Fasting and healing: the power of therapeutic fasting

fasting: difficult to start - comic

When it comes to health, you may wonder: “What to eat?”. This is a perfectly legitimate question. But there is a question that we tend to forget about: “When to eat?”. And, consequently: “When not to eat?”.

Practiced thousands of years ago by the Egyptians or the Greeks, fasting is undoubtedly the best way to leave to your body the responsibility of its own healing. Yet, the media are  willingly forgetting about it, and few people are actually doing it. Let’s reconnect with the most natural healing methods available to us!

Prolonged fasting: a deep cleaning

During a fast, the functioning of the body completely changes1. It must save its energy consumption, and above all: optimize it. This is the perfect time to clean the blood, the organs, and other tissues. Disrupted, damaged, diseased or cancerous cells are destroyed (autophagy): their energy is used and the body is cleansed. All that is harmful or not necessary is consumed: fats, tumors, ganglia and inflammed tissues.

cleaning with a seal and a broom - comic

Regeneration of the immune system

Prolonged fasting not only draws on glycogen and then fat reserves, but also breaks down many cells, including white blood cells. Their quantity decreases throughout the fast. But as soon as you start eating again, the stem cells hasten to generate new, fresh and effective white cells. This mechanism renews the whole immune system2!

regeneration of blood cells - comic

Other advantages

  • Regeneration of Intestinal Cells3
  • Hypertension4
  • Decreases Asthma5
  • Help against cancer6
  • Anti-aging7 8
  • Helps during chemotherapy9 10
  • Regeneration of Blood Cells11(Hematopoietic stem cells)
  • Extends the life span and delays the onset of diseases due to aging12 13
  • Reduces metabolic rate and oxidative stress, corrects insulin resistance (and thus type 2 diabetes), and alters the functions of the sympathetic nervous system14
  • Decreases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease15
  • Improve cognitive functions16
  • Neuroprotective effect17 18
  • Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease19
  • Weight loss with low chances of recovery20

the list is long - parchment - comic

The list above isn’t exhaustive, and one can imagine that many benefits are still ignored. But quite frankly, it’s already insane!

No dangers

There is no indication today that fasting can be dangerous for people with average health, while many studies show the benefits.

green light

However, if you have specific treatments, talk to your doctor first.

Against indications

Prolonged fasting is not recommended for pregnant women and children, who need regular caloric intake. On the other hand, moderate intermittent fasting (eg 2 meals per day) remains acceptable.

Some safe side effects

If you are not used to fasting, and if you are likely to eat food rich in sugars and carbs, you may experience some discomfort:

  • hunger (sometimes obsessive)
  • lack of energy
  • difficulty of attention, foggy brain
  • irritable mood
  • nausea

don't feel very good - comic

Although (very) unpleasant, there isn’t anything really dangerous about it, and these effects fade quickly. The second day is often the hardest, and from the 3rd it’s usually better. Remember to find distractions to avoid thinking about food, and avoid temptations.

The “Wow!” effect

After a few days (usually 2 or 3), the effects reverse:

  • no more hunger
  • more energy
  • efficient mind
  • euphoria (sometimes)

feels very good - comic

This is explained by a natural mechanism: your body got optimized so that you can search for food and ensure your survival. Unlike the first few days, you feel nice and energized.

Big pharma

Quick reminder: fasting doesn’t benefit to either the food industry or the labs. That’s why it’s so little famous. They prefer to recommend 3 or 4 meals a day, loaded up with carbs and sugars.

doctor content - comic

I hope that you will know how to reconsider certain dogmas and dare experimenting for what makes you feel good.

Fasting: practical guide

Let’s hope I’ve convinced you and that you are now ready to try the adventure. Let’s see how to get started properly.

How long?

There is no real rule, but the first days are the most difficult. It is therefore a pity to limit your fasts to 2 or 3 days while they are the least comfortable. On the contrary, a longer period is more rewarding: once the first days have passed, you may no longer feel any unpleasant effect, you feel light, you feel no hunger, you find energy and clarity of mind, you are even sometimes euphoric. For beginners, you may try a whole week. Some fast up to 3 or 4 weeks or more. You should feel it when it’s time for you to eat again.

Another alternative is also possible: intermittent fasting (skipping one or two meals). Intermittent fasting can be practiced on a daily basis, as opposed to prolonged fasting which requires more preparation and planification.

Plan the fast

In order to put all the chances by your side, it’s important to plan the fast (especially if it’s your first) at the right period:

  • avoid hard work (physical but also mental)
  • avoid moments of stress (your body needs to relax)
  • avoid temptations (a colleague who brings cookies, children to feed, etc. – or be strong and hold on!)

