alcohol or cigarettes for some time. The goal is to relieve the body, activate the self-healing powers, reduce weight and eliminate toxins. Walks in the fresh air, conscious periods of rest and a slowing down of everyday life can also "cleanse" or regenerate mind and soul during fasting. Therapeutic fasting contributes to an increase in general well-being, but can also be used preventively or to treat chronic diseases. This applies, for example, to cardiovascular diseases, allergies, skin diseases, gout and rheumatism, inflammation, chronic pain and various psychosomatic disorders.

Since there are numerous rules to be followed and crises or even serious health problems can arise during fasting, this therapy method should only be carried out under professional supervision. This is especially true when there are health restrictions, you are taking medication and / or fasting for the first time. Your general practitioner will be happy to advise you whether therapeutic fasting is suitable for you and, if necessary, can provide you with the contact details of trained fasting supervisors and special fasting clinics. For many fasters, it is also helpful not to fast alone, but in a group. So you can regularly share your experiences and support each other in crises.

Therapeutic Fasting: A Brief Overview

The following section gives you a brief overview of the most important facts about fasting.

  • description: During therapeutic fasting, you temporarily dispense with (solid) food and luxury foods. Certain rules must be followed, which differ depending on the fasting method.
  • effect: The sometimes voluntary renunciation of (solid) food can relieve the body, stimulate self-healing powers, reduce weight and activate the increased excretion of toxins.
  • Different methods of fasting: For example Buchinger therapeutic fasting, fasting according to F. X. Mayr, whey fasting, tea fasting, therapeutic fasting according to Hildegard von Bingen, juice fasting, fruit fasting.
  • application areas: For example, increasing general well-being, preventing diseases, cardiovascular diseases, allergies, skin diseases, gout and rheumatism, inflammation, chronic pain and various psychosomatic disorders.
  • possible side effects: Hunger or appetite, low motivation, mood disorders, sleep disorders, back or headache, muscle cramps, mild circulatory problems, chills.
  • Cancellation of the fasting cure: In the event of cardiac arrhythmia, stomach problems and reflux (reflux of gastric acid into the esophagus), circulatory disorders and other serious side effects, medical advice must be obtained and the fasting cure should be stopped in a controlled manner.
  • Contraindications: Physical weakness, certain diseases of the kidney or cardiovascular system, tumors, thyroid disorders, eating disorders, serious infectious diseases. Pregnant women, children and adolescents are not allowed to fast. Fasting should also be avoided for certain mental disorders.
  • Note: To make sure that you can carry out a therapeutic fasting cure, it is best to consult your family doctor in advance. It is also important to remember that such a cure can affect the effects of many medications.

History of therapeutic fasting

Fasting is a very old healing method. Hippocrates (460-370 BC) used the power of this method in his treatments. But for a long time this healing treatment was forgotten. The healing effect took a back seat and it was fasted for religious or ethical reasons.

It was only in the early twentieth century that therapeutic fasting was rediscovered and brought back to the general public. The doctor Otto Buchinger (1878-1966) introduced the Buchinger fasting method, which is described in more detail later in this article. After Buchinger fell ill with rheumatoid arthritis after an unhealed tonsillitis, which conventional medicine was not able to treat at the time, he tried a three-week fasting cure for himself and thus cured his symptoms. Buchinger then dealt in detail with the information available on the subject of fasting and naturopathy. In 1920 he opened his first own fasting clinic in Witzenhausen. More should follow later. His book "Therapeutic fasting and its auxiliary methods" was published in 1935 and has been one of the standard medical works of this form of therapy since then.

In addition to Otto Buchinger, there were several others who dealt with or developed various types of fasting, including Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179) and Franz-Xaver-Mayr (1875-1965). Their special fasting methods are also presented below in the article.

How does therapeutic fasting work?

Fasting is a kind of survival mode for our body for times of need. If there is no food available for a certain time, the human metabolism automatically switches to another utilization program. He then draws on reserves. This is also the real reason why the body strives to build up fat reserves. Seen in this way, fasting was not invented, but has always existed as a separate emergency program in our organism. Fasting now is about activating this program in a targeted manner and designing the framework so that the healing aspects can develop optimally.

Refraining from solid food relieves the whole body, but above all the digestive organs. The body switches to hunger metabolism after two days of fasting, which means that it nourishes itself from the inside by using the easily accessible energy stores. The organism does not have to exert as much strength as with normal digestive performance. This saved power enables the body to mobilize its self-healing powers. In other words, he can now use the energy he would otherwise have to spend on digestive work to combat or cure existing diseases. The term “therapeutic fasting” refers to this.

