Chairman of the Moscow Society of Orthodox Doctors, co-chair of the Church and Public Council on Biomedical Ethics at the Moscow Patriarchate, professor of medicine Alexander Nedostup, in an interview with the Interfax-Religion portal, spoke about what medical benefit the Lent can bring to the human body, provided that the spiritual attitude is correct .
- What is the main benefit to a person from fasting, from the point of view of Orthodox doctors?
- For the Orthodox doctor, the spiritual side of fasting is very important. After all, the Orthodox acknowledge that the nature of man is not only a body, but also a soul and a spirit. The soul is occupied with emotional, intellectual, logical, volitional problems, while the spirit is that part of the soul that is called to communicate with the higher world.
It is very important that during fasting a person will observe not only bodily fasting, not only abstinence from food, but also abstinence from certain acts of spiritual life - anger, very violent entertainments. This was reflected in the great teachers of the Church, saying: "Fast, brethren, bodily, fast and spiritually." Spiritual fasting is also very important, because we all - believers, unbelievers - spiritually, of course, are sick people.
We can be mentally healthy, think logically clearly, know higher mathematics, control emotions, but our spirit will be very damaged. We all suffer from this - lack of faith, lack of love - that is, qualities that are measured by other criteria than logical thinking. This is described in great detail in the wonderful book of the Orthodox physician, prelate and confessor Luke Voyno-Yasenetsky “Spirit, soul and body”.
- Why, from a medical point of view, can it be important to abandon negative feelings and thoughts, passions, the fight against which should occur during fasting?
- We, Orthodox physicians, are convinced that the disease originates not only purely bodily, but also spiritual, and the illness is both bodily and mental. The believer understands that the disease is usually a consequence of the sin that is present in the body. You can talk about this even without involving theological arguments. Suppose a person has committed a bad deed - what happens to us all very often. Moreover, a person very rarely does not realize what he has done. He may seek to forget his misconduct, drive him into himself, try to justify himself, but nevertheless, a trace of the act will certainly remain, and the person will carry this feeling in himself. And when this consciousness gets stuck in the brain, there, in the cerebral cortex, a center of irritation and discomfort is created, even from a purely physiological point of view.
According to the laws of induction of brain function, this irritation also spreads around, to nearby departments, primarily to the so-called subcortex, which is located under the cerebral cortex and which is responsible for the activity of our internal organs - the heart, blood vessels, stomach and intestines. Accordingly, this excitation passes into the subcortex, and from there the impulses begin to propagate further. And here you are, please - and peptic ulcer, and hypertension, and asthma, and all other ailments begin to arise.
All this is close to Freud's psychosomatics and Pavlovian theory. But only Freud, as you know, a furious atheist, reduced everything to sexual instincts, everything was one-sided. And Pavlov was also an atheist, although he considered these processes at a higher level. Believers, on the other hand, believe that physical damage has deeper internal causes, and this is primarily conscience. You can’t do without the concept of “conscience,” because it is it that disturbs and excites a person. There is such an aphorism that conscience is the voice of God, because it is completely unclear for a person where it comes from.
- Is it possible to say in this regard that fasting as just a restriction in nutrition does not make sense?
- Yes, usually in the secular press the emphasis is on the dietary significance of fasting, it is proved that it is very useful to temporarily switch to such lightweight food, plant products, that it is a type of discharge, from which people also lose weight. This, of course, is a very utilitarian attitude to the post. After all, fasting is not a fasting diet, but moral cleansing.
The Orthodox congratulate each other on the beginning of the Lent precisely because they understand that these are the great days of spiritual cleansing. Now the days are coming when the Church especially urges people to keep spiritual purity: to especially love people, to sacrifice themselves especially, to try to do good deeds, and not to commit non-prescribed acts. Each of us has our passions and passions, with which we indulge, then repent of them and commit them again. It is very important to refrain from this.
- What would you say to secular people who claim that fasting is unhealthy?
