(Credit: Dr. Jean Fortunet)
Health Lifestyle Science

Discover the Mental and Physical Health Benefits of Fasting

Healthy fasting is therapeutic if appropriately done, and evidence supports this. Our body can cure itself if given the correct nourishment, movement, sleep, emotional wellness, and surroundings; fasting boosts its curing capabilities. It’s vital for holistic health.

It has beneficial effects on physical, emotional, brain, and spiritual health. In fact, it exists as a practice in most religions (religious fasting). For example, Muslims reduce caloric intake for a period of time during Ramadan to cleanse the mind, body, and soul. Other religious fasts include Christians, Greek Orthodox Christians, Jews, Hindus, and Buddhists, reducing caloric intake on certain days of the week or year.

Ramadan fasting

Fasting has been performed for millennia with favorable effects, but only lately have studies shown its significance in adaptive cellular responses that minimize oxidative damage and inflammation, optimize energy metabolism and heart health, and bolster cellular defense. Furthermore, it helps with weight loss because it depletes liver glycogen, causing lipolysis and ketone body production, which reduces body fat (fat percentage) and hip circumference.

Fasting is such a popular scientific research topic today that the number of these studies demonstrating how good it is for holistic health keeps growing. The outcomes of these studies show that it can make you smarter, increase longevity by slowing down the aging process, and heal diseases, digestive issues, neurodegenerative disorders, and neurological disorders (mood disorders). Other health effects include the prevention of cardiovascular disease and chronic diseases.

Fasting is a Tool to Activate Inner Intelligence

Fasting activates our inner intelligence via calorie restriction. It’s straightforward science. Fasting lets the digestive system rest by halting calorie intake. This break saves energy that would have gone toward digesting food. This conserved energy is used for repair, recovery, development, rejuvenation, and healing, which are needed for curing every human disease.

What happens first when we’re sick? Reduced appetite. So, what does this tell us? Our body reduces appetite to save energy that would have gone to digestion for mending and repair instead. Fasting does the same thing. It activates good genes with protective mechanisms, such as the SIRT1 gene, which regulates longevity, inflammation, fat and glucose metabolism, and other health effects.

A PLOS One study found that fasting reduces hunger hormones, improves metabolism, and helps people lose weight. Chicago researchers tested intermittent fasting on 20 obese adults for eight weeks. It enhanced the participants’ insulin resistance and glucose regulation, reduced cravings, and increased the feeling of fullness. Furthermore, they felt better overall and experienced no side effects.

Most people today overeat by incessantly munching and nibbling. Constant and excessive eating and out-of-balance dietary intake can overload the digestive system, leading to illness and a majority of health-related problems. Fasting helps mend this damage.

Chronic fasting (long-term fasting) enhances the lower eukaryote lifetime by altering metabolic and stress resistance pathways. Intermittent fasting (short-term fasting) protects against diabetes, malignancies, heart disease, neurodegeneration, obesity, hypertension, asthma, and rheumatoid arthritis.

What is Fasting?

Most people fast by only drinking water, dubbed “water fasting.” Other versions include juice fasting (apple cider vinegar, lemonade, carrot juice, celery juice, etc.) and “eating light,” where participants primarily eat vegetables, fruits, and lean meats like fish and chicken. However, “real” fasting involves going without food, solid, and liquid (aside from water) for at least 12 hours.

Several variations exist. Sometimes spiritual disciplines like prayer and meditation are included, turning it into a ritual. These disciplines make the process easier by calming the psyche.

Forms of Fasting

As mentioned, various methods (diets) exist; all deliver positive effects. Here are a few examples:

Water Fast

This is the most common style of fasting and the most accurate form. Except for water, no solids or liquids are consumed. For those doing an extended water fast (over three days), sometimes herbal teas, tonics, and broths are consumed—but absolutely no caffeine or alcohol.

Juice Fast

People following this diet will only drink vegetable and fruit juices for the duration of the fast.

Fruit juice
(Credit: Marco Verch/Flickr)

Liquid Diet

This variation allows anything liquid, like broth or pureed soups, smoothies, and juices.

Vegan Fast

It’s odd to call this one a fast because you can eat. Nevertheless, this diet is for people looking to purify their bodies. They must eliminate all non-plant-based foods (only things like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes are allowed).

Intermittent Fasting

Skipping meals regularly, known as intermittent fasting or partial fasting, is becoming increasingly popular worldwide. People realize its physical and mental health benefits. It enhances energy, moods, sleep, and sex life. However, it involves a set daily fasting time.

