The Benefits (and Difficulties) of the Ten Day Brown Rice Fast


I first read about the ten day brown rice fast in Herbs, the Magic Healers, by Paul Twitchell. He wrote about benefits. Difficulties? Not so much. It’s sort of left up to the individual to discover those, perhaps in part because Twitchell, who became the Living Eck Master in the 1960’s (i.e. the spiritual leader of Eckankar, the Religion of the Light and Sound of God), was a mighty disciplined person. A ten day fast, at least a brown rice fast, probably didn’t seem like all that much of a hassle to him.

But it did to me.

Still, the benefits sounded like they were worth it. Brown rice is the closest thing to a single complete food we have on the planet. It can’t completely replace good old red meat, but ingesting brown rice and brown rice alone for ten days can be done without serious suffering and will do much to gently cleanse the human body. Inspired, I tried it several times over the past several decades. Not every go-round came out all that well, primarily because at times my motivation was weak, my discipline was lacking, and I cheated. Once I quit after seven days, once after three, and from time to time I’d make excuses, adding salt and/or vegetables (particularly frozen peas), thrown in the pot when the rice was pretty much cooked).

On the other hand, there was at least once when I got it right…and it paid off.

The year was 1983. I was employed as a social worker at the time, in Blaine County, Montana, but for two years before that, my jobs had been in the oil patch covering eastern Montana and western North Dakota, first as a cement tanker truck driver for Halliburton and later as a derrick hand on workover rigs for Western Oil Well Services out of Glendive, Montana. The work had been grueling at times, the hours long, and my on the job diet a mix of sandwiches, chips, cheap pastries, and cheaper soda. As a result, the toxins in my system were extensive, to say the least. As a warning symptom, my lower back was killing me.

Okay, not literally. At least not yet. But it was painful enough to get my attention, and had been that way for a couple of years. Time to fast, December, 1983.

That time, not daring to flinch, I stuck with it. After three days, the back pain was definitely slackening. By seven days, it was completely 100% gone and did not return until I overdid it with a three hour job pushing a lawn mower with a handle too low for my height in July of 1996. Thirteen years pain free following a single ten day brown rice fast. I could live with that.

Fast forward to Here and Now: March, 2014. I started another ten day brown rice fast three days ago because of swollen lymph glands that needed attention. It wasn’t surprising that my lymph system was having difficulty dumping all the junk from my body. After all, I’d abused it considerably in recent years with, more than anything, massive intake of Dr. Pepper loaded with high fructose corn syrup. Slow suicide. Then about six months back, after I went cold turkey off the soda, the lymph system hit overload. Prior to that, a 45 minute walk around the property had been enough to settle things back down.

Lately, not so much. It had been getting worse for weeks. I could knock ’em back down a bit with a walk or a healthy sweat-puffing jog, but not all the way. By the time I decided the fast had to be done, the biggest swollen lymph node at the right side base of the neck was a good two inches in length and an inch in diameter. There were others definitely noticeable in the right and left armpits and a similar though much smaller pair on either side of the spine at the base of my skull.

Time to get real.

For the rest of this post, I’ll be transcribing notes from my daily fasting journal.

Preparation: Purchased 10 pounds of long grain brown rice (Mahatma brand) from Safeway. Probably won’t need all of that but don’t want to risk running out mid-fast and possibly seeing that as an excuse to quit.

Fast begins:
1:30 p.m., March 6, 2014. Just left Denny’s after chowing down on a sirloin steak. Nothing but brown rice for the next ten days. No steak, no supplements, no salt, no herbal teas. Oh, joy. Beginning weight: 167 pounds.

March 7. I’m generally a day sleeper, slumbering through the mornings after writing online during the nights, but there are things that need doing today. I’m up at nine. Somewhere in midafternoon, I check the time and realize: Day One complete! This is good. On earlier fasts, I’d always started at midnight. The middle of the day is better, at least so far. Lymph glands going down? Not yet.

March 8. It’s 1:30 p.m. Day Two complete. Stomach cramps a bit, so I cram down some more rice. That takes care of it. Best way to keep going is keep busy. Grabbing a spoonful of rice and methodically chewing it while working on the computer works well, allowing me to ignore the process. Yay. I go out to the semi trailer to muck some more boxes out of storage. The contents have to be sorted, some for saving, some for the landfill, some for the burn barrel. I move slowly, not pushing it because (a) there’s no rush, (b) my energy level is down by at least 20 percent, and (c) when I get up after squatting for a bit, I’ve almost blacked out a few times.