- We must not forget that the Church is not so cruel and selfish to force all people to fast according to the rules that were developed in monasteries in the Middle Ages. These fasting rules are very difficult and difficult, therefore the Church condescends to people when it is difficult for them. Firstly, there are numerous indulgences for patients, sometimes to such an extent that the post is removed altogether. I once witnessed how one high clergyman forbade a sick nun to fast when I said that her health does not allow her to fast. And secular people who are doubly difficult, of course, are allowed concessions.
In general, church people have this expression: "zeal is not out of reason." You need to understand what is possible and what is not. Children need to be very gradually accustomed to fasting, of course, give the milk that they need for growth. The Church is also approaching this problem: if fasting is difficult for a person, he feels great irritability, physical, hungry pains begin, he feels that he can’t think of anything but food, then the confessor to the best of his understanding, of course he will be allowed to break the post a bit.
Therapist Natalya Tarasova on how to fast from a medical point of view
Why is it necessary to abandon animal products at least temporarily for health? What could be wrong with mushrooms or cabbage? What diseases can prevent abstinence from meat and milk? How to fast pregnant? Is it necessary to deprive children of the post? Therapist Natalya Yuryevna Tarasova talks about these and other aspects of the “lean theme”.
I would like to start a conversation about fasting with the words of St. Basil the Great, who said that fasting protects the baby, prudently young, makes the old man more beautiful.
From the point of view of medicine, human health is determined by two important factors: a person’s lifestyle and his diet. Therefore, in my opinion, fasting, whatever it may be, has a positive effect on a person. After all, it is based on the rejection of the most harmful products: animal protein and fats.
When we fast, that is, exclude animal products from the diet, we thereby lower blood cholesterol
Fasting plays a dominant role, first of all, in the prevention of serious diseases such as hypertension, tumor and cardiovascular diseases. What is the main reason for these ailments? This is a lesion of the vascular walls, as well as sclerotic processes. Atherosclerosis is a chronic disease of arteries, expressed in thickening, compaction of their walls, in the appearance of so-called atherosclerotic plaques. The reason for the development of these plaques is an excess of cholesterol, which is very much in animal products. Therefore, when we fast, that is, we exclude products of animal origin from the diet (milk also applies to them) and include more vegetable products, we indirectly lower blood cholesterol and, therefore, slow down or stop the formation of atherosclerotic plaques. At the same time, let's not forget that the plant food itself contains an amino acid that has a beneficial effect on lowering cholesterol.
Another important factor is soy products, which are often consumed during fasting. They help reduce cholesterol secretion in the liver, which leads to a decrease in total cholesterol.
In our ordinary life, we lack vegetables, salads, traditional greens: parsley, dill, green onions ... We try to eat more meat, sausages, pickles, smoked meats - everything that aggravates the consequences of our usually passive lifestyle affects metabolism, leads to the development of obesity and the atherosclerotic process. And that means the development of such formidable diseases as heart attacks and strokes. Fasting at least temporarily interrupts these negative processes.
I repeat: from a medical point of view, if a person observes our traditional holy fasts, this has a very positive effect on his health and his health. And if in everyday life we ate as much as possible of those foods that we usually consume in fasting, this would improve health indicators by 90% and reduce the risks of developing dangerous diseases.
Let's start with the main thing: with dietary restrictions
Understanding that fasting is a virtue and a not very healthy person can bear it with great benefit for his physical condition
We, doctors, know many people who have felt the benefits of abstinence on themselves. I have never seen the harm of fasting. Fasting is also good for us because it is an internal spiritual work. By fasting, a person realizes that by this he pleases God. And a person must understand for himself why and why he fasts. Without faith, fasting will be difficult and painful, if at all possible. This is different from fasting diets, which today everyone is so passionate about: diets and fasting have different goals. Understanding that fasting is a virtue, and not a very healthy person can bear it with great benefit, including for his physical condition.
