I love to fast. It’s just such a treat for my body and soul. Unless we’re talking about tea fasting. This extreme method brought me to my knees in a matter of days and almost drove me crazy. What I really like, though, is juice fasting or the so called „Basenfasten“ – a diet based on only alkaline food, such as fruit and vegetables and some nuts. There is apparently no english word for it, so I’ll stick to the German term here. These two methods are a real pleasure to me and so I treat myself with a fasting week around 3 to 4 times a year. I really call it a „treat“ and a „pleasure“ because it always feels like a beautiful purifying, regenerating and grounding experience, not like a sacrifice.
This article provides you with a short and rather superficial overview on my experience with different forms of fasting. For more details, I recommend to look for other blogs or books on the topic.
„Basenfasten“, the alkaline diet – the soft version for beginners
For me it all began with the said so called „Basenfasten“. This is the softest option I know. There are several different approaches to it which all vary a bit with regards to what is alkaline and what’s not. I remember for example how a friend told me she was now following an alkaline diet, and thus ordered a hot chocolate with soy milk instead of a cappuccino. I was somewhat surprised and amused by that, as my „Basenfasten“ is much stricter. The rules I follow were developed by Sabine Wacker, a German naturopath, and her husband, doctor Andreas Wacker. Together they developed the so called „Wacker-Methode®“ (the Wacker method). Their rules allow only fruit, vegetables, seeds and certain nuts, as well as a lot of water and diluted herbal infusions. This list of things you can eat during your fasting is of course a little constraining, but it still allows for eating out, cooking with friends or going to a café and having a tea.
My main motivation for this kind of fasting is the urge for a soft way of detoxing. After rather unhealthy periods, my body (and soul) just crave a detox to feel fit and comfortable again. As I work in the food sector and can be called a professional foodie (one of those annoying people who take pictures of their food and plan city trips following their appetite), such periods are a recurring part of my life. Especially around holidays like Christmas or when I visit gourmet food fairs. Then I drink alcohol (almost) every day and eat a lot of sumptuous food. But I’m not complaining! It’s just so that after I while I reach a point where my whole body cries for a detox. Then I know: it’s time to fast.
How it all began
My first experience with fasting dates back approximately 4 or 5 years. It was shortly after New Year’s. I felt the need to detox and also to lose one or two kilos to be more comfortable in my skin.
Up to that day I had no experience whatsoever with fasting. So I just went to the next book store and bought two guide books: one was for „the real thing“ – fasting without eating –, the other one, a rather coincidental discovery, was a guide to the Wacker method of „Basenfasten“. While flipping through the book on „real“ fasting, I got more and more scared: How should I possibly survive without eating (!) for a whole week?! Me?! You have to know that I am one of those people who become very grumpy and difficult to be around when I’m hungry. I get very grumpy then. So I went for „Basenfasten“.
The acid-base balance
But back to „Basenfasten“, which is all about bringing the acid-base-balance back into, well, balance. As our organs need different milieus to function – some more acid, some more basic or alkaline – our body is permanently working to balance the right equilibrium. Acids are naturally produced by our body and also naturally eliminated through breathing and sweating as well as other metabolic processes in our lungs and kidneys. At the same time, we take in acids through the food we eat. If this food is too acid, the balance shifts. The result is hyperacidity. In its attempt to restore the balance, our body takes calcium from our bones, which is needed to break down the acids, and stores excess acid in the connective tissue. The results are tattiness and fatigue, as well as flaccid, pale skin. You might also feel slightly depressed and some argue, that other severe diseases such as osteoporosis, migraine and rheumatism are symptoms for hyperacidity. This is why we need to take care to supply our bodies with enough alkaline forming foods to counterbalance the acids.
Now what are alkaline forming foods? The answer is super easy: It’s basically fruit and vegetables. All of them, even sour tasting fruits like citrus fruit or tomatoes. It’s really not about the taste, but about the basic metabolization.