My wife is worried I’m pushing myself while fasting, but I know what I’m doing. I think. Definitely weak, though. Weight: 165 pounds, a two pound loss in two days. I’m only managing to cram down about one blue bowl of rice per day, which I calculate at 400 calories. Pam freaked at that, but 10 days at that intake won’t kill me.

March 9. Wrote two posts last night, making up for the night before, and still made it to bed by 2:30 a.m. Back up at 10:30. Whoa! My body has adjusted to the brown-rice-only (temporary) diet. I feel fine, normal, 100% regular energy level. My stools have adjusted, too; no more liquid remainder that took a long time to wipe clean. That had been going on for years, more often than not. Plus, while none of the swollen lymph nodes are completely back to normal, they are all significantly reduced in size. The largest (right side of neck) is no more than an inch in length now, perhaps a third of its original mass. The smallest (left side base of skull) can barely be felt at all. It’s now 2:25 p.m., so Day Three complete.

Urine is strongly colored, but I don’t worry too much about that. Drinking enough water to lighten my urine 24/7 is a good way to never leave the bathroom. Besides, part of that deep coloration could well be from toxins exiting en masse. I feel good, and that’s enough.

March 10. No significant changes. Day Four complete.

March 11. No significant changes. Day Five complete.

March 12. No significant changes. Day Six complete.

March 13. Weighed 157 pounds. In seven days of brown rice fasting, I’ve dropped ten pounds. Didn’t need to, but there’s still fat around my middle; I won’t starve to death. Calorie intake is going down, though. The plain brown rice gets less palatable every day. I’ve only cooked up two batches of rice so far, five 16 oz. plastic cups of water to two 16 oz. plastic cups of rice. The first day or two, I managed to get somewhere around 400 calories down, but it’s trailing off noticeably. One more batch of rice will do it, and probably not much of that.

Fasting, even brown rice fasting, is not for the faint of heart or feeble of will. In order to get my liquid intake up (I wasn’t able to force enough water down and was way too dehydrated), I had to break enough to allow myself herbal teas. Plus a drop of honey for some of them, depending on the flavor. By alternating mugs of Celestial Seasons flavors (Cinnamon Apple, Sleepytime, Peppermint) and bulk spearmint, I was able to get the hydration factor back in order. Day Seven complete.

March 14. Swelling in lymph nodes is down noticeably…and there’s a sudden, unexpected surge in bodily strength as well. I took a sizeable load of trash bags to the county refuse transfer station this morning. We’re mucking out a 40 foot semi trailer we use for storage, sorting and discarding stuff the mice have gotten into. The bed of our pickup truck was loaded with 23 big black trash bags, some of them fairly heavy–at least they must have been, because the money taker lady at the weigh scale said I had an “unusually heavy” load of 423 pounds I’d pitched from the vehicle. Yet as I was slinging the bags out of the back of the truck, backhanding them with either hand, sometimes two handed, they were flying a good 40 feet through the air before landing.

The strength boost didn’t come from any deliberate form of exercise, and I’m not on steroids. Fasting, the way to power up. Who knew. Day Eight complete.

March 15. Ah, the Ides of March. Windy as the Devil’s own backside out there today. Nasty, nasty, nasty. Weighed 154 pounds. Strength tested by trying a pull-up on the bar holding the curtain leading into my bathroom. There’s roof right overhead, so I couldn’t do the chin-over thing, but it felt obvious that with the right bar, I could have done so. I’m honestly surprised, having basically starved myself for this amount of time, that no real (long term) weakness has manifested. Then again, back in my rodeo days, there were sometimes weeks on end when I didn’t get much to eat either–because there was no money in my pocket–and that didn’t stop me from conquering a few critters here and there. Hm….

Not that I don’t push it and get a bit faint every now and then. Example: Today, I had to go to Home Depot, but ye olde rice looked so unappetizing, I left the house after ingesting no more than 50 calories, max. Ran all day on that. It took longer than expected at Home Depot, and when I was at the checkout stand, I realized I’d left my billfold in the Subaru. Ran across the parking lot to get it, not a jog but a real run–and like those trash bags, I was flying. Felt like a runner again, no slam-down sense in that left knee. Haven’t felt like that since…let me think…probably the early eighties, when I was running fifteen miles a week.