Even with such serious illnesses as cancer, severe infectious diseases, severe liver damage (cirrhosis), I often saw a real improvement in well-being in those patients who resorted to fasting. So, without any drugs, just because the patient was fasting, after several weeks we observed a decrease in the enzymatic activity of the liver: ALT, AST and cholesterol metabolism returned to normal. But one of the factors of liver obesity is a violation of precisely metabolic processes.
One of my patients had stage four cancer. Despite the severity of the disease, the fact that she was taking chemotherapy courses, she always observed fasting, being a very religious person. At the same time, I did not observe any violations of her general condition. Moreover, doctors sentenced her, but thanks to her spiritual strength, she lived for a long time with such a terrible diagnosis and gave joy to her loved ones.
At the appointment, I always tell patients: “Let's start with the most important thing: with dietary restrictions.” In patients who exclude foods with a high content of carbohydrates, flour foods, foods with a lot of animal fats and switch to vegetarian food from the diet, sugar levels, cholesterol, and pressure are normalized. We also recommend certain physical activity for such patients, because inactivity is a terrible ailment. So it turns out that treatment is possible in the initial stage of the disease without the use of any drug therapy! In my practice, there are a lot of such cases.
When a patient with high blood sugar comes to me, I understand that, on the one hand, these can be minimal changes in the type of impaired carbohydrate tolerance, on the other hand, it can be the first detected diabetes mellitus. I try not to resort immediately to the use of drugs that reduce sugar. I find out what the diet of this person is, what he most often eats, and I suggest that he switch to lean food. So we achieve excellent results.
Blessing on the post
I do not understand those who, considering themselves Christians, say about the post: "I can not", "I do not want." I think this is from lack of faith.
I do not agree with the approach when people (especially with the beginning of Lent) decide to combine fasting with a diet in order to lose weight. I absolutely do not welcome this. I repeat: fasting and diet are fundamentally different! It is necessary to distinguish between these concepts.
When you do something with a blessing, the Lord Himself supports you
And another important point: we, believers, should fast with blessing. I will give an example from my life. After the operation, I doubted: can I post, can I stand it? I asked Father Tikhon for blessing from our father: he blessed to starve for a week. It seems to have suffered a serious illness, an operation, but the priest blessed - and I fasted. And it turned out that this facilitated the postoperative period. Although what is there to be surprised at: when you do something with a blessing, the Lord Himself supports you.
Measure in everything
In the post, we exclude from our diet all meat (and in certain posts and fish), dairy, eggs. We eat food of non-animal origin, that is, vegetable, sometimes allowing ourselves fish. But for the post to go with health benefits, one must remember the measure. When eating a lot of greens and vegetables, especially raw ones, biliary dyskinesia may develop, problems with the gastrointestinal tract can occur. Food should be taken so that there is no feeling of fullness of the stomach, feelings of oversaturation, any discomfort. Even plant foods should be balanced.
It is necessary to include cereals in a lean diet
In addition, it is necessary to include porridge in the diet: oatmeal, buckwheat, rice, millet. Oatmeal is a very healthy porridge. Our ancestors made leaven from oatmeal, which coped with infections without any antibiotics. People have been treated even for such a formidable and severe intestinal disease as dysentery.
If a person, having caught an infectious disease, eats properly, then this is half, if not 90%, contributes to a real improvement in his well-being.
Be sure to eat fiber-rich foods. At the same time, I advise you to include in the diet those that contain fiber, which is easier to digest: broccoli, Brussels sprouts - they are very useful. But, for example, white cabbage to a person with a disease such as gastric ulcer should be eaten less, because especially sauerkraut in large quantities can cause an exacerbation of this disease.
Milk and mushroom battles
During fasting, many ask the priests to allow them to drink milk. There is much debate about milk. On the one hand, milk is useful, on the other hand, it is still one of the factors in the formation and development of tumor processes. It is recommended to use it in the diet not so often and in very small quantities.
If someone has an exacerbation of the disease during the fasting period, it means that they need to review their diet of lean foods, reduce the amount of fiber, eliminate fermentation, partially salted vegetables (especially if a person has concomitant hypertension). To achieve a normal level of blood pressure, it is recommended to include no more than 3 grams of salt in the diet.