Alcohol, sugar and coffee are, as you can imagine, „very bad“ acid producers. But there are also the „good ones“ such as some grains like brown rice, quinoa and oat, that you don’t have to cut out from your daily nutrition. Of course, you should, however, reduce their intake and eat more fruit and vegetables, if you want to keep your acid-base-balance. And during your „Basenfasten“-cure they are of course taboo. But don’t worry: First of all, it’s not forever, and secondly you can eat as much potatoes (also sweet potatoes) during the cure. They are a great alternative to rice and pasta!
Basenfasten – how does it work?
The ideal duration for „Basenfasten“ is a week, but you can really see what works best for you. Even a few days are great. With „Basenfasten“ you don’t have to have a pre-cleansing day as you normally do with other fasting methods. You can start spontaneously and without any special preparation or planning. Of course, your body will be thankful if you didn’t have a heavy dinner the evening before you start, and if you are a heavy consumer of coffee and sugar, the fasting will be easier if you reduce or skip these before you start the fasting, as the withdrawal effect of coffee can cause rather brutal headaches. I only experienced these once, but really, I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.
The colon cleansing
In case of need, you can get rid of all sorts of pain, unpleasant side effects, low moods etc. with an enema. Yes, also „Basenfasten“ comes with bowel or colon cleansing. I personally don’t mind the subject at all, don’t find it disgusting, awkward or embarrassing, but rather fascinating (Maybe my German side? We Germans are known for being a little obsessed with digestion-related topics …). It is really interesting to learn how our brain and gut are connected and how much our health – also our mental health – are influenced by this 20 metres long tube!
If you do „Basenfasten“ for a week, it is recommended to cleanse the bowel on the first, the third and the fifth day with an irrigator, an inlet device that works with water and can be used without professional help at home in your bathroom. You can find it at your local pharmacy or online. You can also use laxatives, but I personally prefer the irrigator, as it renders the effects more controllable. Just see what works best for you.
The „Bastenfasten“ has a relatively unspectacular end, as there is no a proper fast-breaking. As opposed to juice and tea fasting, where the whole digestive system comes to a halt and has to be reactivated slowly and carefully, „Basenfasten“ doesn’t stop your digestion. The energy intake is still based on food, external energy. This is why you can start to eat „normally“ again right after the cure. It is however still recommended to try to refrain from falling back into old „bad habits“ immediately and to go slow on salt, fat and sugar and to eat mainly vegan. Of course you should also go slow on alcohol and coffee. But as always: Just listen to your body. It normally knows intuitively what’s good for you and what’s not.
My nutrition is mainly vegan anyway, which makes the whole detoxing easier for me then for a heavy consumer of meat, sugar and coffee, for example. Still, I have to admit that some days into the cure I regularly start to fantasise about a creamy oatmilk cereal cappuccino. Really wild, I know … 😉
I like to do a „Basenfasten“ cure once every season, as I like to observe if and how my body reacts differently according to nature’s cycles. How fit I am, how fast I get cold and so on … I also like to explore and experiment with the seasonal food options. Autumn and winter are a pure soup parade (think pumpkin, sweet potato, cauliflower …), whereas spring and summer are perfect for colourful salads, fruit salad and steamed veggies with a little olive oil and lemon.
What you can eat during Basenfasten:
- fruit and vegetables as much as you like
- certain nuts: almonds and walnuts with moderation
- a little olive oil for your salad. Use lemon instead of vinegar for your dressing.
- diluted herbal teas (no coffee, no black tea)
You want a list to help you navigate? Here is a list of alkaline forming foods.
If you want to follow the Wacker method as I did, leave out the tofu, dairy and bread.
What I like about Basenfasten:
- I can eat as much as I want
- I feel fit, strong, healthy and filled with energy
- My mind clears up
- I feel light
- My appetite for sweets vanishes
- It is relatively compatible with a normal social life and can easily be integrated into your daily routine
- I can start and stop spontaneously just as I please, without preparation and readjustment
Juice fasting – the Buchinger method
The next level of fasting I have tried, is the Buchinger method of juice fasting, developed by the German doctor Otto Buchinger. With this method your only intake consists of highly diluted fruit or vegetable juices, vegetable broth and of course liters and liters of water and diluted herbal teas. Make sure you drink around 3 liters daily. Juice and broth should be organic, since you want to detox your body and not feed it with the chemical additives most industrial foods contain. The daily caloric intake of this method is of only 100 to 200 calories per day. Your body switches into a different mode, in which all the energy is taken from endogenous reserves.
