Fasting can mean different things to different people. It means consuming no calories. People fast for a variety of reasons. The reason for someone’s spiritual or physical cleanliness practice could be for religious reasons, to build self discipline, or to improve their health.
We will explore how the body responds to fasting and if it actually has health benefits in this article.
Types of Fasting
Fasting can be intermittent or prolonged.
Intermittent fasting means that you do not eat continuously for more than a couple of days, or that you alternate between periods of eating and periods of not eating. “Prolonged” means fasting from 2 days to several weeks.
A popular form of intermittent fasting is time-restricted eating. Only eating at certain times of the day. Some of the most common methods include:
- Eating only within an 8-hour window each day, with the remaining hours of the day being spent in fasting.
- can improve health If you eat all your meals within a six-hour window and fast for the remaining eighteen hours, you can improve your health.
- You should only eat within a four-hour window each day, and fast for the rest of the time.
There are other versions of intermittent fasting, including alternate day fasting and the 5:2 diet. You are only allowed to eat on 5 days out of the week, and you have to fast for the other 2 days.
In both versions of fasting, people often consume small amounts of food on their fasting days. Fasts that last for several days or weeks are called prolonged or periodic fasts. You should speak to a healthcare professional before starting this to ensure it is the right choice for you.
Your body responds to the lack of fuel, no matter what type of fast you’re doing. Although there may be some health benefits, there are also some risks. Fasting may not be appropriate for everyone.
The foods you choose to eat are important, no matter what your eating schedule is like.
What Happens When You’re Fasting
Your body has an incredible ability to adapt. The body makes several changes when it goes without fuel. Here’s what happens to your body when you fast.
1. Change in Energy Source
Your body uses compounds in food for energy. Typically, it breaks down carbohydrates into simple sugar molecules. This is your body’s main source of energy. Any nutrients that are not used immediately are stored in the liver as glycogen or in the form of fatty acids in fat cells.
Not eating for a few hours causes your body to use its glycogen stores for energy. The body will find another energy source when the stores are gone. This is known as the metabolic switch.
If your body is not receiving glucose, it will break down body fat into ketones. The next process is that these are transported to your cells and used as energy. The term “ketosis” is used to describe when there is an increased amount of ketones in your blood.
How long you can go without food before your body starts breaking down fat for energy depends on a few factors, like how much energy you use, what you ate last, and how much glycogen (a sugar stored in your liver) your body has.
2. Stress Resistance
If you don’t eat regularly, your cells will respond to the stress of not having food by coordinating a response.
Researchers think that this type of reaction makes it possible for cells to become more tolerant of stress and sickness. The majority of the linked research comes from investigations done on animals and cells.
Autophagy is the process in which your cells clean out and recycle old, damaged, or abnormal proteins and cell components.
Autophagy is believed by some researchers to make cells more tough and adaptable when under stress.
Maintaining healthy cells requires this process. Autophagy appears to be important in protecting against various diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and infections.
Autophagy happens all the time in our cells. If something is not working properly, it can damage cells and cause health problems. Fasting may be a simple and safe way to encourage autophagy. Although we have a lot of evidence, it mostly comes from animal studies. The evidence in humans is limited.
4. Gut Health
The gut microbiome consists of trillions of bacteria and other microorganisms. The gut microbiome refers to the collection of microorganisms that reside in the gut. These microorganisms play a role in many aspects of health, including digestion, metabolism, immune function, and more.
Some types of fasting may improve your gut microbiome.
Fasting for 16 hours a day was found to increase the amount of beneficial bacteria in the gut microbiome.
The health benefits of these bacteria have been linked with better metabolic health, improved heart health, and a lower risk of obesity, cancer, and inflammatory bowel disease.
Although fasting changed the composition of the men’s microbiomes, it returned to its original state once they stopped fasting.
The fact that you naturally fast during sleep suggests that fasting for a longer period of time may improve the health of your gut barrier. Sleep is when the activity in your gut slows down and gets a chance to repair.
It is suggested by studies that by lengthening the time of your fast, the barrier of your gut could be strengthened. This might then lead to a reduction in chronic inflammation.
Although more research is needed to understand the connection between fasting and gut health, the different effects could help to explain why fasting has been linked to various benefits. Still, fully understanding this topic will require more research.
Long-Term Fasting Benefits
Most research on fasting and long-term health focuses on the effects of intermittent fasting.
This area of study is in its early stages. More long-term studies are needed to fully understand the effects of fasting over an extended period of time. Some types of fasting may be beneficial to your health in the long run, according to recent evidence. Here’s what the current research says.
1. Better Blood Sugar Control
Intermittent fasting may help you keep your blood sugar in check. Several studies have suggested that intermittent fasting on alternate days may improve insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control.
However, more research is needed to fully understand the relationship between fasting and blood sugar control in the long term.
2. Promotes Better Health by Fighting Inflammation
Chronic inflammation can have serious health consequences, even though it is a normal immune process that helps fight off infections.
Conditions such as heart disease, cancer, and rheumatoid arthritis may be caused by inflammation, according to research. Fasting has been found to have benefits for reducing inflammation and promoting better health in some studies.
A study of 50 healthy adults found that intermittent fasting for one month significantly decreased levels of inflammatory markers. Another study found the same effect when people fasted for 12 hours a day for one month.
The study found that following a very low-calorie diet that mimics the effects of fasting can help reduce levels of inflammation and be beneficial in treating multiple sclerosis, a chronic inflammatory condition.
Some studies have found that fasting could help to treat inflammatory conditions such as multiple sclerosis by decreasing several markers of inflammation.
3. May Enhance Heart Health by Improving Blood Pressure, Triglycerides and Cholesterol Levels
Some research has found that fasting may be especially beneficial for heart health.
One study showed that if you fast every other day for eight weeks, your levels of LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) and blood triglycerides could go down by 25% and 32% respectively.
Another study showed that fasting for three weeks decreases blood pressure, as well as levels of blood triglycerides, total cholesterol and “bad” LDL cholesterol.
A study of 4,629 people found that fasting was associated with a lower risk of coronary artery disease and a significantly lower risk of diabetes, which is a major risk factor for heart disease.
Fasting may help to lower the risk of coronary heart disease, as well as blood pressure, triglycerides and cholesterol levels.