Fasting is an age-old method for improving your health.
The idea of skipping a meal might make you think your body will slow down, you’ll feel hungry, fatigued and have no energy. Going without food can be daunting at first and even harder to begin. I don’t ever suggest jumping right in, but there are some very successful ways to ease yourself into a fast and quite honestly, you’ll feel great!
FASTING… Not about Deprivation
Fasting is powerful and aids the body in the most amazing ways. Initially it feels like you might be entering a stage of deprivation, even starvation. I always advise that before you begin, consult with a nutritional counsellor or natural health practitioner to understand how to approach a fast… without the crash.
You want to ease into fasting and prepare your body and mind towards maximizing the experience for the best possible outcome.
Ancient Practice for Longevity
Fasting has long been practiced and used for hundreds and thousands of years for various reasons that are applied to health in a number of ways. Metabolically, emotionally and spiritually, fasting has been a mainstay of many cultures on a regular basis to enhance health. Unlike today, our ancestors did not fashion their day around the typical “3 squares” method of eating and often their food resources experienced long periods of time “without.” Foods were not always available, and often would require days and perhaps weeks of hunting, foraging and preparing foods for the community to share. Today, we would be hard pressed to find this kind of requirement for nourishment in our modern world as we might know it, however, our ancestors (and cultures of today who still practice this) knew it was the key to a long life. Often fasting was used as a sacred ritual, improving the health and wellbeing of the individual or community and used as a way to gather wisdom and inner strength as well as longevity. The less you eat, the longer your lifespan.
Now, that doesn’t mean starving as that has negative metabolic effects. Reducing food intake and taking a break from digestion frees your body to “create space” for more energy sources (relaxation, breathing, introspection, prayer, breathing, nature and the outdoors) to provide energy for your body.
To feel “hunger”… and the little bit of discomfort that comes with it, forces you to go inward and to satisfy yourself outside of the hunger pangs and go quiet, introspective… inward. Fasting enhances brain function and promotes clarity of mind, improves your reaction to stress and sharpens your focus.
It’s very good for your mind.
HELP, I’m Starving!
No you’re not. The first time, you will think or feel that. Which is why I advise seeking professional help with a Registered Nutritionist or natural health practitioner who can guide you through without derailing and heading for the nearest drive-thru. Starting with an intermittent fast (all the rage) is best to begin, as it allows you to ease into fasting and to experience shorter periods of time without food but not crash and burn at the beginning. Consider fasting overnight to begin, with aiming to have your last meal about 7 P.M., no later. You will actually sleep better and feel more rested in the morning. Wake up, refresh with some water or lemon water (get fancy with it too… add a splash of apple cider vinegar, cucumbers, a few blackberries and raspberries with a slice of lime) and aim to have your first meal about 10 A.M. thus creating a 13 hour window of fasting.
Expand this as you go and aim for about 15-16 hours – using water, herbal teas and (my favourite) a little coconut water to aid you in those hours if you feel you need hydration. I also love to use a little bone broth if I am struggling for energy… bone broth is amazing for providing hydration, collagen and protein so you don’t feel like you have “the shakes” or weak. When you fast, your body runs low to no carbs, and you begin to burn your body stores (fat stores) for energy, which begins to heal your body at the cellular level.
Digestion is a big process and takes up a significant amount of your metabolic energy. Much of your immune system is also in your digestive system – a large process is involved to digest and turn food into energy. When we give digestion a rest, all that energy is free to go repair, replace, restore throughout the body. This helps to harmonize hormones (a really big deal!) which are the chemical “messengers” inside your body…priming them for maximum instruction and communication. Good communication is key to metabolic regulation in the body.
Improve your Immunity
The immune system is getting more attention these days and many people just don’t know what the immune system is, or even what it does. Comprised of various bodily “systems”, your immune system is the defense system of your body – to fight off pathogens. It’s a bunch of cells, organs and tissues that come together and form an army against disease, germs, viruses, bacteria and fungal infections.
Fasting can improve and strengthen your immune system in just 72 hours… that’s 3 days to improve your immunity and kick-start your body’s fighting forces. It helps to reduce excess blood glucose levels, improves sensitivity to insulin, regulates hormones that play and part in hunger and satiation (leptin and ghrelin) and reduces inflammation significantly by reducing free radical damage and excess weight. Fat stores create excess hormones and trap toxins, making the body prone to inflammatory diseases. Fasting helps reduce weight and BURN up those fat stores. In a nutshell, fasting HEALS your body – really, really well.
Once you have begun fasting properly, with guidance and proper instruction, you will be able to begin to incorporate it regularly and even expanding into a day or multi-day fasting regime that will restore your health, dramatically improve your immune system and promote longevity and vitality.
Stay Healthy. Be well, feel great!