Fasting and Intermittent Fasting
We know fasting today as a religion-bound sacrificing period of abstaining from food, or done in weight loss clinics for short periods of time. In fact, fasting has accompanied mankind since the early times: the early great philosophers, thinkers, and healers used fasting for health and as healing therapy. Hippocrates, Plato, Socrates, Aristotle and Galen to name a few, and Paracelsus, one of the three fathers of Western medicine, who said: “Fasting is the greatest remedy – the physician within” . Yet we can go even further back in history with Yogic practices and Ayurveda: as Paramahansa Yogananda said, “Fasting is a natural method of healing”. To this day, the ancient healing practice of Ayurveda includes fasting as therapy.
What modern humans of the Western world consider to be an obsolete or uncommon practice, still holds its healing power today. Let us discover fasting and its more sustainable healthy variations.
Depending on each person’s individual lifestyle, health issues, goals, and body chemistry, different methods of fasting will be appropriate for different people.
There are dry fasting, liquid fasting (either water or juice fasting), fasting-mimicking such as our 5-day A-LIFE program or intermittent fasting with different time windows for food consumption and fasting. They can last just one day, few days, or few weeks depending on the regimen chosen and the lifestyle around it. Transition periods before and after the fasting help create a healthy environment for the body to undergo this transformation. In general, this is the purpose for the different above-mentioned periods:
- 24-hour fast: for beginner or good at the first sign of illness as it allows the body to fight it off early;
- three day fast: aids in eliminating toxins and cleanses the blood;
- five day fast: begins “healing and rebuilding the immune system”;
- ten day fast: helps to prevent illness, including degenerative diseases.
All fasting methods lead to cleansing the body and resetting the natural biological balance.
Intermittent fasting is a form of time-restricted fasting which is more sustainable than pure fasting in the long run and can be practiced around daily activities. It involves consuming foods during a time window and avoiding food, or fasting, for the remaining hours each day which include the sleeping hours. Time windows can be: 24 hours fast, 20:4, 16:8, one meal a day, and so on. The most common and sustainable for actively working people is the 16:8 time frame.
How to do it
Depending on job and lifestyle, people may choose one of the following 8-hour eating windows:
- 9 am to 5 pm
- 10 am to 6 pm
- noon to 8 pm
Within this time-frame, people can eat their meals and snacks at convenient times. Outside the time-frame, it is important to stay hydrated with water, herbal teas and if necessary, one coffee in the morning only. During that time, eating regularly is important to maintain stable blood sugar levels and control hunger.
At the beginning you may need to experiment to find the best eating window and mealtimes for your lifestyle.
Recommended foods and tips
There is no set diet during intermittent fasting, yet is beneficial to focus on healthful, clean eating rich in fibers and healthful fats and proteins such as:
- fruits and vegetables,
- whole grains, including quinoa, brown rice, oats, and barley
- lean protein sources, such as poultry, fish, beans, lentils, tofu, nuts, seeds, low fat cottage cheese, and eggs
- healthful fats from fatty fish, olives, olive oil, coconuts, avocados, nuts, and seeds
Drinking water regularly throughout the day can help reduce calorie intake because thirst is often misinterpreted by the body for hunger. Best is though, to limit water intake during the meal itself, to aid digestion and not dilute the digestive juices in the stomach.
Our healthful clean meals at EATbyalex fulfill the above requirement for a perfectly nourishing food to be consumed while on an intermittent fasting cleanse.
Here are some benefits of fasting and intermittent fasting, the degree of which depends on the intensity and type of fast:
- Anti-aging rejuvenation effects
- Better resistance to diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart conditions, neuro-degenerative diseases and even some cancers
- Better sleep as hormones and circadian rhythms are not bothered by night digestion any more
- Change of habits and clearer planning
- Clearer skin
- Drug detoxification and rest for digestive organs
- Improved senses (vision, hearing, taste)
- More clarity (mentally and emotionally)
- More energy, inspiration, creativity and new ideas
- More relaxation and spiritual awareness
- Purification and revitalisation
- Reduction of allergies
- Weight loss
- Extended life span as a result of all the above.
Side effects and risks
At this point it is important to mention that fasting is not recommended for anyone.
In fact, potential side effects and risks include:
- hunger, weakness, and tiredness in the beginning stages of the plan
- overeating or eating unhealthful foods during the 8-hour eating window due to excessive hunger
- heartburn or reflux as a result of overeating
Therefore, intermittent fasting is unsuitable for those who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or trying to conceive. Also, you should not fast on your own and should consult your doctor before if you have:
- an underlying health condition, such as diabetes or low blood pressure
- a history of disordered eating
- a history of mental health disorders
If you are interested in this topic and want to further research, we recommend following books, videos and literature:
- https://youtu.be/4UkZAwKoCP8. A 2014 TED Talk by Mark Mattson, Chief of the Laboratory of Neuroscience at the National Institute on Aging and a professor of Neuroscience at The Johns Hopkins University, on the link between fasting and boosting brain power;
- The Longevity Diet, by Dr. Valter Longo, M.D. We designed A-LIFE following the fasting-mimicking concept found in this publication. It is one of our favourite books and we couldn’t recommend it more.
- Fasting and Eating for Health: A Medical Doctor’s Program for Conquering Disease, by Joel Fuhrman, M.D. This book focuses on water fasting and its specific effects on headaches, hypoglycemia, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, colitis, psoriasis, lupus, and uterine fibroid. At the end of the book is information for who want to try short-term water fasting (3 days or less) on their own.
- Intuitive Fasting: The Flexible Four-Week Intermittent Fasting Plan to Recharge Your Metabolism and Renew Your Health, by Dr. Will Cole. In pre-order at Amazon.
- Heal Yourself 101 by Markus Rothkranz, a holistic approach that incorporates intermittent fasting in one of his chapters, very valuable content for a brand new start.