By definition, fasting deals with the willingness to abstain from food or drink, or both, at least in some part or entirely. People will fast for a particular period of time. Fasting can mean different things to different people. Some must do it for medical reasons before a surgical procedure while others follow devote religious beliefs. There are several different types of fasting. Dry or absolute fasting involves a 24-hour time frame. Keep reading to learn more about the health benefits, risks, and reasons for fasting.
Fasting can help boost metabolism because it causes a specific hormone to rise, which promotes fat burning. Although fasting for short periods of time can slightly boost your metabolism, fasting for extended periods may have the opposite effect. Intermittent fasting, which might call for eating all your meals within an eight-hour time frame, has other health benefits, such as reducing inflammation, decreasing blood pressure and heart rate, reducing cholesterol. It also helps with lowering hormone resistance in people with diabetes.
Physically and mentally, you can fast as soon as you are aware of food consumption. However, it is not healthy for everyone. Pregnant women should not fast because it is unknown how those eating habits could affect the unborn child. People with serious diseases shouldn’t fast either as it could lead to complications with their health. If you are recovering from an illness or major surgery fasting is not recommended. You need the nutrients food provides to help heal. When you fast, you won't receive enough nutrition because you're not eating enough food.
It is not recommended to fast to lose weight. As mentioned before, fasting over an extended period of time actually has the opposite effect on metabolism. This causes the body to store fat instead of shedding it. Needless to say, it is best to diet, instead of fast if you are trying to lose weight.
The difference between fasting and dieting includes your approach. Dieting is the practice of eating in regular intervals for health benefits. Fasting is the practice of not consuming food for a period of time. A person may diet to increase, decrease, or maintain body weight. You are still consuming food and beverages, taking in the necessary nutrients your body requires. You may just be counting your calories, controlling your portions, or cutting out junk food.
When you fast, you are starving your body of the nutrients needed to survive and thrive. This could potentially put extra stress on your body and have a negative consequence.
It’s often required to fast before many medical procedures such as blood glucose checks, cholesterol screenings, and major surgeries. Your doctor may ask you to fast before a blood test. This is because eating or drinking may interfere with results, especially if your body hasn’t completely digested the food you have consumed.
Some tests check the level of fat in your blood, so if you are still digesting food, this could result in misleading test results. The reason to fast before a major surgery involving anesthesia is that when patients who have eaten recently undergo anesthesia, there is the potential risk of vomiting and inhaling the contents.
Although there are a plethora of fasting types, some of the primary ones include the following:
One of the first side effects of fasting is the loss of water in the body. Dehydration is a direct result of not having enough liquids in your body. Since you are depriving your body of the nutrients needed, malnutrition is possible. This may also cause your metabolism and overall energy to lower.
Other things that may come about while fasting includes dizziness, lightheadedness, headaches, fatigue, abnormal heart rhythms, and low blood pressure. It can also damage the immune system if done for a long period of time, which leads to adverse effects on organs including the kidneys and liver.
If possible, you should continue to drink water while fasting to help avoid dehydration. You should avoid using saunas, so you do not dehydrate or overexert yourself. Light exercise such as stretching or walking is also important. A fast that is longer than three days should include medical supervision. If you have any health conditions, you need to speak with your doctor before starting a fast.
Religions practice fasting for several reasons including purification, focus, and humility. To purify your body, you must remove contaminants that come from toxic influences. From a spiritual view, such things do not need to be medically poisonous to be toxic. Abstaining from food or certain types of food is one way of stripping away the outer layers of the self until you achieve a more pure, simple state. Other religions aim to remove the draws of the physical world so one can return to a more focused, spiritual life. In that case, fasting is generally matched with increased prayer.
Another reason these types of eating habits exist in religion is to show humility. The practice helps to remind the ones who are fasting of the hardships faced by the less fortunate. It also helps to encourage them to better appreciate what they have such as regular access to food.
The history of fasting dates back centuries. Fasting is one of the most ancient healing traditions in the history of humanity. It has been practiced by virtually every culture and religion on Earth. The famous activist, Mahatma Gandhi is known for his long fast, which lasted 21 days. The longest-lasting hunger strike ever recorded was in 1920 by Irish political prisoner Terence MacSwiney. He was on strike for 74 days, which resulted in his death.