Is fasting safe?
Fasting refers to a deliberate abstinence from food and drinks for a certain period of time. It may as well refer to partial abstinence from certain kinds of food or skipping certain meals during the day.
There are several variations of fasting. One of them is water fasting which involves keeping away from all kinds of food except water. Another variation of fasting is intermittent fasting. This refers to skipping certain daily meals for a period of time. Absolute or dry fasting is another extreme method of fasting. In this method of fasting, a person abstains from all kinds of food including water.
Usually, the body goes to fasting mode when the food in the digestive system is completely digested and absorbed. This usually takes a maximum of 12 hours. After this period, the body adjusts its metabolism to suit the fasting state.
Why do People Fast?
There are several reasons which may motivate individuals to fast. Some of these are health-related. For instance, those undergoing anesthetic surgery are required to keep off food for a period of time before the surgery. This is to avoid pulmonary and digestive complication during the surgery which may reduce the success rate of an operation. Another common health-related fasting is diagnostic fasting. This is carried out to help diagnose diseases such as low sugar concentration in the body.
Individuals may also be motivated to fast due to spiritual reasons. Most religions of the world encourage fasting as a form of spiritual discipline. Thus individuals may deliberately choose to fast for spiritual reasons. While the rules of fasting vary from one religion to another, the principle of abstinence of food either completely or partially is a common principle in most of these religious fasting.
People who want to achieve high feats of self-improvement may also choose fasting as a self-improvement discipline. Such individuals use fasting to improve their willpower and shelve off undesirable behavior.
An effective method of evaluating whether fasting is safe or not is by looking at the benefits of fasting and juxtaposing them against the associated contraindications to fasting.
Benefits of Fasting
1. Improves Insulin Sensitivity
If your body has excessive sugar in the body, the level of insulin sensitivity may gradually start to drop. If this trend continues, you may end up developing Diabetes complications. Fasting forces the cells to burn the fat stored in the muscles. Since insulin controls sugar and fat metabolism within the cells, the absence of sugars in the body conditions the cells to be more sensitive to insulin. This is crucial in preventing the development of Diabetes conditions in your body.
2. Boosts Brain Function
Once you eat and the food is absorbed in the blood system, the body embarks in the process of reducing the level of sugar in your body. Such a hyperactivity within your metabolism reduces the concentration levels of your brain cells. No wonder most people feel a little sleepy after a high-calorie meal. Fasting makes the brain cells to reorganize and regenerate which is key in improving concentration and creativity levels.
3. Enhances Weight Loss
Medical studies show that intermitted fasting plays a key role in reducing the body weight of individuals. Abstaining from food for some time forces the body to burn the body fat to get enough energy to support the normal body metabolism. If your chief aim of fasting is to reduce body weight, then don’t literally starve yourself. Instead, choose a program which will help you conduct an effective and safe intermitted fasting.
4. Delays Aging and May Increase Your Lifespan
During fasting, the body does not obtain energy from external sources such as food. This conditioning makes the body to focus on stored fats as a source of energy. Since such internal sources of energy are limited and are not been replenished constantly through food absorption, the body adjusts by regenerating new cells which can efficiently utilize the limited energy stores within your body. The end result is a faster regeneration of cells and replenishing of old cells. This significantly delays aging and increases longevity.
5. Increases the Overall Skin Health
Fasting gets rid of toxic substances in the blood. These substances are the ones which affect the skin condition and increase the aging of the skin cells. At the same time, during fasting, fats stored under the dermis skin layer are also used as a source of energy. Such combined processes result in a smoother, healthier and young looking skin.
6. Boosts the Immune System
If you frequently fast, your immune system will progressively increase. Fasting makes the body to strain and adjust for adverse body conditions. That’s the reason why you find that your fasting tolerance increases with practice. Such an improved ability of your body to stay without food also goes deeper and positively affects your immune system making it more resistant to disease-causing agents.
What Are the Contraindications to Fasting?
1. Long Fasts May Significantly Reduce the Level of Proteins in the Body
If you fast for quite a long time, your body may exhaust its fat stores and start breaking down proteins to sustain the human energy requirements. If the body reaches this stage, your muscles will start to wear out. In addition the level of toxins in the body may rise as protein breakdown is associated with the release of many harmful toxins.
2. Low Blood Pressure
Fasting, especially dry fasting may reduce the level of water in your body. Such high level of dehydration may worsen and contribute to lower blood pressure. Young women whose menstrual cycle is yet to stabilize may be at higher risk of experiencing this contraindication.
3. Fatigue and Body Weakness
Fasting reduces the level of sugar in your blood. The body adjusts to such low sugar levels by metabolizing energy slower than normal. This leads to a feeling of fatigue and muscle weakness. However, with practice, the level of tolerance increases and you may find that you are able to sustain daily activities while still undergoing fasting.
4. May Worsen Certain Medical Conditions
If you are under medications, it is not advised to opt for long fasts unless your doctor has advised this as a therapeutic remedy. Fasting has been known to worsen the condition of those suffering from kidney diseases and also those suffering from gout conditions. If you have these medical conditions, it is advisable to abstain from fasting.
Fasting is to a large extent safe to most people and also quite beneficial. If you frequently fast you will gradually improve your immune system, increase your lifespan, and boost your mental capabilities. In addition to this, fasting will increase cell insulin sensitivity which is key in reducing the risks of Diabetes conditions and also increase the overall skin health. However fasting is also associated with certain contraindications such as fatigue and worsening of certain medical conditions. It is, therefore, important to seek medical advice before starting a fasting regime.