Hildegard of Bingen believed regular gentle fasting should be an integral part of a healthy dietary regimen. Here, we present three healthy fasts, with varying degrees of difficulty, consistent with Hildegard’s teachings.
Hildegard was also a proponent of scalable healthy fasts. A fast can vary in intensity and purpose. Whether a periodic fast, intended to relieve symptoms of over-indulgence; an annual fast to recharge the entire body; a spiritual fast to find discipline in mind and spirit, or an intermittent fast, Hildegard believed that there were benefits to be gained from a variety of fasting techniques.
Hildegard’s Three Healthy Fasts
In this post we will review the process, purpose, and benefits of three basic levels of the Hildegard’s healthy fasts.
Fasting and health
Perhaps you are exploring a Hildegard fast to improve your general health and well-being. Hildegard would see this as reason enough. If you have never attempted fasting before, the Spelt Fast may be a good place to start. Alternatively, there are many benefits of a more restrictive level of fasting, and you just might surprise yourself how easy it can be.
It may surprise some fasting veterans that all three levels of Hildegard’s healthy fasts allow for caloric intake. And, the actual duration can be limited to less than a week, without sacrificing any of the benefits. Hildegard’s fasting guidelines represent gentle fasting techniques.
As opposed to many fasting programs that call for an extreme caloric deficit with only a few varieties of liquids, Hildegard’s healthy fasts encourage a baseline caloric intake based on moderate amounts of broth, tea, and juices.
800 years of wisdom
Recent research into the benefits of intermittent fasting demonstrates some encouraging, even remarkable findings. The most compelling findings link a variety of health benefits with a shorter duration, moderate fasting regimen – much like what Hildegard was advocating some 800 years ago!
Fasting Research on Aging Mice
Researchers have found that mice that were controlled for a moderate (reduced calorie) fast of four days, twice per month, beginning in middle age, demonstrated significant health benefits as compared to control groups.
Primary fasting benefits to older mice
The benefits were observed across multiple aspects of health and wellness, including: extended life span; reduced presence of cancer; strengthened immune system; reduced inflammatory diseases; slowed bone mineral density loss; and improved cognitive abilities within the cohort of older mice in the study. Follow-on studies in humans are demonstrating similar, positive results.
So whether you are looking to recharge, revitalize, fight-off an illness, or just incorporate a moderate fast into your wellness regimen, consider one of Hildegard’s healthy fasts. And despite this centuries-old approach, modern research continues to reveal some remarkable benefits, just one more example of ancient wisdom shining through.
Preparing for Your Fast
You should plan on modifying your diet over a period of 6 to 10 days. If you’re embarking on one of Hildegard’s healthy fasts to address chronic health issues, you may consider extending your moderate fasting regimen for up to four weeks.
Before the fast
Before beginning any of the Hildegard fasting regimens, it is worthwhile to prepare your body by taking a 2- to 3-day break from your standard diet. In the days leading up to your fast, gradually phase out the foods that are least healthy and most difficult to digest, in order to give your body a smooth transition into the fasting period.
This means it is a good idea to abstain temporarily from calorie-dense foods like meat and cheese while eating plenty of fruits and vegetables. And don’t forget to stay hydrated. Plenty of water is important to assist your body with the flushing of toxins.
Taking a break from stimulants like coffee, tobacco, and alcohol is always a good idea. If you are typically reactive (withdrawals) when abstaining, it is helpful to begin weaning from these substances before you embark on your fast as to avoid the added discomfort and mental distress that can accompany sudden elimination of these powerful stimulants.
Consider your Limitations
Finally, it helps to avoid any unnecessary medicines; consult with your physician about how the impact of any required medications might be affected by a dramatic change in diet. And as always, those with chronic conditions, compromised immune systems, pregnant, lactating, or under the care of a physician should consult with their physicians before beginning any of the Hildegard fasts.
The better you prepare yourself, the more you’ll get from your fasting experience. No matter which fasting regimen you choose, be sure to get yourself outside for at least an hour a day; this is an essential component of Hildegard’s fasting guidelines.
I. Spelt Fast
This is Hildegard’s lightest fast. Your diet may include spelt, fruit, and vegetables.
The Spelt Fast may not feel like much of a fast because it is based on the overall benefits of the Hildegard health routine more so than the benefits from a reduction in calories. Undoubtedly, you will be consuming fewer calories, but the intent of this light fast is to provide a gentle reprieve from the modern, western diet while still providing for a high-level of nutrients.
Hildegard Spelt Fast is wholesome, healthy, and filling
During a Spelt Fast, limit your diet to spelt, whole fruits, and vegetables. This fasting approach is appropriate for just about anyone because spelt satisfies several nutritional requirements. It’s wholesome, healthy, and very filling. The Spelt Fast is simple and it does not require the level of sacrifice many find to be too painful. Anyone following this fast has a wide variety of delicious spelt recipes at her disposal, which keeps things interesting.
Hildegard Spelt Fast restricts animal protein
Fundamentally, in a Hildegard Spelt Fast, your primary objective is the elimination of any excess animal protein, milk protein, and high-fat foods. Movement is a critical part of the Spelt Fast. Since you will still be ingesting calories at or above your base metabolic rate, regular exercise is an integral part of this first level of fasting. Hildegard recommends, at least, one hour of physical exercise per day. And, of course, that activity is best done in the fresh air.
During a Spelt Fast, be prepared to eat spelt, in some form, three times a day. Ideally, spelt is served at each meal along with some fruits and vegetables. Spelt is a versatile grain. There are many seasonal recipes and interesting combinations of ingredients – from sweet to savory that can satisfy your cravings.
