Fasting is the willful abstinence from food for a stipulated time. Most of the people observe fast for religious reasons and follow strict food regime. Based on the religious practices, some people observe 'water only' fast i.e they drink only water while fasting, some follow 'juice only' fast, some observe 'fruit only' fast, some do 'one meal a day' fast or some limit their food to no carbohydrates, no caffeine, no refined sugars, no animal products or no salt.
But, wait! Aren't these restrictions sound more like healthy restrictions while following customs. And, because all these limitations were done under religion's name, one ends up feeling satisfied. Its just like killing two birds with one stone- following healthy diet for physical body and feeling contended for mental health!
Abstaining from food for few days or following intermittent fasting, set pattern of fasting and eating at regular fixed intervals, has many documented benefits:
1) Weight Loss- Extra calories that we eat on 'cheat days' are stored in the form of fat in our body. And this stored fat burns out during emergency situations such as fasting!! So basically, while we are fasting, we give our body chance to digest that extra fat and loose pounds.
It is surprising to know that one pound of human fat equals 3500 calories. Aaahhaa! You just counted the calories to be shed for your targeted weight loss!!??!!
2) Detoxification- While someone is fasting and not consuming unhealthy food such as caffeine, sugars or synthetic foods, body tries naturally to get rid of these compounds already present inside. Low calorie food forces body to use the easily accessible sugars or caffeine already present in the body, and hence digests these piled up unhealthy stuff. By doing this, body naturally detoxifies itself from the stored junk.
This is a reason why someone observing fast has the same withdrawal symptoms as someone going off of the coffee. However, most of the annoying symptoms start declining after 3 days!
3) Increased Alertness- Fasting is proven to help in growth of new nerve cells, assisting increased brain cells activity. It also increases a brain hormone- brain derived neurotrophic factor- that helps in reducing depression and staying alert. In a series of studies, it has been seen that short term fasting improves Alzheimer's symptoms in 9 out of 10 patients.
Besides this, when someone doesn't have to think about 'what to eat next?', he/she would spend time in other productive things, off course after the withdrawal period ends.
4) Fight Diseases- During fasting periods while body is not consuming any external sugar and instead using the sugar stored in the body, people with diabetes see marked reduction in glucose levels. However, 'Water only' fast is not recommended for people with diabetes having the risk of running hypoglycemia. Conversely, 'Intermittent fast' would be healthy option for diabetic patients.
Similarly, when body digests accumulated fats during long fasting periods, improvisation in triglycerides, LDL and total cholesterol is seen. This in return helps keeping check on blood pressure and heart-health.
Research shows that fasting prevents cancer to develop. Those eating healthy at intermittent periods were shown to have less side effects while taking chemotherapy.
5) Increased life-span- Given the benefits stated above, fasting certainly improves the quality of life and life-span of an individual!
I strongly believe that one must not restrict himself/herself to the rules defined by other people. One can observe fasting from three to 40 days. It can be 'water-only' to 'juice-only' to 'intermittent fasting' or just eating low calorie diet for few days.
Start the journey, listen to your body and proceed. Keep an eye on your comfort level and get the maximum benefits of fasting.
Happy and Safe fasting!