Intermittent fasting also has the following benefits:

  • It alters brain neurochemistry and network activity to improve brain function and energy metabolism.
  • It increases parasympathetic activity in autonomic neurons that innervate the gut, heart, and arteries, improving gut motility and lowering heart rate and blood pressure.
  • It improves muscle and liver insulin sensitivity and lowers IGF-1.
  • It reduces oxidative stress and inflammation in the body and brain.

There are over twenty variations of intermittent fasting. The most popular include:

Alternate-Day Fasting (ADF)

This strategy entails daily periods of fasting of 18 hours and then eating a light meal every other day. On alternate days you can eat healthy things like vegetables, berries, nuts, lean protein, etc.

Time-Restricted Feeding (TRF)

Every day, you consume within specific periods of time. For example, your daily fast may be limited to eating from midday to 8:00 p.m..

5:2 Fasting

You follow a schedule of regular eating for five days, then two days of fasting (preferably water fasting).

The 23:1 Fast

This fast allows one meal a day, but not breakfast. It is also commonly referred to as the “One Meal a Day” diet (OMAD).

The 18-hour Fast

You designate a six-hour window per day in which you can eat.

How To Use This Information to Improve Your Health Without Fasting

  • Avoid refined carbohydrates and sweets. Consume fruits and vegetables, beans and lentils, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats instead.
  • Reduce carbohydrate intake.
  • Practice mindfulness meditation or transcendental meditation when fasting becomes challenging.
  • Allow your body to burn fat by not eating between meals.
  • Keep moving throughout the day; this will increase muscle tone.
  • Consider a basic practice of intermittent fasting. For instance, limit the times you eat throughout the day or time frames; eat earlier in the day for the best results; and refrain from eating in the morning until you are truly hungry.
  • Always avoid eating late at night (between sunset and sunrise, ideally).
Intermittent fasting
(Credit: Wilson Fisk)

Common Reasons Why People Fast

Most people fast to shed weight, regulate blood sugar, cleanse themselves of toxins, or regain mental clarity and emotional stability. However, it is a difficult thing to do alone. For those that need a little motivation, inspiration, and guidance, there are many fasting or detox retreats worldwide.

In addition, a growing number of medical clinics are offering guided fasting treatments. During these rehabilitation sessions, physicians supervise patients while undertaking water-only or very low-calorie (less than 200 kcal/day) fasting periods of one week or more. People participate for help in weight management or disease treatment and prevention.

Mexico has fasting pods, aka “Fast incubators.” These locations surround individuals with nature and block out food odors and noise. One can fast for 10 to 30 days. As a result, various disorders have reportedly healed faster. Many even experience improved eyesight and hearing.

Fasting is Not as Challenging as It Seems

While fasting is a simple concept, it can perplex many people due to the abundance of claims, methods, and precautions floating around the internet. However, it does not have to be challenging. On the contrary, it should be second nature to us.

Circadian rhythm fasting is the most natural and realistic technique to fast. In layman’s terms, sunset to sunrise fasting involves eating one’s last meal of the day early (near to or with sundown) and breaking it after sunrise. This provides for a minimum of 12-hour fasting and is one of the most efficient strategies to incorporate the practice into your lifestyle.

If you are still not hungry after 12 hours, gently extend your fast until you experience actual physical hunger, and then break you’re fast correctly. You are not required to have breakfast if you aren’t hungry. Not feeling hungry in the morning indicates that your body is still detoxifying and processing your evening meal. Respect your body by fasting accordingly.

Fasting while sleeping is ideal since all critical detoxification, repair, and recovery processes occur during deep sleep. Our bodies detoxify at night, and the physical health benefits are more noticeable when fasting.

When you want to break the fast, however, it is entirely up to you and the signs your body is sending. Some people wake up hungry, while others do not till the afternoon. Pay attention to your body. There is a distinct distinction between fasting and starvation. If you are not hungry, respect your hunger and continue your fast for a few more hours.

The Ideal Way to Break Your Fast

Breaking a fast gently awakens your digestive system. So, gorging after a fast is terrible. It could overwhelm your stomach. Water breaks a dry fast best. Take a few sips, then eat fruit or 1-2 fresh dates. After 30-40 minutes, cook a wholesome meal. This is particularly important for long fasts.

Do Not Fast on Acidic Beverages

Some fasters drink tea, coffee, or juice. Acidic drinks can damage stomach linings. Therefore, one should fast appropriately or not at all. If opting for “juice fast,” stick with vegetable juice like celery, green juice, or non-acidic fruits. Likewise, teas should be caffeine-free and herbal only (lavender, jasmine, etc.).

