In many religions, fasting is considered one of the most common rituals. Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, and many other religions promote fasting as an obligation or a way to get closer to God. This has been studied lately leading to the discovery of interesting health and spiritual benefits of fasting.
Fasting in many cultures is the willing of abstinence (or reduction of) from all or some food, drink, or both for some period of time. It is believed that it’s a great spiritual exercise for the soul to learn how to control one’s desires.
Other than the fact that fasting helps reduce weight, it helps remove toxins and waste products from the body. In addition, many people who perform the habit of fasting feel more energetic, which is met by a surprise because they believe it is the ingestion of food that gives them energy. This is not very far from the truth, however, the body needs some rest every once in a while from the energy consuming process of digestion, especially if bad dietary habits are involved. And since the majority of people have unhealthy dietary habits, many dietary centers encourage intermittent fasting as a way of “resetting” the body.
When we fast, insulin levels drop and the level of growth hormone in the blood rises, promoting fat burning. The drop of “Fasting Insulin” over time also helps reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. It also increases the metabolic rate of the body, increasing the amount of calories burnt over time. In a 2014 review of the scientific literature, intermittent fasting can cause weight loss of 3-8% over 3-24 weeks.
The scientific study of the health benefits of fasting began in the mid 1930s when Clive McCay and his colleagues published a paper showing that restricting the calories fed to the lab rats extended their lifespan. In addition, the rats showed lower rates of cancer.
Other health benefits of fasting include the decrease of cardiovascular diseases and chronic diseases, through the reduction of the oxidative stress on the body leading to less inflammation. Since fasting improves circulation of blood throughout the whole body, skin tone is also improved by fasting, making the person look younger through allowing the skin to renew itself faster leading to faster healing.
Fasting also increases the blood flow to the brain, through the improved circulation and using the portion of the blood responsible for digestion and absorption from the intestines. This makes the person who’s fasting more alert and focused.
Disadvantages of fasting? The first days of fasting could really be a headache, literally! This headache is due to the lowered sugar in the circulating blood reaching the brain. But no worries, this will be balanced in a few days and the person would feel even better than someone with a full belly!
In conclusion, think of fasting as your refresh button, or your maintenance branch, it truly is, and there is nothing that we own that is more precious than our bodies. So even if it wasn’t your time of year to fast, click that refresh button, there’s nothing to regret.