Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Feast or Fast
Fasting is perhaps the oldest and most effective dietary intervention. It has been practiced throughout all of human history. 2016 Nobel prize for medicine has gone to a Japanese Scientist Dr. Yoshinori Ohsumi for his research on autophagy.Autophagy means to "self-eat". In other words, the process by which the human body eats its own damaged cells and unused proteins. Autophagy is a natural process and also one which occurs in cases of starvation. When you don’t give a chance for your body to do this, there is an accumulation of damaged cells, which eventually leads to various diseases in the body. Autophagy is important to prevent/fight cancer and also plays a vital role in degrading and 'consuming' cells infected by bacteria and viruses.
Ancient India had recommended a practice of fasting (Ekadasi) one day in a fortnight. They believed in connecting spiritual progress in a human being with the biological necessity of human body. We must admire and bow to their wisdom and deep scientific understanding of the body and the mind.
Biological effects of fasting:
Migrating Motor complexes (MMC) of the gastrointestinal tract are also called cleansing waves. Research showed fasting or allowing more time in between meals, gives a chance for MMCs (cleansing waves) to work more effectively. So it is a good habit to have early dinners.
Autophagy, stem cell activation, ketone body production, stimulates IGF-1 level(Insulin-like growth factor, which stimulated several metabolic reactions, a potent inhibitor of apoptosis), IGFBP1, glucose and many more.
Several variations of fasting exist, some involving drinking only water or juices or other non-solid foods. During fasting, the main source of energy used by the body comes from hydrolyzing fatty acids from triglycerides stored in adipose tissue. Because many toxins are sequestered in fat,
Fasting may be helpful in releasing these toxins and from the body. Initially, a person may feel worse during the fast because of the mobilization of toxins. Resting and drinking plenty of fluids are therefore helpful during the fast.
Duration of fast varies:
Shorter fasts :
- 16:8 —>This means you fast for 16 hours and eating window of 8 hours.
- 20:4 —-> This is 20 hours of fasting and 4 hours of eating
Longer fasts (>24 hours)
- 24-hour fasts or 36-hour fasts
- You may be at risk of micronutrient deficiency. Fatal shifts in fluids and electrolytes and low minerals are seen in refeeding syndrome which can happen with fasting longer than ten days.
It is important to realize that this is normal and humans have evolved to fast without detrimental health consequences.Body fat is merely food energy that has been stored away.If you don’t eat, your body will simply “eat” its own fat for energy.Excess sugars form glycogen and store in the liver.Once the storage space in liver gets full, it starts to turn the excess glucose into fat.Some of this newly created fat is stored in the liver, but most of it is exported to other fat deposits in the body.There is unlimited storage space for body fat.If you are constantly eating then your body will simply use the incoming food energy and never burn the body fat. You’ll only store it.
The hepatic generation of ketone bodies is the normal physiologic response to fasting. Mild ketosis (ketoacid concentration of about 1 mmol/L)generally develops after a 12- to 14 hour fast.
- There is no evidence of adverse effects associated with fasting ketosis.
- In addition to fasting, limited ketosis can also be induced by a low-carbohydrate diet (carbohydrate intake usually less than 40 to 50 g/day
Under some conditions where glucose requirement is large such as children, pregnant and lactating women or in very low-calorie diets, fasting ketosis becomes more severe, resulting in overt ketoacidosis.
Facts and Myths:
Fat is simply the body’s way of storing food energy for the long term, and glucose/glycogen is the short-term solution.When short-term stores are depleted, the body turns to its long-term stores without problems.
- Brain fuel – just switches from glucose to ketones.
- Do we lose muscle: Growth hormone level is increased to prevent muscle loss.
Possible side effects:
Headaches or dizziness: This can happen while you are getting used to fast in the beginning. If you do not have any medical problems and not on medications, drink a lot of water, if still not better you can drink a small amount of clear soup or herbal tea with honey.If you still don’t feel better you can break the fast.
General myth is fasting makes me tired. In fact opposite is true, fasting makes you more energetic.If you experience excessive tiredness seek medical advice.
Muscle cramps – If you develop muscle cramps, it is usually from low magnesium. Take Epsom salt baths or foot soaks.Add 1 cup to a tub of warm water and take a tub bath or soak your feet your skin will absorb needed magnesium from Epsom salt water.
Tips to remember during fasting:
- Drink plenty of water, I prefer filtered tap water.
- The amount of water depends on your weight.
- If you weight 200 pounds you should be drinking about 100 ounces a day of regular filtered water.
- Do not think about fasting – just think it is your usual day, keep yourself busy. Hunger comes in waves.
- When you get that wave drink water or herbal tea or bone broth if water is not enough. But try your best to stick to just water.
- Do not binge eat after fast, just eat normally.
- Last but not least, do not tell everybody around you that you are fasting.
- Many people are feared and think it is dangerous or difficult although it has been in human culture forever.
- Take a multivitamin with minerals daily.
How long you need to fast:
Intermittent fasting needs to be done as long as you want to stay healthy.
Clinical research studies of fasting with robust designs and high levels of clinical evidence is sparse in the literature.Whereas the few randomized controlled trials and observational clinical outcomes studies support the existence of a health benefit from fasting, substantial further research in humans is needed before the use of fasting as a health intervention can be recommended.Intermittent fasting, alternate-day fasting, and other forms of periodic caloric resistance are gaining popularity in the lay press and among animal research scientists.Whether clinical evidence exists for or is strong enough to support the use of such dietary regimens as health interventions are unclear.
Two observational clinical outcomes studies in humans were found in which fasting was associated with a lower prevalence of CAD or diabetes diagnosis.No randomized controlled trials of fasting for clinical outcomes were identified.
Do not fast if you are Elderly, the child under 18, pregnant or breastfeeding women.You need to fast under the supervision and discuss with your doctor if you are diabetic or taking any prescription medications.