For some people, therapeutic fasting is a new experience, and an upcoming fasting programme raises questions. What is therapeutic fasting? How long should you fast for? How does therapeutic fasting work? And who should consider fasting?
My name is Dr Verena Buchinger-Kähler and I am the Medical Director at the BUCHINGER clinic. I would like to answer a number of questions that our guests frequently ask before they arrive at the clinic, such as “What is therapeutic fasting?” and “How does therapeutic fasting work?”. I would like to take away any uncertainties and instil a good measure of confidence. It is of great importance to us to look after our guests medically – both during and after their stay at the BUCHINGER clinic – and always listen to our guests’ needs.
Many people toy with the idea of fasting and ask themselves: What is therapeutic fasting? What effects does it have? Therapeutic fasting is beneficial to body, mind and soul. Apart from health disorders such as metabolic syndromes, joint rheumatism or autoimmune diseases, therapeutic fasting is also an excellent therapy method in the treatment of mental health disorders.
Our clinic provides our guest with plenty of space and time. That is why therapeutic fasting is often also a spiritual experience. We care for our guests both medically and psychologically. Group and individual meetings help to bring a lot of light into the darkness. Our guests can address their living circumstances and reflect on old habits. An inner and outer cleansing process takes place. Our guests find more inner peace, detox their bodies and relinquish bad habits.
It is not only the physical aspect that plays a significant role, but also the aspect of emotional realisation. What have I been missing? What is good for me? How am I treating my body?
We have two types of guest. Some fast mainly for the physical benefits of fasting. These guests regularly tell us about spiritual experiences they have had during their stay. Then there are those guests to whom spirituality is important and they are often surprised by the physical effects that go hand in hand with fasting.
Many guests wonder beforehand how therapeutic fasting works. We accompany our guests right from the beginning and prepare them for the fasting period during the pre-cleansing days. By slowly withdrawing from food that is always readily available and plentiful, the body feels lighter and the therapeutic fasting phase can begin. On those days, guests will consume a reducing diet. Carefully steamed vegetables and light meals will be served by our chefs and guests should drink plenty of fluids during the pre-cleansing days.
At the start of the fasting period, the bowels are flushed out, traditionally with Glauber’s salt. Due to the intestinal cleansing, less toxins are absorbed from the bowels. The risk of suffering headaches is reduced and the feeling of hunger is also reduced due to the effect of the bowels being emptied. Purging forms an essential part of the BUCHINGER original method.
Due to flushing out the bowels, most guests don’t feel hungry at all.
Headaches are a rather seldom occurrence provided that sufficient fluids are consumed. We always make sure the individual wishes of our guests are taken into account. For example, if a guest enjoys drinking a lot of coffee, they shouldn’t stop drinking it completely as otherwise the guest may experience headaches.
There is no optimal duration for therapeutic fasting. The length of time you should fast is as individual as your goals and the motivation behind it. It depends on whether you want to draw on either the preventative or therapeutic aspects of fasting.
Preventative therapeutic fasting can take place during shorter stays. The individual visits are short but more frequent. Our guests who fast for preventative reasons stay with us often twice a year for a period of 7 to 10 days.
Generally, I would recommend a stay of at least 14 days when fasting for the first time. You can then experience the complete cycle, from the anamnesis to the build-up days.
If you want to fast for therapeutic reasons, i.e. for diseases such as joint problems, irritable bowel syndrome or similar bowel disorders, it is advisable to fast for at least three weeks for the first time.
Theoretically, there is no maximum limit when it comes to therapeutic fasting. How long one fasts is individual. My great-grandfather wrote of guests that fasted for up to 60 days. At our clinic, however, we do not extend the fasting period beyond 28 days. This ensures that the positive effects of fasting are experienced.
The therapeutic fasting phase is followed by the breaking of the fast. This is traditionally celebrated with an apple and the awarding of a fasting certificate. That is the way our founder Dr Otto Buchinger began marking this achievement. We then accompany our guests step by step to a healthy and complete diet. When our guests leave our clinic, most feel refreshed and filled with enthusiasm – about what they have learned through therapeutic fasting and the new possibilities that lie ahead. This frequently provides the essential stimulus to live and eat more healthily.
Regular fasting stimulates the brain function and promotes the interconnection of brain cells. There is, however, no golden rule. When guests who have fasted regularly in the past suffer a stroke, the brain can be seen to regenerate more quickly. Also guests who have diabetes have reported that they can manage with administering a lower dosage of medication for up to three months after therapeutic fasting.
An important aspect is also that after fasting, our guests frequently introduce changes to their eating habits. After a certain time, however, many go back to quick and easy meals. That is when guests return to our clinic and appreciate the support and the input they experience here. Regular therapeutic fasting helps one to stay focused and to internalise the one’s relationship with food.
To make your stay at the BUCHINGER clinic run as smoothly as possible, please remember to bring the following:
• An overview of the medication you are currently taking including the dosage
• The latest medical findings and laboratory results
• Clothes appropriate to the season
• Sports and swimming gear
• Sturdy footwear for walks
A towelling robe and slippers will be provided and will already be in your room when you arrive.
BUCHINGER therapeutic fasting is a low-calorific drinking diet whereby approximately 200–300 kilocalories are consumed per day. During the therapeutic fasting phase our guests will receive our particularly nutrition-rich organic vegetable broth made to our original recipe, supplemented by fruit and vegetables juices, tea and mineral water.
We at BUCHINGER see the loss of excess weight through therapeutic fasting more as a positive side effect rather than a goal to be achieved. The occurring loss of weight is, in large part, attributable to the body losing a lot of fluid. Due to the missing salts that are usually absorbed through food, and also due to the lowered insulin level, the body removes more salts and large amounts of water. This process is extremely healthy for the body. Another large part of the weight loss can also be attributed to the emptying of the gastrointestinal tract.
Therapeutic fasting is good for your soul. The body releases a high quantity of neurotransmitters that stimulate your mood. Endorphins, dopamine and serotonin are set free. People who fast feel more balanced than they did before.
At the BUCHINGER clinic we combine therapeutic fasting with exercise. Exercise keeps the circulation and the metabolism going and prevents the breakdown of protein in the muscles. Exercise is beneficial for the entire body. We carry out many forms of exercise outside in the fresh air. Together with others, alone or as a pair – exercise contributes to the positive effects of therapeutic fasting. It is, of course, important to listen to any warning signals the body may send when fasting. How long or intense the exercise session is depends on how each individual is feeling at any given moment. We care for our guests meticulously and view each guest individually – with their own strengths, possibilities and needs.
We would particularly recommend for our guests to switch off their mobile phones and any other technical devices during the therapeutic fasting programme. In modern language it is called a “digital detox”. By doing so, our guests can give fasting the necessary attention. Our founder, my great-grandfather Dr Otto Buchinger, once said: “When fasting you don’t have a task, you yourself are the task.” And that is what therapeutic fasting is about – to find inner peace without distractions, to both listen and react to your body, and be aware of the signals it is sending you.