Want to spring clean your body? Try a fasting cure. But remember it's not for everyone.

What a good spring cleaning is to a home, a period of fasting is for the body. Losing weight is just a bonus, says nutritionist Ute Hantelmann of Hamburg's Consumer Central.

The real point is to take a break from solid food, think about one's diet and reorient oneself. Staying hydrated is the alpha and omega of a successful fast.

Juices and vegetable broths supply the 500 allowed daily calories, along with vitamins and minerals. Three litres of water and herbal tea provide calorie-free hydration. Depending on the programme, some solid food is allowed.

Different programmes

There are all kinds of programmes out there. The most famous were originated by Otto Buchinger and Franz Xaver Mayr, 100 and 80 years, respectively. A person fasting for the first-time should always consult his/her physician, says Hantelmann. After all, fasting cures aren't for everyone. Some people even suffer harmful consequences. Pregnant women, the underweight and people with diseases are not ideal candidates.

Before a fast can begin, a person's intestinal tract needs a break. That means two days of light meals before fasting. Fasters also need to skip stimulants like coffee and alcohol to better prepare the digestive system, says Matthias Menschel, who offers Buchinger treatments in Germany.

On the third day, things get serious, usually with the ingestion of Glauber salt, or sodium sulphate. “Eighty to 90 per cent of the intestine's contents are usually cleared out.”

Then it's time to start drinking, drinking, drinking. Instead of regular mealtimes, those fasting get a glass of juice in the morning for their vitamin needs, a quarter litre of broth for the salt needs at midday and more juice in the evening. People with circulatory problems can get some green tea in the morning or, in special circumstances, black tea.

Some solid food

If you don't want to skip solid food entirely, check out the Mayr programme. “It's not the old standard milk toast programme,” says Franz Milz of the German Society for Holistic Mayr Medicine.

Today's version of the programme relies on hypoallergenic foodstuffs, like rice waffles, corn tortillas, yoghurt and soya products and vegetable soups.

Anyone with a large appetite or starting off exceptionally thin gets additional protein-rich food. If chewed intensely, the light fare can satisfy quickly and take some pressure off the gastrointestinal tract. Additional daily anti-acid supplements are required to ensure urine acid content doesn't rise too precipitously.

Stomach manipulation exercises play a central role. Milz says they are similar to lymph drainage techniques. They often carry a psychological effect with them: if the body and spirit relax, then repressed feelings can come forward.

Exercise is forbidden during the Mayr programme, although taking walks is permitted. “It's a programme focused on peace and the inner and outer person,” says Milz.

Buchinger expert Menschel recommends getting at least an hour of activity a day, so that muscle tone isn't lost. After all, once the fasting is over, it will be time to build the body back up, meaning a return to solid fare.

Keywords: fastinghealthfooddietnutrition