Fast Track to Health
Julian Whitaker, MD
For the last 35 years, I’ve advocated a low-fat, high-fiber diet; exercise; and targeted nutritional supplements as the foundation of optimal health. For most of those years, I followed my own advice. My diet was pretty good, and I was very active, running marathons, riding a bicycle across the country, and playing tennis, squash, and racquetball.
But I fell off the wagon. Over the past decade, I’ve allowed salt, sugar, and fat-laden processed foods to sneak into my diet. If I’d just done what I tell my patients to do, this story would never have needed to be told. But I drifted away and paid the price. I was 40 pounds overweight, had high blood pressure and poor exercise tolerance, and was aging rapidly.
It was time for America’s Wellness Doctor to get well. So I decided to do just that—I decided to fast.
My Fasting Experience
My wife and I fasted for five days. During that time, we drank lots of water, went to lectures, and read and slept a lot, but we had nothing to eat. We’d been warned that the first two days of fasting would be the hardest, and indeed they were. Both Connie and I were irritable, grumpy, and uncomfortable. It wasn’t really hunger that we were experiencing. It was more like the symptoms of withdrawal, which, as it turns out, is exactly what happens when you fast.
After two days, right on schedule, we felt much better. We were no longer anxious or ill-tempered, we slept well, and, incredibly, we weren’t hungry. It was amazing that after three or four days of not eating, we could walk by a bakery filled with cupcakes, fruit tarts, and brownies and not even be tempted. We actually contemplated fasting for an additional three days because, at that point, it would have been easy.
Upon the completion of our fast, we eased back into eating, starting with juices. Then we gradually incorporated natural, organic, unprocessed foods low in fat, salt, sugar, and additives.
Fasting Yields Rapid Results
During our fast, Connie lost eight pounds. (She didn’t have much to lose in the first place and was there primarily to support me.) I lost 21 pounds. Most of it, of course, was excess salt and fluids—you simply can’t lose that much fat in such a short a period of time.
Nevertheless, it had a huge effect on my health, appearance, and sense of well-being. My blood pressure dramatically declined. My blood sugar, which had been in the high-normal range, was lower; my cholesterol and triglycerides improved; and my energy returned. On a treadmill exercise stress test, I performed as well as a healthy 30-year-old.
How is this possible? How could I have had such dramatic improvements in just a week?
The Scientific Basis of Fasting
Fasting has a number of unique attributes that no other therapy provides. It rapidly rids the body of excess sodium and fluids, which eliminates edema and lowers blood pressure. It promotes weight loss—water weight initially, but also fat loss—and it facilitates detoxification, mobilizing and eliminating toxins.
Fasting also gives the gut a break and allows it to repair itself, which often leads to improvements not only in digestive complaints, but in allergy symptoms and autoimmune disorders as well. It increases insulin sensitivity, which lowers blood sugar and eliminates virtually all aspects of metabolic syndrome. In short, fasting seems to reset your metabolism and break disease cycles, much like rebooting your computer.
Most importantly, improvements are maintained after the fast ends. In a study by Alan Goldhamer, DC, 174 patients with hypertension underwent a fasting regimen. Ninety percent of these patients achieved normal blood pressure (the average reduction was 37/13 mm Hg), and all of the participants who had been on antihypertensive medications were able to get off their drugs. Moreover, the mean blood pressure of patients who were tracked for an average of 27 weeks after completing their fast was a perfectly healthy 123/77.
Fasting’s effects on diabetes are enduring as well. John K. Davidson, MD, PhD, a retired professor at Emory University School of Medicine and founding director of the diabetes unit at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, describes in his popular textbook the use of seven-day fasts as initial treatment for obese patients with type 2 diabetes.
In addition to rapid and predictable improvements in blood sugar, blood pressure, and weight during the fast, Dr. Davidson reports that patients easily transitioned to low- to moderate-calorie diets. And, over five to seven months, they gradually achieved both their ideal weight and control over their blood sugar level without the use of insulin or other drugs.
Jumpstart Your Journey to Health
I have never felt as confident about my current and future health as I do at this time. I’m back on track, and I’m convinced that I will stay on track for the rest of my life. We now encourage patients who are struggling with obesity, diabetes, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, and other problems to jumpstart their one- to three-week Back to Health program at the clinic by fasting for three to seven days. They can then transition to our mini-fast with exercise program or simply adopt a healthy diet.
Although fasting is quite safe—physicians who condemn it as dangerous are simply biased and uneducated—it’s much easier to do in a supportive setting such Whitaker Wellness. And I certainly wouldn’t recommend that anyone who has a serious health problem or is taking prescription drugs undergo fasting without medical supervision.
That said, the “rules” are few and simple. Fasters need to drink a lot of water (eight or more eight-ounce glasses of water every day), relax and take it easy (walking is fine but no vigorous exercise), and avoid distractions that make the process more difficult (grocery shopping, cooking, etc.). Drugs should be stopped only by a physician. Fasts should be gently broken with fresh vegetable and fruit juices, followed by the gradual addition of whole, natural, unprocessed foods—which I guarantee you’ll enjoy even if you never have before.
Do yourself a favor and seriously explore this safe, simple, proven therapy. Fasting can launch you into a healthier lifestyle and make your journey back to health easier, quicker, and more pleasant than you could ever imagine.
- Fasting is best done in a medical setting. If you are taking prescription medications, have a serious health problem, or need to fast for a prolonged period, you should undergo this therapy only under medical supervision. For information on the fasting program at the Whitaker Wellness Institute, call (866) 944-8253.
- Davidson JK. Clinical Diabetes Mellitus, a Problem-Oriented Approach. New York, NY: Thieme; 2000.
- Goldhamer AC, et al. Medically supervised water-only fasting in the treatment of borderline hypertension. J Altern Complement Med. 2002;8(5):643–650.
- McCarty MF. A preliminary fast may potentiate response to a subsequent low-salt, low-fat vegan diet in the management of hypertension—fasting as a strategy for breaking metabolic vicious cycles. Med Hypotheses. 2003;60(5):624–633.
Modified from Health & Healing with permission from Healthy Directions, LLC. Copyright 2008. Photocopying, reproduction, or quotation strictly prohibited without written permission from the publisher. To subscribe to Health & Healing, click here.