The Complete Guide to Fasting
Benjamin Franklin must have known something nobody else did when he had said, ‘’The best of all medicines is resting and fasting’’. We’ve mostly heard of fasting as a religious/spiritual practice that people from all faiths and backgrounds practice throughout the year. Some fast during a specific month while others occasionally, depending on their belief system and inclination.
That’s totally up to the person observing the fast. However, research and medical science prove that fasting is a religious ritual and a great way to cleanse the body by putting it through the process of detoxification. Years of research on fasting has led to many groundbreaking discoveries regarding the health benefits it provides to the body.
In this complete guide to fasting, let’s look at what actually fasting is, how it works and explore the different fasting methods along with the health benefits it provides to the human body.
What is Fasting?
Fasting basically refers to the process of discontinuing eating or drinking for a certain stretch of time. A fast typically lasts for 12 hours or even a day, depending on the type of fast you are observing and the purpose behind it, as suggested by medical evidence.
During the fasting period, you refrain from foods of all kinds; however, in some cases, it may be allowed for you to have water, tea or a small amount of food. The idea behind fasting is to allow the body to carry out the cleansing process and stabilize itself, which leads to an improvement in the functioning of several bodily functions and aids in weight loss.
Who is Fasting Suitable For?
While there is no hard and fast rule for fasting, a person who intends to fast must generally be in good health. Healthy individuals with no serious health condition and a nutritious diet may fast whenever they want, for however long.
There are certain limitations on some people who wish to fast mainly due to certain health conditions. In such cases, people are advised to consult their medical experts before they begin fasting. Those include people experiencing preexisting health conditions or chronic diseases.
As for those who should avoid fasting altogether include pregnant women, kids and teens, breastfeeding mothers, and those who suffer from an eating disorder as fasting could be detrimental to their health and exacerbate any existing health condition that they have.
How Often Should One Fast?
There is no set limit as to how much and for how long one should fast. This is totally up to the person to decide how often they want to fast. However, in the case of those who fast for medical reasons, it is best that they consult their health professional before fasting. Most health experts, doctors and nutritionists agree that one should fast periodically, at least 4-7 days in a month sounds good for healthy individuals following a balanced, nutritious diet.
Types of Fasting
While there is no restricted method related to fasting, experts have come up with certain types of fasting that may help to make the experience more fruitful and advantageous. The type of fasting we are referring to here is intermittent fasting. Let’s dig into this type of fasting and see how it works.
Over the course of the last few years, intermittent fasting has become the most popular type of fasting is the domain. Intermittent fasting refers to a pattern that allows you to eat in intervals by dividing the cycles between eating and fasting. In simpler words, if you are on intermittent fasting, you are supposed to eat within the time frame of the hours dedicated to fasting and abstain for the rest of the hours. During the fasting period of intermittent fasting, you are only allowed to have water so that the body does not feel dehydrated.
Based on research, the specific needs of individuals and their personal preferences, intermittent fasting is further divided into several categories that are
Types of Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting is further categorized into three main types that doctors have come up with, after rigorous research and study. All the types are used for weight loss in particular and improved health in general. The types of intermittent fasting are as follows:
- Time-restricted or daily intermittent fasting
- Weekly intermittent fasting
- Alternate-day intermittent fasting
Time-Restricted or Daily Intermittent Fasting Daily intermittent fasting means you can select a stretch of time during which you eat and fast during the remaining hours. If you choose to eight within 8 hours, you are going to fast for the rest of 16 hours, including sleep time. For example, having your first meal at 11 am and the last at 7 pm would make one day of intermittent daily fasting. It solely depends on you to choose the hours of your intermittent fasting, depending on your daily schedule and engagements.
Weekly Intermittent Fasting In weekly intermittent fasting, you are suggested to consume around 20% to 25% of your daily energy needs (so you don’t starve) on any of the weekdays you decide to fast. The recommended fasting schedule is one to two days a week. You are supposed to eat very little during your fasting days and eat whatever you want during the remaining 5 days of the week.
Alternate-Day Intermittent Fasting Alternate day intermittent fasting is a bit hard to stick to, as the fasting period is longer than the previous two types. In this type of fasting, you fast for at least 24 hours a day in order to feast the next day. And continue doing so on alternate days of the month to get maximum fasting benefits.
Health Benefits of Fasting
Fasting as a practice has been around for thousands of years, and countless opinions from experts have established its significance as a common notion. The health benefits of fasting are various; however, the ones that most health care professionals unanimously agree upon include:
- Improved cholesterol levels
- Appetite control
- Regulation of blood pressure
- Maintenance of glucose levels
- Support with higher insulin sensitivity
- Aids in weight loss
- Helps with regulating diabetes and reducing the risk of it occurring in the first place
Other than the above-mentioned benefits of fasting, there are certain medical reasons that prompt people to fast. For instance, your doctor or surgeon is going to advise you to fast for a certain period of time before surgery or certain medical tests. This kind of fasting does not extend to a long time period – it is undertaken just for the sake of medical purposes.
Some other proven health benefits of fasting if improvised, along with a healthy, nutritious diet, including treating diseases like arthritis, cardiovascular diseases, depression, eczema, psoriasis, and ulcerative colitis etcetera. It is important to note that fasting in itself is no cure to anything unless it is combined with a balanced diet before and after the hours of fasting so that the body manages to perform its functions during the fasting period.
Apart from physical benefits, experts also suggest fasting as beneficial for psychological health. Medical evidence in this regard shows that fasting helps to cope with psychological and mental issues such as stress and anxiety. The key here is to make sure that your fasting practice must always be combined with the kind of diet you consume.
Possible Health Risks of Fasting
Although there are serious risks attached to fasting, if you are negligent during the hours of eating, you may experience dehydration, headache, and conditions like heartburn during the fasting time, which leads to an uncomfortable feeling.
It may also be harmful to people with preexisting health conditions who do not consult their medical specialist before convening their fasting practice. Other than that, there are no severe side effects linked to fasting. In fact, it is a healthy practice that can be carried out by anyone who wishes to improves their health.
It would only be fair to say that fasting indeed, is a healthy practice that has been around for centuries, in the form of religious and spiritual ritual as well as a way to cleanse the human body.
As it is not so easy to fast on a regular basis, different types of fasting have been introduced in the world of health and nutrition so that people can choose according to their liking and preferences. In this regard, intermittent fasting is regarded as the most popular type of fasting around the world as it has not only helped people lose excess weight but also provides other health benefits to the body.
Medical specialists, nutritionists and dieticians alike suggest healthy eating and periodical fasting for the best outcome. They also believe that fasting may work best when the rest of your lifestyle is in sync with your fasting habits, and last but not the least, to gain maximum benefit, doctor’s recommended is essential for anybody who wishes to fast for whatever reason. I hope that you might have understood it now what is fasting and how it can be helpful for you.