Have you ever tried fasting? It’s free, comes with numerous health benefits and is surprisingly easy to do.
In this article you’ll learn about what happens to your body when you fast, how it can help you stay healthier for longer, and easy ways to incorporate fasting into your lifestyle.
Fasting describes a period of time without food. The human race has evolved to survive without eating during times of food shortage with no ill effects, but many people view being hungry as something frightening.
Ever since advertising was invented, humans have been conditioned by food manufacturers to automatically eat three meals a day plus snacks, even in the absence of hunger.
You might feel horrified at the idea of going without food, but when you do, physiological changes occur boosting your cells’ energy production, improving your brain health, reversing Type 2 diabetes and even slowing the ageing process of your body cells.
Fasting has also been found to reduce blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides, risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
When you eat food, your body produces the hormone insulin to control the amount of sugar in your blood. If you’re constantly grazing, insulin is continually released into your bloodstream. After you stop eating, blood sugar and insulin levels drop. This can help reverse insulin resistance, a precursor for Type 2 diabetes, when insulin is high and cells have become insensitive to its action.
After you haven’t eaten for a while, your liver produces a hormone called glucagon to access energy stored in your muscles and liver.
When glucagon is released and protein is in short supply, a process called autophagy is stimulated.
Autophagy is the name for cellular clearing, where dead, old and worn out bits of cells as well as invading bacteria and viruses are hoovered up and cleared out before being recycled. The word means ‘self-eating’ and it’s essentially your body’s waste disposal system. Autophagy occurs all around your body, including in your brain, and helps protect your cells from accumulated waste products which would otherwise affect their functioning.
Scientists studying fasting initially discovered animals fed every other day lived significantly longer – more than 80% longer – than those with unrestricted access to food. So it seems autophagy helps prevent body cells from ageing. It can also help manage chronic inflammation, believed to be at the root of most chronic diseases.
Constantly eating and snacking doesn’t allow your body a chance to clean itself with autophagy.
Although you might associate fasting with eating nothing for a long period, there are many different types of fasting, making it easier to incorporate into your life than you might imagine.
Many religions encourage periods of fasting, often synonymous with purity. Religious fasting usually involves avoiding food for a day or more, or during daylight hours as with Ramadan.
But you’ll be pleased to know you don’t need to fast for this long to experience health benefits. Science has discovered autophagy kicks in after around 16 hours without food, or a shorter period in some people.
When you think about it, you naturally fast for around 12 hours when you sleep. By moving your evening meal earlier and your breakfast later, it becomes relatively easy to extend your overnight fast to 16 hours, meaning you’re eating during an eight-hour window. For example, you could eat your breakfast at 9am and your evening meal at 5pm, or your breakfast at 10am and your evening meal at 6pm. This is called time-restricted eating, and many people adopt this approach two or three times weekly.
If you find this idea daunting, be reassured you’ll probably be surprised how quickly your body adapts to your new eating regime. Most people practising time-restricted eating report they don’t feel hungry. This is because your hunger hormone, ghrelin, declines when you fast.
Choose a fasting regime to work with your lifestyle. Beforehand, it’s a good idea to reduce your tea and coffee intake, so you don’t experience uncomfortable caffeine withdrawal symptoms during your fast. Then slowly increase your fasting window by shifting the times of your mealtimes little by little, helping your body become used to periods without food. During a fast, make sure you drink plenty of water spread throughout the day, as your liver and kidneys will want to seize the opportunity to flush out waste products.
Before you embark on any type of fasting, it’s best to speak to your practitioner to make sure fasting is suitable for you, particularly if you suffer from chronic health issues.
If you’d like to experience how fasting can improve your personal health, I will guide you every step of the way. Contact me to start your fasting journey.
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