Q: When is the best time during the year to do a fast, such as a juice or water fast (or even a green smoothie cleanse)? How many times per year should a person do a cleanse/fast?
A: The ideal time to do a cleanse is in the spring time. The heavier and darker days of winter hibernation now past, the longer and sunnier days of spring beckon a time for lighter meals to recalibrate the body. Spring is a time of rejuvenation and is associated with the liver/gallbladder in TCM. As you may know, the liver is a major organ that is responsible for performing over 500 functions in the body and it is also one of the few organs in the body that can regenerate itself. A rest is most welcome during this "spring cleaning" time, whether it be in the form of green smoothies, green juices or green soups.
Indeed, green is the color associated with the liver, and both bitter and sour foods, such as leafy greens and citrus fruits, respectively, help with detoxification of the liver. Other beneficial foods (that can be juiced, made into a smoothie or soup) include the Brassica family, micro-greens, beets, and wild spring greens such as Violet leaves, Plantain leaves and Dandelion leaves. To help with fatty liver or to help clear out the gallbladder, radish and daikon radish are highly beneficial. Apart from citrus fruits, low glycemic fruits such as berries, green apples and pomegranates are good choices.
Besides the yearly spring cleaning of the house, there are 3 other times of the year that one can cleanse/fast. In TCM, the 7 days before the start of each season is a transitional time governed by the Earth element of the Spleen/Pancreas and Stomach, which rules over all matters of digestion. Since we currently understand the crucial importance of a healthy microbiome, we can also understand why doing a fast during these time periods can be highly valuable. However, some do rely more on the actual temperature of the season to assess when is the best time to fast. For example, with global warming, snow might still be making an appearance in the spring month of March, so one might wait until the warmer days of Spring have truly arrived.
Besides the spring cleanse, the next most common time to fast is during the fall. Just as you cleanse yourself from the winter with spring cleaning your windows and walls and preparing the garden with seeds to sow, fall is a time to reap in the harvest and lay down the garden, in other words, to prepare the body for rest during the colder months ahead. During the cooler transitional days of fall, when days can be either warm and sunny or cooler and windy, some people might fast on cooling green juices or smoothies while others might prefer warmer and lighter fare, such as pureeing the bounty of fall into warming soups (e.g. doing a soup fast).
The third time to cleanse would be during the 7 days before the summer solstice, however some do use the hotter and humid days of summer to eat lighter fare, such as refreshing salads or cooling juices and smoothies.
The fourth time to engage in a fast would be the 7 days before the winter solstice (again using TCM timing), and this would be a time where warming soups or congees would figure in most prominently. Some people do find that doing a cleanse before the holidays helps them with the overabundance that occurs during the holidays, while others find that doing a cleanse after the holidays helps them to reset the body. A cleanse during this time could take the form of a soup fast or could be something as simple as eating less calories, say for a week's time, with the specific goal of rebalancing the body. In general, fasts during the winter time are not encouraged in TCM as it is a time of the kidneys, and many people lack strong kidney energy (one of the reasons why many catch colds and flus during this time).
One last word about fasting: while fasting can follow the seasons, as described above, if a person has an excess or full condition (in other words a chronic degenerative disease such as cancer, fatty liver from alcohol abuse, etc.), then a fast can occur at any time during the year. While one's personal "eco-system" takes priority over what season it is, the goal is to have a healthy body that can enjoy the bounties and beauties that all seasons have to offer.
To your fasting success and health,
is a Health Practitioner with a Background in Chinese Medicine. Get in Some of her Savvy Adivce When She Answers Your Health Question.
If You'd Like to Support the Free Content on This Site, Feel Free to Make a Donation. THANK-YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT :)