[This is a guest post from Polina Telegina, editor of Pure Himalayan Shilajit.]
Recently one of my friends transformed from obsession and high blood pressure to a healthy lifestyle in a short period of time. When I asked what she did, she gave one word for her health miracle: Fasting!
While most people think of fasting as an abstinence from all food and drinks for a set period of time or a practice that brings us closer to our maker, it also has many amazing health benefits ranging from weight loss and increased brain function to slowing the aging process. Proven to detoxify the liver and lower blood pressure, fasting also reduces bad cholesterol, immune disorders, cardiovascular disease, and the risk of type 2 diabetes and cancer.
You don’t have to starve yourself to fast. There are different forms of fasting which allow food and drink. For example, intermittent fasting is simply a change in eating patterns.
Health Benefits of Fasting
One of the first benefits of fasting is weight loss. Excess body weight is a major cause of obesity and high blood pressure. Fasting forces the body to burn stored fat for energy rather than food in the stomach resulting in slow, steady, and healthy weight loss.
A second benefit is the improvement of what is called “satiety sensitivity.” Some hormones are affected and amplified by fasting which leads to an increase of satiety level and reduction of hunger. Two of these hormones are ghrelin which when decreased causes a loss of appetite, and leptin which increases hunger when its levels drop.
A third hidden benefit is that fasting enhances metabolism. Fasting for a short period of time boosts metabolism due to the increase of a hormone called norepinephrine which promotes fat burning. The body is literally forced to adapt. Longer fasts decrease the metabolism rate. Because of this, many experts believe it is the best way to shed excess fat.
Even More Benefits
It doesn’t stop there, fasting also improves insulin sensitivity and reduces the need for insulin since it regulates and allows little sugar to enter the body. If insulin is allowed to go haywire though, excess sugar floods the system. Studies have shown that this excess sugar or glucose is the cause of diabetes and HBP. Fasting has also been proven to reduce blood pressure. Research has shown that fasting can reduce stress, overweight, aging and blood sugar, all which are known causes of HBP. When done properly, fasting can reduce cholesterol levels in the body.
Furthermore, fasting is a sure way of gaining a healthier and glowing skin. The body needs energy for a variety of things like digestion. Fasting temporarily frees the body of the need for digestive function and channels energy to other functions like regeneration. This focus helps the body clean up toxins and replace old skin cells with new ones. It also helps some wounds heal at a faster rate.
Another great benefit of fasting is that it helps in the control of inflammation which is the body’s natural way of healing itself. But it can become harmful when it increases to a chronic level. There are ways of preventing it, but fasting stands out as the most efficient and effective way.
How Should You Fast
To reap the most benefit, there are important procedures I recommend. Fasting isn’t for everyone and even for those allowed to fast; it can quickly turn from healthy to dangerous if not done wisely.
While there is no specified time limitations for fasting, it should not be overdone. There are several popular fasting routines:
- Eat-stop-Eat – fasting a full 24 hours one or two times per week.
- 5:2 Pattern – reducing caloric intake to 500 for men and 600 for women 2 days per week.
- 6:1 Pattern – like 5:2 pattern but caloric intake is restricted to one day per week.
- 16:18 Pattern – eat for 8 hours, fast for 16 hours.
Tips for Fasting
Water, Water, and More Water
Since the body gets 20-30% of its fluid from food, fasting can lead to dehydration. Drinking plenty of water is the best way to avoid fatigue, dry mouth, and headaches which can occur as fasting progresses. To avoid dehydration, always keep your water bottle full and at your side during a fast.
Listen to Your Body
Fasting is not a way of punishing your body rather it is done to improve health. Wise food choices on fast and non-fast days is essential. Some tiredness and weakness are normal on a fast, but if it continues, this may be a sign of illness and you should cease your fast.
Some Additional Wisdom
To prevent side effects associated with fasting, eating a small amount of food while fasting is advisable rather than not eating at all. Also, you shouldn’t break your fast with a huge meal.
Since we get most of our nutrients and vitamins from food, fasting will drastically reduce those as well. Essential mineral and vitamin supplements are great ways of regaining these lost nutrients. They include; L-tyrosine, Electrolytes (sodium, magnesium, zinc, calcium and potassium), fat-soluble, etc.
Because nutrients are lost by abstaining from food, food consumed during fast-free moments (window period) should be significant. For replenishment of lost nutrients, whole food are advisable in the form of unprocessed chemical additive-free foods that are rich in nutrients like natural superfoods, vegetables, legumes, and protein.
Basically, fasting is the cutting down of food intake to boost your health and well-being. Fasting though engaged for varied reasons, health should be prioritized. Staying dehydrated, coupled with mild exercise will make this possible. Intake of protein according to studies will help reduce hunger and therefore should be consumed when possible. Finally, eating balanced diet at the right moment will guarantee a successful fasting.