The word ‘fasting’ is often associated with spirituality or religion; however, it isn’t limited to that. Studies have shown that frequent fasting is very helpful for the body and can make one’s health better.
Fasting is defined as the abstinence from all or some foods or drinks for a specific period of time. There are many different ways of fasting as regards the period of fasting and the amount of calories intake.
In general, most types of fasts are performed over 24–72 hours. However, fasting period might be as short as 12 hours, in the case of intermittent fasting. But traditional fasts, whether they’re for diet, cultural, or religious reasons, tend to be longer — a day or more.
In terms of calorie intake,some fasting can be done to reduce consumption of carbs and increase intake of some other kind of food.
While fasting is usually down to spiritual beliefs, many people still choose to fast because of its health benefits.
Here are a few of the most common types of fasting:
- Intermittent fasting: Intake is partially or completely restricted for a few hours up to a few days at a time and a normal diet is resumed on other days. This is the most common type of fast.
- Water fasting: Involves drinking only water for a set amount of time.
- Juice fasting: Entails only drinking vegetable or fruit juice for a certain period.
- Partial fasting: Certain foods or drinks such as processed foods, caffeine, etc. are eliminated from the diet for a set period.
- Calorie restriction: This fast entails the restriction of food that contains some calories, for a few days or week.
Fasting may have an antidepressant effect, thanks to its ability to make feel-good hormones like serotonin, endorphins, etc, more available to your brain. These hormones regulate pain, emotion, reward, stress responses, motivation, drug addiction. Fasting (including calorie restriction) have been shown to relieve negative emotions like tension and anger and boost feelings of euphoria.
During fasting, a detoxification process occurs, because any toxins stored in the body’s fat are dissolved and removed from the body. After a few days of fasting, higher levels of endorphins – “feel-good” hormones – are produced in the blood, which can have a positive impact on mental well-being.
A 2008 review found that people with depression who reduced their daily calorie intake by 25 percent experienced fewer depressive symptoms over 6 months.
There have been studies that support fasting as an excellent tool for weight loss. One 2015 study found that alternate day fasting trimmed body weight by up to 7 percent and slashed body fat by up to 12 pounds.
Another study from University of Southern California, discovered that when 71 adults were placed on a five-day fast (eating between 750 and 1,100 calories a day) once every three months, they lost an average of 6 pounds, reduced inflammation levels and their waistlines and lost total body fat without sacrificing muscle mass.
This is why many dieters turn to fasting as an alternate approach to weight loss and belly fat., instead of hitting the gym. Fasting also increases the ability to switch metabolism to fat burning, preserve muscle mass and improve body composition in overweight people.
In a study, published in the journal ‘Cell Stem Cell’ by the University of Oxford,it was found that repeated cycles of 2-4 days without food over a 6-month period destroyed the old and damaged immune cells in mice and generated new ones. What is more, the team found that cancer patients who fasted for 3 days prior to chemotherapy were protected against immune system damage that can be caused by the treatment, which they attribute to immune cell regeneration.
During fasting, the body gets rid of the parts of the system that might be damaged or old – the inefficient parts.
Scientific studies have shown that fasting can boost a healthy heart by improving Blood Pressure, triglycerides and Cholesterol Levels. A study of 110 obese adults showed that fasting for three weeks under medical supervision significantly decreased blood pressure, as well as levels of blood triglycerides, total cholesterol and “bad” LDL cholesterol
Many foods we consume contain too much bad cholesterol which makes the triglyceride levels shoot up – this invariably increases the risk of heart disease. Fasting actually lowers those bad cholesterol levels, decreasing triglycerides in the process. Another advantage of fasting is it doesn’t affect the levels of good cholesterol in the body.
Another study showed that fasting caused an increase in levels of adiponectin in the heart. Adiponectin is a protein involved in the metabolism of fat and sugar that may be protective against heart disease and heart attacks.
When you eat carbohydrate food, a hormone called insulin, transports the glucose ( from carbohydrate) out of the blood and into the cells where it can be used up as energy. When your body takes in too much carbs and sugar, it can become insulin resistant, which often paves the way for a host of chronic diseases, especially type-2 diabetes.
Fasting on the order end, helps to put a control on the carbs and sugar consumed, thereby maintaining the level of insulin that will effectively work.
Fasting is good but it might not be advised for everyone especially those with some health challenges or peculiarities. Fasting isn’t recommended for people who are underweight, have an eating disorder or are pregnant or breast-feeding.
It’s advisable to speak to your medical consultant or doctor especially if you’re under 18, elderly, have a pre-existing medical condition (including diabetes and high blood pressure) or are on medication.
Since it has been proven by Science that fasting has a number of health benefits, observing it is a very good idea. Just talk with your doctor first and note its negative side effects. Fasting can take different forms and can sometimes have, so it’s worth figuring out what type of fasting plan will work best for you and how to avoid or minimize any possible downsides.