Fasting – It’s the Big Trend
You probably have some friend on Facebook promoting fasting. I know I do. So what is with all this fasting talk?
How People Fast
If you do a Google search for the word “fasting,” you will get about 43 million hits. You can find rules for fasting, and lots of articles on intermittent fasting (at least right now – that’s the popular way to fast right now). Most religions have some sort of fast, which can range from one day to a month long (with the fast broken at dinner).
Intermittent fast, which is very popular right now, really is not just one way to fast. Many styles fall under the umbrella of intermittent fasting. Sometimes it means extending the time between dinner and breakfast (or whatever the first meal of the day is). Other people will chose a day or days each week to fast completely for the entire day. I feel like intermittent fasting is heavily promoted right now because it is not as hard to do as complete fasts. If you can eat your dinner earlier in the evening (and not eat after dinner), and push your breakfast until later in the morning, you are doing an intermittent fast.
Obviously when people fast for religious reasons, there is a hope for spiritual growth or enlightenment. However, I think the majority of the promotion of fasting right now is for health. One of the most highly promoted reasons is for weight loss. With obesity rates continuing to increase, methods and gimmicks for weight loss continue to be everywhere. Some research is showing that intermittent fasting can help with moderate weight loss – if you do not increase the amount you eat while not fasting.
One reason why people fast is for improvement of overall body function. Cells repair themselves when they are at rest. Sleep is important. In addition, if we are eating constantly, some of our cells (GI tract, liver, pancreas) never get a rest. In addition, hormones, like insulin and growth hormone are optimized by fasting.
Some research is showing that intermittent fasting can help with oxidative stress (this is the damage that is done to body cells that can be prevented by eating foods that are high in antioxidants). In addition, it also appears to help the body respond to inflammation. In addition to inflammation being the cause of redness, burning and tenderness when you get a cut, inflammation can also lead to long-term conditions like migraine, joint pain, eczema, and even diabetes and heart disease.
The Science of Fasting
Last night, the hubby and I watched a documentary on Amazon called “The Science of Fasting.” This covers a more extreme type of fasting. It starts with a medical center in Russia, where people typically go and fast on water only for a period of around 21 days. In addition to the fasting, patients also exercise for 2-3 hours per day, utilize a natural hot spring, sauna, and have colonics. Next, the documentary moves on to Germany. It seems like the treatment and duration are similar here.
One thing that struck me as interesting about both of these, is that the people who come to the “clinics” were suffering from conditions of inflammation – arthritis, eczema, diabetes. These conditions of inflammation are also the target of our food sensitivity test and diet. In addition, people at those clinics fast for a period of 2-3 weeks. I have learned in my food sensitivity training that the immune system will start to calm down in this time.
The other notable thing from these two programs was the use of detoxification. Sweating, whether from exercise or a sauna, helps the body to get rid of toxins. So basically, these two programs are combining reducing immune system stimulation with removing toxins in the body.
The Germany program briefly talked about reintroducing food after the fast, and both programs emphasized the importance of having medical supervision. Both of these areas left me wanting more. Maybe I will get to go to Germany and learn details from the program. I would love to know what exactly is being monitored, and, of course, how they reintroduce food. We reintroduce food based on an objective measure of how the body responds to specific foods and chemicals.
Fasting and Cancer
After the general information about fasting clinics in other countries, the documentary moves on a Southern California. Researchers here are looking at how fasting impacts the body, and specifically applying it to cancer treatment. While the other programs use fasting as the treatment for conditions, here they are using fasting to enhance treatment. There were fascinating stories of people who fasted before chemotherapy, and it minimized the side effects of chemotherapy. They also showed how fasting put the healthy body cells into “protection mode,” but made the cancer cells more likely to be killed by the chemotherapy drugs. Having lost my mother to breast cancer, this was especially interesting to me.
Fasting is not for everyone. And it shouldn’t be entered into lightly. It appears that there are health benefits to intermittent as well as longer-term fasting. People who have disordered eating or an eating disorder should likely not start a fast. Regardless of medical history, I highly recommend discussing with a knowledgeable health professional before starting any fasting program.