The organism also gets rid of metabolic end products, which means that it begins an internal cleaning process. To support this, an ample drinking amount of at least 2.5 liters per day is recommended. This should ideally consist of still water and herbal tea.

Some basic rules must be observed when fasting so as not to detract from success. This includes the ban on eating solid food and the command to only eat water, tea, juices, vegetable broths or whey. A fasting cure also includes the elimination of pleasure poisons (nicotine, alcohol, caffeine) and sugar. During the fasting cure, the physical needs for sleep, regular breaks, moderate exercise and the like must be met. It is also important to clean the colon at the beginning of every fasting and, in the case of long-term fasting, also regularly during the course of treatment.

Various processes take place in the body during therapeutic fasting: the production of digestive juices is reduced. The acidity of the gastric juice decreases. At the beginning of the fast, a little more bile juice is produced, then less and less during the course of the cure. The gallbladder can empty completely and substances such as mucus, semolina and possibly also smaller gallstones can be released.

The fasting cure begins with a provoked defecation. This makes it easier for the body to cleanse itself thoroughly and to be able to absorb nutrients better after the treatment. This is because when using Glauber's salt or F.X. Passage®SL the villi are thoroughly cleared of residues. In addition, cholesterol and proteins from the walls of the blood vessels, salts and uric acid are released from the tissue. Acidic deposits in the connective tissue, which are felt as painful gels (hardening in the subcutaneous and muscle tissue), can be loosened by therapeutic fasting. Fasting can tighten the connective tissue, relieve the pressure on joints and intervertebral discs, and lower blood lipid levels. In addition, the heart and circulation are relieved, which makes breathing easier and the body can absorb more oxygen.

The changed metabolism also changes the smell of sweat, urine and stool. Fasting not only affects the body, it also affects the mind and soul. During the fasting crises, this can initially be represented by emotional ups and downs. After fasting, however, it is often the case that the mental performance is increased and one is again more stress-resistant and less irritable. Even sleep disorders or mild depressive moods are often less pronounced or at best no longer exist after a fasting cure.

As a rule, the fasting cure is linked to weight loss, which should not be in the foreground. Fasting is primarily used to cleanse the body, soul and spirit. Fasting is not a walk, but requires discipline and perseverance to survive fasting crises. However, the body releases endorphins, so-called happiness hormones, when fasting for a long time, which in turn can contribute to a good body feeling and a positive mood. A fasting cure can also be a good way to rethink your own eating habits and to switch to a healthier lifestyle after the cure.

Course of a fasting cure

The duration of the fasting should be chosen individually in consultation with the doctor in charge. The reason for fasting is also taken into account: Is fasting carried out preventively in order to prevent illnesses, or are there already health problems that should be positively influenced by therapeutic fasting? The accompanying circumstances, nutritional status, weight and medication should also be considered in the preliminary considerations. Depending on the initial situation and existing fasting experience, a time frame of five days to five weeks is recommended.

Therapeutic fasting begins with at least two preparation days (so-called relief days), on which there is little and conscious eating. Avoid fatty and sumptuous dishes. Luxury foods should be avoided in this phase. In order to prepare the body for the period of food parole, therapeutic fasting begins with an emptying of the intestine using Glauber's salt, F.X.-Passage® salt or with the help of an enema.

Solid food is not used during the fasting cure. Coffee, alcohol, nicotine and industrial sugar are also not supplied to the body. A sufficient hydration of at least two and a half liters of still water and herbal tea is necessary so that the metabolic breakdown products can be excreted well. Some fasting cures allow a little vegetable broth, juices, whey and a little honey. The feeling of hunger that spreads in the first few days will soon be over and most people feel full of zest for action, up to a euphoric mood that is caused by the happiness hormones that arise.

Very strict variants of therapeutic fasting, in which all energy supply through food is dispensed with, are increasingly viewed critically these days. Because the release of a wide variety of metabolic products can lead to an excess of uric acid, for example, which in the worst case triggers a gout attack. Gentler methods, such as juice fasting or Buchinger fasting with vegetable broth, juices and honey, are recommended; they are less stressful for the body and can prevent fasting crises or serious health problems.

For people who cannot or do not want to fast for days or even weeks, one-day fasting is recommended once a week. This is done without prior colon cleansing. In this special form of fasting, for example, only fruit is eaten; Coffee, alcohol and other pleasure poisons are avoided. Instead, you drink enough herbal tea or water.

When does therapeutic fasting help?

Therapeutic fasting is used for a wide variety of diseases. For example:

  • Joint diseases such as rheumatism and gout,
  • Skin diseases such as neurodermatitis or psoriasis,
  • Pollen allergy and hay fever and other allergies,
  • Susceptibility to infections,
  • Indigestion,
  • Overweight,
  • High blood pressure,
  • chronic pain,
  • Inflammation
  • and circulatory disorders.

