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Fasting, the act of avoiding or limiting one’s food and beverage intake for a given period of time, is a practice that has long been associated with health and religion. In recent years, however, fasting has become an increasingly popular trend in the world of dieting and wellness. According to proponents, fasting offers many health benefits. Nevertheless, undertaking a fast isn’t for everyone and must be carefully planned to avoid potential health risks and complications.
Would you benefit from fasting? If so, which kind of fast should you undertake, and for how long? Read on to discover if fasting is right for you!
Types of Fasting
Fasting comes in many shapes and forms, varying in what one restricts and for how long.
For those who are new to the practice, occasional, brief fasts are often recommended. Abstaining from food for just 8, 12, or 24 hours can be a good way to see how your body responds to a reduction in food or beverage intake.
Many individuals choose to practice intermittent fasting. In this fasting pattern, individuals modify their eating habits on a regular schedule. One might, for example, limit caloric intake for two days a week while otherwise eating normally. Others may choose to regularly skip one meal, effectively fasting for 12-16 hours each day. Some may choose to undergo occasional 24-hour fasts or fast only when it is convenient for them, an option which may be best for those with busy schedules or active jobs.
Longer fasts, lasting numerous days or weeks, are also possible. Such fasts may be particularly effective for detoxifying the body. These types of fasts, however, are challenging for many and may raise a number of health risks.
The extent to which one restricts food or beverage intake can also vary from person to person. Particular strict fasters may only allow themselves water during their fasting periods. Many also choose to drink coffee and tea, while others may include fruit juices, soups, yogurts, broths, puréed foods, or even certain solids in their fasting diet. Those who are new to fasting may want to be careful about the extent to which they restrict their diet, as the body may not be used to undergoing prolonged periods of food restriction.
Consult your physician before undertaking any type of fast. He or she will be able to inform you whether or not fasting is advisable for your health.
Benefits of Fasting
Research regarding the positive effects of fasting are not fully conclusive. Even so, recent studies seem to indicate that fasting may offer many potential health benefits.
After practicing regular intermittent fasting or engaging in a prolonged fast, the body may begin to burn its fat stores. As chemicals are often stored in body fat, fasting is thought to be an effective detoxification tool, ridding the body of harmful substances. The changes in blood sugar levels triggered by a fast may also benefit the body on a cellular level, working to combat the formation of tumors. Endorphins released during fasting may also cause temporary mood boosts. Limiting food intake may even have long-term benefits for mental health, aiding the brain in functioning more effectively.
In general, the fasting process gives the body a chance to regenerate and restore itself. With less energy dedicated to the digestive process, the intestines, heart, pancreas, and skin all have the opportunity to heal. Cholesterol levels and blood pressure may improve; those suffering from conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and epilepsy may also notice a reduction in their symptoms.
Is fasting an effective weight loss tactic? Though many people notice a drop in body weight during or after a fast, is it important to realize that much of this apparent weight loss may be due to a loss of fluids rather than body fat. In many cases, eating a more balanced diet filled with whole fruits and vegetables while making other healthy lifestyle choices, such as staying active and sleeping well, will have a more lasting effect on one’s weight that fasting alone.
Risks of Fasting
Despite many potential health benefits, undertaking a fast is a serious endeavor and should not be taken lightly. A fast, for instance, may cause dehydration or electrolyte imbalances. A sudden reduction in food, beverage, or caffeine intake may also trigger headaches, fatigue, brain fog, or mood swings. Those who are diabetic or prone to hypoglycemia should pay particular attention to their blood sugar levels while fasting. Some fasters may also experience heartburn, diarrhea, or other digestive issues during the fasting period.
For seniors, the risks of undertaking a fast may be even greater. Those who are taking medication or suffer from chronic health conditions should talk to their doctors before beginning
any sort of fasting diet. If you suffer from diabetes, digestive issues, or gout, be sure to ask your physician whether or not fasting is right for you. Children, underweight individuals, and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should, as a general rule, avoid fasting as well. If you begin fasting and notice that you are feeling particularly unwell, it is generally best to break your fast. There are many other techniques for healing the body that may work better for you.
Although fasting may rejuvenate the body and aid in the weight loss process, restricting food and beverage intake isn’t for everyone. Before beginning a fast, do your research and consult a medical professional to discuss whether or not you are a good potential candidate for fasting. If you begin to feel unwell while restricting your food or beverage intake, bring your fast to an end. If practiced effectively and in the right context, however, fasting might be just what your body needs.
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