Today we’re talking about those tiresome extra pounds again. In addition to diets, there are a whole range of different fasting cures to help shift them. It’s a long list: intermittent fasting, Buchinger therapeutic fasting, modified fasting, alkaline fasting, the Schroth cure, the Mayr cure, fruit fasting, juice fasting, and we could go on.
As we have already learned, fasting requires a great deal of discipline; good resolutions alone are not enough. In our first blog article on the subject, we examined intermittent fasting using the 5:2 and 16:8 methods.
When it comes to intermittent fasting, you can choose between two options. Firstly, the 16:8 method: there should be 16 hours between the last meal of the day and the first meal of the following day. During the eight hours that you’re allowed to eat, you have two meals.
Secondly, the 5:2 method: you eat normally five days a week and almost nothing on the other two days. The goal of both these methods is long-term weight loss. In our article we came to the conclusion that the 16:8 method is the more practical of the two. Indeed, the 16:8 method currently seems to be more popular in Germany, which is not surprising, as a large part of your daily fasting period happens while you’re asleep.
In our article on fasting, we also presented “fasting according to St. Hildegard von Bingen”, from whom we learnt a lot. Statements like: “First you must heal your soul, then the body can follow” made a big impression on us.
People, the environment, body and soul – according to Hildegard von Bingen, everything is interrelated. Hildegard von Bingen also warned against fatty foods and overeating. She considered them to be the cause of most human diseases.
Another statement we were particularly struck by: “Only the sick and weak should have breakfast first thing in the morning in order to regain their strength. Completely healthy people can safely do without breakfast and have their first warm meal at lunchtime.” Almost 1000 years ago she recommended a “fasting phase” of 13 to 17 hours per day, thus anticipating the current trend for 16:8 fasting.
Therapeutic fasting according to Dr. Otto Buchinger
Let’s move on to therapeutic fasting according to Buchinger. Otto Hermann Ferdinand Buchinger was a German doctor and philosopher who began suffering from severe rheumatism in the joints in 1917.
In 1919 he began a three-week fasting cure in Freiburg im Breisgau with his colleague Gustav Riedlin. The cure was successful in treating his rheumatism, and from then on Buchinger was fascinated by alternative naturopathy and fasting.
A year later he founded his own fasting clinic, the Kurheim Dr. Otto Buchinger. In 1935 he published “The Therapeutic Fasting Cure”, which is still in print to this day. The idea behind Buchinger’s method: fasting activates the body’s own power to heal itself.
A diet for the soul
According to Buchinger, therapeutic fasting allows the body to cleanse itself and activate its own powers of self-healing, not only on a medical level, but also on a psychosocial and spiritual level. Buchinger also talked of a “diet for the soul”.During fasting, he recommended listening to music, reading, and engaging in art or meditation. Taking long walks in nature should help you to clear your mind and free your thoughts.
Buchinger therapeutic fasting also includes Kneipp treatments, massages, gymnastics and even saunas to boost the circulation and metabolism and to promote health and wellbeing. This also prevents proteins in the muscles from breaking down. It sounds like a spa break, but it isn’t.
According to Buchinger, fasting doesn’t work without colonic cleansing
Buchinger’s cure begins with a one-to-two day preparation phase, the so-called “relief” days. At the beginning of the first day of fasting, the “colonic cleansing” takes place. For this, fasters take 30-40 g of Glauber’s salt dissolved in one litre of water, which they should drink within 20 minutes. This process is repeated several times during the fasting period.An enema every two days probably isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but when you consider that almost 80 percent of all diseases arise in the intestine, a colonic cleanse certainly couldn’t do you any harm. You should also know our intestines are almost eight metres long, and that they’re the largest organ in our body after our skin.
Buchinger’s model of therapeutic fasting is still considered a classic among fasting methods.
According to the Buchinger method, fasters should avoid all solid foods, ingesting only vegetable broth, tea, juices and water. The fasting period can last five days or more. Fasting is nothing new. In ancient times and the Middle Ages, people fasted for medical and spiritual reasons. However through Otto Buchinger’s observations, writings and clinics, fasting became more widely known.
On one point, however, Otto Buchinger encountered criticism from conventional medicine: from a scientific point of view, it is doubtful whether his terms “purification” and “detoxification” are justified. Buchinger defines waste products as metabolic by-products which are deposited in the body and which can cause diseases. However, many experts are of the opinion that the body eliminates these metabolic by-products itself through the kidneys, intestines, lungs and skin.
See your doctor before fasting
For therapeutic fasting to be successful, it should be overseen by doctors or therapists who are qualified to provide fasting support. Since 1996, doctors have been able to obtain the “Doctor of Fasting” certificate from the Medical Association for Therapeutic Fasting and Nutrition (Ärztegesellschaft Heilfasten und Ernährung e.V.,ÄGHE).
It is undisputed that this fasting method can be used both as a preventative health measure and to treat certain diseases. According to Otto Buchinger, the optimal fasting period is 2 to 4 weeks, taking into account each individual’s specific health issues. The Medical Association for Therapeutic Fasting and Nutrition recommends planning a standard duration of 7 to 10 days for a therapeutic fasting cure, plus 1 preparation day, followed by 3 days to normalise eating behaviour.
What does the science say?
Scientific research has determined several diseases on which fasting can have a beneficial effect. These include chronic inflammation, chronic pain conditions, metabolic syndrome, chronic cardiovascular diseases, atopic diseases and psychosomatic diseases. There is also level 1 evidence for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (Müller et al. 2001).
In addition, therapeutic fasting also helps with high blood pressure, osteoarthritis and migraines, promotes psychological well-being, supports lifestyle changes, and can alleviate the side effects of chemotherapy. (summarised in Wilhelmi de Toledo et al. 2013).
Buchinger therapeutic fasting is carried out under medical supervision in specially designed health clinics. This is not entirely unimportant, as therapeutic fasting can have side effects such as mild circulatory problems, low blood pressure, gastrointestinal complaints, muscle cramps, fatigue, dizziness, acute back pain and menstrual disorders. People with pre-existing conditions should speak to their doctor, as serious side effects and complications cannot be ruled out.
Fasting for weight loss?
If you don’t fundamentally change your diet after fasting, you won’t lose weight. The weight loss from fasting will only be temporary. Therapeutic fasting is not suitable for people seeking to lose weight, explains Dr. Andreas Hans-Otto Buchinger, Otto Buchinger’s son, in the foreword of the 24th edition of “Therapeutic Fasting“. Any weight loss is “just a nice side effect”.
Starting a fast with no more ado is not a good idea: everyone should at least have a blood test and an ECG done beforehand, as well as consulting their doctor, recommended Buchinger. Otto Buchinger was a nature lover and a deeply spiritual person who did not see fasting as missing out on something, but as a state of frugality and looking inward. According to his family, he valued aphorisms and coined the phrase “While fasting, the body is fine, but the soul is hungry“.For this reason, during fasting we should concentrate on “spiritual food” in the form of nature, music, prayer and contemplation.Otto Buchinger’s fasting clinics are now run by the third and fourth generations of his family.
Stay safe and sound, whether fasting or not!
Sources: Guidelines for Fasting Therapy – Buchinger.de – Medical Association for Therapeutic Fasting and Nutrition (Ärztegesellschaft für Heilfasten und Ernährung e.V., ÄGHE) – German Society for Nutrition (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ernährung e.V.)