Fasting has been prehistorically practiced around the world and trails back from many religious practices. Fasting has been used for various reasons including improvements in spiritual vision, penance, mourning, purification and to break habits of glutton. Some other ancients used fasting to heal the body from ailments, improve concentration, extend life and rejuvenate.
Ancient practitioners and philosophers “Fasting is the greatest remedy–the physician within.” Early healing arts recognised the revitalising and rejuvenating power fasting promoted. Fasting today can be effective in various ways but it must work for you, in a way that keeps you sane.
Some known benefits of Fasting:
- rest the digestive system
- allow for cleansing and detoxification of the body
- create a break in eating patterns, while shining a spotlight on them
- promote greater mental clarity
- cleanse and heal “stuck” emotional patterns
- lead to a feeling of physical lightness, increasing energy level
- promote an inner stillness, enhancing spiritual connection
Main health benefits include:
- Insulin resistance
- Heart health
- Animal studies suggest may prevent Cancer
- Brain health
- Anti-aging effects
Let us explore the types of fasting
- Intermittent 16 -18 hours is currently one of the most popular forms of fasting. It is an eating pattern that cycles through periods of eating and periods of fasting. I practice this type of fasting as it is easier to manage than long term fasts once properly prepared for. This method is the most popular and people find it easiest to stick to.
2. 5:2 this is another method whereby on two non consecutive days of the week only 500- 600 calories are consumed but all other days are normal eating days. It is also a form of intermittent fasting.
3. Eat stop eat (24 hour ) practices not eating from dinner one day until dinner the next day once or twice per week.
4.Alternate day (fast every other day) One of the most common effects of alternate day fasting on the body is the stimulation of autophagy. Autophagy is a process in which old parts of cells are degraded and recycled. It plays a key role in preventing diseases such as cancer, neurodegeneration, heart disease and infections (44, 45). Animal studies have consistently shown that both long-term and short-term fasting increase autophagy and are linked to a delay in aging and reduced risk of tumors (46, 47, 48, 49). Furthermore, fasting has been shown to increase lifespan in rodents, flies, yeasts and worms (50). This has been confirmed by human studies showing that ADF diets reduce oxidative damage and promote changes that may be linked to longevity (9, 15, 52, 54).
5. Liquids only fasting whereby there is only water, lemonade or juice consumed are popular fasts as well. These are not considered easy but they do have benefits as well.
Who might benefit the most from fasting?
Hippocrates of Cos (c 460 – c370 BC) is widely considered the father of modern medicine. Among the treatments that he prescribed and championed was the practice of fasting, and the consumption of apple cider vinegar. Hippocrates wrote, “To eat when you are sick, is to feed your illness”. The ancient Greek writer and historian Plutarch (cAD46 – c AD 120) agreed. He wrote, “Instead of using medicine, better fast today”. Ancient Greek thinkers Plato and his student Aristotle agreed upon using methods of fasting.
It has been used not only for weight loss, but to improve concentration, extend life, prevent Alzheimers, prevent insulin resistance and even reverse the entire aging process. Fasting includes eating healthy as well for great results, so eating junk food during eating periods will not help your case or encourage weight loss. It is not for everyone and if you are underweight or have a past history with eating disorders, fasting may not be recommended for you and you should check with your doctor. Many people with doctors or healers supervision would benefit from fasting.
The best way to start with fasting is to prepare in advance. If you choose the intermittent fasting,that would be the best place to begin. Pack a healthy lunch or have ingredients for healthy meals until dinner time so that you are not famished, cranky and end up giving into junk food cravings with the blood sugar drops.
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