I always advise during the fasting period there are fewer pickles.If possible, it is better to use fresh vegetables, in any case baked, and be sure to add porridge to the diet.
What about mushrooms? We know that often mushrooms replace us with meat products, because mushrooms are hard to digest - for 7-8 hours - and when a person eats them, he is saturated for a long time. But we must understand that mushrooms are not allowed to everyone. Artificially grown mushrooms such as oyster mushrooms, champignons are good in small quantities. They are soft and well tolerated, but in large quantities - it is better not to.
Vitamins and spores around a raw food diet
Which of the lean foods contain maximum vitamins and minerals? They are in one or another quantity in all fruits and vegetables. In bananas, for example, a large amount of potassium, magnesium, calcium, which is necessary for the cardiovascular system. Oatmeal with small slices of banana is very useful.
All green plant foods contain an important ingredient like arginine. In lemons, sauerkraut, blackcurrant, a significant amount of ascorbic acid is an important component for maintaining the immune system. Cranberries, lingonberries - products that have both a diuretic and anti-inflammatory effect and are very useful as anti-inflammatory treatment for diseases of the urinary system and kidneys. Products such as kiwi, pomegranate are good for the hematopoietic system.
For people with diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, raw eating is not useful
No less important is the question: how to eat fruits and vegetables? Do I need to heat them? A trendy topic today is raw food eating. I can immediately say that for people with diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, raw-eating is not useful. It is best to subject the products to easy processing. Let's say potatoes are better to eat baked, other vegetables are also better not to cook, but bake or stew.
Foods like beans, lentils, and peas are rich in protein. These are nitrogenous active products, they are also very useful, but there are diseases in which they are recommended to be eaten in very limited quantities. For example, gout.
Well, and general advice: if you have any diseases, then before you start fasting, especially if you are fasting for the first time, consult a diet with a doctor.
How to deal with fatigue and malaise
It happens that a person through fasting feels a general malaise, weakness. People who fast constantly do not experience such problems. When a person first encounters this, he can consult a doctor, and it is better if the doctor is a believer, he will understand why fasting is necessary from a spiritual point of view and how to support a person who came to him for advice.
The condition of malaise is completely explainable, because during fasting we restrict the use of what we are used to. Even if you don’t want to buy a toy for a small child, his mood will immediately go bad. The same thing happens with an adult when you stop giving him what he is used to. He is used to eating meat, and even a kilogram at a time, but here - there is no meat! His mood immediately worsens. Therefore, we must understand why we fast, what we are coming to. If we realize that our main task is to grow spiritually, to grow stronger spiritually, we will understand that fasting is a virtue, and we will bear our weaknesses absolutely calmly.
Another problem: some, recalling that fasting will begin soon, say to themselves: “We must eat plenty before fasting!” - and begin to eat everything in a row. This is also bad. It is necessary to be prepared: a week before the start of fasting, it is advisable to gradually limit oneself in foods, and in a day or two you can starve - a little cleanse the body. You can take activated carbon, it very well removes toxins and toxins.
When we abruptly switch to something, it is always stress for the body. And stress leads to a vegetative-vascular reaction, to fatigue, etc. Therefore, everything must be done systematically.
It is impossible to cancel a post when you feel badly. Another thing is when a person is not ready for fasting in principle, but this is not a doctor’s business, but a spiritual father.
Fasting and pregnancy
I worked in a antenatal clinic for several years and I know how much this pleasant condition for a woman can be very difficult. Especially the first three months of pregnancy, when many women develop toxicosis. During this period, the most unpleasant sensations arise, up to incessant vomiting. It is necessary to advise pregnant women to fast during this period, understanding what is happening to them. If the pregnancy is pathological, if deviations from the norm appear, then before you start fasting, you should definitely consult your doctor. If pregnancy is mostly physiological, then fasting is possible.
