The discipline of fasting is found in many cultural and religious traditions. In most settings, the object of the fasting is to obtain some higher level of purity that in turn benefits both the body and the mind. Depending on the type of fasting involved, the goal may involve spiritual cleansing, a cleansing of the body or a combination of the two. This makes the connection between fasting and cleansing important regardless of the setting where the activity takes place.
Some religions hold that fasting and cleansing are important to maintaining good physical health, as well as purifying the mind and spirit to commune with a higher power. At times, the fasting may be conducted as a group ritual that begins at a specific time and culminates with a gathering for worship. This duration of the period may be as short as twenty-four hours, or it may last for several days. During that time, the individual is expected to utilize the time and resources normally devoted to the preparation and consumption of food for other worthy causes. By engaging in spiritual contemplation, improving the mind, or spending time with loved ones during the fast, the action moves beyond simple abstinence from food and allows the individual to engage in activities that clear the mind and spirit, often from the ill effects of stress, and strained relationships.
The relationship between fasting and cleansing also is often presented in terms of physical as well as mental cleansing. Proponents of fasting point to the clearing out of toxins from the body as the result of the fast. Detox fasting often involves abstaining from all solid food, but allows the use of cleansing liquids that contain nutrients which help the body rid itself of toxic substances. For example, a juice fast would allow the individual to ingest specified amounts of fresh juice that contains plenty of vitamin C, resulting in nourishing the body while also allowing it to prepare for the expulsion of toxins.
Some examples of engaging in a fasting and cleansing process are aimed at improving the function of a specific system within the body. Colonic cleansing is sometimes managed by fasting from certain foods while ingesting foods with a high fiber content. The idea is to make use of the fiber to force buildup along the walls of the colon out of the system, thus allowing the colon to function more efficiently. As a result, the individual feels an increased sense of energy, a more balanced mood, and an overall sense of feeling healthier.
Not all healthcare professionals recommend fasting as a health practice for all people. This is especially true for patients who suffer with certain diseases that make abstention from food or drink counter-productive. This includes people with diabetes, and some forms of heart disease. For this reason, it is important to talk with a physician before embarking on any type of fasting and cleansing process. Depending on the current physical condition, the benefits of fasting may be outweighed by the potential negative consequences