Regardless of how much effort we may put into eating mindfully, in daily life our bodies accumulate toxins from food produced with chemicals, air that’s contaminated with invisible smoke and gases, and tap water that may contain lead, arsenic, nitrates, or other common pollutants. We may have antibiotics, alcohol, over-the-counter pills, or other drugs in our systems. These toxins build up in the bladder, liver, and kidneys, which then cease to function at their full capacity. This is bad for everyone, but worse for women, especially as they get older, because the kidneys naturally weaken and lose their ability to detoxify the body.
I see many women whose organs have accumulated too many toxins. They may have high cholesterol, weak lungs, or—particularly in women of menopause age—kidneys with a severely diminished ability to wash the blood of toxins. I think of it this way: Two healthy kidneys can filter about 120 to 150 quarts of blood and produce about 1 to 2 quarts of urine per day. The more toxins build up in the kidneys, the less space there is for blood to be filtered and urine created, causing the whole system to slow down.
How do you refresh your kidneys so they are able to go on efficiently cleaning blood and eliminating toxins? You cannot make your body so pure with food that there is always a perfect balance of qi—that is impossible. But you can follow traditional wisdom by fasting to clean your organs. The best way to purify, relieve, and energize the body is to take a break from digestion for 72 hours. That’s what I said: A fast with no food, just water, is one of the best things you can do for your health. It costs nothing, and it resets your body’s immune system by allowing it to purge toxins. As I see it, fasting restores the free movement of your vital qi. That in turn makes the other organs more active, so you will be able to absorb more nutrition through them as well.
Fasting is a good way to mark the changing of the seasons in a positive way. According to traditional Chinese medicine, the change of seasons is significant for general health maintenance, and we should eat certain foods during each season to ensure physical health during the time of year that follows. This wisdom has been proven through the centuries. Fasting twice a year is beneficial, but three times is better. The late spring fast benefits the kidneys and heart, and makes you better able to tolerate the impending heat of summer. In autumn, the golden time of release according to Chinese tradition, the fast will have particular benefit for the lungs and prepare you for winter’s chill and winds; that is important because when our bodies fail to adapt to extremes of heat and cold, the blood slows down, which can lead to ill health. The January fast detoxifies the kidneys for winter.