It’s one of the most ancient healing traditions in human history.
It has been practiced by almost every culture and religion on earth…
The Greek philosopher Plato claimed it gave him “greater physical and mental efficiency.” Even the famous inventor Benjamin Franklin practiced and recommended it… He’s quoted as saying it’s one of “the best of all medicines.”
For thousands of years, humans have fasted. Our ancestors’ nomadic lifestyle of hunting and gathering meant that they sometimes went days without food. But over the centuries, people started fasting on their own.
Fasting means not eating anything for a set period of time. During a fast, some folks drink water, tea, coffee, or broth.
Short fasts can be for a few hours… In fact, most of us fast every night for many hours while we sleep, before “breaking the fast” with our morning meal. Longer fasts last days or, in some laboratory conditions, even months.
Muslims have one of the most well-known fasting regimes.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar (this year it is May 5 – June 4), during which strict fasting is observed from sunrise to sunset. Muslims fast as a way to detach from worldly pleasures and focus on their prayers. Their fasting is a way to physically and spiritually detoxify, not even having a sip of water during the daylight hours.
According to a new study out of Texas, researchers collected blood samples from Muslims who participate in Ramadan before the 30-day fast, during the fast, and then one week after.
The results revealed “increased levels of proteins that play a crucial role in improving insulin resistance and protecting against the risks from a high-fat, high-sugar diet.”
When we eat can greatly impact how the body makes and uses proteins needed for regulating insulin production and maintaining healthy weight. This study shows promising support that dawn-to-dusk fasting could be a solution for people struggling with obesity-related conditions.
What Happens to Our Bodies When We Fast
Fasting gives our organs a rest. Instead of digesting food, they process and eliminate toxic wastes from our body.
When we eat, we take in food and break it into usable energy in the form of glucose. Once that glucose gets into our bloodstream, it travels to our cells and keeps them running. The transfer from blood to cells is facilitated by the hormone insulin.
If you have too much glucose floating around, insulin enables your body to store the excess. It goes to the liver and muscles, where it’s first stored as glycogen. If your liver is too full to make any more glycogen, your body turns the excess glucose into body fat.
If we take in too many calories or keep eating repeatedly, our insulin levels stay elevated. On the other hand, when we fast, our body reverses the process. Of course, it still needs energy to keep running. And it regenerates that energy easily by breaking down the stored glycogen. Once glycogen reserves get low, the liver starts breaking down fat.
In several studies from the University of Manchester in the U.K., calorie-restricted diets and fasting both showed similar results in weight loss and fat loss. However, only the fasting group showed insulin levels lowering continuously over the six-month study.
These studies also indicated that fasting provides better insulin-sensitivity improvement and more long-term benefits.
It seems like a simple thing… Fasting helps you lose weight in the long term as well as control insulin levels, improve insulin sensitivity, and protect your heart. It also aids chemotherapy.
If you decide to try fasting, make sure you stay hydrated. Some of the symptoms people typically attribute to missing a meal (like dizziness or hunger pangs) are usually just signs of dehydration. Water, tea, and coffee are all good choices for a fast. Likewise, a simple soup made from boiling beef or chicken bones has plenty of nutrients but won’t affect you the way food will.
And remember, don’t overeat when you stop fasting. You’ll undo all the benefits. Do what I do and create a planned-out meal to break out of the fast… something simple like a piece of grilled protein on a bed of arugula.
Fasting, when done properly, yields significant benefits that last for the long term. So do what I do… fast at least one day a month. I’ll sip water as well as herbal and green tea and do less vigorous activity that day. I’ll read, walk, and meditate quietly.
What We’re Reading…
- Chocolate for breakfast and freshly killed goat for dinner… Here are the diets of notable tech billionaires.
- Something different: Turning loved ones into soil? Washington becomes first state to allow human composting.
Here’s to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,
Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
May 28, 2019