To fast or not to fast
“We fast not to please the divine, but to cleanse our body.” - Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Across India, there are many different festivals both religious and traditional, where in individuals are required to fast, in fact one has just started this week, it is known as Navratri - apart from being a great reminder to reset and slow down - this auspicious festival has many other facets to it. Having said that, each ceremony and or traditional festival has its own reason for fasting, however as mentioned above, the primary reason for fasting across all these ceremonies and festivals is to cleanse.
While cleansing is a known benefit to fasting across spiritual texts, it is also scientifically proven to have multiple other benefits on one’s health. Fasting as a process has been a part of health and wellness conversations for decades, hence making it such a well researched topic.
Let’s break down some of the benefits of fasting now shall we?
Restart, Reset and Refresh
When we fast, the is not able to rely on its go to partner: glucose to draw energy. It instead it is forced to tell the cells to look elsewhere. Studies suggest, that the body begins gluconeogenesis, a natural process wherein the body produces its own sugar as a result to fasting. How does this happen? Well, it leans on the liver to convert lactate, amino acids, and fats into glucose based energy. Given this, it is clear that during a fast, our bodies are triggered to conserve energy, it is suddenly made aware that it is not going to be receiving fuel anytime soon. Hence, Because our bodies conserve energy during fasting, our basal metabolic rate (the amount of energy our bodies burn while resting) becomes more efficient, thereby lowering our heart rate and blood pressure.
Improved Cognitive Performance
Intermittent fasting increases the brain hormone BDNF and may aid the growth of new nerve cells. It may also protect against Alzheimer’s disease.
Improved Heart health
Intermittent fasting may reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol, blood triglycerides, inflammatory markers, blood sugar and insulin resistance. Moreover some studies have found that it also regulates blood pressure levels as well. All of the above are triggers for heart disease and can cause reduced heart performance. Having said that if you do try to fast, consult your healthcare practitioner first, as supervised fasting comes with these benefits - it is essential, to do this so that your nutrition balanced.
Fasting is known to be a quick and easy way to lose weight, so if that’s what you’re looking for then yes this is a benefit. However it is important to consider sustainable weight loss methods to be able to keep that weight off should you wish to kickstart your journey with fasting. As studies suggest that the quicker weight comes off the quicker it will come back on as well if not supplemented with exercise and eventual healthy balanced diets.
Improved Insulin Resistance
Intermittent fasting can reduce insulin resistance lowering blood sugar by 3–6% and fasting insulin levels by 20–31%. It has been found to be most effective in patients who have type 2 diabetes and are obese.
Studies Show a drop in inflammation markers when fasted, this occurs as a result to suppression of proinflammatory cytokine expression as well as a reduction in body fat. Moreover, the depletion of water retention allows for more circulation as well.
Studies for this in humans are still ongoing but prior studies done on certain animals show that those who fasted lived longer.
Boosts Cellular Repair
When fasted, your cells begin the process of repair. Research found that fasting dramatically improves the stem cell’s ability to regenerate whether older or younger. This not only helps with anti-aging but also helps with skin regeneration and increases the speed at which skin cells regenerate. It has been found that the skin’s ability to regenerate in 28 days depletes over time, however, when you post cell repair and regeneration this will in turn help with the skin.
Helps with Skin Disorders
Helps in the elimination of disorders like eczema and psoriasis. Both of which, are chronic skin disorders that can become quite difficult to manage. Having said that other research has also found that a balanced diet, and using fragrance free products do help with curbing the symptoms of the same. But hey, if fasting can help, why not, right?
As you can see, the benefits are vast, having said that, no matter how or when you decide to start, it is always important to consult your healthcare practitioner first, they will be able to guide you on whether or not fasting is suitable for you, as well as how and when to start. There are multiple types of fasting from intermitting fasting, to the fasting mimicking diet, to solely eating fruits, vegetables and broth whilst eliminating everything else, then there’s the elimination diet and much more! There’s no one size fits all, so consult the right people, and if you do decide to start, Happy Fasting!