What is fasting? A way to start the new year off right.
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What is fasting? A way to start the new year off right.

Happy New Year!

It’s the first Monday of another new year and  another new set of resolutions. This is the year to get things right, so bring on the gym memberships, the diets and even fasting if it helps to create better versions of us.

Aside from starving ourselves to slim down a bit (though who couldn’t lose a few pounds?) are there any additional benefits to the fasting process? Where did fasting come from and how do I fast?

The abstinence from food or drink for health, ceremonial, spiritual or ethical reasons is considered fasting. The abstention process can vary between lengthy, short, or intermittent fasts. You may have heard of people discussing the benefits of fasting and cleanses that they’ve used to lose weight and detox their bodies, or you might be familiar with the religious customs of Lent or Ramadan.


What are the benefits of fasting?

Lowers Blood Sugar and Insulin Resistance

Fasting offers several health advantages, from weight loss to improved cognitive function. In fact, intermittent and alternate-day fasting may help lower blood sugar and insulin resistance in women, but not necessarily the same in men. [2]


Reduces Inflammation Levels

While acute inflammation is a natural response to infection, persistent inflammation can cause major health issues. Scientific research indicates that fasting may help cure inflammatory disorders including multiple sclerosis. [3]


Preventing Neurodegenerative Disorders

Fasting appears to boost brain function, promote nerve cell creation [4] , and protect against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. [5]


Short-term fasting may also promote metabolism by boosting levels of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, which may help with weight reduction [6] In fact, A study found that over 12–24 weeks, whole-day fasting can reduce body weight by up to 9% and dramatically reduce body fat. [7] Fasting may increase metabolism and help preserve muscle tissue to reduce body weight and body fat. [7]



History:


Fasting for health benefits at least goes back to the 5th century BCE when Greek physician Hippocrates advised patients with signs of sicknesses to abstain from food and drink. Some doctors noticed a natural fasting response in patients with diseases whose bodies automatically experienced a loss of appetite. Some doctors argued that feeding patients during these phases was unnecessary and possibly harmful, as fasting was thought to be a vital natural element of the recovery process. [1]  


The Western religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, emphasize fasting. On days of penitence (such as Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement) or grief, Judaism observes many yearly fast days. [1]  


During Lent, a penitential spring season before Easter, and Advent, a penitential period before Christmas, many Christians, notably Catholics and Orthodox, practice 40-day fasts. Since the Second Vatican Council (1962–65), fasting is solely required on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday during Lent. [1]  


Only Zoroastrianism forbids fasting, believing that such penance will not empower the faithful in their battle against evil. [1]  


In Native American tribes, fasting was commonly required before and after a vision quest. The Evenk tribe of Siberia had shamans (spiritual healers and communicators) that regularly witnessed visions after a mysterious illness. After the initial visions from the illnesses, they fasted and trained to see more visions and control spirits. [1]


Types of Fasts:


Although physicians, religious leaders, and followers have supported and practiced fasting since ancient times, it evolved in the late 19th century with the first organized investigations on animals and people. Fasting evolved into increasingly complex tactics in the twentieth century as more was learned about nutrition and the human body's physiological requirements. For example, fasting was employed as a kind of treatment and disease prevention in numerous circumstances. [1]  


Fasting can also be used as a political device. Mahatma Gandhi, in the early 20th century conducted a fast in prison (some would refer to it as a hunger strike) to atone for the violent excesses of those of his followers who did not practice his teaching of satyagraha (nonviolence) against British rule in India. [1]  


Generally speaking, most types of fasts are performed between 24–72 hours


Intermittent fasting involves cycling between periods of eating and fasting, ranging from a few hours to a few days at a time. Types of intermittent fasting include the 5:2 Method, Overnight Fasting, Eat-Stop-Eat, Time Restricted fasting, Whole day, Alternate day, Choose-Your-Day and Fasting Mimicking Diets to name a few. [8]



Potential Health Risks:


Consult your doctor if you're not sure. Not everyone should (or needs to) fast. Women who are pregnant or planning to conceive, people on diabetic medicine (blood sugar can drop too low without eating), and those on numerous prescriptions shouldn't (a lack of eating, can affect absorption and dosages), Also, if you have a history of eating disorders, adding “no-eating” periods can lead to a relapse.


If you’re not a religious person, these methods don’t fit with you or you’d like something a bit more manageable than a hunger strike, Wellgenic Health offers the Prolon Fasting Mimicking Diet as a way to get the benefits of a 5 day fast while still eating delicious soups and snacks along the way.

 

Prolon Fasting Mimicking Diet



Cited Sources


Fasting in the Encyclopedia:

[1] https://www.britannica.com/topic/fasting#ref330445

Betters Blood Sugar Levels and Insulin Intake:

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5394735/

[3] Reduces Inflammation & Helps with MS Symptoms:

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23244540/

[4] Brain Function:

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23755298/

Alzheiemer’s & Parkinsons:

[5] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17306982/

[6] Fats:

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21410865/

[7] Weight Loss &  Metabolism:

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21410865/

[8] Types of Intermittent Fasts:

https://www.everydayhealth.com/diet-nutrition/diet/types-intermittent-fasting-which-best-you/