A lot of time is spent in the integrative medicine circles trying to understand and adapt health practices from ancient cultures. We’ll look at ancient diets, acupuncture, herbal medicine, and so many other things trying to find out how to help you get healthy. One health practice that doesn’t get a lot of attention these days is fasting. You may not think this is done very much for health, but it is, and probably should be done more than it is today.
Why would you (or anyone) fast? If you think about it at all I wager you think of it as part of a spiritual practice or something similar. Often fasting is used for spiritual reasons, but when it is done it is usually also done for physical healing too. Fasting is used for a variety of health problems, from joint pains and chronic inflammation, to hormonal and endocrine disorders.
Why does fasting work? The main reason is because when you fast your body has to change how it uses its energy stores. When you don’t eat your body doesn’t get the rush of sugars it usually does from your meal. This regular increase in blood sugar levels is one thing the body uses to regulate a lot of different hormone cycles, and without the cue to start the cycle again many imbalances in these cycles have a chance to self-regulate. Also, the body will shift to burning starches from the liver and fat from its fat stores. In the process the body will scavenge and metabolize cellular waste that might have been inefficient to use when you were eating.
So does fasting help you lose weight? Yes and no. Most likely, people who lose weight when fasting had some kind of endocrine imbalance that caused them to hold onto more weight than they needed. Outside of that case though, fasting tricks the body into thinking food is scarce, so it will almost immediately convert whatever you eat after the fast into fat.
How to Fast
Short periods of fasting, called intermittent fasting are generally safe and can be done by just about anyone. In intermittent fasting you try to have a short period of about 16 hours where you don’t eat. This is enough to cause the body to get some of the benefits mentioned above. The easiest way to do this is to compress one day’s worth of eating into an eight hour window. The period of not eating before or after this window will bring you into the fasting state.
Fasts longer than 1-2 days give you other deeper physical healing benefits. But these fasts shouldn’t be done without medical input, both before and during the fast. Depending on your dietary and caloric needs, this kind of fast could end up being more damaging than healing.
Are you wondering if fasting could be helpful for you? Feel free to call our office and schedule a consultation and we can help you with your questions.