What Are The Benefits Of Fasting?
Fasting has been there since time immemorial and has been regarded as a spiritual experience where one opens up more to his/her creator. However, lately it has been thought of as a healthy practice that has many benefits, from mental to physical. I know I cannot go a day without food, but on finding out that they are benefits of not eating food for a while I am thinking of reducing my amounts of food intake, you know, just to experience the benefits firsthand.
Before I delve much further into the benefits, it is wise to know what fasting really is. Its meaning is relative and thus it needs to be defined, at least in the simplest way possible.
Fasting is the restriction or reducing of one’s food intake for a period of time because of many reasons, mostly personal. According to scientific literature, there are three types of fasting: intermittent fasting (or alternate day fasting), therapeutic fasting and calorie restriction.
Calorie restriction involves reducing your calorie intake by up to 30%, or more, everyday for a certain period of time. Intermittent fasting is not consuming food every other day or alternatively for an extended period of time. An example would be consuming food on Monday and your next meal would be on Wednesday and so on and so forth. Therapeutic fasting is the restriction of food for a period of around 2 days to a couple of weeks. One only consumes 300 to around 500 calories daily – which comes in the form of easy to digest carbohydrates or fruits.
Now that we are now better informed on the various types of fasting, it is time to explore its benefits.
Fasting, as I have mentioned earlier, has many benefits. one of the areas of the body it can heavily improve are the brain. Your mental well-being is as important as your body’s health – they are linked.
When one fasts, the body adapts to the inadequate food supply by releasing chemicals that protect the brain from various negative effects. According to scientists, these chemicals can put you in your best mood. This will not happen immediately – of course – it may take up to 2 days or three for the effects to truly show. The body adapts to fasting in the first week by releasing catocholamines in massive amounts. This includes norepinephrine, epinephrine (better known as adrenaline), steroid hormones (responsible for glucose metabolism and regulating immune response), dopamine and gluco-corticoids. These are the same chemicals that are released when one is frightened, otherwise known as “flight or fright” response. With time, an increase in these chemicals will certainly change one’s mood in the positive direction.
Besides that, fasting also improves the levels of the chemical serotonin in the brain, this, according to scientific research, explains intriguing findings that therapeutic fasting can greatly reduce occurrence of migraine headaches. How about that? This method, however, is not used in most health institutions, but it has proven to be an effective method.
Apart from mental benefits, fasting also has physical benefits to the body. The body undergoes some changes during fasting. Internal healing takes place meaning some ailments will be no more. This is because the body “takes care” of itself during fasting by releasing a host of chemicals, which heal the body considerably. Such ailments that may be healed are eczema, acne, asthma, lupus, psoriasis, hay fever and even colitis, just to mention a few. You should know however, that changes may not be permanent. This means that you have to get back to a healthy eating regiment (even better than before) so that the effects are more permanent.
Fasting isn’t jut about depriving yourself food and sustenance. There are some good practices that have to be followed so that you do not harm your body.
During fasting, the body uses glucose (body’s first choice for energy) to provide energy. Once glucose runs dry in the body during the fast, fat becomes the next option the body uses to derive energy, If one extends the fast, the body turns to protein for energy. This is where starvation strikes, as the body breaks down muscle in order to obtain proteins. This is clearly unhealthy. To prevent such an occurrence, a balanced diet and proper fluid intake is essential in between fasts. Make sure your meals comprise of enough carbohydrates and fats so that the body does not end up breaking down muscle to obtain protein in order to obtain energy.
To keep yourself healthy and in good shape, occasional fasting is recommended highly, especially if it is your first time. Fasting clearly has its benefits and it can indeed help you physically and mentally. If you are intending to fast, think of these benefits.