Fasting has been an integral part of many religions, traditions, and cultures for thousands of years.
From a religious point of view, fasting is practiced to purify the mind, get closer to God and encourage empathy, compassion, and gratitude. From a health and wellbeing point of view, fasting can help with digestion, immunity, heart health, brain health, and cancer prevention.
Fasting activates a process called autophagy, a Greek term for “self-eating,” which is a crucial process that involves deep cleansing of damaged cells. Cells use the process of autophagy to destroy invading viruses and bacteria and then send them off for recycling. Cells need to recycle in order to survive.
“When nutrients are scarce, the cell has a system for breaking down old or unneeded machinery and harvesting the parts to keep itself going.”– Ivan Semeniuk of The Globe and Mail
Yoshinori Ohsumi, a Japanese cell biologist, experimented with this crucial process of autophagy and won the 2016 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for his pioneering work on how cells recycle their content.
“Ohsumi’s discoveries opened the path to understanding the fundamental importance of autophagy in many physiological processes, such as in the adaptation to starvation or response to infection.”-The Nobel Assembly
Fasting has been shown to optimize this process of autophagy, which essentially means that our body can repair and regenerate itself more efficiently and fight off harmful viruses and infections.
Fasting also helps to increase our energy levels. After we eat, our digestive system and other organs are working hard to break down food. A huge amount of energy is used for digestion, so if we are eating every few hours our digestive systems never fully rest. In fact, the digestive system can drain the energy needed for healing, repair and general maintenance of the body.
the wonderful benefits of fasting:
As well as promoting autophagy and increasing our energy levels, fasting can also:
· Speed up metabolism
· Maximize stem cell production
· Increase brain function: clarity, concentration, memory
· Help burn fat and therefore aid in weight-loss
· Increase levels of Growth Hormone which helps burn fat and slow the aging process
· Decrease cholesterol levels
· Decrease insulin resistance
· Decrease inflammation in the body
· Assist in cancer prevention
· Help improve dental health
· Increase longevity
· Help create a healthier relationship with food
· Promote mindfulness, appreciation, and gratitude
If you are new to fasting, you may be wondering, “Where do I even begin?” There are so many variations so we recommend starting slowly and building up gradually.
A good place to start is with intermittent fasting.
different types of fasting:
This is great for beginners, and can easily be incorporated into your daily lifestyle. Intermittent fasting involves eating patterns that cycle between eating and fasting and is most effective when you fast for anywhere between 13 – 16 hours per day. The most popular method of fasting is the 16/8 method, restricting your eating to an 8-hour window.
However, starting with a 13-hour gap between dinner and breakfast is a great way to give your body a healthy boost. Then gradually eating a little later each morning and/or a little earlier in the evening until you reach a 16-hour gap.
It’s important to mention that intermittent fasting still requires you to ensure that the foods you are eating are nutritious and balanced, otherwise your body will not reap the benefits from fasting.
24-hour Fasting or OMAD (One Meal a Day)
This type of fasting can be practiced once you feel comfortable with intermittent fasting for at least 16 hours. Many health professionals suggest trying ‘dinner-to-dinner’ fasting once a week. Remember that water, herbal teas, lemon water, and apple cider vinegar do not break any fast and can help you get through those hunger pangs, as well as keep you hydrated.
24-36 hour fast
Autophagy is activated during these longer fasts, which means there is a much deeper cleaning out of damaged cells, in order to regenerate newer, healthier cells. Generally, when we fast, our insulin levels decrease and fat cells release stored sugar to be used for energy, aiding in weight loss. Basically, when insulin levels are down, we lose weight. Sugar can only enter our fat cells with insulin (a hormone produced by the pancreas), so during these longer fasts weight loss can be achieved at a much faster rate.
This involves fasting for 3 – 5 days, and it is recommended by health professionals to try this style of fasting a few times a year. This intense way of fasting can help with chronic and severe conditions because of its profound positive effect on the immune system and deep cellular repair. This is recommended once you have already practiced intermittent and 24 – 36-hour fasts for some time.
Who should NOT fast?
Many religious traditions state that those who are very young, very old, sick, pregnant, breastfeeding, travelers and heavy laborers should be exempt from fasting. Even though fasting has proven to have miraculous results, we recommend that you consult your doctor or healthcare professional before trying any fasting technique, especially if you are diabetic, have any underlying medical problem or eating disorder. Like everything, moderation and balance are key.
Research also suggests that women need to approach fasting differently than men, particularly before menstruation and around menopause. Dr. Mindy Pelz has made some very interesting and informative findings in this field. She emphasizes the importance of minimizing any kind of fasting the week before menstruation so that you do not disrupt hormonal balance.
If you have been advised against fasting but would still like to nourish and nutrify your body with eating healthy, nutritious food, then we recommend our 7-day Mind and Body Detox, which aims to eliminate all toxins, sugars and processed foods from your diet as well as suggesting some very simple and mindful exercises.
Fasting and oral health
As we discussed in our article ‘How Gut Health and Oral Health are Related‘, our oral microbiome and gut microbiome are in constant communication with each other. If our intestinal flora is healthy, then our oral flora is healthy, and vice versa. Fasting helps to restore your body’s natural rhythm and gives your microbiome a well needed holiday. When your gut microbiome and oral microbiome are in balance, your oral health improves.
Studies have shown that fasting helps reduce bacteria in the mouth, reduce cavities, lower the risk of gum inflammation, and improve bad breath.
Because fasting helps remove toxins from the body, it’s important that you not use any products that are loaded with toxins or chemicals, as they will be more easily absorbed into your body. Your gums especially are rather sensitive, so we recommend using Good-Gums all-natural tooth and gum powder, which uses 100% natural ingredients that neutralize the pH balance in your mouth and also help to create a nutrient-rich environment that ensures a healthy balance of oral microbiome.
If you are suffering from bleeding or swollen gums, we recommend you consult with your dentist as soon as possible. In the meantime, do check out our blog ‘Our Top 5 Survival Guide To Beat Bleeding Gums’, which will give you some excellent ways to stop your bleeding gums, almost instantly.