The cure begins with a preparation day, for which I like to eat the same light meal for breakfast, lunch and dinner, for example oatmeal, rice, salad, vegetable soup … This is a good way of tuning your metabolism down into the new mode.
I have been juice fasting four times now and each time my body switched modes with relative ease. Usually on the first morning, I felt as though the shift had already taken place over night. No feeling of hunger or wanting whatsoever. It rather felt as if my body had already begun to happily munch on its own reserves. And if you ever encounter any difficulty, you now know the magic formula: enema!
My menu for juice fasting:
- Breakfast: ⅓ fruit juice diluted with ⅔ warm water
- Lunch: ⅓ vegetable or fruit juice diluted with warm water
- Dinner: ⅓ vegetable juice diluted with warm water or a warm vegetable broth.
Ideally, you „eat“ both juice and broth with a spooned up out of a cup by chewing for a while on every sip. This is important for the production of gastric juices, which are needed to make good use of the nutrients you take in.
If you feel like your having circulatory problems you can suck on a lemon or snack a little bit of honey. They say, up to a teaspoon of honey per day is okay, but I wouldn’t see things too strict. I sometimes have a little more.
The colon cleansing
If you go on a tea or juice fast (see further below for tea fasting) it is essential to regularly cleanse your bowel, as it will pretty soon cease all activity due to the complete lack of solid food intake. However, as it is so long, it takes time to empty completely! So, in order to avoid that old excrements – sorry for that! – stay in your bowel and begin to ferment, which produces gases that can cause fatigue, headache, general malaise and depressive mood, you should thoroughly cleanse yourself. Do it at least every other day, if needed daily, depending on how you feel. My motto is: „In case of doubt: enema!“
Hunger and appetite
The enema also helps when you’re hungry. Why? When the bowel is completely empty, you won’t feel hunger any more. What we usually take for stomach growls, really are bowel growls!
I usually don’t suffer from hunger when I fast. I rather find it super fascinating how fast my body adjusts and what it is capable of, even without food.
Appetite is another thing and I do sometimes temporarily crave certain foods, but this goes away and is not too hard, as I know that the fast will end at some point. Staying away from instagram also helps.
Detoxing your whole body
The detoxing affects your entire body. This means, you are also detoxing through your skin and mucous membranes, which can lead to stronger body odor, an increase of tongue coating, dimples etc. Good reasons to retreat to the countryside for the duration of the fasting. When I have the time, I like to do that and just take some time out in the countryside.
But if your normal diet isn’t too unhealthy and if you’re not a smoker, these mentioned side effects are not too bad. I use a tongue scraper every morning, also when I’m not fasting, and while I fast I might use it a little more, but my tongue never gets too heavily coated. What I do experience is a slightly furry mouth feeling. If you have a hard time putting up with it, you can eat vegan and sugar free licorice. This reduces the furry feeling and hydrates your mouth which can dry out at times.
What’s also very important is that you exercise – but only mildly, no marathons during that time! – so that you don’t burn your muscles with your fat reserves. You can also support your body’s detoxing by applying a hot-water bottle on your liver, as the liver is one of the organs that works hardest during the detoxing.
The fasting ends with the famous fast-breaking, the first intake of solid food, which immediately propulses your body back into its usual mode of external energy intake.
The classic way to break the fast is to eat an apple, either raw or steamed. But you can also take a pear or a boiled potato or whatever you want. The fast-breaking is about enjoying your food with all senses. I believe this happens naturally, as it just tastes so good. I like to break my fast with a steamed apple. Its sweet smell has already brought me to tears more than once. The first bite is ecstatic. Like a whole-mouth-orgasm. When the skin bursts under your teeth and the juice is splashing into your mouth, your taste buds are having a party and go crazy like children on Christmas Eve.
But watch out: Even if you enjoy the food a lot, you have to eat super slow and not too much. Your stomach and bowel could simply not handle it and would react with strong pain. Really make sure to chew each bite thoroughly until you’ve reduced your food into a creamy puree. This takes a while, I know, but it is really essential if you don’t want to overstrain your digestion.
