Have you ever tried fasting for health? It’s free, comes with numerous health benefits and is actually fairly easy to do.
Fasting is Natural
Humans have evolved to survive without eating during times of food shortage with no ill effects, but many view being hungry as ‘bad for you’ or even something frightening.
Since advertising was invented, we’ve been conditioned (by food manufacturers) to eat three meals a day (plus snacks), even in the absence of hunger. However, when we don’t eat, physiological changes occur, boosting cells’ energy production, improving brain health, reversing Type 2 diabetes and even slowing the ageing process of cells. Fasting has also been found to reduce blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides – risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
What Happens During Fasting?
When we eat, our body produces insulin to control the amount of sugar in our blood. If we constantly graze, insulin is continually released into the bloodstream. When we stop eating, blood sugar and insulin levels drop, reversing insulin resistance, a precursor for Type 2 diabetes (when insulin is high and cells have become insensitive to its action).
Fasting also triggers a process called ‘autophagy.’ The word means ‘self-eating’ and is essentially the body’s waste disposal system – where dead, old and worn out bits of cells as well as invading bacteria and viruses are hoovered up and cleared out before being recycled. Autophagy occurs all around our body, including in our brain and helps protect cells from accumulated waste products which would otherwise affect their functioning.
Scientists have discovered that animals fed every other day lived significantly longer – more than 80% longer – than those with unrestricted access to food. So, it seems autophagy helps prevent body cells from ageing. It can also help manage chronic inflammation, believed to be at the root of most chronic diseases.
Constantly eating and snacking doesn’t allow your body a chance to clean itself with autophagy.
Types of Fasting
There are many different types of fasting and you don’t need to fast for a long period to experience health benefits. Autophagy kicks in after around 16 hours without food and we already fast for around 12 hours overnight. By eating our evening meal earlier and breakfast later, it becomes relatively easy to extend your overnight fast to 16 hours, meaning you’re eating during an eight-hour window. For example, breakfast at 9am and evening meal at 5pm, or breakfast at 10am and evening meal at 6pm. This is called time-restricted eating, and many people adopt this approach two or three times weekly.
You’ll be surprised how quickly your body adapts to a new eating regime. Most people practising time-restricted eating report they don’t feel hungry. This is because your hunger hormone, ‘ghrelin’, declines when you fast.
Fasting Made Easy
Choose a fasting regime to work with your lifestyle. Reduce tea and coffee beforehand, to avoid caffeine withdrawal symptoms during your fast. Slowly increase your fasting window by shifting the times of your mealtimes little by little, helping your body adapt to periods without food. During a fast, drink plenty of water as your liver and kidneys will want to seize the opportunity to flush out waste products.
Before you embark on any type of fasting, it’s best to speak to a practitioner to make sure fasting is suitable for you, particularly if you suffer from chronic health issues. Your GP should always be informed if you have any health condition prior to fasting.