Fasting For Renewal Of Life
This is the title of a book by Herbert Shelton written decades ago. When my initial interest started in health, fasting is one of the first things I had come across but at the time it sounded too severe and seemed to be an unacceptable practice….that was in the days, when you had to preorder organic milk and only celiac’s new what gluten free meant!
But we have come a long way since then, for better or for worse, and fasting is something that we may want to reconsider, or learn about, as the scientific research has now caught up to ancient traditional practices.
What Is “FASTING”?
Whilst fasting is a term used for many types of diets, including vegetable juicing, fruit juicing or even elimination of one or two items of food, the true meaning of the word is actually the removal of all food. Fasting occurred naturally for our ancestors, as they did not have an ongoing supply of food so they where forced to fast, but also they did not have artificial light keeping them up at night like we do now.
The practice of staying up a lot later than the sun, allows us to be awake during the night, this becomes an opportunistic time for excessive or more eating, which would otherwise have been a fasting period.
Body Designed To Fast
We have been designed to acquire food when it is available and to store a portion for when it is not, without compromising or interfering with our health and fitness. Not only are these stores of energy and nutrients needed in times of famine, but the body relies on these stores in times of fasting to be able to repair and rejuvenate the body.
Its a bit like when you want to clean your home, you need the entertaining to stop, everyone to leave the house (or at least the room in question) so that you can get on with the job of cleaning and putting things back in place, if there is never a break from the partying and entertaining there is no way to restore your home once again ready for the next party! Well the body is no different, when we are fasting, the job of digesting shuts down and our stores can get on with repair and rejuvenation.
Types of fasting & Benefits
There are many types of fasts that have been named in the scientific literature, according to the style of fasting, the evidence is clear, that fasting can improve ones health in many areas and is being used for various reasons. The various options include;
- Intermittent fasting (IF) – fasting for a period of less than 24 hours followed by feeding (eating) period of 1 to 2 days. IF enhances cognitive performance, improves insulin sensitivity, reduces blood pressure, reduces inflammation and heart rate.
- Periodic fasting (PF) – fasting which lasts for 2 days or more and is separated from the next cycle by at least 1 week. Promotes a hematopoietic stem cell dependent regeneration of immune cells and a reduction of hypertension. Fasting from 1 to 3 weeks reduces symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis which can be maintained if followed by a vegetarian diet.
- Time restricted feeding – eating all your food for the day within a 5 to 6 hours period this allows for fasting on either side of this time.
- Adopting a reduce calorie regimen twice per week – like the 5-2 diet (2 non consecutive days to fast, 500/600 calories is permitted on the fast days). Studies show a reduction in body fat, blood pressure and insulin resistance.
- Feeding every other day – alternate day fasting. Studies show that the extension of lifespan is more pronounced by fasting every other day than by fasting for 1 day every 3 or 4 days. The same benefits where found as those seen in the 5-2 diet. There was a significant reduction in inflammation in patients suffering with asthma.
- Fasting mimicking diets – these diets provide relatively high caloric content (low protein, low sugar, high fat) but are able to mimic many of the effects of fasting. These diets show effects on aging and diseases similar to those seen by water only fast which last 2 to 3 days. Losing body weight, visceral fat without any loss of lean body mass relative to total abdominal weight. These results also showed a retardation of a large range of tumor growths and in enhancing toxicity of chemotherapy drugs to cancer cells, while protecting normal cells. Inflammation and dermatitis was reduced. White blood cell numbers increased and longer term use of the diet improved long and short term memory, enhanced cognitive performance and an increase in lifespan
* Please note calorie restriction is superior in causing loss of body weight compared to intermittent fasting but both show similar reductions in visceral fat, insulin and insulin resistance.
Overall, fasting protects normal cells by reallocating energy from reproduction and growth processes to maintenance pathways. Lifestyle changes such as fasting, caloric restriction and diets which mimic fasting, to treat metabolic diseases remains the most logical approach and may be the most effective treatment strategy for not only treatment of many chronic diseases but also the prevention of many disorders.
Fasting for some people is not recommended, and therefore needs to be considered on an individual basis. Finally fasting my be disregarded as a difficult practice but this is far from the truth, for those whose mind is curious to go there, there are many ways to have it suit ones lifestyle and interestingly real hunger is rarely felt, even in periodic fasting greater than 2 or 3 days.
- Check out future blogs where I will talk more about the dangers of high insulin, ketogenesis and calorie restriction and their relationship to fasting, its good to note that fasting is an excellent way to assist calorie restriction in an achievable way.
Shelton, H M , 1974. Fasting For Renewal Of Life. 1st ed. United States of America: Natural Hygene Press.