Fasting is an ancestral practice that has become very fashionable in recent years. Whether it is as part of a diet, as a meditative or religious activity, or for medical reasons, fasting is not done at random. Here’s everything you need to know on the subject.
The principle of fasting
The principle of fasting is very simple: it consists of depriving oneself of food and/or drink for a certain period of time. Fasting is generally considered to begin six hours after the last meal. People who are accustomed to fasting can fast for one or two weeks or even a whole month.
The different types of fasting
There are several motivations for fasting. Here are the most frequent cases.
Fasting can be a medical necessity, especially before surgery or other procedures that require anesthesia. In this case, it is necessary to stop eating for 12 to 24 hours before the operation. In some cases, it is also necessary to stop drinking before the operation.
For many people, fasting is associated with purifying themselves, cleansing their bodies. It is often after the holiday season that this kind of fasting is practiced since we generally abuse food at this time of the year. During this type of fasting, fruit juices and other liquids are usually tolerated, but food is forbidden.
As its name suggests, intermittent fasting is only practiced for a short period of time (generally from 12 to 36 hours). Less restrictive than strict fasting, it would help to lose weight, restore hormonal balance and regulate the feeling of hunger.
Spiritual and religious fasts
Spiritual or religious fasting is the oldest form of fasting. Christianity (Lent), Islam, Judaism (Yom Kippur) and Buddhism have integrated this practice. For Muslims, the fasting period is called Ramadan and lasts one month. During this period, they are not allowed to eat or drink from dawn to dusk.
The Benefits of fasting
The benefits of fasting have been recognized for millennia. It puts the body at rest to do a great cleansing. When the digestive system is at complete rest, the autolysis of the body can begin.
A number of studies to determine the efficacy and safety of complete fasting, alone or in combination with other treatments, have reported positive results in the treatment of a variety of problems. Here are some of the benefits of fasting:
Decrease chronic pain
An observational study published in 2005 evaluated the feasibility and effectiveness of integrating fasting therapy in 2,000 patients suffering from chronic pain syndrome (rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, pain related to the locomotor system, irritable bowel syndrome, lung disease, migraine, headache, etc.). All patients received acupuncture and hydrotherapy treatments, practiced various mind-body approaches and attended classes on nutrition and lifestyle habits.
In addition, they were offered a modified 7-day fast. The exclusive consumption of 2 litres of liquid per day (mineral water, fruit juice, tea, vegetable broth) provided a total of 350 calories. Upon discharge from hospital, fasting patients reported a significantly greater reduction in their main symptom than other patients. No serious side effects were reported.
Relieving Rheumatoid Arthritis
Various studies have shown that changes in diet can have a positive effect on the symptoms of patients with rheumatoid arthritis. With regard to fasting, a systematic review published in 2001 identified 4 controlled studies, including a total of 143 subjects, that evaluated the effect of fasting for 7 to 23 days followed by a vegetarian diet.
Long-term improvements were observed in subjects in the fasting groups (decrease in pain, increase in functional capacity) compared to the control groups.
Contributing to the treatment of hypertension
Two trials have been published to evaluate the effectiveness of medically supervised fasting in the treatment of hypertension. In both cases, patients consumed only fruits and vegetables for 2 to 3 days and then only water for the next 10 to 11 days.
They supplemented the program with a vegetarian diet for 6 to 7 days. The 174 patients in the first trial had high blood pressure and were not taking medication. The 68 patients in the second trial had borderline blood pressure. The results of both studies show a statistically significant decrease in blood pressure. In addition, 89% of the subjects in the first study and 82% of those in the second study had normal blood pressure values at the end of the procedure.
Induce weight loss
Of course, fasting helps you lose weight. In the long term, however, fasting does not seem to be an effective way to achieve this. It would require lifestyle changes, healthy eating habits and exercise. A study was conducted on 207 morbidly obese people who were hospitalized during a fasting period of approximately 2 months, with the goal of losing weight. The results indicate that fasting (average duration of 47 days) was effective for weight loss (average 28.2 kg). However, of the 121 subjects who participated in the follow-up visits, 50% had regained their initial weight after 2 to 3 years, and over 90% had regained it after 7 years.
