Fasting for Good Health: The Remarkable Benefits of Fasting

A fast is a message and a journey. Religions from east to west, major and tribal, hold fasting as a rite of passage, a way to become closer to Gods. But could fasting also be a mens to enhance well-being, and prevent a whole range of chronic diseases, including diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson?

According to a recent article by New Scientist, researchers are increasingly pointing to a correlation between short-term fasts and good health. How? Fasting sends a message to your brain, affecting the production of insulin and certain proteins in your body. Studies suggest that reducing the insulin in your body for controlled periods can prevent type-2 diabetes or even increase the effectiveness of cancer treatments.

Fasting also induces chemical changes in your brain cells. Animal tests have shown that introducing an intermittent fasting diet to the equivalent of a middle-aged person can even delay the onset of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

If the idea of putting down the fork down and starving yourself to improve health doesn’t appeal, take heart. There are many different ways to fast, and they don’t all involving living on thin air alone. Here are a few tips to get you started.

For Best Results, Plan Ahead

Pre-planning a schedule is key to safe fasting. There are many different kinds of fasting, but depriving yourself of calories can be dangerous and should always be done with care. It may be a good idea to consult a physician before trying a fast for the first time, especially if you have any pre-existing conditions. Fasting for more than about a week is considered by some experts to be dangerous. Listed below are a few suggested ways to try out fasting for yourself.

  • The “5:2” diet is a good way to try fasting for the first time. The normal recommended daily calorie intake is 2,000 calories for a woman and 2,500 for a man. In the 5:2 plan, participants restrict themselves to a single meal of 600 calories for the entire day, twice a week. In this case, cutting down the calories isn’t about weight loss, you are allowed to eat anything you want during the five, non-fasting days. 

  • Next is the 24-hour water fast. This is a fast geared towards insulin reduction and is designed to prevent type-2 diabetes. Studies show practicing this fast once a month can help level out your insulin levels.

  • A total fast where you don’t consume any food (but water is OK) for 1 to 5 days is a much more difficult approach, but has the most drastic effect on your body. After 3 days of fasting, production of insulin as well as a hormone similar in structure, called IGF-1, drop to very low levels. High levels of both in the body have been linked to cancer. Repeating this cycle once a month, with supervision for fasts longer than a couple days, is recommended.

  • Studies suggest pairing fasts with cancer treatments can starve cancer cells. A 48-hour total fast changes the physiological conditions in which the aggressive cancer cells originally developed, creating difficulties for the cells in changing conditions. Consult your doctor before trying this fast.

Researchers are still unsure of exactly who should be fasting, and how often they should be doing so. And naturally, it best to be cautious and consult with a physician before trying any type of fasting.

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