In fact, I’d forgotten what it felt like to be a runner. Amazing. Until I got back in and the lack of food caught up to me, that is. Had to drop my head a few times to keep from blacking out. But all in all…amazing. Day Nine complete.

March 16. It’s closing in on 1:30 a.m., which will leave just 12 hours remaining in my 10 day brown rice fast. I’m munching rice as I type, alternating bites with sips of Cinnamon Apple tea. Strike that; I just hit my limit on the rice. Maybe I’ll munch a few mouthfuls more between now and finishing the fast at 1:30 p.m., but probably not. I’ll be day sleeping after publishing this, and then, when I get up–or shortly thereafter–it’ll be time the break the fast. (Yes, that is what “breakfast” means.)

And I have the exact Hebrew National kosher hot dog already picked out, too!

Later, I’ll get around to amending this section to include “Day Ten complete” but, as I’m currently only writing on Saturday nights (a change from the nightly writing I was doing when the fast started), that may take a week or so.

In the meantime, a summary of the benefits and difficulties of the ten day brown rice fast–for me, at least–goes like this:


1. Sticking with it is not easy. It was for me this time, but the last full bore successful fast I managed was in 1983. It’s taken me 31 years to get it right a second time.

2. Staying hydrated can be a challenge. Somehow, a brown rice only diet made me less willing to swallow water, even ice water. The herbal teas were a slight cheat (very slight) but were the only solution I could think of trying.

3. Getting enough calories down isn’t simply difficult; it is–for me, anyway–literally impossible. The first day or two, I took in perhaps 400 calories per day. That was down to 200 calories or less by the end of the fast, with an overall average (based on the amount of rice cooked and actually eaten) of perhaps 250 calories daily.

4. Initial weakness (mine passed by the third day) and occasional tendency toward fainting–which I never did but had to watch from time to time.


1. Reducing swollen lymph nodes. It did work for that. Not completely; there’s still some swelling in one small node at the base of the skull on the right side, for example. But the big bugger on the right side of the neck is down nearly 90%, no longer visible in the mirror, and not “offensive” in size when palpated with a finger or two. Basically, what started out as a lump the size of my thumb is now roughly the size of the tip of my index finger. The cluster under my right armpit is down by 75% or so, to the extent that I have to hunt for it (with finger pressure) to find it. The similar cluster under the left armpit is almost completely gone, and the tiny swelling under the left side base of the skull is smoothed out completely. All in all, not perfect but not bad.

2. Strength enhancement. That was a surprise. A welcome surprise, but definitely a surprise.

3. Knee joint improvement. Did I get rid of a bunch of toxins in that left knee, or was it all about pushing 154 pounds (instead of 167 pounds) over the tarmac? I have to think it wasn’t the weight only. At any rate, there was no discomfort at all when running, which has not been the case for the past couple of decades.

4. Weight loss. By end of fast, I’ll weigh 153. Or possibly slightly less; I’ll try to post that final update next week. 153 pounds will mean a weight loss of 14 pounds over the ten day period. Not a bad feeling, hitting my old rodeo weight at age 70. Lost a couple of inches around the gut, too.

5. Better stools with less paperwork to do at the end.

How soon will I do one of these again? Hopefully, not soon at all. Once every 31 years sounds about right.

UPDATE: March 1, 2016. I was wrong. This is Day Ten (the final day) of another brown rice fast, done just two years after the one discussed in this post. Far cry from thirty-one years.

Still, it turned out to be worth it. In the two year interim between fasts, the lymph nodes had continued to increase their visible presence, most especially down the right side of my neck to below the collar clavicle. Seemed about time to do the brown rice thing. Which had interesting spiritual benefits this time, too, but this post is about lymph nodes, so I took a couple of photos to see if there was any difference when the fasting was done.

My lymph nodes before starting the 10 day brown rice fast.

My lymph nodes before starting the 10 day brown rice fast.

My lymph nodes on Day Ten of the brown rice fast.

My lymph nodes on Day Ten of the brown rice fast.

Yep. The nodes are certainly not squared away by any stretch of the imagination, but there is definitely a difference.

Caveat: On Day Six of the fast, I added topical applications (to the affected area all around the neck and down onto the chest) of Frankicense essential oil, mixed with coconut oil as a carrier oil. How much of the lymph node size reduction ended up being due to the brown rice fast and how much was due to the essential oil, I have no idea.