Improving Sleep Quality
A pilot study involving 15 non-obese subjects aged 19 to 59 years who observed a complete fast for 7 days showed promising results. This study showed that fasting had no effect on total sleep time, but did reduce the number of awakenings during the night. In addition, improvements in subjective sleep quality, daily energy, perceived emotional balance and concentration were also observed.
Contributing to the treatment of acute pancreatitis
In acute pancreatitis, fasting is often required because of the patient’s pain and digestive intolerance.
A clinical trial compared the effects of 3 treatments: complete fasting alone, a combination of complete fasting and cimetidine (a drug designed to reduce the amount of acid produced by the stomach), and nasogastric suction (aspiration of stomach fluids through a tube inserted through the nose). Fasting alone and fasting with cimetidine both work better than nasogastric suctioning. Resumption of normal bowel activity was faster and analgesic intake was reduced. Finally, fasting alone significantly reduced the duration of abdominal pain.
Fasting : for who ?
A fast is prepared and anticipated. It is preferable to start with a short fast, i.e. 2 to 3 days maximum at the beginning, then gradually increase the number of days if you wish. For long fasts, longer than 5 days, it is preferable to consult a naturopath. Long young people should preferably be carried out in a specialized centre.
Fasts, even short ones, are not recommended:
- lacking energy,
- with disposal difficulties,
- consuming a lot of drugs or under medical treatment,
- being weakened physically or morally,
- underweight (thin people can fast very well, not those who are thin),
- in a difficult environment (stress, conflict, lack of support, for example).
How to prepare a fast?
A few days before, the consumption of animal products and by-products must be stopped. Alcohol, tobacco, sodas and all toxic and acidifying products should also no longer be consumed. Two days before starting the fast, the diet should be light and based on steamed vegetables. Drinking plenty of water will help to eliminate and start draining. A rectal enema will also free the last part of the intestines.
Fasting can be dry or watery. A dry fast involves not eating or drinking any more; it should not exceed 2 days. Watery fasting is more recommended.
For water fasting, after the preparation we have just described, drink 1.5 to 2 litres of water a day and watch your elimination, i.e. urine and perspiration.
The first few days are often the most difficult. It is possible to have feelings of discomfort, such as nausea, headaches, fatigue. Then, little by little, a feeling of lightness, even euphoria, replaces the discomfort. Hunger remains present at first, then disappears when the digestive system is completely empty. Only the real cellular hunger remains, the one that pushes the body to feed itself by drawing from the reserves without generating a lot of waste.
The liver and intestines can be stimulated by rectal showers and infusions of :
As for the kidneys, they will appreciate the infusions of :
- Lime sapwood
- Meadowsweet Queen
- Cherry stem
Hot baths and hot water bottles stimulate the skin and liver.
Care should be taken to ensure good oxygenation through respiratory and physical exercises. A little meditation is also beneficial.
Fasting should be done in a calm atmosphere and preferably with several people. Prefer holidays or times when stress is at its minimum.
How do you get out of a fast?
After fasting, the body is light and the tongue is pink. The return to eating must be gradual. On the first day, it is preferable to eat only steamed vegetables. As the stomach has shrunk, the return to eating should be gentle. The next day, soft and low-acid fruits can be added.
(the apple, for example). On the third day, a light meal is possible, but it should contain little protein. Little by little, the diet will be resumed and the meals will be assimilated more easily and efficiently. The resumption of eating is an opportunity to review one’s habits and change one’s eating habits to healthier ones.
When should I fast?
Fasting can be carried out as soon as one feels able to do so. That is to say, when you feel like it, when sources of stress are far away and when morale is high.
Attention… While dry fasting is the least recommended, it is strongly discouraged during high temperatures.
