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How to Break a Fast and Detect Food Sensitivities – Without Getting Sick

Posted Sep 13 2011 2:12pm

zucchini Fall is here and among cleansing communities the shift in seasons is a popular time to fast for health.

Whether attempting a one day water fast, a three day blended fast, a ten day juice fast or even a combination of some sort – breaking a fast properly is crucial to reaping the benefits. I know this because I’ve broken fasts with ease and disease.

In the past couple of years I’ve completed over 50 days of water fasting and over 30-days of juice fasting as a part of my lupus recovery. You can read about my 2011 twelve day water fast here . There have been a few times where I was eager to eat too much, or to eat high-fiber foods that are hard to digest too soon. In those instances, my body rebelled with negative gastrointestinal (GI) side effects including, but not limited to, tummy aches and severe abdominal bloating.

I’ve since learned that preparing mentally to break the fast slowly and with the right food is key. It’s also very simple when done correctly. There’s one sure-fire way that works well regardless of how long the fast lasts and that’s using green zucchini!

Day 1 – Breaking the Fast:

  • Keep a food and symptom log – If you’re not already, you should be keeping a food and symptom log to track any new patterns that may relate to the foods consumed – this may reveal unknown food sensitivities.
  • Go lean, green and mean! – When you’re ready to break the fast, start with 1/2 of a (organic if possible) green zucchini steamed. Enjoy it plain or with fresh lemon squeezed on top.  Zucchini is especially gentle on the GI tract (when cooked). By incorporating zucchini in small amounts gradually over time you can avoid vomiting caused by fluid and electrolyte imbalances.
  • CHEW, CHEW, CHEW – As you introduce food, chew VERY well. Thorough mastication of your food enhances the digestion and absorption of vital nutrients that do your body good. The chewing movement triggers signals in the brain to stimulate the secretion of digestive enzymes along the GI tract.
  • Slow and steady wins the race, proceed gradually - If hungry, have another 1/2 zucchini two hours later and continue that for the first day. I like to steam one or two zucchinis at a time. I keep the leftovers in the fridge after serving up 1/2 zucchini sized portions (about 1/2 cup). Bear in mind that depending how long your fast lasted, you may need to extend Day 1 to avoid GI discomfort.  In haste, you may find yourself eating too much too soon, gaining weight too quickly, having abdominal pain, bloating or gas and losing your hard earned progress made during the fast.
  • Eat mindfully, not mindlessly – It will be vital to eat only when physiologically hungry to avoid overeating which leads to gas, bloating and severe abdominal distention. Eat mindfully and enjoy your food’s sights, smells, tastes and textures. Appreciate your food and use it to nourish your body. Eat slowly and purposefully so that when you’re finished you’re truly satisfied :)
  • Hara Hachi Bu, Eat until you are 80% full – Okinawans have the longest life expectancy on the planet. In Okinawa, Japan, elders have a simple statement for their eating philosophy; “Hara Hachi Bu” which translates into “Eat until you are eight parts full.” Stopping at 80% capacity works because the stomach’s stretch receptors take about 20 minutes to tell the body how full it is. Use the time following your fast to establish this concept as a new habit.
  • Hold the sweets, you’re sweet enough! Do NOT consume concentrated sweets such as juice, sugar, jams and candy. This may cause cramping and dumping syndrome (aka: diarrhea) due to the osmotic effect of sugar in the bowel which draws fluid into the colon rapidly stimulating a sudden urge.  After one fast, I sipped on 4 ounces of OJ – which had me running to the bathroom in minutes! Eeeeek!!
  • Avoid high fiber and fatty foods: Fat has a slower transit time and both fiber and fat are more work for your body to digest.  I once thought well chewed corn tortilla chips (sort of like the ole’ Saltines when we’re sick) would be okay after a couple days of juicing – but their fat and course fiber had my belly aching for the remainder of the night.  That taught me!

Day 2 – Squash GI Issues:

After you’ve enjoyed green squash for a day and your system has gotten used to that – I suggest incorporating pureed or blended (pre-digested) squash such as butternut and acorn.

