Different Types of Fasting and its Health Benefits
Since the time Yoshinori Ohsumi, a cell biologist from Japan got the Nobel Prize in 2016 for proving the benefits of fasting, research and studies on fasting have skyrocketed.
In a world where eating every 2 hours is considered the norm and getting a good amount of protein daily is coveted as the holy grail of muscular development, eating nothing for a prolonged period of time sounds like a metabolic disaster! However, one trend keeps repeating lately as modern science progresses.
It always confirms the supremacy of our Ancient Sciences over our Modern Adaptations based on assumptions.
One thing that Budhha, Krishna, Christ, Mohammed, and other religious leaders agreed upon is fasting albeit in different times of the year and protocols, probably to adapt to the variables in their geographical location like the weather.
Humans have been fasting from time immemorial. It has been deeply ingrained in our cultural practices and social norms.
Although the past couple of decades, fasts have been replaced by feasts. Abundance is nourishing the dark side of decadence in all of us.
Family gatherings or social events are all about rich extravagant foods. Food is what people bond over.
A romantic dinner with exotic dishes does sound like the best way to spend time with your significant other, but our physiology does not agree. More people suffer bad health due to overconsumption of foods rather than malnourishment. Diabetes and Coronary Artery Disease is now becoming rampant in affluent sections of society.
The answer to these devastating challenges for our health and economy lies in a simple solution. Just don’t eat anything, for a few days! Well, it is slightly more complex than that as you need to follow some protocols to do it properly but in a nutshell, it is that simple!
Research institutes have spent billions of dollars, searching for the miracle drug with no real need for it.
Our miracle healing system is found within us and it is called Autophagy. It is derived from a Greek Word wherein “Auto” means self and “Phagy” means eating.
It is basically a process where our healthy cells destroy and recycle the unhealthy organelles that reside within them to enjoy the state of homeostasis. In other words, the cell eats a part of itself that is wearing off and gets renewed.
More about how this plays out at a cellular level later in this article so read on!
Before we begin exploring the impact and its different types of fasting on our health, we need to differentiate fasting into three broad categories :
1 Intermittent Fasting – The practice of eating in a limited window during the day, generally being 8 hours, and resting the digestive system for the remaining 16 hours.
2 Periodic Fasting – Not eating any solid food for a period of 1 full day or more.
3 Partial Fasting – Limiting intake of calories to a bare minimum and consuming only easy to digest food.
In this article, we will be exploring more about 2 Popular types of fasting that i.e Periodic and Partial Fasting!
To understand what exactly happens at the cellular level when we are nutritionally deprived for a period of time, let’s get our basics right about Cellular Biology.
One of the most important organelles (components/structures within a living cell) is lysosomes. It is the control center of the metabolic system of our cell. See it as a switch that can alter the mode in which a cell behaves and functions.
It was once assumed as merely the ‘trash can’ of the cell, where cellular waste was discarded. Lysosomes, an enzyme filled vesicle is the place where cellular waste like proteins, nucleic acids, and sugars are sent. The enzymes break down the waste and these broken down components are used for regeneration of the components discarded to replenish the organelles within the cell. This process is called autophagy.
Recent advancements are indicating that there is much more to the story. Roberto Zoncu, a cell biologist at the University of California, Berkeley exclaims that recent developments “have elevated the lysosome to a decision-making center involved in the control of cellular growth and survival”
When a person is fasting or substantially restricting in calories, It signals the cell to create more enzyme-filled lysosomes so that fat reserves can be digested to act as a source of energy. Similarly, if a person is well-fed, it signals the cell that there is much abundance in the system so instead of burning fat or recycling waste, it must focus on growth and reproduction.
In short, lysosomes are the master switch in the cell to switch between the state of regeneration and destruction/recycling.
What happens when we are eating all the time, just because we are taught to eat 3 meals and incessant snacking(for a dopamine rush), every day for the rest of our life?
The lysosomes seldom signal the cell to initiate the process of clearance of waste products in our cell and recycle to renew our cells.
It results in a compromised cell with degenerated organelles, begging for space to heal. Non-Stop devouring of tough to digest foods takes all the body’s energy to digest and eliminate them, leaving no bandwidth for the body’s faculties to be deployed for housekeeping and repair work.
Imagine working 365 days a year without taking even one day off, a sure shot route to a burned-out you! fasting is that well deserved ‘offtime’ for our bodies!
Now I know you might be thinking, “This sounds good but a whole day without food? That ain’t happening!”
It doesn’t have to be that way. It is recommended to not shock your system into sudden deprivation. Instead, opt for Partial Fasting, once or twice a month.
Here are key things to remember before you attempt your first Partial Fast
- To execute your Partial Fast effectively, make sure you don’t eat heavy dinner the day before your fast. How you prepare for the fast and break the fast is as important as the fast itself
- Start your morning with a detox drink. I highly recommend Neem/Triphala or Ginger tea. You can add some CBD oil in your tea for some healthy fats and enough energy for the day
- For breakfast, have a bowl of fruit. Anyone type of fruit. Your digestive system is less stressed if there is less variety in your meal
- For lunch, have some vegetables and/or sweet potatoes. It could be boiled/steamed or lightly stir-fried. Top up with some fresh herbs like Parsley or
- Keep sipping warm water throughout the day. Coffee is allowed but just 1 or 2 cups without milk
- In the evening, before sunset, if you are hungry, have another fruit. Remember, do not punish yourself, if there is a craving, subside it with any light food in a limited quantity
- Dinner can be a thick soup made with a vegetable of your choice and if you are really famished, add a small bowl of vegetables similar to your lunch
- Be mentally prepared, block out a day in the calendar. Avoid booking any meetings that might cause stress for that day. Instead, literally, schedule time for some downtime in the form of meditation or just lie down with some healing music in the background. Also, try to spend the evening with friends and family, playing a game, or doing anything engaging as evening is the time when the mind will crave comfort foods!
- Make an effort to source organic foods for your day of Partial Fasting. You don’t want to be having toxic pesticides at least on this day of cleansing, so the extra cost of organic fruits and vegetables is well worth it, considering you are anyway eating so less!
Once you have done a dozen partial fasts and feel comfortable doing them, maybe move to have only a bowl of fruit in the morning and nothing for the rest of the day except liquids. Eventually, aim for just water fasting for a day, which will be your official Periodic Fast!
Note: If you suffer from any chronic medical conditions like Diabetes, do consult your doctor before giving this a shot!
Have you fasted and failed before? Do share your story and help others learn!