Fasting—What, Why, When, Who, and Where : by Guest Author Alan Goldhamer, D.C.

Tuesday Apr 3 | BY |
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Rest, relaxation, and pure water…sound good?

For thousands of years, people have fasted to achieve physical and psychological health benefits, but only recently have scientists confirmed that fasting, in conjunction with eating a plant-based, salt-, oil-, and sugar-free diet (SOS-free diet), offers tremendous benefits. As the director of TrueNorth Health Center, the oldest and largest inpatient facility specializing in medically supervised fasting in the United States, I have seen how effective fasting can be in both building and restoring health.

What Exactly is Fasting?
Therapeutic fasting (also called “water-only fasting”) is the complete abstinence from all substances except pure water in an environment of complete rest. It is important to emphasize that simply abstaining from food—even for a few days—while continuing to work, exercise, and worry about day-to-day cares is not therapeutic fasting. Likewise, eating only certain foods or drinking only juices is not therapeutic fasting. Juice diets and “elimination” diets can be healthful, but they are not the same as therapeutic fasting. The physiological and clinical benefits are different.

Why Fast?
The clearest indication for fasting is the loss of appetite that characterizes acute disease. Fasting is extremely effective in helping to quickly resolve the problems that cause symptoms like fever, inflammation, and other temporary pains. It can be very helpful to stop eating until the crisis has resolved and hunger returns. That might mean skipping a meal or two, or it might mean skipping many meals.

Fasting also has been proven to be effective in a variety of other situations, including helping the body to heal itself from high blood pressure, diabetes, and autoimmune diseases including lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, asthma, eczema, and psoriasis. Fasting gives your body the opportunity to purify and heal its tissues and to eliminate undesirable tissue accumulations and growths.

When to Fast?
The most important advice for anyone considering a fast is this: If you are going to fast, do it right, or don’t do it at all. To maximize the benefits of therapeutic fasting, complete rest is essential. Complete rest is hard to get in a noisy, high stress, and/or nonsupportive environment, so finding a safe, supportive environment is necessary if you want to get the most from your body’s self-healing mechanisms.

Who Should Fast?
The decision to undertake a fast should be made in consultation with a knowledgeable physician, ideally one who is certified in fasting supervision. The procedure we follow at TrueNorth Health Center is to review the patient’s medical history and perform a comprehensive physical examination, including appropriate laboratory and specialized diagnostic tests. The findings then are reviewed with the patient, and appropriate recommendations are made. These may include dietary and lifestyle changes, exercise programs, and, when indicated, fasting.

You don’t have to be seriously ill to benefit from a supervised fast. A fast can be of great help if you need to make lifestyle changes to achieve improved health. Fasting for as few as five days often will dramatically shorten the time it takes to make the transition from a conventional diet and lifestyle (with all of the associated addictions, pains, fatigue, and disease) to the independent and energetic state associated with healthful living. People who undertake a fast in a supervised setting tend to achieve health more quickly than those who attempt changes without a fast.

Where to Fast
Once you have made a decision to fast, selecting a facility that will meet your requirements is paramount. TrueNorth Health Center provides an ideal environment. In addition, it provides knowledgeable medical, psychological, and other therapeutic care as needed and, when you start eating again, healthful meals designed especially for you by expert chefs. As a bonus, TrueNorth Health Center provides daily lectures on healthful living that will teach you how to continue living healthfully when you return home.

For more information, visit the TrueNorth Health Center website or get a copy of our book, The Pleasure Trap.

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Picture courtesy melissalianne via

Dr. Alan Goldhamer

Dr. Alan Goldhamer

Dr. Alan Goldhamer is the founder and director of TrueNorth Health Center, a state-of-the-art facility that provides medical, naturopathic, chiropractic, and psychotherapy services.

Dr. Goldhamer has supervised the fasts of more than 10,000 patients. Under his guidance, TrueNorth has become one of the premier training facilities for doctors wishing to gain certification in the supervision of therapeutic fasting. He is on the faculty at Bastyr University where he teaches the course on clinical fasting. He was the principal investigator in two landmark studies: “Medically Supervised Water-Only Fasting in the Treatment of Hypertension,” Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics June 2001, and “Medically Supervised Water-Only Fasting in the Treatment of Borderline Hypertension,” Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine October 2002. Currently, he is directing a prospective study on cost and clinical outcomes in the treatment of diabetes and high blood pressure with fasting and a plant-based, SOS-free diet.

