"The job of fasting is to supply the body
with the ideal environment to accomplish its work of healing."
Joel Fuhrman M.D.
Humans have been fasting for thousands of years, sometimes out of necessity, when there
simply wasn’t any food available. Think wars.
Fasting is done for religious reasons with various religions, including Islam, Christianity and
Buddhism, mandating some form of fasting. Think lent, and more specifically Ramadan when
Muslims fat for a month to commemorate the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammad.
Humans and other animals also often instinctively fast when sick.
What is fasting?
Intermittent fasting involves alternating intermittent cycles of voluntary fasting (ie consciously choosing when not to eat) and consciously choosing when to eat. It is not about what types of food to eat – though clearly one should eat wisely, perhaps following a Low Carb High Fat diet (see www.dietdoctor.com) or diet specific to culture or health condition.
We already fast every day – when we sleep. But this does not provide the same benefits as extended periods of fasting during a 24 hour or longer period.
There are several different intermittent fasting methods, all of which split the day or week into eating periods and fasting periods. You can do this by omitting breakfast, eating your first meal at noon and your last meal at 8 pm. Then you will be fasting for 16 hours every day, and restricting your eating to an 8-hour eating window. This is the most popular form of intermittent fasting. 16 hours is the minimum for a conscious choice of fasting, but some people choose to fast sometimes for whole days at a time.
No food is allowed during the fasting period, but you can drink water, coffee, tea and other non-caloric beverages but definitely no fizzy drinks.
Most doctors in the UK are not trained in nutrition and are unlikely to know much about fasting. But if you are living with medical conditions it is worth doing your own research, be informed, draw your intentions to the attention of your doctor but make your own best researched decisions.
What fasting does
is a voluntary, chosen break in your eating patterns
rests the digestive system
frees up energy so healing can begin
allows for the energy normally used for digestion to repair other
cleanses, detoxifies, and heals the inner body organ system
increases energy levels
leads to a feeling of physical and dynamic lightness
promotes greater mental clarity
aids in the cleansing and healing of "stuck" emotional patterns
promotes an inner stillness and calm
enhances spiritual connection
So why would you fast? What are the benefits?
One amazing benefit of fasting is the vast array of physical conditions that show improvement; it affects us holistically, meaning all aspects of our being are affected. Physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual changes can be felt within, during a fast. A sort of rebalancing takes place. Places where we have gotten "out of kilter" begin to re-align and re-balance when we take away the over-stimulation of over-eating.
Fasting has often been called the "miracle cure" because the list of physical conditions improved by fasting is long and varied. Cited most often are allergies, arthritis, diabetes, digestive disorders of all kinds, skin conditions, cardiovascular disease, and asthma. But because fasting initiates the body's own healing mechanisms, any ailment may show improvement.
More specifically fasting ….
Improves Your Eating Patterns
Helps with Weight Loss
Improves Your Brain Function
Improves Your Immune System
Promotes Clear Skin
Speeds Up Your Metabolism
Improves Insulin Sensitivity
Regulates the hormones in your body
Promotes Longevity - the less you eat, the less toll it takes on your
(Intermittent fasting) is controlled within a set number of hours and
allows the body to use fat as it’s primary source
of energy instead of sugar and allows the body
to burn through fat cells more effectively than
just regular dieting.
regulates your digestion and promotes healthy
bowel function, thus improving your metabolic
helps the immune system reduce free radical
damage, regulate inflammatory conditions in
the body and starve off cancer cell formation.
Much illness is a result of inflammation and a
poor immune system.
Gives significant reductions in blood sugar and insulin levels, as
well as a significant increase in human growth hormone
Gives your digestive system a rest, and helps your metabolism
to burn through calories more efficiently.
Improves hunger recognition - the minimum number of hours
for a fast, ie voluntarily going without food, is 16 hours, after which
you will recognise your body’s attempts to tell you that you are
Activates brain stem cells to convert into new neurons, and triggers
numerous other chemicals that promote positive neural health and in
addition protects your brain cells from changes associated with
Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Is a well-known spiritual practice and seen as an aid to
enlightenment. Think Jesus and The Buddha.
Much has been written about how, when fasting, people feel more
connected to the joys of life and are clearer in their thinking. With no
food in the digestive system, this allows more energy for the rest of
Combine fasting with meditation yoga, tai chi, Qi Gong and one
has a recipe for great physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.
With the body temporarily freed from its digestive duties, it can focus on
repair and regenerative work on other bodily systems eg regulating the
functioning of body organs like liver, kidneys and other parts.
A note on insulin
Insulin is the primary hormone that tells your body whether to store
energy or burn it. When you eat, you take in calories in and insulin
goes up. When insulin goes up it signals your body to store energy.
