See previous parts for important information.
What is the History of Fasting?
There is an interesting inscription in one of the pyramids in Egypt it dates around 3800 B.C.
“Humans live on one quarter of what they eat; on the other three quarters lives their doctor.”
Early on doctors were noting the importance of food intake into the body. More does not make you better.
It can be a contributing factor to or assistant to malady.
There has been modern studies in undernutrition. Scientists fed some rats all the food they wanted.
They had a control group of rats that they fed a very limited diet, that was limited to the point of undernutrition. The control group rats were healthier and lived much longer.
To modern thought this is counterintuitive. We have been taught to think that eating is important to the body rebuilding itself when one is ill, while in effect we may be feeding the illness more than the body.
One of the fathers of Western medicine, Hippocrates, said the same thing,
“Everyone has a doctor in him; we just have to help him in his work. The natural healing force within each one of us is the greatest force in getting well. … to eat when you are sick, is to feed your sickness.”
The ancient Greek writer Plutarch wrote, “Instead of using medicine, better fast today.”
Philippus Paracelsus, who many call the father of modern medicine said, “Fasting is the greatest remedy, the physician within.”
said, “The best of all medicines is resting and fasting.”
There is a long list of famous wise men who promoted fasting for healing. They include men like Hippocrates, Plato, Socrates, Aristotle and Galen. Early healing arts recognized fasting and promoted it. These healers utilised the amazing revitalizing and rejuvenating power of the fast.
Fasting is maybe the most ancient healing tradition throughout the world. Hippocrates (460 – 370 BC) is the first to have opened the door to modern medicine. He often prescribed and championed fasting, and the consumption of apple cider vinegar.
As I wrote before in examples of the bear and dog, the ancient Greeks preached that medical treatment could be discovered from watching nature. Humans maybe should, like most animals, not eat when they become sick. For this reason, the ancients called fasting the “physician within”. This instinctive fasting makes dogs, cats, and humans averse to eating when sick. This sensation is certainly familiar to everybody.
Remember the last time you were really sick. Maybe the last time you were sick, the last thing, I imagine, you wanted to do was eat. Maybe at such times we would be better served listening to our bodies, rather than the pharmaceutical salesman. Fasting seems to exist as a universal human instinct for various forms of illnesses. Thus fasting is ingrained into human heritage, dare I say in our very DNA memory. The instinct is as old of humanity itself.
Jews, Christians, Buddhists, and Muslims all shared a common belief in the healing power of fasting. At least the founding fathers of these religions did believe even though some of the modern disciples have forgotten the practice. Spiritually, fasting is often called on for cleansing or purification, but on a practical level it amounts to the same thing.
Why did the practice of fasting developed independently among different religions and cultures? Because it is part of nature.
It is not viewed as something that was harmful, but something that was intrinsically beneficial to the humans in both body and spirit.
In Buddhism, many often eat food only in the morning, and then they fast from noon until the next morning daily. In addition to this, there may be various water-only fasts for days or weeks on end. This is a long standing historical tradition.
Greek Orthodox Christians may follow various types fasts over 180-200 days of the year. Most of the population of Crete followed the Greek Orthodox tradition of fasting.
Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset
while observing the holy month of Ramadan. Muhammad also encouraged fasting on Mondays and Thursdays of every week.
Ramadan may be the best studied of all the fasting periods. This is a complete fast in which they do not even consume water for a mild dehydration. In that situation eating and drinking is permitted before sunrise and after sunset. It has been found in recent studies that daily caloric intake actually rises significantly during this period because the muslims stuff themselves when they can eat. This gorging of themselves before sunrise and after sunset seems to negate some of the beneficial effect that we would expect from a fast.
It historically appears that fasting is an idea that has proved itself by the test of time. As some have called them, the four most influential people to have ever lived agreed that fasting is beneficial, Moses, Jesus, Buddha, and Mohammed. It is hard to think of this was a harmful practice. Surely after over 2,000 years someone would have figured out if it was harmful.