Ayurvedic medicine, sometimes called “Ayurveda” or “traditional Indian medicine,” dates back to the Vedic period in India, believed to be have been over 3,000 years ago. In Sanskrit, the word “Ayurveda” means “Vedic science of life or longevity.”
In the United States, Ayurveda is considered a form of alternative medicine. Therapies commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine include diet, exercise, yoga, meditation, herbal remedies, and fasting.
In Ayurveda, fasting is a means of detoxification and is classified as the first and most important of all medicine. Some Ayurvedic practitioners recommend fasting for one day per week. There are five types of Ayurvedic fasts; water-only fasting, dry fasting, juice fasting, broth fasting, and water fasting with herbal tea.
In order to understand how fasting works in Ayurvedic medicine, it is useful to have a basic understanding of the doshas, which are a Vedic classification of body types. In Ayurveda, each person has a particular constitution made up of one or a combination of the three doshas, Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. The doshas are derived from the five elements: earth, water, fire, air, and ether. Each dosha represents a fundamental body type.
The central concept of Ayurvedic medicine is the theory that health exists when there is a balance between doshas. In Ayurveda, each dosha type has a specific relationship to food and fasting.
Vata people have difficulty tolerating long-term fasting because they lack the stamina to sustain long periods of food deprivation. Ayurvedic practitioners feel that juice fasting is best suited for this dosha and that Vata types should not observe a fast for more than 3 days.
Since Pitta people tend to eat frequently, they are not particularly fond of fasting and can grow easily frustrated. Just as with the Vata dosha, Ayurvedic practitioners believe juice fasting is the best protocol for Pitta types. The Pitta person should not observe a fast for more than 4 days.
Of all the doshas, Kapha people are the most capable of fasting, primarily because they have the most moderate desire for food. Water-only fasting is the most beneficial for a Kapha type, largely because of their tendency towards obesity, mucous retention, and food addiction. Kapha types are able to water fast for two or more weeks without much difficulty.