The readjustment phase
After the breaking of the fast comes the readjustment phase, which should be 2 days at least. There is a simple rule of thumb you can follow: the readjustment is a third of the whole fasting period. During the readjustment you slowly and carefully increase the caloric intake again:
- Day of breaking the fast: about 500,
- First day of readjustment: about 800 to 1000,
- Second day of readjustment: about 1000 to 1200.
Animal products, coffee, alcohol and strong spices are still taboo. But if you listen carefully to your body, you’ll know approximately what to do.
In the following days, you should continue to be careful with the intake of fat and animal products. Flatulent foods such as beans, peas and kale are also a little heavy to digest, so you might want to wait a little with these as well.
Let’s go outside!
For most of my juice fasting cures I fled to the countryside with a good friend. But I also already fasted all by myself while working. It also worked well, but I prefer to take some time off in order to really concentrate on the fasting. Ideally, you find yourself a spot on the countryside, close to a lake, a forest … where you can spend your days outside in the fresh air and be active. We like to go for long walks, swim, ride our bikes, go inline skating or even for a run.
We are both of normal weight and mostly interested in the detoxing and the experience as such. We enjoy the quality time together, the nature, the being away from everything, and we enjoy feeling more clear and more energetic through the fasting. The weight loss is welcome but rather secondary. And so we limit the duration of the fasting to around 8 days. If I continue for longer, I just lose too much weight.
Until recently I had only done a juice fast in spring and summer, this year was my first one in winter. And, believe it or not, it was not harder, nor was I cold all the time. That’s great news!
Feeling high or low while fasting
There’s a lot of talk about how you can feel really high or low while fasting. My friend sometimes suffers from a fasting low, but our best friend the enema brings a quick relief. I have never experienced either of the two extremes, but I usually feel rather good, healthy and strong when I do juice fasting.
My one and only bad experience with fasting happened when I tried tea fasting:
Tea fasting or going nuts in a matter of days
Tea fasting works just like juice fasting – including the pre-cleansing/preparation day, the bowel cleansing, the breaking and the readjustment. The only difference is that the diluted juices and the broth are replaced by herbal teas and water. And that’s it. Your caloric intake is reduced to zero.
I tried this once and am done with it. A good friend of mine is a total fan of this method. He reported he never felt more clear and energized in his life. For me it was the complete opposite. Never before have I felt more tired. No sign of mental clarity or enlightenment. Instead, I was struggling to stand up from the sofa without collapsing.
During juice fasting I could go swimming and running, ride my bike for hours … during tea fasting I barely managed to go for a walk. The one attempt to go for a run, in order to keep my muscles from degenerating, ended after 3 kilometres with a bright red head, screaming lungs, flaming side stitches and a racing heart like a metronome on ecstasy.
Other not so nice side effects were sleep problems and a weird feeling of itching air bubbles under my skin. When I lay in bed, I could feel my heart beat loudly without even placing my hand on my chest. It was really unpleasant and I worried about my health.
Apart from the above mentioned difficulties, I as a foodie, find tea fasting pretty sad: Of course you can vary the type of tea you’re drinking, but in the end, it’s still only tea. For 7 days. I love to eat well and my taste buds become really sad when they are starved like that.
My personal conclusion:
With all fasting methods my focus lies on the cleansing, on the grounding and the physical experience. I like to observe what my body is capable of. I enjoy the lightness and the free time you gain when you don’t think of food three times a day. Even though I really like to eat. Did I mention that? To me, the fasting is a beautiful time out for body and soul and I enjoy the quality time with my friend and with nature. The weight loss sure is a nice side effect, but not my main motivation.
Of all the methods I tried, I think that „Basenfasten“ is the one which can be integrated into your daily life most easily, juice fasting is what I prefer, with regards to its detoxing and rejuvenating effect. Tea fasting, however, is definitely not my cup of tea.
One last important note:
There are some dangers involved with fasting and you really have to know what you do. If you are already underweight, you should be very cautious and not fast too long. Also never forget to be extremely vigilant during the readjustment phase.
So, before you fast, you may want to ask your doctor and read some more. But then: Happy fasting!