Any website, healing practice or group or other place that health is promoted cannot be taken seriously if fasting is not discussed. Fasting comes in many different forms, with a myriad of benefits, and is practiced widely by every country, culture and religion in the world.
So what is fasting? The word fasting is derived from the Old English term ‘fæstan’ meaning to hold firmly, likely due to the fact fasting can be far from an easy thing to do. Fasting certainly takes a lot of willpower and determination, but the effort as absolutely worth the reward. Fasting is commonly practised in today’s world primarily for religious/spiritual or health reasons, and the reason for fasting will change the way you fast.
Religious/spiritual fasting is practiced with the primary intention of increasing gratitude, developing understanding and self discipline and growing closer to God/consciousness. Consequently the battle is largely in the mind, so adhering to certain rules is the primary practice. For examples, at lent, Christian’s will give up something they enjoy, this takes willpower and increases gratitude when whatever was given up is enjoyed again.
Muslims do not eat or drink when the sun is up during Ramadan. This takes willpower and has intermittent fasting health benefits, which is a perfect transition into the health benefits of fasting.
As your body begins burning its own fat stores, the liver converts these fats into ketone bodies, such as acetone, acetoacetate and beta hydroxy butyrate . Your cells grab these and burn them as fuel. Increased levels of ketone bodies has has a myriad of positive effects, most report increased mental clarity and increased focus. Reduced hunger also helps a lot! One of the most remarkable effects is the reduction in seizures for people with epilepsy or other neurological issues , some have managed to completely resolve their disease with a ketogenic diet and fasting alone
The word autophagy can be broken down to auto (self) and phagy (eating). The process whereby cells basically eat themselves. Healthier cells will consume organelles and other compounds inside the cell for fuel and nutrients, sort of like cleaning your room. It’s much easier to work in a cleaner environment, and the same is true for your cells.
Apoptosis is a form of programmed and organised cell death. This should occur to sickly cells naturally, but with some diseases like cancer, unhealthy cells continue to replicate. There are many anecdotes of people improving their cancer through fasting, and apoptosis is likely a key factor.
Burning Fat and Weight Loss
Weight loss can be a great benefit to fasting, but that’s not the only benefit to burning fat. When body fat is burned fat soluble toxins that have been stored, including things like xenoestrogenic compounds (mycotoxins, plastic) heavy metals and pesticides are released, and the body will detoxify and excrete them. During this time, you might find yourself feeling increased fatigue and any other preexistent health complaints may increase in severity. Your body isn’t having to digest food and is working on the backlog of jobs, just be patient and take as much rest as you can.
Human Growth Hormone
Well documented for its potent anti aging properties human growth hormone secretion increases whilst fasting. People pay good money, literally thousands, to receive hgh injections, and you can receive the same effect by actually saving money and just not eating. Who says healthcare has to be expensive?
Types of Fasting
There are more documented and likely countless other undocumented health benefits to fasting. Now we know some of the benefits we can explore the different types of fasting and how to apply them.
A liquid fast is where nothing solid is consumed, this works even better if all fibre is removed from liquids, as this allows for bowel rest, which can be particularly useful if digestion is poor. Some foods can still be consumed like fresh vegetable juice, broths, healthy fats like coconut oil, butter. Consuming fats on a fast like this can be particularly useful if malnourishment is a concern, especially raw egg yolks, they are excellent nutrition. This type of fasting will not promote autophagy and apoptosis as calories are still consumed, but that’s not to say liquid meals don’t have their benefits.
Moving up a level of difficulty we have juice fasting. When juice fasting you really want to avoid high amounts of sugar, as avoiding blood sugar spikes, and allowing yourself into ketosis has huge health benefits alone. To do this avoid fruit and higher sugar vegetables like carrots, cucumbers and peppers. I have personally experimented and experienced the benefits of juice fasting for up to 5 days and I am certain it has made an enormous difference in my health. Juicing vegetables like this provides a lot of nutrients, antioxidants and phytochemicals that can be very cleansing to the body. These cleansing compounds can be useful when swapping into ketosis as lots of fat soluble toxins are mobilised and can leave you feeling sluggish and irritable.
Next we have water fasting, and in my opinion, this is where it really becomes difficult. Society and culture make eating and consuming a very commonplace thing, and when someone hears you’re fasting, they might be a bit confused, shocked, or even concerned for you. Abstaining from everything except water is very challenging from a physical hunger standpoint, but as mentioned before, the true battle is in the mind. Water fasting is generally safe, but if new, severely ill or unconfident I would recommend a fasting retreat where you can be monitored as you fast.
Finally, we have dry fasting. Can you guess? It’s exactly what is sounds like. No food. No water. Sometimes ‘hard’ dry fasting excludes brushing your teeth and showering, you can’t come into contact with water at all. Dry fasting is one of the hardest challenges there is, and it shouldn’t be attempted by beginners, or unsupervised. The beauty of dry fasting is the body breaks down fat cells for water (remember that camels humps containing fat not water?) And uses this water to hydrate the body. This causes extreme fat burning and weight loss.
On a somewhat different note, we have another type of fasting that certainly has its place. Intermittent fasting. I don’t personally think of this as fasting anymore, I see it as the way everyone should already be eating! By reducing your eating window, from say 8am – 10pm, to 8am – 5pm, you have a 9 hours eating window, and therefore a 15 hours of fasting. This provides you a chance to digest the food you’ve eaten, and then allows your body to have a break from digestion and work on its other jobs. The benefits aren’t as noticeable as longer duration fasts, but it significantly increases autophagy and it’s easier to implement intermittent fasting into your daily routine.
I think it’s safe to say that fasting is absolutely worth the effort. Be it for the exercise in mental fortitude and self discipline or the complex combination of all of the mechanisms by which fasting helps promote health. Regardless of how you choose to implement this knowledge into your lifestyle. I’m sure you learned something and I hope that helps you on your path to abundant health.