Spelt Fast: Diet Plan
For breakfast, prepare spelt breakfast habermuss. Habermuss is a traditional porridge, similar to oatmeal. We make habermuss using rolled spelt flakes, adding some fruit and seasoning to taste. Traditionally, we add apples, cinnamon, and dried cranberries or raisins. It’s not uncommon to add some psyllium and even trace amounts of galangal.
Lunch should be the most substantive meal of the day. Some good options include: spelt rice, spelt pasta, spelt “spätzle” pasta, spelt semolina, spelt dumplings with vegetables, chestnuts, fruit salad with cooked spelt grains, or vegetarian spelt pizza/flatbread (hold the cheese.)
Ideally, your evening meal is something light. Consider a spelt meal porridge, semolina soup or spelt bread with vegetarian spreads, such as a hummus derived from chickpeas, chestnuts and or beets.
Be sure to drink plenty of fluid each day. Some appropriate drinks include water, fennel tea, spelt coffee, apple, or quince juice and cut wine. For Hildegard cut wine, including parsley wine, heat half a glass of white or red wine to boiling, then add a shot of cold water and sip the wine while still warm.
II. Bread Fast (Spelt Reduction Diet)
The Bread Fast is an intermediate stage, between the gentle Spelt Fast and the more rigorous, Hildegard Fast.
One approach to a Hildegard Bread Fast includes switching back and forth daily between the Spelt Fast and the Hildegard Fast (the most advanced of Hildegard’s healthy fasts). Alternatively, some practitioners prefer a hybrid approach, whereby one day is spent with a quasi-Spelt Fast, followed by one day of modified Hildegard Fast, or reduction diet. In this case, a reduction diet is a traditional Hildegard Fast enhanced with spelt bread, fennel, and spelt/lettuce salad.
Hildegard Bread Fast is flexible
Beyond the restrictions on animal protein, milk protein, and animal fats during reduction days, the Hildegard Bread fast is flexible. It’s meant to be practical and approachable, without severe limitations.
This gentle method is worthwhile for people managing their weight, high blood pressure, and metabolic health. The Hildegard Bread Fast is also a great way to practice new eating habits. And, like the Spelt Fast, it can be performed for up to 6 months.
Hildegard Bread Fast results in weight loss
When done right, the Hildegard Bread Fast dampens the feeling of hunger without stimulating the appetite. Even on reduction days you may satisfy your hunger by consuming spelt bread, fennel tea, or spelt coffee in quantities that feel comfortable.
Due to restrictions on animal proteins and fats on reduction days, the body dismantles existing fat stores. A successful Hildegard Bread Fast results in weight loss along with detoxification. The exercise of fasting also helps retune your body’s expectation of food, creating new habits to discourage overeating.
Bread Fast Diet Plan
Remember to alternate between Day 1 (Spelt Fast) and Day 2 (Hildegard Fast or reduction diet).
Day 1 (Spelt Fast):
Start with a standard Hildegard Spelt Fast, including spelt, fruit and vegetables.
Day 2 (Reduction Diet):
Habermuss with apple compote, cinnamon and spelt coffee
Spelt/lettuce salad, spelt rice, spelt semolina soup, spelt meal porridge, spelt pasta.
Spelt bread and fennel tea
As with the Hildegard Spelt Fast, be sure to drink plenty of water every day. Other appropriate drinks include fennel tea, spelt coffee, apple, or quince juice and cut wine.
III. Hildegard Fast
A formal Hildegard Fast is the most difficult form of Hildegard’s healthy fasts, but can also be the most rewarding.
Ideally, anyone doing the Hildegard fast ought to do it along with other people, particularly when embarking on this regimen for the first time. Also, be sure to plan for two to three preliminary relief days before getting started to prepare your body for the fast. There’s no need to experience any sudden shocks to the system.
The principle of this form of fasting is to forgo solid food altogether. Over the course of a 6 to 10 day fast, practitioners only consume liquids selected according to Hildegard’s principles of subtlety. Hildegard’s subtlety identifies the inherent healing powers of certain foods.
- Spelt coffee
- Fennel-and herbal tea
- Spelt semolina soup
- Spelt soup
- Fruit juices, such as apple or grape juice, mixed with fennel tea.
Hildegard Fast Daily Fast diet
Fennel tea, spelt coffee or herbal tea
Spelt semolina soup (Hildegard fasting soup) with plenty of pureed vegetables.
Spelt grains broth, fruit juices, such as apple or quince juice with fennel tea.
After five to six days of fasting, you will embark on your fast-completion process. The traditional way to celebrate the completion of your Hildegard fast is with a baked apple, cooked with honey, cinnamon and sweet almonds. You’ll be amazed at how good this apple tastes; and, it’s remarkably filling. It is important to chew really well to prevent the digestive stress that can occasionally accompany the first meal after completion of a fast.
Once you’ve completed your fast, you can start reintroducing regular foods over the next several days. Consider rebuilding your diet slowly, starting with mild foods, such as spelt, fruits and vegetables. Continue to abstain from meat, cheese, and complex, calorie-dense foods for the first week following your fast.
Pay attention to your bowel movements over the course of that first week following your fast. You may promote bowel movements using psyllium (take 1-3 tsp along with each meal.)
Food for a Post-Fast Rebuilding Week
Habermuss with apples, cinnamon and dried cranberries or raisins, meal porridge, or spelt porridge of spelt flakes
Green Salad with cooked spelt grains, spelt wholegrain pasta with vegetable: fennel, green beans, pumpkin, beetroot, carrots; Spelt risotto; Clear chicken broth with spelt gnocchi.
Various fennel salads with fine salad dressings, spelt meal Casserole with vegetables, spelt pancakes with lemon and cinnamon or herbs; Spelt bread with vegetarian sandwich spreads; vegetarian spelt pizza.
Check out the Fasting Guidelines here!