Do you want to lose weight? Or are you fascinating by what a fast might do for you both physically and mentally? Is spirituality through fasting a goal? All these quests and more might be met through avoiding food and sticking to a water or juice fast for various lengths of time.
Fasting has become both a sign of serious eating disorders and a common-sense way to cleanse a body filled with toxins. Between those two extremes, ordinary people are experimenting with food avoidance to burn fat and to reach a mental state that is described as both peaceful and serene. But, each person is different, and fasting can affects each person differently.
The following list contains 25 reasons why fasting can improve your health and well being; however, some benefits may not be in your stars depending upon your current health and your goals. For instance, since fasting sends signals to the body to draw sustenance from body fat, if you have a low body-fat index, then you may burn muscle instead. Accordingly, if you have any serious health issues, are pregnant or are on medications, a fast may create slight or serious side effects. Consult your doctor before you begin any radical health regimen.
Fasting May Alter Your…
- Attitude About Juice Fasting: One key to juice fasting over water fasting is the ability to prevent ketosis (disrupted carbohydrate metabolism in response to chronic starvation) by continuously providing simple carbohydrates that are used by your body for energy and nutrition to the cells. Some individuals, however, believe that carb overload is the reason why Americans are fat.
- Attitude about Skipping Meals: One study suggests that skipping a meal occasionally is not all that bad, especially if weight loss is a goal. However, be aware of changes in metabolic rate (see below).
- Autonomic Nervous System: According to this article, fasting appears to have a normalizing effect on the overall tone of the autonomic nervous system. This normalization decreases possibilities for a number of issues ranging from digestive disturbances to anxiety disorders.
- Awareness: Fasting can heighten awareness, depending upon the health of the individual, the goal for fasting and the ability to eliminate toxins from the system.
- Back Pain: Back pains caused by muscular tightness and stress rather than from bone disease or osteoporosis may be alleviated with a lighter diet or juice fasting.
- Bad Health Habits: In some people, fasting has helped break cravings for alcohol, tobacco, caffeine and some drug addictions.
- Blood Pressure: Water fasting may correct your high blood pressure to a safe range within two weeks without drugs. This level of pressure can be maintained if the diet is changed rather than going back to old eating habits. This study was conducted in a controlled setting.
- Cell Proliferation: This study, done on mice, showed that intermittent fasting slowed cell production, which also showed cancer development. Slowing down the rate of cell proliferation essentially buys time for the cells to repair genetic damage that may cause cancer.
- Cholesterol: One study about a 30-day Muslim fast showed significant decrease in LDL (“bad” cholesterol), total serum cholesterol and serum triglycerides at the end of the fasting period. There also was a significant increase in “good” cholesterol (HDL) that showed at the end of the fast and continued to show for one month after the fast.
- Chronic cardiovascular disease and congestive heart failure: Fasting can reduce triglycerides, atheromas, total cholesterol and may increase HDL levels.
- Energy Flow: Through this logic, fasting enables the body to slow down to the point where the individual can listen to the body through the mind. This ‘vital force’ is clouded when the body is filled with toxins. However, one study with flies showed that the value of diminished appetite to an animal’s survival may vary with the infecting microbe.
- Fat Mobilization [PDF]: Fasting may move the body to mobilize fat stores from adipose tissue (the fat under your skin) to consume that fat as energy. Short fasts also may protect proteins in your body with the release of a growth hormone.
- Heart Health: The day-long, once-a-month fast many Mormons undertake as a part of their faith may help explain the lower rates of coronary artery disease in this population, according to a study presented at the American Heart Assn.’s scientific sessions in Orlando, Florida, in 2007.
- Homeostasis: Basically, your metabolic equilibrium, or ability to heal, could undergo a change during fasting. When fasting is employed as a therapeutic measure, it changes the playing field for disease and infection. This article quotes Louis Pasteur, “The pathogen is nothing, the terrain is everything” for an argument on why fasting can be used as a cure for injury or disease.
- Insulin and Blood Sugars: A study from the National Institute on Aging found that skipping meals frequently can help mice maintain healthier glucose and insulin levels. The study provides insight into the possible effect of fasting on glucose metabolism.
- Life Span: The point behind this list of articles and studies is that caloric reduction, overall, is one way to increase a life span. Lower metabolic rates, slower cell proliferation and less body fat that holds toxic matter all lead to a healthier life. This translates, for many people, into a longer life.
- Lifestyle: If you want to change your life to feel healthier and more productive, this author believes that fasting provides the pivot for that change.
- Mental Alertness: When toxins are removed from the lymphatic and blood systems, this change improves mental clarity. Eating less also results in energy conservation, which can be used by the brain for thinking tasks.
- Metabolism: While many people believe that a fast metabolism is key to weight loss, one source states that a slower, or more “efficient” metabolism can increase weight loss. Any caloric reduction can lower the BMR or base metabolic rate. Fasting, therefore, tends to slow metabolic rates. On the other hand, some nutrition professionals believe fasting is a recipe for disaster, setting a person up for binge eating and metabolic confusion.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis: While fasting seemed to improve both signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a return to a standard diet also heralded the return of RA. However, when fasting was followed by a twelve-month vegetarian diet, the benefits of fasting appeared to persist.
- Self-Perception: If you felt you never had self discipline because you are overweight or because you eat a less-than-healthy diet, fasting may change your perception about what you can do with your life as fasting could alter the way you feel about food.
- Sleep Patterns: If you can’t sleep, try juice fasting. This article claims that juice fasting can provide sound sleep.
- Spiritual Connections: People have fasted for religious and spiritual reasons for centuries. This article was chosen for this list as it is unbiased toward any specific religious belief; also, the author, Michelle Taylor, talks about common-sense methods to approaching a fast for spiritual reasons.
- Taste for Sugar: When fasting, many people suppress insulin secretion, which can reduce the taste for sugar. In turn, this means that less insulin is required to help digest food and the pancreas is allowed to rest.
- Toxin Levels: Detoxing is a main goal for many fasts, as fasting can force toxins from body fat into the blood stream, where the body processes them for elimination. Juice fasting is recommended for this process.