Fasting – What is it all about?
Hello everyone. Let’s have a chat about fasting. In the last few years, it has been gaining popularity across the world as a way of improving human health. Did you know that it has been around for centuries and centuries? Humans have been doing it since time began and animals do it too. So let’s see what all the fuss is about…
What is fasting?
It is a total or partial abstinence from food. In simple terms this means that for a period of time a person will not eat any, or certain types, of food and drink. It is carried out across the world for many different reasons including as part of religious ceremonies or rituals, as well as for health reasons.
Types of fasting
There are many different types. We’ve broken down a few of the more popular ones below:
- Water fasting — definitely one for the purists. This involves drinking nothing but water for a set period of time with the aim of purifying the body and allowing our much-overused digestive systems a well-deserved break. This is apparently one of the hardest types of fasts to carry out.
- Juice fasting — this involves only drinking fruit or vegetable juices for a set period of time. Somewhat easier than water fasting due to all of the juicy goodness you are getting from the fruits and vegetables.
- Intermittent fasting — this appears to be the craze at the moment! This type involves fasting certain times or days in the week and having an unrestricted diet for the remainder of the time. There are a few different types of intermittent. These include:
- Alternate day — eating every other day
- 5:2 — eating a normal diet for 5 days of the week and having a drastically reduced caloric intake on the remaining two days (the two days are not allowed to be consecutive days)
- Time-restricted — eating only within a set time period, i.e. between 7am — 3pm with nothing but water outside of these times.
It is with intermittent fasting where most of the scientific research has been carried out and health benefits have started to be documented much more.
Benefits of fasting
So, the big question is… Why fast? Below are some of the documented health benefits buzzing around at the moment:
- Weight loss: It’s a great way of limiting calorie intake without having to be excessive. It helps in the production of certain hormones which help to boost your metabolism. It has been seen to help reduce body fat whilst preserving muscle tissue.
- Reduces chronic inflammation: Studies have shown people who fast intermittently have reduced levels of inflammatory markers in the blood after one month. This could be great for a whole host of inflammatory conditions out there including rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis.
- Improves heart health: Current research shows benefits on the cardiovascular system including lowered blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
- Increases levels of Growth Hormone (GH: People who fast intermittently have been shown to have increased levels of GH after their fast period. This hormone is important in growth, muscle strength, metabolism and aiding weight loss.
- Controls blood sugar: Promising for our type 2 diabetics out there, although larger studies are needed for this area of research as evidence is a bit mixed at the moment. Watch this space!
There are also a whole host of other benefits starting to emerge from animal studies which could be bright for our human future when more research is carried out. These areas include benefits seen in brain function, delayed aging and prevention of cancer. This is exciting stuff!
We hope this has been a helpful insight into the world of fasting. If you are considering doing a fast yourself or would like more information, please get in touch and we’ll be able to point you in the right direction. It is always safest to consult a medical professional before attempting any type of fast yourself as there are certain conditions with which fasting is not allowed. Here’s to a healthier life 🙂
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- Harvard Health Publishing. 2018. Intermittent fasting: surprising update. [Online]. Available from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/intermittent-fasting-surprising-update-2018062914156. [Accessed 06 Jan 2020]
- American Osteopathic Association. 2019. Intermittent fasting: can we fast our way to better health? [Online]. Available from: https://thedo.osteopathic.org/2019/01/intermittent-fasting-can-we-fast-our-way-to-better-health/. [Accessed 06 Jan 2020]
- British Institute of Osteopathy. 2020. What are the effects of fasting? [Online]. Available from: http://www.british-institute-of-osteopathy.org/articles/fasting.aspx. [Accessed 06 Jan 2020]