Care needs to be taken when breaking a fast so as not to overburden your digestive system. The best benefit of fasting is realized when a fast is broken properly. Taking it slow and easy is not only kind to your body, but allows YOU the opportunity to integrate your new-found clarity on your relationship to food.
During a fast, the body undergoes several biological changes. Enzymes normally produced by the digestive system have ceased to be produced or have been diminished greatly, depending on the type of fast performed, so introducing food slowly allows the body time to re-establish this enzyme production.
The protective mucus lining of the stomach may be temporarily diminished as well, making the stomach walls
more vulnerable to irritation until it also returns to normal. Gentle reintroduction of foods, beginning with the simplest and
easiest-to-digest foods, supports this process. Substances known to be irritating to the system, such as coffee
and spicy foods, must be avoided during the breaking process.
Because of these biological changes, overeating immediately following a fast is much worse than overeating
at any other time. Your system needs time to readjust back to normal digestion and assimilation. Not taking the proper
measures can result in stomach cramping, nausea, and even vomiting. An example of this is provided by a reader of this site, Nita, who was willing to share her experience of how not to break a fast.
The adjustment period necessary for breaking a fast is based on the length of the fast. Four days is considered adequate for any of the longer fasts, 1-3 days for shorter fasts, and just a day or so for one-day fasts.
Another rule of thumb is take half the number of days fasted to allow for breaking. So a 4-day fast would require a 2 day period for the reintroduction of foods.
The most nutritious and easy-to-digest foods are used to break a fast initially, gradually adding more diversity and complexity over time.
The type of fast employed will determine the type of foods you use to break it. While juice or fruit are good for breaking a water fast, obviously, they aren't very helpful in breaking juice or fruit fasts.
To help you determine when to introduce the different food groups, use the following list. It begins with those that are easiest on the system and can be introduced early on, and progresses to those that should be added later.
Depending on the length of your fast, you may go through the list in one day or in 4 days. And you certainly don't need to eat everything on the list, it's just a general guideline.
Any of the first three items are good for that initial "breaking" of a fast, that first thing you eat; raw fruit being the easiest and most popular.
Even if you did a brown rice fast, eating at #8 on the list, you'll want to start adding new foods from toward the top of the list. This will support re-establishment of more diverse enzyme production beginning with the simplest.
While it may take a little thought and attention, breaking a fast properly is so important to our overall health and to reaping the full benefits fasting can create.
Check out the New Food Choices Section of this site for more information going forward after your fast.