What Happens When You Fast – Part 2
The Health Benefits of Fasting
It is believed that fasting has many health benefits. Listed below are some of them.
Benefits on the Heart
Two studies conducted by the Utah’s Intermountain Medical Center reveal that fasting once per month can reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Two hundred men and women who were observed in the study fasted once every month and reduced their risk for heart disease by 58 percent.
In an attempt to understand the reason behind the results, the researchers monitored the blood levels of 30 healthy adults the day after they fasted and then the day after they did not. The results showed that the participants had 13 to 20 times more human growth hormone or HGH levels after fasting. This hormone keeps the lean muscle mass from being used up during fasting, so the body burns fat cells for fuel. This results in less insulin resistance and a reduced risk of heart disease.
A study on mice showed that fasting can slow down the rate of cell division. This result is not completely understood but researchers think that it may be due to the decreased availability of nutrients that caused the growth retardation. Since the results are not yet proven by science, it is not recommended to fast only for the purpose of preventing cancer.
Prevention of Other Illnesses
Not much research have been conducted on fasting and its health benefits, but many believe that it can help people with varying illnesses including multiple sclerosis, allergies and rheumatoid arthritis. According to doctors, if an individual can fast safely, then he can go ahead and do it.
One Iranian study involving 40 persons with multiple sclerosis showed that fasting during the Ramadan period has no negative effects on their bodies. This means that anybody who is not taking prescription medicine and is healthy in general can participate in fasting for health purposes.
Fasting is not for Losing Weight
If you think that fasting can help you lose weight, think again. Fasting will be like yo-yo dieting. You may lose a few pounds today but don’t expect too much that it will last unless you do something else.
The pounds you lose are mostly water and the stored carbohydrates in your body. The weight will come back as soon as you eat again.
You can only lose weight when you eat less calories than what you burn. So, when you’re fasting, you are eating less calories than what you burn, therefore, you lose some pounds. But you can easily gain back the pounds you lost when you eat more calories on the other days you’re not fasting.
So, if you really want to lose weight permanently, you need to commit to healthy eating and exercise regularly over time.
Fasting is no substitute for healthy eating
While people are seeing some health benefits with intermittent fasting, there is still much to discover about it. What’s really important to having good health and avoiding diseases is to practice healthy life habits especially eating nutritious fruits and vegetables and whole-grain products.
Fasting may give your body the chance to detoxify, however, keep in mind that you may at the same time suffer from deficiency of some nutrients including calcium, vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids.
When you fast, make sure that you’re eating nutritious foods. Use it to help you establish healthy eating habits. You can fast to reboot as well.
Consult Your Doctor Before Fasting
Fasting is not fit for everyone. If you have any medical disorders, including diabetes, anemia and low blood pressure, and if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, don’t fast.
If you really must fast, ask your doctor first to give you his expert advice. Let him know your medical history as well as the medications you are taking, if any. While there’s no problem with fasting for 1 to 2 days, it’s better to check with your doctor first.
Just because your doctor allowed you to go on a fast, it doesn’t meant that you can do it without knowing how to do it safely.
Use your time of fasting to rest physically and emotionally. If you can schedule it on days that you’re not working or during holidays, it is much better.
Photo credits: By Jean Fortunet (Own work) [CC BY 1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons