We all have a basic understanding of what it means to fast, or not eat for a prolonged period of time. But did you know that fasting can be great for your overall health and prolong your life?
Just three days of fasting would kick-start the body’s stem cells to produce new white blood cells, while simultaneously discarding older immune cells. It also had the added benefit of reducing an enzyme which has been linked to tumor and cancer growth.
In general, fasting is done over a 24-72 hour time period. Fasting for this amount of time can significantly impact your health for the better, according to research on the health benefits of fasting. Researchers have discovered that it can also add years to your life!
5 Benefits of Fasting
- Fighting inflammation – chronic inflammation has become somewhat of a big deal, especially for the average American. With the standard high sugar, high carbohydrate diet most Americans consume, at least a moderate amount of inflammation is to be expected. Research shows that inflammation may be involved in the development of chronic conditions, such as heart disease, cancer, and rheumatoid arthritis. But fasting is known to fight inflammation. One study in 50 healthy adults showed that intermittent fasting for one month significantly decreased levels of inflammatory markers. Some studies have found that fasting can help decrease levels of inflammation and help promote overall better health.Tackle Inflammation Naturally With Blackcurrant Herbal Tinctures
- Aids weight loss – Fasting can help those struggling with their weight too. Because fasting requires consuming significantly fewer calories than normal, it can be beneficial for those trying to get to and maintain a healthy weight. Some research has also found that short-term fasting may boost metabolism by increasing levels of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, which could enhance weight loss. In fact, one review showed that whole-day fasting could reduce body weight by up to 9% and significantly decrease body fat over 12–24 weeks.
- Delays aging – While current research on fasting delaying the aging process and increasing longevity is limited to animal studies, it bears mentioning. In one study, rats that fasted every other day experienced a delayed rate of aging and lived 83% longer than rats that didn’t fast.
- Boost brain function – The research on this is also limited to animal studies, however, because fasting may also help relieve inflammation, it could also aid in preventing neurodegenerative disorders. Some animal studies have reported that fasting could protect brain health and increase the generation of nerve cells to help enhance cognitive function. Read more about this here.
- Improve heart health – Heart disease is considered the leading cause of death around the world, accounting for an estimated 31.5% of deaths globally. Switching up your diet and lifestyle by incorporating fasting is one of the most effective ways to reduce your risk of heart disease. One small study revealed that eight weeks of alternate-day fasting reduced levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol and blood triglycerides by 25% and 32% respectively. In a separate study, 4,629 people associated fasting with a lower risk of coronary artery disease, as well as a significantly lower risk of diabetes, which is a major risk factor for heart disease.
How Do You Fast?
This seems easy enough: just don’t eat for a few days. But it’s a little more complicated than that. Those with eating disorders or other conditions should always discuss a new diet or fasting with their medical doctor before they embark on a new path. Those with other medical conditions should also make sure they consult their doctor before attempting to fast.
There are many different types of fasts, making it easy to find a method that fits your lifestyle. Here are a few of the most common types of fasting:
- Water fasting: Involves drinking only water for a set amount of time.
- Juice fasting: Entails only drinking vegetable or fruit juice for a certain period.
- Intermittent fasting: Intake is partially or completely restricted for a few hours up to a few days at a time and a normal diet is resumed on other days.
- Partial fasting: Certain foods or drinks such as processed foods, animal products or caffeine are eliminated from the diet for a set period.
- Calorie restriction: Calories are restricted for a few days every week.
To get started, figure out how long you might be able to go without eating. For example, if you’ve never liked eating breakfast, just stop and resume eating at lunchtime. If you feel too full after dinner and it’s impacting your sleep, skip it and see how you feel when you wake up the next morning. Chances are you will feel hungrier when you first begin a fasting regimen, but that feeling tends to abate once you are used to your new eating schedule.
If you decide to try fasting, be sure to stay well-hydrated and fill your diet with nutrient-dense foods during your eating periods to maximize the potential health benefits. You should also make sure you are getting an adequate amount of sleep to help your body get the most from a fast.
This article is for informational purposes only. It is not meant to treat, cure, or diagnose any condition or illness. Please talk to a medical professional if you have questions about fasting.