  • Simply wash the squash to remove dirt and bacteria, cut in half and place face down on a baking sheet in about 1/4 inch of water.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for one hour or until soft.
  • Scoop out the warm squash and puree with cinnamon as desired.
  • This will taste magnificent while easing the transition to solids.

Day 3 – Elimination Foods to rule out food sensitivities

Once you’ve invested the time and effort to fast, the days following provide a valuable opportunity to pin-point potential food sensitivities while slowly easing edibles back into your daily routine.

Those of us with an autoimmune disease assume a significant chance of having food sensitivities, leaky gut syndrome and/or Celiac disease – whether we’re aware of it or not.

In fact, Celiac disease rates are rising dramatically. Despite not knowing the exact cause of Celiac Sprue, we do know that modern food processing has changed the nature of wheat and other grains, making them more toxic than they’ve ever been. For example, deamination is a modern food processing technique that alters the structure of wheat and makes it far more troublesome to our immune system.

Left unchecked, food sensitivities may develop into food allergens while promoting inflammation systemically throughout the body contributing to pesky symptoms and resulting in autoimmune abnormalities.

A general rule of thumb for anyone with an autoimmune disease is to simply avoid wheat. You can click here   to take a brief online quiz to receive your gluten sensitivity score.

To determine if you have food sensitivities, begin Day 3 by gradually introducing wild rice, string beans and stewed greens to your butternut/acorn squash blend and the green zucchini you’ve been eating. Do this for a few days to see if you remain symptom free, without the fruit, nuts and beans.

Then add one new whole (unprocessed), plant-based food back into your daily intake gradually, such as one new new food every three days while observing symptoms in your food log. Only add a new food if/when you’re symptom free!

If a specific food invokes any symptoms, remove it until all symptoms have resolved.  Three to four days after your symptoms have been gone completely, re-introduce the troublesome food to re-test it.  Or simply avoid the food entirely moving forward. If the food acts as an insult for a second time – consider it a food sensitivity and remove it completely from your diet indefinitely.

As you can see, this process is long and arduous taking several months to carefully and methodically re-introduce new foods into your diet. It requires extensive preparation by:

1.  Having the proper foods on hand: zucchini, acorn and butternut squash, string beans, wild rice, stewed greens. I like to serve the beans and/or greens over the rice with a touch of salt/sugar/sulphite-free rice vinegar to add a lil flava.

2.  Mentally preparing to limit your food choices long term – this can be challenging and depressing. When following this outline, be sure to mentally prepare for the restrictions during the fast as well as the limited foods permitted after the fast while resuming solids.

3.  Planning to eat this way during activities away from home – this requires always having the appropriate foods on hand.  It’s wise to plan a fast for a time when no social events or holidays are on the horizon to reduce temptation and isolation.

By suddenly stopping an elimination diet, and eating a normal meal – it will be challenging to pin-point what symptoms are caused by which foods.

If you choose to do an elimination diet:

Keep a list of the top eight foods that might possibly pose an issue based on your food records. Once you have resumed a whole food, plant based lifestyle (without the trigger foods), see how you feel. If symptoms persist, consider asking your physician to write a prescription to have food allergy testing completed, if this has never been explored.

Request an IgG test and a RAST test (including the eight potential trigger foods you determined during the elimination diet.) Although these blood tests can be fickle (based on what you’ve eaten) and are not scientifically sound measures, they may help to shed light on the results you found while incorporating foods back into your diet.

If you prefer to skip the elimination diet and avoid dealing with prescriptions all together:

Another option is the IgA stool test that can be completed from your home and mailed to for analysis. Results are emailed to you directly.

The downside is that you must pay out-of-pocket, but there are a number of tests that you can choose from. I suggest starting with the Panel A + C, which is a comprehensive Gluten/Antigenic Food Sensitivity Stool Panel costing $539. This package combines two panels at a discounted price. It tests for immunologic reaction to gluten, milk, egg, soy, other grains (corn, rice, oats), meats (beef, chicken, pork, tuna), nuts (almonds, cashews, walnuts), and Nightshades (white potato).

That’s all I’ve got for now, but I’ll continue to update this post as I learn more! ;-)

If you break a fast using these techniques or pin-point any food sensitivities using any of these methods, please stop back here to tell us about your experience so we can learn from you.

Happy Fasting and Happy Eating!

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