Fasting has been used for centuries, since the time of Hippocrates.
The well-known saying of Hippocrates “the more you feed a sick person, the more you harm him”, suggests that fasting, as a healing method, has been used since ancient times.
Both Hippocrates and other physicians of antiquity practiced fasting as a method of self-healing and self-purification.
But what is Fasting?
Fasting means complete abstinence from food for a certain period of time. Therefore, therapeutic fasting should not be confused with religious fasting, during which we abstain from certain food groups, mainly of animal origin.
Unfortunately, we have created a society that lives in order to eat and no longer feeds so as to live. Our ancestors could not afford to eat at will.
Obesity is now considered an epidemic and two out of three people us are overweight. Intermittent fasting is not a diet, it is a way of life. It allows the body to increase the enzymes that help in burning fat and at the same time it allows to make much better use of stored body fat as a primary fuel, instead of the carbohydrates, which are commonly used as a quick energy solution.
What do the studies suggest?
Studies at the Salk Institute in California and the National Institute on Aging in Baltimore, concluded that participants lost a significant amount of weight when they restricted eating exclusively for a period of 8 hours. The 2,000 people who participated had higher energy, better mental clarity and generally they felt healthier.
This is because a short break from food helps to improve signaling between leptin and insulin receptors, as disturbed signaling of these hormones is the key to preventing chronic degenerative diseases. It is also noteworthy that fasting helps regulate enzymes which are involved in fat burning.
Types of fasting
Intermittent fasting is a general term for restricting or eliminating food for a certain period of time. Studies have suggested that intermittent fasting can significantly reduce inflammation. Here are some patterns of fasting:
- 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.: It is easily applied to many people and allows the consumption of food until 6 pm.
- 12 p.m. – 6 p.m.: It is ideal for people who do not like breakfast. Drinking water and herbal tea is important during fasting.
- The 2-day fasting plan: Consume food for five days a week and two days during the week, limit food to less than 700 calories / day. This calorie restriction still activates many of the same benefits that a full day of fasting offers.
- Eat food every other day: This plan is more intense and powerful. The choice for everyone to choose their own 8-hour meal plan. For example 11:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m., 9:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., 12:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m.
It is important to note that it takes several weeks for the body to adjust to any state of abstinence from food in order to begin to burn fat effectively.
Until then, the person may be affected by various symptoms, such as feeling hungry and lacking in energy. This is usually due to a drop in blood sugar, which precedes the body leading to ketosis.
Dizziness may occur, which can be due to a variety of reasons, such as low blood sugar, lack of hydration, sedentary lifestyle or lack of salts.
Headaches can also be caused by dehydration and the rapid release of toxins which are stored in adipose tissue and the temporary hypoglycemia that occurs before ketosis.
Constipation is another contraindication to intermittent fasting, which can promote the overgrowth of unwanted bacteria. This growth of bacteria can also lead to the formation of toxic by-products, which can eventually affect the body in a variety of ways.
Fasting is not for everyone
It is not recommended for:
- People with Eating Disorders
- Pregnant women and newborns
- Under aged children
- People with type I diabetes
- Athletes in a phase of intense training
- People on medication (especially medicines for diabetes, corticosteroids and other medicines, as these can affect blood sugar levels)
The beneficial effect of intermittent fasting
- Reducing Inflammation of the Brain: Mental health problems, such as anxiety, depression and brain turbidity, are on the rise and studies suggest that intermittent fasting improves brain function and mood without counteracting antidepressant medication.
Even neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease seem to respond positively to fasting. Several studies have suggested that intermittent fasting can actually protect neurons from genetic and epigenetic factors, which means that it can actually slow down the aging of the brain.
- Reduction of lung inflammation: In one study, fasting every other day was proven to reduce asthma symptoms and markers of oxidative stress and inflammation.
- Suppression of Inflammatory Signaling Hormones: Intermittent fasting reduces insulin resistance, a hormonal problem that affects about 50% of American adults. It also increases the production of beneficial enzymes that improve the body’s ability to adapt to stress and cope with chronic conditions such as diabetes.
- Reduction of inflammation which leads to chronic pain: Intermittent fasting improves neuroplasticity – in other words the brain’s ability to form and reorganize synaptic connections in response to new information – while researchers are studying the role it may play in managing chronic pain.
- Reduction of Cancer Risk: Several studies have examined the promising link between intermittent fasting and reduced breast cancer risk.
- Protection against flares in the symptoms of Autoimmune Diseases: A diet that imitates fasting, consuming less than 1000 calories a day for three-day cycles, has been proven to reduce the symptoms of Autoimmune Diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis. It also seems to have a positive effect on Lupus.
- It soothes intestinal inflammation: It is an excellent way to manage inflammatory conditions of the gastrointestinal tract, such as: inflammation of the stomach, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), colitis, diarrhea and nausea. The research also reflects the benefits of fasting for overall intestinal health.
- Strengthening the heart: Intermittent fasting has been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and in particular has been proven to increase the effect of protective HDL cholesterol while it reduces triglyceride and blood pressure levels.
- It heals from “emotional eating”: Intermittent fasting helps people return to the natural feelings of hunger and can also reveal any emotional relationships with food.
Intermittent fasting, as a means of preventing and combating inflammation, functions as a personalized preventive – therapeutic diet. For this reason, it should always be done under the guidance of the treating Physician.
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