The Health Benefits of Fasting
Many cultures around the world promote fasting as a part of a religious centered ritual, or as a cultural expectation for various kinds of life events. Science has not given much more than a nod of acknowledgement to fasting until recent years. For the skeptics who may be wondering about what one could possibly gain from such a practice, science now has several good explanations for you. Fasting has a variety of health benefits that make it a practice worth considering as a part of your wellness routine.
Fasting is defined in general terms as a period in which one does not eat. Technically that means you are fasting in between meals. Even the term “breakfast” literally means “break the fast” from not eating overnight. When “fasting,” however, most of the time people are referring to a defined period of time in which they do not eat and they deliberately give their digestive system a break. These breaks can be short, daily fasting hours, or they can extend a few days or longer. Of course, the body still requires hydration, so water and sometimes freshly juiced juices may be used during a fast.
If you choose to try a fast for any length of time, always make sure you are healthy enough for a fast before trying one. Most will benefit in a tremendous way from choosing to do it. So that being said, here are just a few health benefits to be had from fasting:
- Weight loss. This is the benefit most are looking for, so I’ll come out with it first. When you are fasting, your blood sugar drops, so the body begins to use fat for energy. Your metabolic rate can increase by as much as 3-5% during a short term fast. Fasting is not meant to be the sole method one should use for weight loss, but it can be a powerful catalyst for a long term, sustainable weight loss regimen.
- Inflammation reduction. Chronic inflammation is one of the primary causes of degenerative diseases. When you fast, you reduce inflammation in all the systems within your body. When your inflammation is down, your immune system can function at its peak.
- Reduced blood pressure. Heart disease is still a major killer today, so anything that can contribute to your heart health is worth considering seriously. Fasting contributes to a reduction in blood pressure and that reduction tends to stay low after the fast is over.
- Cellular repair. When you are fasting, your cells begin to remove waste and dead cells from the body in a process called autophagy. This process essentially cleans out the body and is a tremendous benefit to those who fast.
There is no single “tried and true” method for fasting that works across the board for everyone. “Intermittent fasting” is the term most commonly used to describe fasting and it is defined differently depending on who you talk to. There are a few different approaches you can take to a fast.
Daily Intermittent fasting is a set window of the day where you eat. For instance, some will follow the 16/8 rule which says you fast for 16 hours of the day, and you can eat during the other 8. Your body will still reap the rewards of fasting doing this method, even though the fast is shorter. With this method, consistency is key.
24 hour fasting is another method that can be used. Once or twice a week, fast for a full day, consuming only water. A good suggestion for those using this fasting method is to do it when you have a busy day. Your productivity keeps you distracted from the temptation to eat, and you’ll make it through the day easier.
Fasting for several days and beyond is a bit more extreme and requires commitment. Fasting cannot become an ongoing lifestyle for obvious reasons, but those that choose to fast for several days can see a marked difference when they return to eating.