In a world plagued by hyper-consumerism, the month of Ramadan reminds you that one does not need to indulge in constant consumption to be content with life. The fasting hours serve as an opportunity to reflect on how far materialism and capitalisation distort the reality of human existence.
While the spiritual results of fasting serve a purpose, it is also a great way to be kind to your body. This may have been up for debate in a different decade, but millennials and GenZ have wholeheartedly embraced intermittent fasting. The basic principle of this diet trend is abstaining from food for a certain period in order to spare the body from the constant hard work of digestion.
Four types of time-restricted feeding that have become popular are the 16/8 or 14/10 hours, twice-a-week method, alternate-day fasting, and the 24-hour fast. What started as a diet to lose weight has become a lifestyle over the years because it has helped people achieve more than just weight loss. Patrons testify many health issues that seem like minor inconveniences, brittle hair or bumps on the skin, have disappeared. This is one of the reasons for the West's newfound fascination with fasting.
Those who previously frowned upon the practice of fasting are now conducting extensive research on the benefits of the same. And they have found evidence that allowing your body a break from digestion can indeed help you live higher-quality lives. Here are some such findings that can assist you in making an informed decision about fasting.
Your body heals and begins anew
It is not a secret that the human body can heal itself, but most people do not take advantage of this ability. The body needs some free hours to effectively use the regenerative power. Valter Longo, professor of gerontology and biological sciences at the USC School of Gerontology, conducted a study on mice to assess how fasting can influence regeneration. The scientist found that fasting can flip a switch that can "restore the immune system and induce stem cells to begin the process of rebuilding the entire system." Basically, fasting initiates a whole new, fresh immune system. Systematic fasting and calories restriction can also optimise cellular repair.
Your kidney and liver are thankful
For every meal you eat, there is a task for your liver and kidneys. You are automatically consuming compounds your body does not need and toxins your body is wary of. The kidney and liver are the main organs in charge of making sure that these substances do not end up in your bloodstream. Like every other constantly working organ, the kidney, and liver can use some rest once in a while. You don't need juice to cleanse to detox your body. Staying hydrated, getting rest, avoiding substance abuse, and fasting once in a while are more than enough. Ayurveda practitioners recommend that you fast every two weeks.
Great for boosting metabolism
A healthy rate of metabolism can chase away a lot of the woes bothering you. A sedentary lifestyle and modern diet are not friends with your metabolism. Stuffing your stomach with a meal before the previous one is metabolised is not helping. That is why fasting and food restriction are great for rebooting the system. A study approved by the University of Vienna found that short-term fasting can increase the levels of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine in the brain. This will in turn boost metabolism as well as weight loss.
Better energy levels for the day
A lot of people are hesitant to try fasting because they are afraid of being low on energy. You don't need to worry about it because the liver has storage of glucose. In fact, some researchers found that intermittent fasting helped people with fatigue. When you are fasting for a day, cells will also release the extra glucose they stored in the form of fats. And the liver will convert these to ketones that the body is happy to use for energy in a process called metabolic switching.
Inflammation will go away
The modern lifestyle paired with pollution and preservatives found in packaged foods is causing unnecessary inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation is known to increase the risk of heart disease, cancer, and arthritis. You can lower the levels of inflammation by fasting because it reduces oxidative stress in the cells. Experts are now experimenting with low-calorie diets to mimic the effects of fasting to treat a chronic inflammatory disease called multiple sclerosis.
Your brain will get better
Cognitive function and mental health go hand in hand because both are manifestations of how healthy the brain is. A study at the University of Virginia found that chronic intermittent fasting for 11 months led to enhanced brain function and structure in mice. Fasting can facilitate an optimal environment for the brain cells to regenerate and be healthier. Lower inflammation levels also protect the brain from neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's.
Better control over blood sugar
Blood sugar levels can be bothersome if any of your family members have type 2 diabetes, or you suffer from PCOS. Constant high blood sugar can lead to obesity too. Fasting can significantly lower blood sugar levels and increase the body's sensitivity to insulin. Decreased insulin resistance will help glucose to reach cells from the bloodstream more efficiently. If you have been experiencing constant blood sugar spikes or crashes, testing which type of fasting has the best results can help you stay on the healthy path.
Your heart will stay healthier
Similar to blood sugar, your blood pressure and cholesterol levels also benefit from fasting. Doctors often suggest that people at risk of heart diseases alter their lifestyle favourably. Fasting is one such change you can easily adopt because your bad cholesterol level can reduce by 25% with mere two months of alternate-day fasting. Scientists at the University of Utah have also linked fasting to a lower risk of coronary artery disease.
Natural spike in growth hormone
The growth hormone (also known as HGH) is considered important in children because it influences your height and builds bones or muscles. But the role of this protein hormone does not end there. In adults, HGH maintains healthy muscles and influences how fat is accumulated in the body. If your abdomen is gaining an unhealthy amount of fat, your HGH levels are likely low. Fasting can fix that by naturally increasing the HGH production. Abstaining from food for just one day can greatly increase HGH levels. In two days, the production rate can increase fivefold.
Your body has better longevity
Longevity is one of the most chased after goals for humans, and it may be solely responsible for the rise of superfoods. But, what if you just need to starve a little to live longer? If animal studies are to be believed, fasting has the potential to extend lifespans. Scientists at the National Institute on Aging (NIA) in Baltimore, USA ran an experiment on rats and found fasting helped them live 83% longer than their counterparts.
Fasting may also lower cancer risk
Many experts opine that fasting regularly can lower the risk of cancer. It can also help those undergoing chemotherapy to cope with the effects better. However, there isn't enough data to support the claims and scientists are relentlessly trying to conduct more studies in the field.