Fasting isn’t a new concept but, in the last few years, it has seen a dramatic increase in popularity. In 2018, it was the most searched diet. Historically, it has been used spiritually and, like many other spiritual practices, it is found to hold numerous health benefits.
The modern Western diet gives us accessibility to food 24/7, and we are biologically wired to seek this out whenever available. Unfortunately, certain processes in the body thrive, and depend, on the body abstaining from food for periods of time as our body has adapted to survive.
Many people are jumping on board with fasting to lose weight, but it has many more benefits. If it seems like a scary concept at first, be assured you don’t have to fast for days to see some amazing results. It is more beneficial to start slow.
TYPES OF FASTING
- Multi-day fasts
Generally, when we think of fasting, this is the type most people jump to. This method means not eating for anywhere from 24 hours to 7 days plus. This is not something you should jump straight into, and it is beneficial to perform with the help of a practitioner. Also, seeking out a retreat to ensure you get full support is a good idea.
- Time-restricted eating
Many people call this intermittent fasting but as you’ll see below, this is an entirely different protocol. Time-restricted eating means ensuring you are eating within a particular time during the day. For example, having an 8-hour eating window would mean you only eat between the hours of 8 am and 4 pm. Some people opt for skipping breakfast, but research has clearly shown that, if anything, forgoing dinner will be more beneficial. The most common version of time-restricted eating is so-called ‘16:8’ fasting where all the day’s calories are consumed within the 8-hour window, leaving 16 hours for fasting, including the hours when you are asleep.
- Alternate day or intermittent fasting
You may have heard of the 5:2 diet. Intermittent fasting is a concept adopted by this diet, with the phrase used interchangeably between the two styles of fasting. As the name implies, alternate day fasting involves fasting every other day, while eating normally on non-fasting days. In styles such as the 5:2, you can eat a small amount of food on alternate days, typically around 500–700 calories depending on your height and weight (generally around one quarter of your optimal intake). This can be useful to begin with as it is more sustainable and still boasts similar health benefits to completely abstaining from food.
There are numerous health benefits to fasting.
- Regulates the mTOR pathway – a master regulator in the body governing many processes including that of the liver, muscle, fat tissue and brain. It is found to be dysregulated in many diseases such as diabetes, obesity, depression and cancers.
- Upregulates autophagy – the process of cleaning out dead and old cells throughout the body.
- Improves insulin sensitivity. Studies have seen impressive drops in fasting blood sugar levels and fasting insulin.
- Leaves the body with downtime to focus on cellular and DNA repair, rather than digestion.
- Better weight control. Fasting for periods of 12 hours or more has been shown to improve fat oxidation and fat-burning. Fasting has also been shown to increase the body’s secretion of human growth hormone which aids in preserving muscle and burning body fat.
- Improved exercise endurance
- Increased mitochondrial volume – improving energy.
- Improved cardiovascular function. Multiple studies have seen improvement in markers for cardiovascular disease including decreases in blood pressure and inflammatory markers.
- Improved gut health. Fasting can protect the gut against the negative impacts of stress and can lead to increased microbial diversity and elevated rates of fermentation, making your gut and immune system stronger.
- Appetite regulation – through balancing ghrelin (the ‘hunger hormone’) and leptin (the hormone responsible for telling us that we’re satiated). Balancing these hormones is one of the driving factors behind appetite regulation. Fasting has been shown to regulate ghrelin, which allows leptin to normalise and appetite to balance out.
- Protective for brain health. As mentioned earlier, fasting upregulates autophagy, aiding the clean out of neural tissue, improving function and reducing inflammation (a major component in many mental health disorders, neurodegenerative disease and issues with focus). It also helps to boost BDNF, a protein that is important in many mental health conditions and which helps our brain grow new neurons.
- Longevity and anti-aging – as we are cleaning old and damaged cells from the body, stimulating the manufacture of new, fresh cells. This helps keep our cells functioning optimally and healthily.
While it boasts some amazing benefits, fasting is not a magic cure. It can, however, be a very helpful addition to your regular treatment. There are ways to implement fasting and strategies which will help to ease the process so speak to a practitioner and explore which style might be best for you to prevent any issues and help you keep accountable.
If you are looking at delving into the world of fasting, here’s a tip: begin with 13 hours. This means ceasing eating at 7 pm and eating again at 8 am. It’s a great starting point and a really simple way to give your body the time it needs to heal and begin seeing some health benefits. Also, remember to drink plenty of water. You will most likely increase your water intake during fasting – an added bonus for your body! (Ask us about our beautiful zazen BPA-free and glass water systems!)
Please get in touch if you would like to discuss fasting and weight management with one of our naturopaths. We offer a range of consultation options including a FREE Discovery Call to see if we are a good fit for your current needs. Make a booking today!
Written by Ally Stuart BHSc
NEW PROGRAM AT KISMET HEALTH
JOIN US for our exciting new weight-loss program! Personalised nutrition is a game changer when it comes to healthy weight loss and optimum results. Karly would love to discuss this fantastic program with you. It’s a highly individual total body and health reset! YES! Email us now and be among the first to be offered a place.