By the way, now I often meet with the fact that expectant mothers regard pregnancy as some kind of pathology. For them, this is not joy, but insane fear. They start going to the doctors almost every day, swallowing pills ... They are afraid that they will not be able to inform the child. But pregnancy is a normal physiological process, do not forget about it. But you need to remember that everything depends on the will of God. Not a single hair will fall from a person’s head without the will of God. If something is destined to happen, it will happen.
We must gladly accept our pregnancy, bear it with faith. Confess, partake, fast, live the way she lived before. The only thing you can limit yourself to is the excessive consumption of meat, fried foods, salty foods. Do not eat what you want, but try to reasonably limit yourself, stay in the fresh air and enjoy life more.
Communicate more often during pregnancy, because that which is from God must also come in God's way
Many fathers advise their children to partake more often during pregnancy, because what is from God must also go in God's way. Fasting is always from God. I strongly disagree with the fact that during pregnancy you can’t fast. Another thing is when this condition becomes painful - in this case, only with the obstetrician you need to make a decision.
Why fasting for all ages
I would like to quote the words of our beloved father, Job (Gumerov). When I asked him whether it is possible to fast for children, he said that children, like flowering plants, are irrigated with fasting water.
If the children are very small, they do not fast, but from the age of 7 children can consciously, following the example of their parents, fast. I have repeatedly asked seminarians, especially from priestly large families, how they solved the "fasting question" for children. They told: mother cooks fasting dishes, everyone fasts, so the question itself is never worth it. Of course, if dad eats haphazardly, and mom eats haphazardly, and they try to force the child to fast, nothing good will come of it. The child must necessarily take an example from the parents.
Now I read the lives of saints to my little ones. When they hear what torment Boris and Gleb suffered for obeying God, they understand that fasting is a small virtue, a much smaller tribute to the love of the Lord than that which the saints brought. I always tell children: do not forget that everything that happens to us happens only by the grace of God. If we learn to thank God, if we learn to love God, He will always help us, He will always be with us.
The post should not have age. Fasting is for everyone because it is a purely spiritual work.
So it seems to me that the post should not have age. Fasting is for everyone because it is a purely spiritual work. If we go to the temple, pray, receive communion, and fasting is not able to carry, we will not grow spiritually. And we must grow as our saints primordially instructed. But even one fast for spiritual growth is not enough, but, as St. Ignatius (Bryanchaninov) taught, patience, humble enduring of weakness and suffering - our ill health, bodily ailments.
Now the number of cancer patients has grown significantly, the ugly ecological situation, there are a lot of new diseases that are tolerant of modern therapy, there is an economic crisis in the country ... But, nevertheless, when a person lives with God, observing fasting, prayer, communion, he can do anything survive even the most difficult times.
How to get into and out of a post
Very often we are faced with the fact that people fasting before fasting and the first 10 days of fasting simply suffer: nausea, loss of strength, dizziness, some kind of vascular cataclysms begin. It is better to enter a state of abstinence gradually, calmly, a few days before the start of fasting, limit yourself to animal proteins, give up meat, and gradually refuse dairy products. Try to include more cereals, soups and main dishes from vegetables in your diet. People who, in everyday life, observe fasting on Wednesday and Friday (and many on Monday), entry into long posts is easy.
How to enter the post must be gradual, and to leave the post - do not immediately eat enough
It is also gradually necessary to leave the post. Our father advises (usually this applies to hard posts, especially the Great, when we can hardly eat anything during the first few days of the first week), leaving the post, first drink half a mug of vegetable broth, and then little by little there is a fast.
For those who have entered the Christmas post, I would like to wish them to fast the post so that they often go to the church, confess, take communion. It should be a holiday for a person to fast, especially when the whole family fasts. Each of us passes his life in vain, and in fasting you become stronger in spiritual work.
Those who decide to keep the post ascetically need to take the blessing of the spiritual father for this. When there is a blessing, any act is a virtue!
Fasting is a strengthening in faith. Fasting is a great power that helps us to abandon our habits, lusts, our desires indiscriminately to eat everything in a row and to some extent contributes to healing.