Dr. Goldhamer is a graduate of Western States Chiropractic College in Portland, Oregon. He is the co-author of The Pleasure Trap: Mastering The Hidden Force That Undermines Health and Happiness and the author of The Health Promoting Cookbook.


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  1. Excellent article.
    Many years ago during one of my occasional fasts, I had a patient come in who remarked on good I looked, and what was I doing,etc. She immediately said how much she wanted to do it also. She was nursing at the time, and I told her in no uncertian terms that I would not allow her to undertake this course while nurseing. She needed very healthy foods to make very healthy milk. I was able to show her the logic that eating well at this time being more impt. So yes, fasting needs to be done logically.
    Nice article.

  2. David King says:

    I have a friend who water fasted on himalayan sea salt water for 40 days straight… water fasting with himalayan salt water is really interesting to me.

    He said his vision, hearing, and senses improved.

    He did a raw food diet for months, then juicing for a few months and then the 40 day water fast.

    Curious if you know anyone who has done any himilayan sea salt water fasting.

    Thanks for the article!


  3. michael westrick says:

    Been there a few times. Great place to fast……..Great Doctors and support team. I struggle with Bordom since your not suppose to leave…..Highly reccommend True North…..

  4. Tara Burner says:

    Perfect timing…
    I’ve done up to 90 day juice/water fasts and am embarking on a 30? day water fast next week!

  5. Kate says:

    Yes! Fantastic place!!! Changed my life. I LOVE Dr. Goldhamer and all the doctors (and staff!) there. If you’ve never done a water fast, this is definitely the place to go. (Summer is best, I think…. I went in July and it was literally 80 degrees, clear sky, EVERY day).

    Fasting and Eating For Health, by Dr. Joel Fuhrman is also a good place to start. (He did his internship at True North, I do believe).

    Thanks for the article! Reading it makes me want to go do another fast there…. It’s been two years after all….. hmmmmmmmmmmmm.

  6. Deb says:

    I would not do a water-only fast. Fasting makes you burn up stored fat, releasing all the toxins that were stored in the fat. I would want to take some green juices and vitamin C to provide the raw materials for detox. This is especially important for people like me who have mercury toxicity. Mercury inhibits production of glutathione, which is central to the detox process.

    Remember that humans cannot make vitamin C, and we don’t have much of it stored. Drinking lots of water will flush out water-soluble nutrients like vitamin C. After a few days of water fasting, you probably are developing scurvy.

    I understand that some people have died of pesticide poisoning from prolonged water-only fasting. I won’t risk it.

    I tried going to Dr Fuhrman. His advice for me was of no benefit, and his attitude was not acceptable to me.

  7. maria says:


    I also have high levels of mercury in my blood. What type of green juices are you taking?


  8. Deb says:

    Maria – I routinely use Gary Null’s powders: Green Stuff, Red Stuff, Greens & Grains, and Berry Blast. But I am not convinced that anything oral can get mercury out of the tissues where it is stored. When you have mercury toxicity, your detox pathway is inhibited, and your glutathione level is low.

    I am getting intravenous therapy. Once they establish a good connection, they do a push with glutathione. Then they do a push with DMPS, which pulls out the mercury. Then they do a drip of CaEDTA to get out the lead and other metals. This protocol requires good medical supervision and a load of nutritional supplements. When the DMPS pulls out the mercury, it is crucial for your body to excrete it promptly – rather than stash it somewhere else.

  9. Many of you know now, that cilantro or coriander leaves smoothies takin them daily will help in getting rid of metal toxins.
    One warning which I would like to give if you want to read, or if you do not know:
    Any one fasting, should know how to cleanse his entire body’s exit systems. like sweat pores, intestine, urine, etc.

  10. To David King
    You have mentioned Himalayan Salt water fasting.That looks new. It may be good tosupply all necessary nutrients like potassium, sodium, and you may not get cramps WHICH OTHER WISE OCCURS TO FASTING PEOPLE.
    How much u used daily, is most important?
    Did it not increase the blood pressure UP?

  11. Toffler says:

    Thank your for the advertisement for TNHC. Having done a number of water fasts my own, I know it is hardly necessary to go to a facility, though perhaps the environment is more friendly to the psychological effects of fasting.

    To receive benefits from fasting, one does not need an extended fast at an expensive clinic. For example, Mark at MDA suggests many benefits from even short-term fasting

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