Exercising While Fasting

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Some find fasted workouts beneficial, while others find them hazardous. Fasted workouts depend on objectives, energy and hunger levels, training, and health conditions. However, do it if you can because fasted workouts are fantastic for insulin resistance, weight loss, and abdominal fat.

Exercising while fasting
(Credit: Vic/Flickr)

Benefits of Fasting

Physical Benefits

  • It boosts energy, enhances immunity, and lowers blood sugar.
  • It improves digestion and decreases bloating.
  • It improves sleep.
  • It improves gut microbiota.
  • It decreases inflammation and arthritic pain.
  • It improves cardiovascular health and prevents cardiac illness.
  • It regulates blood glucose levels.
  • It reduces sugar and junk food cravings.
  • It can help you break weight-loss plateaus with a conscious appetite.
  • It’s anti-aging. Fasting stimulates stem cell regeneration, autophagy, and skeletal muscle hypertrophy, prolonging lifespan and vigor.
  • It detoxifies the human body.
  • It improves hormonal imbalances.
  • It improves skin and hair.
  • It boosts Human Growth Hormone (HGH).
  • It levels hemoglobin levels and insulin levels.
  • Fasting renews the body. Diseased cells disintegrate, leaving healthy tissue. Nutrients redistribute. The body stores vitamins and minerals while removing old tissue, poisons, and other waste.

Mental Benefits

  • It improves concentration. During fasting, the brain can utilize the energy ordinarily required for digestion.
  • It energizes neurons to improve brainpower. Thus, it enhances brain clarity and minimizes mental fog.
  • It reduces toxins in the blood and lymphatic system, improving your thinking.
  • It protects the brain from mental illnesses like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Note: Your body needs time to acclimate to a fast before you experience mental changes. You may get headaches or discomfort early on. Your brain is granted a cleaner bloodstream after your body eliminates toxins. This improves your thoughts, emotions, memory, and other senses.

Emotional Benefits

  • It boosts gratitude.
  • It promotes a sense of spiritual well-being and psychological well-being.
  • It brings tranquility and happiness.
  • It promotes feelings of inner serenity and positivity.
  • It relieves anxiety and despair.
  • It reduces depression levels.
  • It helps feel grounded. Fasting demands mental strength and the ability to resist short-term gratification. You’ll likely feel accomplished and successful after completing such demanding activity.

What’s Happening as You Fast?

Fasting causes ketogenesis, promotes potent changes in metabolic pathways and cellular processes such as stress resistance, lipolysis, and autophagy, and can have medical applications that are as effective as approved drugs, such as dampening seizures and seizure-associated brain damage, alleviating rheumatoid arthritis, and maximizing holistic health, as explained in the rest of this page.

Step 1: Fat Burning

Fasting uses up excess carbohydrates. The body burns fat. The metabolic rate rises, unlike with caloric restriction—weight loss results.

Burn fat with intermittent fasting
(Credit: total shape via Pexels)

Step 2: Freeing Up Energy

Half of our energy goes into digestion. This energy can be used to heal and regenerate, which happens during a fast. The human body recognizes what needs mending.

Step 3: Cell Recycling

Sick and weaker cells are killed after 24-36 hours via apoptosis and autophagy, then recycled into new cells. It’s natural. Apoptosis kills 50 to 70 billion human cells daily. Fasting boosts this rate.

Step 4: Built-In Stem Cell Therapy

Stem cell production and activation rise after fasting. The number of new stem cells and HGH peak during days 3-5 of a fast, then fall. Additional research shows that new white blood cells are created with increased stem cell growth, boosting the immune system.

Fasting’s Additional (Bonus) Effects

Besides fat burning and strengthening the immune system, it reduces inflammation, rebalances the gut microbiome and hormones, protects the brain from neurological diseases, reduces cancer risk, slows aging, and promotes cell maintenance and repair.

Fasting is the best medicine, and it’s free!

Who Shouldn’t Fast?

Fasting has many powerful benefits, but it’s not for everyone. It should be avoided or done only under medical supervision in the following situations. People who are:

  • Underweight and frail
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding
  • Have unstable blood sugar levels and hypertension
  • Have kidney diseases (particularly those on water constraints)
  • On time-sensitive medical treatments or medications

In Conclusion

If you think you can do it, go for it! Fasting is the body’s natural stem cell therapy, renewing and regenerating the body. It is the ultimate “biohack.” There’s no better method to restore cells, improve healing, and increase energy and focus.

Related Articles

When Your Friends Think Of You… Here’s What Their Brain Looks Like

Andrea D. Steffen

Pollution-Eating Car With An Interior That Looks Like A Living Room

Luana Steffen

Origami Rose-Inspired Device Collects And Purifies Water Efficiently

Luana Steffen