Fasting is also suitable for preventive “big cleaning” for the organism once or twice a year. Fasting without expert support requires experience, discipline, a lot of knowledge and, above all, optimal health. If there are already diseases, a doctor should be consulted before starting a fasting cure.

Fasting crises

So-called fasting crises can occur during a fasting cure. These can be of a psychological or physical nature and to a certain extent are quite normal. Especially at the beginning, hunger or appetite, low motivation, mood disorders, sleep disorders, back or headaches, muscle spasms, mild circulatory problems, chills and other symptoms can occur. If you are unsure whether a fasting crisis is still normal for you, consult your family doctor or contact your fasting supervisor if in doubt. Many people put fasting on vacation time, so that during fasting crises they can take enough time for themselves and their needs and the work does not suffer.

Cancellation of fasting therapy

In addition to the fasting crises, which are normal and harmless to a certain extent, there can also be more severe side effects that require a controlled termination of the fasting cure. These include, for example, cardiac arrhythmia, stomach problems and reflux (reflux of gastric acid into the esophagus) or circulatory disorders. If you observe these or other worrying symptoms during the fasting cure, contact your doctor in charge immediately.


If you have severe physical weakness, serious kidney or cardiovascular diseases, tumors, thyroid disorders, eating disorders and serious infectious diseases, you should not fast. Likewise, pregnant women, children and adolescents must not fast. Fasting should also be avoided for certain mental disorders. To ensure that you are allowed to carry out a therapeutic fasting cure, it is best to consult your family doctor in advance. It is also important to remember that therapeutic fasting can affect the effects of many medications.

Therapeutic fasting methods

Below we present some different methods of fasting.

Fasting according to Buchinger

The fasting cure according to Buchinger was named after the German doctor Otto Buchinger (1878-1966). This is a gentle fasting regimen, also known as a drinking diet, in which you drink about two hundred and fifty calories a day by drinking juices and vegetable broth. Vitamins and minerals, as well as dairy products, are also supplied to the organism. Enemas are used to support colon cleansing. The Buchinger method is a fasting method that protects the metabolism, but still cleanses the body gently and activates the self-healing powers. Buchinger therapeutic fasting is often used in clinics.

Fasting according to F. Mayr

The Franz Xaver Mayr cure includes a milk and bread diet. The decisive factor here is the extremely slow chewing and salivating of the stale rolls. Each bite has to be chewed for one to two minutes, then a teaspoon of milk is added, which is sucked from the spoon. Then the whole thing is chewed and saliva again until the bread bite can finally be swallowed. The slow and extensive chewing process empties the salivary glands and thus prepares the stomach for digestion, which means that part of the digestion already takes place in the mouth.

Whey fasting

As the name suggests, whey fasting does not consume solid food, but instead drinks one liter of whey throughout the day. In addition, there are half a liter of fruit juice and three liters of still water. A glass of sauerkraut or plum juice is drunk in the morning to help cleanse the colon.

Fasting Tea

Fasting tea only allows tea and still water. This is the most extreme form of therapeutic fasting and should only be practiced by absolutely healthy people and best under medical supervision.

Fasting according to Hildegard von Bingen

The therapeutic fasting cure according to Hildegard von Bingen is a gentle body cleansing. A large amount of liquid is supplied to the body. A so-called "fasting soup" consisting of spelled and seasonal vegetables can be consumed daily. Only fennel tea is drunk. Some ginger biscuits based on Hildegard von Bingen's recipe are intended to support body cleansing.

Other types of fasting

In juice fasting only different fruit and vegetable juices are drunk, in fruit fasting fruits, vegetables, herbs and nuts are added. To compensate for the loss of protein during fasting, some fasting diets also offer protein in the form of buttermilk or a protein concentrate.

Therapeutic fasting in naturopathy

Fasting is one of the therapies offered in many naturopathic practices. Naturopaths often recommend detoxifying and cleansing the body twice a year (in spring and autumn). An individual therapy plan is drawn up depending on the patient's symptoms and initial situation. Healing fasting is accompanied by naturopathic means of phytotherapy, homeopathy or Schüßler salts.

In spring, for example, according to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), the liver has its most powerful time, which is why supportive methods for detoxifying the liver are particularly useful. This happens, for example, with dandelions, nettles and goldenrod. Here, the therapeutic fasting cure can be combined with a corresponding tea blend and promoted. In the fall, the lungs need support. Herbs such as lungwort, coltsfoot and thyme are used to help. (sw, kh)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Susanne Waschke, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch


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