I am the first to admit that I have tried just about every wellness fad under the sun. And you know what, I still do a lot of them. I reckon “wellness” gets a bad wrap. Who doesn’t want to be well?! I understand why it does and I do agree that it has been somewhat problematically wielded to hawk products that are not in any way representative of what a reasonable person would expect to make them feel particularly well. But this co-option of “wellness” as a marketing tool doesn’t erase the philosophy underpinning it, which is really what’s important.
When I think of wellness, I think of the connection between my mind, my body and my spirit. I think of the things that I know make me feel healthy and happy. “Well”, if you will.
And these things will be different for everyone depending on what works for them, their personal values and, in my case, the extent to which their parents were massive hippies. I got sent to a kinesiologist when I was a ratbag teenager, my Dad grows all of his own food and my Mum has a psychic. So I start my day with coconut oil pulling, I brush my teeth with salt toothpaste, drink a pint of lemon water and if I have time I make myself a vegetable juice. I wash my face with macadamia oil, I eat a mostly plant-based whole food diet, I go to the sauna, I practice yoga, occasionally I splurge on a floatation tank session and I journal every day.
But I also really like going to the pub. I’m shit at meditating regularly, I can’t be bothered body-brushing, I often skip my morning juice because cleaning the juicer is the WORST, bee pollen tastes like dust and I don’t have anywhere near enough self control to fast. I wish I did. I’ve tried.
Like a lot of health related things that are experiencing a bit of a revival of late, fasting gets lumped in with other wellness fads. In reality it is an ancient practice in many cultures with purported benefits to the mind, the body and the spirit, which stand up for both humans and dogs alike. If you have the willpower that I lack, that is. The good news about fasting dogs is that they don’t have opposable thumbs with which to make themselves dinner so you can pretty much call the shots.
If you’re a devotee of feeding your pooch a diet that best mimics what they would probably eat in the wild, then fasting complements this nicely. Dogs are by nature hunters, and to a lesser extent scavengers. Between successful hunts they naturally experience periods of fasting.
This period without food behaves a bit like an internal spring clean. It gives the system a break from the burden of digesting, which allows this energy to be used for repairing any damage that is present. This break also allows the liver to work more efficiently to process waste, reducing the toxic load on the body¹. This is why dogs will instinctively fast themselves when they’re not feeling well.
Fasting give the body an opportunity to replenish digestive enzymes, which are crucial for a healthy GI tract and consequently a healthy immune system (80% of the immune system is thought to reside in the gut). It also causes the body to metabolise fat, which in turn releases the toxins stored in the fat². Even a dog fed a natural diet is exposed to toxins every day – from pesticides, vaccines, non-organic food sources and …just general life. Over time these can build up and place stress on the immune system. A regular fast gives the body an opportunity to do some housekeeping and clear a few of these out.