Fasting is not a new concept; it has been around for many years. People fast for different reasons – some to quickly lose weight, some to detoxify their bodies, and most of all for religious purposes. The question remains: How does fasting affect your health?
Though there is still a medical debate on fasting and it will continue to be a regular religious practice for many people, below we will explore the good and the bad side of fasting to help answer the question for you.
Fasting can be good for the heart – According to the American Heart Association, people who fast once a month have a 40% less chance of getting clogged arteries, which lead to heart attacks and heart disease. Some of the aspects of religion (such as having a good support system, volunteer work, calming music, meditation and prayer), in addition to fasting itself, may contribute to the reduction in heart disease.
Fasting can contribute to some weight or fat loss – Studies have shown reductions in weight and blood glucose levels as a result of fasting, though it’s mostly water weight. There is a process called ketosis that occurs, too, when you stop feeding the body, in which the body begins to burn fat stores as there is a lesser intake of carbohydrates. Some argue, however, that ketosis can occur by simply eating healthier – more protein, vegetables and fruits but less fats and carbohydrates.
Fasting can help detoxify the body – As fat is burned in ketosis, many of the toxins that hide out there are forced out. Sometimes the simple cessation of a lot of unhealthy eating, which is the norm for many Americans, will allow the body the chance to cleanse itself which it does so well.
Short-term fasting can improve medical test results – Before surgery, patients are often required to abstain from eating to reduce digestion and bowel movements and for clearer readings.
Fasting can build your immune system – A healthy immune system means you’re sick less; have healthy skin, hair and nails; and a longer life. Fasting allows your digestive tract the chance to rest and get rid of excess waste, so it can repair and rebuild. Eating small portions of healthy foods during fasting is even better.
Fasting can also have adverse effects, including blood cholesterol fluctuations, dehydration, arrhythmias, or even death – especially when a person is fasting for extensive periods of time. There is also a tendency to overeat or binge once a person comes off a fast, which will make a person gain any weight lost right back or even more weight. Diabetics, especially, should not fast unless it’s for a very short period of time or only a partial fast.
Diabetics have to be especially careful, since their blood sugar levels are so delicate and easily fluctuate. You should always consult your doctor before beginning any fast, especially if you are a diabetic or suffer from some other medical condition.
Medical professionals do not recommend fasting for the purpose of losing weight or improving one’s heart condition. If you want to lose weight, the first thing you should aim for is to boost your metabolism, which can be done by increasing physical activity and a proper diet.
Fasting, as a means to lose weight, doesn’t work because your body goes into starvation mode, holding onto whatever calories you consume as best it can. If you fast regularly, you will find losing weight a greater challenge.