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Fasting Buddha Statue,

Lahore Museum, Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan

Fasting is as old as the world.


N.Kramskoy, "Christ in the Wilderness",

State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia

Perhaps there is no period in human history when people would not have used starvation for recovery. Virtually all the written sources of all peoples regardless of religion, territory of residence, race, there is mention of fasting. All of this suggests that this method has shown its effectiveness for centuries. At all times it was used by doctors, philosophers and priests. In ancient Egypt, in ancient India and Greece dosed starvation was used as for a curative and preventive purposes, as to strengthen the spirit.

The ancient Greek historian Herodotus (484-425 years BC) pointed out that "the Egyptians are the healthiest of men, since each month for three days they conduct purification by vomiting and enemas, believing that a person receives all illness through food".


It is known that Pythagoras (580-500 years. BC), Greek philosopher and mathematician, founder of the famous school of philosophy, systematically starved for 40 days, rightly believing that it increases the mental perception and creativity. He demanded strict 40-day fast on water alone from each of his numerous disciples and followers. In addition, Pythagoras himself and his followers adhere to a strict vegetarian diet. According to Pythagoras biographers he was satisfied with honey, bread and drank no wine. But the main his food was cooked or raw vegetables. Rejecting the conventional animal food as early as the age of 19, Pythagoras lived to be quite advanced in years, while maintaining clarity of thought, spiritual purity of intentions and aspirations.

Plato (427-347 years BC), disciple of Socrates, Greek philosopher, divided the medicine into "true", which really gives health, and "false", which gives only the "phantom of health." The first one included treatments by fasting and diet, air and sun.

Hippocrates (460-357 years BC) - a physician who owns a great medical commandment: "Do no harm!", was an ardent supporter of moderation and treatment through fasting. He wrote: "The addition of food should be much rarer, since it is often useful to completely take it away while the patient can withstand it, until the force of the disease reaches its maturity. The man carries within him a doctor; you just have to help him do his work. If the body is not cleared, then the more you feed it, the more it will be harmed. When a patient is fed too richly, the disease is fed as well. Remember – any excess is against nature."

Asclepiad (90 BC) practiced methods of treatment, called them "metazinkreziya" and "reorporatsiya", which are nothing other than the use of periodic fasting with parallel assignments of baths, rubbing, and exercises.

Plutarch (46 – 120 AD), the great biographer of antiquity, was also a supporter of abstinence and vegetarianism. He spoke with deep conviction: "Instead of taking medications, it is better fast for one day."

The idea of fasting for health continued to wander in the minds even in the Middle Ages - the period of obscurantism and ignorance. And, of course, with a new force, they flared in the Renaissance period. A good example is the history of Luigi di Cornaro (1465-1566). Venetian aristocrat, Cornaro was no different from people of his circle: just indulged in revelry, excessive eating and drinking. No wonder that at the age of 40, severe illnesses confined Cornaro to bed. Neither the best doctors in Italy, nor a variety of medications were able to help him. All (including doctors) were confident that Cornaro’s days were numbered. However, a doctor was found that, contrary to professional prejudices of the time, suggested that Cornaro periodically practiced strict abstinence from food. And ... a miracle ... happened: Cornaro survived. Moreover, during the following year he got rid of all his illnesses. Being 83 years old he wrote his first treatise "A Treatise on temperate living" ("Tratatto de la vita sobria"). Then he wrote a few more treatises, the last one at the age of 95. Luigi di Cornaro died at the age of 102 in Padua, once he fell asleep in his chair and did not wake up.

This historical review should also mention English physician Dr. Chain (1671-1743), who himself went through all the circles of hell because of excessive eating of pork chops and passion for ale. Dr. Chine was first doctor who called for radical reforms in the diet and treatment of disease through fasting.

And, of course, we should mention a physician Friedrich Hoffmann (1660-1742), who widely used limotherapy, arguing that it is indicated to treat the plethora, arthritic, rheumatic and catarrhal symptoms, and apoplexy, scurvy, skin diseases, malignant ulcers and cataracts. His first rule was: "For each disease, for the patient it is the best not to eat anything."

The founder of rational hygiene Friedrich Hufeland (1762-1836), who wrote the book "The Macrobiotic and the Art of prolonging human life" (“Makrobiotik oder Die Kunst das menschliche Leben zu verlängern”) also preached the same idea. He recommended that patients should not eat, "because the very nature shows to sick human by a disgust to food, that we unable to digest it."

Yes, over the past century, hundreds of scientists in different countries have studied the physiological effect of fasting, experimenting mainly on animals. They conducted surveillance on people, making a great contribution to science by expanding our knowledge about the biological aspects of the dosed fasting.

In America in 1877, Dr. Edward Dewey was the first who begun to apply the long-term fasting with curative intent. He claimed that for all diseases involving loss of appetite, coated tongue, the patient should not eat as long as an appetite appears again and tongue cleared, indicating the ability to digest food again.

Dr. Dewey was an advocate of prolonged fasting. Some of his patients refrained from food in anticipation of the emergence of appetite and cleanse of the tongue up to 50 or more days.

"Already during the course of Medical Sciences” - wrote Dr. Dewey – “I began to doubt the effectiveness of medications, but after the course I first begun to treat using conventional methods. Among my patients was a girl, sick with typhus, which instinctively insisted on fasting, as for her every food was nasty. Because everything she ate caused her vomiting, I had to let her fasting. The girl recovered. This case has prompted me to use fasting for other patients. The experience further convinced me of the healing properties of fasting. I increasingly began to rely on fasting and excluded medicine from my practice. "

Student of Dr. Dewey and his follower Dr. Linda Burfield Hazzard has published in England and America, the popular book "Fasting for the cure of disease”. It complements the method of Dr. Dewey, pointing out the benefits of enemas, water treatments, massage, exercises and a vegetarian diet after treatment.

After Dr. Dewey, the American physician Dr. Tanner put a fasting for medical reasons into his practice. He called periodic abstinence from food, "the elixir of youth."

Wider dissemination of therapeutic fasting took place at the turn of the XIX and XX centuries after the reformist movement in medicine in favor of natural, non-drug therapies. Prominent doctors and hygienists-dietitians, such as Maximilian Oskar Bircher-Benner, Von Noorden, Alexander Haig, Platen, Mueller and others have developed great activity in this direction. Limotherapy was recognized by them as a natural therapy method. In Germany, Switzerland, France, the U.S. special resorts were opened for those wishing to undergo fasting treatment. First of all, these health centers have accumulated a large empirical for treatment by fasting, but without the corresponding experimental studies.

Significant contribution to this problem was made by V.V. Pashutin, outstanding Russian scientist-physiopathologist, Head of the Department of Pathological Physiology of St. Petersburg Military Medical Academy, and his disciples. They found that during full fasting if weight loss is 20-25% no pathological changes were observed in the organs and tissues of the body. Such changes appear only when the weight loss is up to 40%. Based on these data the limotherapy have become widely used by many doctors even in outpatient practice.

Although hundreds of fasting centers and clinics existed in most European countries throughout the length of the 20th century, Americans, for instance, remained very far behind the learning curve regarding scientific, therapeutic fasting, as well as in adopting natural/organic food diets. Likewise, despite all three Fathers of Western Medicine having fasted and prescribed it - Hippocrates, Galen and Paracelsus (who concluded, nearly 500 years ago, that: "Fasting is the greatest remedy - the physician within!") - the fact remains that symptomatically trained U.S. physicians are still equally in the dark.

The exceptions are physicians who've learned auto-didactically, including many who've done their initial, prolonged fast through veteran, world-class programs which are steeped in many decades of experiential knowledge and distilled wisdom such as Fasting Center International's. 'Autodidact' is simply a fancy noun describing a person who is self-taught, or has learned a subject without the benefit of a teacher or formal education. And, as Scientific Fasting has not been taught in even one of America's 131 accredited medical schools, two American authors - Joel Fuhrman, M.D., and the late Allan Cott, M.D. - obviously knew better than to suggest that U.S.-trained allopathic/symptomatic physicians are magically qualified to offer veteran, experiential supervision and distilled-wisdom advice to fasting clients, any more than Allan and Joel were before they auto-didactically learned--at the level necessary to skillfully guide others… physiologically, psychologically, and sometimes most importantly, spiritually - this ancient healing art their medical Fathers wisely practiced and prescribed (having likewise learned, auto-didactically, and then first gained the necessary, experiential wisdom-knowledge before attempting to guide others).

However, ignorance is not the only problem. In Russia the Soviet government did not like limotherapy enthusiasts and promoters. Some of them, such as Alexai Suvorin, son of the publisher and owner of the printing press in St. Petersburg, were forced to leave the country. Others, such as N. Sutkovoy, Moscow economist, disciple of A. Suvorin, were imprisoned and then shot without a trial. In United States, the late Allan Cott, M.D. was forced to close his private clinic. Dr. Cott was tired of receiving letters with death threats and to listen to the same telephone threats from members of the pharmacological mafia, who feared that the widespread adoption and use of fasting-diet therapy would undermine their business.

Despite opposition from official medicine and pharmaceutical companies, fasting, as a method for treating most diseases, continues to evolve. It did not get lost in the mists of time and a great future is ahead of it.

As Joel Fuhrman, M.D. wrote in his book “Fasting and Eating for Health”: "Too often, scientific experiments prove nothing. Frequently, the source of the money dictates the answer. Yet. . .these experiments are all we have to go by, and are crucially important when we are testing these potentially-dangerous drugs that may have various hazardous effects. Fasting and adopting an optimal diet designed to aid one's condition, on the other hand, are health-supporting. They will make a healthy person even healthier.

Most physicians who have knowledge and expertise in therapeutic fasting advise it for those wishing to maintain their body in optimal health, and to extend life. It is not merely for the sick. Many of these physicians, including myself, have personally undertaken long fasts, and may do so periodically. For example, Dr. Alec Burton, an osteopathic physician who has fasted more than 30,000 patients, undergoes a two-week fast every few years for long-term health benefits that accrue from the rejuvenating effects of the fast...

The point I am making is that fasting improves one's health, rather than insult it with dangerous drugs or unnecessary and potentially-deadly surgery. If fasting does not lead to complete recovery from a certain condition, it will not hurt you, either, and will actually improve your health. Patients who choose this method of care generally become the most enthusiastic supporters of fasting, once they have undergone the experience. They are excited to have avoided surgery or a lifetime of drug use."


Sources:, Fasting Center International 


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