Fasting, Dieting and Detox

It’s that time of year when minds wander to thoughts of diets, perhaps of fasts and detoxing – certainly towards wanting to feel lighter, brighter and less sluggish.


Many of us find that ‘dieting’, in the sense of cutting down calories to lose weight, doesn’t work. Eating and our relationship with food can be muddled up with loaded emotional issues such as comfort and denial. Cutting out or cutting down on food intake, for those living in the West, is rarely a logical and straightforward process. If this were true then it would be simple! As we get older our relationship with food may move away from the connection between our weight and our body image, towards the connection between our weight and health issues such as diabetes, hypertension, breast cancer, auto-immune conditions, arthritis etc.


Fasting regimes during designated time frames are familiar in organized religions and indigenous practices. For some communities, fasting times are associated with spirituality, introspection, discipline, perhaps collective endeavor. Ritual often appears to have some basis in pragmatism. There are conflicting theories as to whether we may or may not have evolved to tolerate certain diets, but it is difficult to argue with the fact that until very recent times, most populations have had to cope with times of famine, or at least scarcity, and times of plenty. Perhaps we have adapted over thousands of years to manage this to our best advantage.


The theory, that particular populations are specifically suited to eat certain foods is widely accepted in relation to some food components – for example lactose - but not others. Clearly there are foods that are tolerated by some, that can be linked to pathology (illness) in others. For example wheat or nuts. Many people will testify that certain health issues resolve when they have eliminated specific foods from their diet. Detox, in relation to diet, means eliminating foods that can trigger pathological or undesirable effects so that the body can rest and recover, perhaps regenerate and heal. Sometimes ‘detoxing ’ can involve including foods or herbs that can strengthen and promote that process.

The Science of Elimination

Trying to unpick the various and conflicting theories of what foods to include and what to eliminate can be very confusing. Nutritional science seems to be constantly relocating its own goal posts. And perhaps the goal posts are actually changing as our bodies are required to process more, new and different pharmaceutical, biochemical, environmental and other factors than in the past. Perhaps some folk have always reacted badly to some foods.