The ideal period is spring. The copious meals of winter are less frequent, the sun returns with ideal temperatures so as not to risk dehydration, and the period makes you want to recharge your batteries with nature waking up and revealing its most beautiful colours. The advantage of fasting in the spring is that, with the summer that follows, it is easier to maintain one’s consumption of raw or steamed food. Summer meals are often lighter and more raw food-oriented than summer meals. winter. This allows time to write down new habits easily so that they can be continued in winter.
A loss of about 10% of weight will occur for a 7-day watery fast. The loss will mainly be in waste products, therefore beneficial for the body. The practice of gentle physical activities will maintain muscle mass.
Attention must be maintained during the resumption of eating, as the kilos can quickly regain weight if the subsequent intake is too rich. Take advantage of this time to establish your new eating habits.
The risk of deficiencies is low if the duration does not exceed 7 days for a hydrous fast, 3 for a dry fast. The digestive system thus rested will return to optimal function when you resume with better assimilation of nutrients and less laborious work.
FOCUS on Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting is simply fasting “halfway”!
Instead of chaining whole days without eating (traditional fasting) we will ALTERNATE periods of fasting with periods of normal food intake during a 24-hour day.
Today I stop eating at 8 pm, the next day I don’t eat before noon, I organize my meals until 8 pm, I stop eating again after 8 pm.
There are other variations of intermittent fasting where the periods of fasting are more or less long: 5-7 am, 6-6 am, 7-5 pm, etc…
The longer the period of fasting, the more effective intermittent fasting will be!
To sum up simply, intermittent fasting consists of not eating solid food for part of the morning while waiting for the midday break to make one’s first meal.
I have chosen to tell you about intermittent fasting because it is more easily achievable than traditional water fasting and this for very beneficial results for your health.
Intermittent fasting: a difficult cure?
As said above, you should know that intermittent fasting is a simplified version of traditional fasting, however it will not necessarily be a health walk for everyone…
The main challenge for the fasting apprentice will be not to eat in the morning!
Indeed it can be very disturbing not to eat in the morning, especially for people who are not used to it.
A few minutes after waking up you often find yourself with that damn painful belly that grunts and that is very often (wrongly) associated with a sign of hunger.
In reality it is a natural signal from your body that your digestive system is in full purge.
And this is precisely the purpose of intermittent fasting! If you are in pain it’s a good sign, it means that your body has a lot of work to do!
Luckily, after some time of practicing intermittent fasting the grunting of your belly will stop completely in the morning and you will be able to do without food without difficulty.
For the record, I was personally unable to do without food after waking up, I had to swallow my half Nutella stick… But after improving my diet and practicing intermittent fasting, this need for food in the morning simply disappeared.
By the way, did you know that eating early in the morning is not something natural for humans?
Eating as soon as you wake up: a bad habit!
Finally when we take a step back we realize that intermittent fasting reproduces the way our ancestors used to eat (mainly Paleolithic ancestors).
At that time they didn’t have a fridge handy and they had to look for food in their environment before being able to feed themselves much later in the morning. Our bodies have been genetically programmed to function this way.
It was only later that the BREAKFAST appeared and very quickly became the most important meal (culturally), whereas for our body (physiologically) this meal makes no sense, especially if it is composed of sweets and pastries!
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Why is Intermittent Fasting so good for our health?
Intermittent fasting is for everyone: men and women, young and old, people with serious health problems but also people who simply want to keep fit.
Joking aside, the practice of fasting is one of the best therapies to prevent a great number of pathologies and should be part of our habits…
There is one primordial thing that you must understand; when you fast your body systematically goes into cleansing mode.
To take a picture, fasting is the ON button on your body’s purging system. And the good news is that this button is free and accessible at all times. (Well, it’s rather bad news… for the pharmaceutical industry, but that’s another story).