Holidays are therefore a good moment to devote to fasting. Otherwise, for a short first experience, you can start on a Friday, and finish on Sunday (the second day may be more difficult than the first). You will, however, probably have little pleasure, but the effects will remain very beneficial to you.

on the phone: your birthday? I can't, I'm fasting - comic

Before fasting: prepare your body

You can start a fast at any moment. It will work. However, you can prepare your body in order to greatly diminish the unpleasant sensations of early fasting.

For this, reduce the intake of sugars (if not already!) and carbs. Prefer vegetables (fiber, to help empty the digestive system) and good fats (avocados, nuts, olive oil, eggs). Your body will then start to slowly switch from “sugar for fuel” mode into “fat for fuel” mode. To learn more about sugar and fats, I recommend you read the article on the ketogenic diet. Avoid high-protein meals : they mess up with the fast21.

Fruits and vegetables help to alkalize your body, which promotes the production of ketone bodies22. To know more about ketones, see the article: the body’s metabolism, on sugar shortage.

man lawyer - comic

Avoid or reduce stimulants: tea, coffee, etc. If you consume a lot of these, stopping too suddenly may increase your discomfort.

Pro TIp: The ketogenic diet

One big tip: you can start by doing a few days of ketogenic diet before your prolonged fast. This will switch your body into “fat burning” mode and the transition should be smooth.

During fasting: drink water (or not)

Two versions of the fast exist: with (“water fast”) or without water (“dry fast”). Fasting with water is easier because filling your stomach with water can help to prevent hunger. However, dry fasting is much more effective in terms of benefits and regeneration of the body cells. The choice is yours.

Some people choose to go for tea or coffee (no milk, no sugar!). It doesn’t really break the fast, but it does dampen its effects anyway. If you can go without it, do it. But if it prevents you from giving up, it can be a good compromise.

After the fast: slowly refeed

It is strongly discouraged to break the fast with a rich meal. Get your digestive system back on tracks with a light meal like soup, salad or vegetables.

broccoli - drawing

Listen to your body

Some people wonder around with too many questions. Just go and experiment, and listen to your body. If you feel really bad, don’t hesitate to make the decision to break the fast. Trust yourself!

Conclusion

Prolonged fasting is an ancestral practice that can be scary at first but is actually safe. By fasting, you learn to trust your body, you discover that you can push your limits, and, above all, you thrive from a multitude of health benefits.

I have recently prefered intermittent fasting for the good reason that I don’t have a lot of fat reserves, but I intend to do an extended fast as soon as I can gain some weight!

And you? What is your experience with fasting?

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  1. Integrative Physiology of Fasting
  2. Fasting triggers stem cell regeneration of damaged, old immune system
  3. Fasting Activates Fatty Acid Oxidation to Enhance Intestinal Stem Cell Function during Homeostasis and Aging
  4. Medically Supervised Water-only Fasting in the Treatment of Hypertension
  5. A Pilot Study To Investigate the Immune-Modulatory Effects of Fasting in Steroid-Naive Mild Asthmatics.
  6. Prolonged fasting / refeeding promotes hematopoietic stem cell regeneration and rejuvenation.
  7. Prolonged fasting / refeeding promotes hematopoietic stem cell regeneration and rejuvenation.
  8. Fasting: Molecular Mechanisms and Clinical Applications
  9. Prolonged fasting / refeeding promotes hematopoietic stem cell regeneration and rejuvenation.
  10. Fasting vs. Dietary Restriction In Cellular Protection And Cancer Treatment: From Modeling Agencies To Patients.
  11. Prolonged Fasting Factor IGF-1 / PKA to promote hematopoietic-stem-cell-based regeneration and reverse immunosuppression.
  12. Calorie restriction and aging: review of the literature and implications for studies in humans
  13. Fasting: Molecular Mechanisms and Clinical Applications
  14. Calorie restriction and aging: review of the literature and implications for studies in humans
  15. DO NOT FEED YOUR HEAD
  16. Fasting and cognitive function
  17. Short-term fasting induces profound neuronal autophagy.
  18. THE NEUROPROTECTIVE PROPERTIES OF CALORIE RESTRICTION, KETOGENIC DIET, AND KETONE BODIES
  19. Relation of routine, periodic fasting to risk of diabetes mellitus, and coronary artery disease in patients undergoing coronary angiography.
  20. Long-term results of fasting. Results from 132 consecutive patients after 1-6 1/2 years
  21. The Dietary Composition of Pre-fast Meals and Its Effect on 24 Hour Food and Water Fasting
  22. THE INFLUENCE OF ALKALOSIS AND ACIDOSIS UPON FASTING KETOSIS

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