How to Understand the Philosophy and History of Fasting?

fasting origins

Fasting is an act of abstaining from food for a particular period of time. It is both an ancient and modern activity that is practiced in many cultures all over the world mainly for therapeutic and religious purposes. There are multiple benefits of fasting to a person’s health. However, fasting origins are traditionally related to spiritual purposes, a sign of humility and practice of purification.

Fasting Origins and Its Religious Background

In religion, fasting origins are incorporated through faithful to refocus their minds on their spirituality. This, they believe, is the path to purification, and it brings them closer to godliness.

The ancient Egyptian fasting was one of the fundamentals of religious beliefs. The fast was done for 30 days in a year. The main aim was to encourage morality and self-control. The Egyptian way of fasting is different from how we fast today. According to their moral law, the Egyptians had to restrain from stealing and killing. They also abstained from food, drinks, and sex for a certain period.

This same practice became a focus of analysis in Christians Lent when the Eastern Orthodoxy and the Roman Catholics observe 40 days of fasting as Christ did in the desert. In Islam, there is the Holy month of Ramadan. In Judaism, there’s the Yom Kippur while in Hindu, there’s Ekadasi.

Each of these religions has different time of fasts and varying preparations. For instance, the Muslims fast 11-16 hours in Ramadan, which happens in the ninth month of the Muslim calendar. Christians and Catholics, on the other hand, fast during Lent, which is the 40 day period before Easter.

Fasting Origins Used in Medicine

Throughout the years, fasting has been used as a medical therapy for various medical conditions. Basically, the main cause of many diseases is autointoxication. Fasting detoxifies the body and gives rest to the digestive organs. The immune system and the liver are able to remove toxins and heal all body parts. It is an effective detoxification treatment for conditions which occur due to high levels of toxic material exposure.

According to nutritionists like Francoise Wilhelmi de Toledo and Otto Buchinger, there is a great connection between health and fasting. Some of the chronic conditions that fasting treats include arthritis, asthma, heart disease, mental illness, digestive disorders, diabetes, and low blood sugar. Fasting has become a natural health practice in Germany where patients are required to fast by their healthcare practitioners. Intermittent fasting is also growing in popularity in the UK with millions trying the 5:2 diet.

Further research on fasting origins

Other great believers of fasting are the Greeks. Ancient Greeks like Plato and Hippocrates believe that fasting is a natural medicine. According to Plato, the main reason he fasted was to increase his mental and physical efficiency. This also led to his pupil Aristotle fasting.

Additionally, fasting is an effective and safe method for losing weight. One can engage in a regular dietary fast if they want to lose weight over time. For obese patients, fasting requires plenty of adjustments. However, before engaging in a therapeutic or dietary fast, it is recommendable to seek the guidance of a specialist on health and fasting.

Fasting as Used in the Modern World

Fasting is of great importance in the modern world, given the human exposure to desires and temptations. However, today, some religions no longer find relevance in fasting and abstinence. Fr. Johnny Go who is the director of the  Ateneo SALT Institute once stated that fasting and abstinence are both old-fashioned ideas. He also noted that the rules for fasting have become less strict in time and that many overlook its spiritual purpose.

One of the benefits of fasting and abstinence is that it teaches us humility, something many don’t have these days. Also, it teaches discipline, tolerance, and patience. Today, it is easy to get what you want when you want it. But when you sacrifice and learn to restrain from certain things, you teach your body and mind the act of patience.

Though fasting is still relevant in some religions like Islam, it’s not most used as a method to lose weight.

Precautions for Fasting

Fasting has played a major role in the world’s spiritual and physical renewal of a person. However, before embarking on any type of fast, you should seek the help of a specialist. This is especially important if you have a health condition like diabetes type 2 and asthma. Improper application of the practice might lead to serious health risks.

The way you start and break a fast requires setting up a proper plan for it. Break the first days of the fast by taking light liquids like juice and soup. You can then get back to your normal routine as you progress.


It is evident that fasting origins come with numerous benefits. Several studies have shown that it has positive effects like improved body functioning and treatment for numerous illnesses. Whether you fast for spiritual rejuvenation, weight loss, or detoxification, if you do it properly, the benefits will follow soon after.