Behind this button hides a principle that your body uses at every moment: the law of homeostasis (The Law of Homeostasis: The Principle of Self-Healing of the Human Body). This great law that governs nature tells us that:
“Any system left to its own devices in the absence of external disturbance spontaneously returns after a period of time to its state of equilibrium (which is a state of full health, joy, and abundance, if we return to humans), through multiple regulatory processes.”
Translation: When our body is no longer constantly in full digestion, it becomes able to mobilize its vital energy to activate the self-healing capacities necessary for its cleansing.
Eating too much makes us tired and prevents our body from healing itself. This can be explained simply: eating constantly throughout the day pumps a lot of nervous energy into our bodies.
It is important to know that digestion uses more than 50% of our nervous resources, some foods even take several hours to be fully digested… This is why we often feel tired after a big meal.
The food we ingest is also responsible for spreading large amounts of toxins, waste and unusable materials through the body (especially if we eat unhealthy food). This makes our body even more tired because our immune system is constantly on the defensive.
All this is energy that the body will not be able to use to activate the regenerative forces of homeostasis!
List of the beneficial effects of intermittent fasting:
The benefits of intermittent fasting are manifold, one could say that it aims to purify the whole body and improve all its functions.
To support my remarks, here is a small non-exhaustive list of the effects of intermittent fasting:
- Regulation of weight and satiety
- Decrease in inflammation
- Reduce insulin and the risk of diabetes
- Decrease in cardio-vascular risks
- Decrease in mortality
- Fat burning and Obesity reduction
- Improvement of cognitive functions
- Slowing the aging of the brain
- Fight against oxidative stress (cellular ageing)
- Positive effects on the levels of bad cholesterol in the blood
- Regulation of weight and satiety (hunger)
Intermittent fasting: a very good way to lose weight!
Intermittent fasting is also a very good way to regulate your weight by eliminating excess fat, the reason is quite simple:
When you fast, you don’t bring enough glucoses (sugar) to your body, it’s normal since you don’t eat anymore…
The body then finds itself in a state of stress and will come and draw from its own fat reserves to provide the body with the energy it needs.
Interestingly, researchers at the Intermountain Medical Center (Murray) Utah have shown that fasting causes a significant increase in the level of growth hormone (GH) secreted by our bodies.
This GH is a so-called “fat-burning” hormone, it also helps to protect muscle mass and regulate blood glucose and various other hormones.
Intermittent fasting cures will therefore be very useful if you want to accelerate your fat loss.
(If your main goal is long-term weight loss, I also invite you to read our leading article on real solutions to lose fat. This article will teach you everything you want to know on the subject)).
Start an intermittent fast : The 4 steps
1. Choosing your type of intermittent fasting
To begin your intermittent fasting, you must first choose your fasting modality as we have seen above:
Should it be 16-8, 17-7, or 18-6…?
If you are a beginner I advise you to start with the 16-8 version which is the easiest, but nothing prevents you from testing something stronger if you want more results.
Don’t forget that the longer the fasting period, the greater the health benefits.
2. How many days?
Then choose how many days you want to fast…
There are no real rules, it will depend on your motivation, your tolerance of fasting and your professional/family constraints.
You can start by devoting 1 day of your week to intermittent fasting and then gradually increase to 2, 3, 4, etc…
Some people practice this lifestyle every day of the year (or almost every day of the year).
Others organise one-week or multi-week cures in the spring or at other times of the year.
You can also book your weekend and do an intermittent fast to purge yourself of the week’s deviations.
In short, it’s up to you! You should know that there is no risk in practicing intermittent fasting.
3. Organizing your meals…
“So what’s for dinner?”
During the feeding phases: you eat as you normally do and above all, as you like! There’s no change there.
The only precaution concerns the first meal of the day that breaks the fast, avoid foods that are too heavy to digest such as fatty, cereal, dairy products… Favour vegetables (preferably cooked) and juicy fruits.
During the fasting phases: Remember to drink enough water, you can for example prepare herbal teas or decoctions of plants.
But be careful, it must remain water, so EXIT juices, kefir (or other lactofermented drinks), soups or soups.