Fasting is a healing tradition in human history, and one of the most ancient traditions in the world. It is the voluntary not eating of food for health, spiritual or other reasons.
Actually, we fast every day, from dinner in the evening until breakfast the next morning. Did you realize that “breakfast” literally means to break, or end, your fast?
In nature when animals are sick, they do not eat. And almost every religion shares a common belief in the healing powers and the physical and mental cleansing of fasting.
Nowadays, intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that is mostly used for weight loss. But fasting is good for much more than just losing weight, it can be beneficial in increasing your overall health.
Some of the benefits of fasting are:
1. Helps your hormonal balance, and increases growth hormones
During fasting, insulin (fat storage hormone) levels decrease and the production of human growth hormone increases, which provides strength to your muscles, ligaments, tendons and bones. It also helps reduce stress and enhances the cellular repair processes that can help with anti-aging and longevity, too.
2. Heal your gut
Giving your body a little break from digestion can help improve your gut bacteria.
3. Lose excess body fat
Between meals your body starts to use stored body fat as an energy source, but when we keep on feeding then the body has no reason to use the fat storage, because you keep providing your body with new energy (through the food you eat). When you fast, however, insulin levels drop and glycogen level decrease so your body can access the stored body fat.
During the fasting and healing process your body detoxifies itself. And after this detox you will most likely find that you’re not craving so much sugar.
5. Good for your brain
Fasting increases the production of ketones, which help the body break down body fat for energy and reduce stress. This can help you think more clearly, and calm your mind.
If you never fasted before then make sure you start slow. Maybe you’d like to just try skipping lunch or dinner, and see how you feel. Of course if you have any health issues then check with your physician first.
When you feel ready you may like to try going for 16, 18 or 24 hours without eating. I suggest not to increase the length of your fasts too quickly — remember, the reason is to improve your health.
Make sure you drink plenty of water, and if you feel hungry or you have really low energy then it’s fine to eat something and try your fast again another time. Just listen to your body, and be sensitive to how your body reacts. And remember, fasting is not a short cut for losing weight! Your purpose should be to maintain and improve your health and longevity. You still need to chose healthy food and do regular exercise, for your body and your soul.
I would love to hear your experiences!
Ayda Ersoy is a nutrition and fitness director at The Diet Doc Hawaii. She can be reached at DietDocHawaii.com, Ayda@DietDocHawaii.com, (808) 276-6892.