The Many Benefits of Fasting
asting is a practice that combines known health benefits with philosophical and spiritual implications. The types of fasting are wide-ranging, from intermittent to extended fasts that last many days. All have benefits!
Intermittent fasting simply means abstaining from food for portions of the day, typically measured in some amount of hours. It’s a great way to experience the benefits of fasting without a major (and dizzying) commitment. Not only is intermittent fasting a proven way to drop fat from your body, but it has many benefits. More on those below…
Fasting is in our genes
In the ancestral past, we spent much of our time in a fasted state. Later, as agriculture developed and we concentrated on maintaining a constant supply of carbohydrates, fasting was instituted through various cultural mechanisms, such as the machine of religion. Though tied to spirituality, these practices still allowed humans to maintain the benefits of fasting.
With fasting, we experience positive and powerful effects that result from purifying the channels that connect the mind and body.
Fasting in Ayurvedic traditions
Ayurveda calls fasting Pratyahara. It is derived from two Sanskrit words: “prati,” which translates as “against,” and “ahara,” which means “anything taken into the body.” Ayurveda posits that Amla, a word for undigested matter that can be physical, experiential, psychological, spiritual, is the source of all disease. This demi-physical sludge can accumulate and obstruct our channels. Amla is best purified through fasting and appropriate herbs.
Through an increase in the internal fire of Agni which comes as a result of relieving the body from the duty of digestion, Tapas, an increase in light and heat, can be felt.
The science of fasting
From a western scientific perspective, fasting triggers apoptosis, in which cells that have lost their inherent intelligence and express an improper and deformed existence (sometimes expanding into tumors) are re-enlightened and appropriately, die. Fasting also triggers autophagy, by which cellular debris is consumed and eliminated from the body. Chemical, hormonal, and bio-electric impulses associated with fasting trigger a tuning of the immune response, insulin sensitivity, and other metabolic processes.
The Keto diet
The Keto diet is an interesting way to circumvent biological processes. By not eating carbohydrates we can still eat but also derive some of the benefits of fasting. Fasting is an assertion of quality over quantity in our current time when food is plentiful yet less nutrient dense and pure.
Benefits and how-to
While fasting will help you feel energized and slim now, it also has benefits that can last (and extend) your lifetime. The benefits of fasting take place on a cellular level. As mentioned, fasting keeps cells resilient and can help prevent or slow cancers. Fasting triggers regenerative processes and can lower your risk for neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. It’s also a great way to keep your mind sharp. Research has shown that fasting improves memory and can even help ease depression.
When you do embark on a fast, be sure to research how to best set yourself up in advance of the fast, as well as how to end it. Your system will be sensitive after even short fasts, and you don’t want to undo any of the positive changes by ending a fast with a massive, greasy burger. A fast is best ended mindfully with light, high-quality foods. Bone broth is an ideal transitional meal. You’ll also want to consume plenty of fluids, both during and post fast.
Unlike many health and wellness trends, fasting is free. It does not require education or certification. It requires only an exercise of will, above instinct, above intellect. It asserts a faith in the power of the body and the self to correct and maintain its own health without external input, as well as faith in the inherent intelligence of the universe, matter, and the body. It asserts the confidence that by not consuming, we will also not miss anything.
If you have any questions about fasting, come see us at Rebecca’s Natural Food!