When insulin falls, it tells your body to release energy. When you
develop insulin resistance, something I have yet to be told about by
any medical professional in over twenty years of a diabetes diagnosis,
your insulin levels remain chronically elevated, hence your body is in
constant fat-storing mode. Hence tummy belly and obesity and
feeling tired and sluggish. You have plenty of fuel available, but it’s all
“locked away” in your fat cells, and it will remain unavailable until your
body receives the appropriate signal — a drop in insulin. This is also
why it’s so difficult to lose weight when you are insulin resistant.
So much for my doctor’s theory that it is about simply eating less and
walking more. That advice is as dangerous as it is negligent.
The key to this constant fat storing is to have sustained low insulin over periods of time. Enter fasting. It is hugely beneficial – and simple. Fasting lowers insulin and allows the stored energy (body fat) to be used. With fasting, surprisingly to many, you don’t feel so hungry. But then you have all the (fat) energy supplies you need, simply they are no longer locked away.
Fasting involves long periods where you’re not eating. And we each already fast! Consider the word “breakfast” in English. That’s break (the) fast. Breakfast is the meal that breaks your fast and you can break your fast at any time of the day, not just when you awake and not just once a day. You can eat two days later.
Balance your periods of feeding and fasting, you will stay in balance. And it is possible to reverse diabetes.
Contraindications – when not to fast
If you are underweight, with a body mass index (BMI) of 18.5 or less.
If you are already malnourished (in which case you need healthier, more nutritious food to build you up).
If you are a child - children should not fast for longer than 24 hours, as they need nutrients for continued growth. Instead of fasting cut out refined sugars and grains.
If you are pregnant and/or breastfeeding. You need a steady supply of nutrients in order to assure the baby’s healthy growth and development.
Some medications do need to be taken with food. Check if this applies to yours.
(But don’t expect your doctor to automatically applaud you for doing a fast!)
This includes metformin, aspirin and any other drugs that might cause stomach
upset or stomach ulcers.
Monitor carefully your blood sugar levels. If you take the same dose of medication
but don’t eat, you run the risk of having very low blood sugars (hypoglycaemia),
which canbe dangerous.
As a diabetic, adjust your medication dosage before you fast.
Watch out for signs of hypoglycaemia – shakes, weakness, and take remedial action.
If you develop gout – indicative of high uric acid – consult your doctor.
Fasting for 16 hours as a minimum is recommended. For most, this means giving up on
breakfast and therefore can be done daily.
Some fast for 2 -3 days at a time – your body will get its energy from its current fat stores.
Avoid eating late at night – say after 9pm or avoid food for a minimum of three hours
before your bedtime.
Take your main meal around lunchtime.
And remember – give your body time (up to two weeks) to adjust.
Natural health expert and Mercola.com founder Dr. Joseph Mercola interviews Dr. Jason Fung about fasting.
Coffee is allowed !
FASTING AIDE MEMOIRE
Treat your approach to fasting as part of your nutritional therapy involving either full or partial caloric restriction over a chosen period of time. Be planned, prepared, informed, aware, and vigilant. Above all, make your approach to fasting a pleasure and easy on yourself. If it’s not, you will quit too soon.
Become aware of YOUR need to fast
Inform yourself as to why fasting will be good for you
Do your research into different types of fasting and for what purpose
Consider whether any adjustments will be needed to your present medication regimen
Get up to date with personal or work projects and do not take on new ones during the fast
Set specific measurable goals, the benefits you wish to experience from fasting eg lose 45 lbs in weight is more specific than “just lose weight” – want clarity of mind, clean looking skin, to be energised anad sleep well is preferable to “feel better!”
If relevant, write down where you are now eg current weight, present glucose levels, etc so that in time you can compare your progress
Write out a list of factors that will tell you the fasting is working for you – then be vigilant and notice if this is happening or not
Identify those temporary processes or side-effects you may experience during fasting eg You may or may not experience some of the following:
anxiety and restlessness
bloating and excess flatulence
body and joint aches
cravings for carbohydrates, sugar, sweets
depression and sadness
dizzy and lightheaded
excessive ear wax
mood swings and irritability
spots, pimples or skin itches
These are signs that our body is trying to cleanse itself and the detox program is working. Aim not to take relieving medication.
Do all you can to move gently into each day – clear the decks the night before
Keep your social diary as free as possible – by resting you aid the benefits of fasting
Prepare yourself mentally and emotionally – anticipate that you are likely to feel hunger and irritability
Begin a longer term fast on a Friday afternoon where you can have a good head start over the weekend
Take a nap during lunch breaks if on a longer duration fast
Go easy on your exercise routine – don’t punish the body at a time when you are not feeding it
Develop an early-to-bed routine, aim for quality sleep
Keep yourself hydrated – drink plenty of water or green teas – avoid alcohol
Take up a gentle new hobby to occupy times you are freeing up – missing a meal gives you free time
Make your commitment to yourself – write it out if needs be – choose a date to start, then start