Fasting has been practised by humans for thousands of years as a way of rejuvenating the mind, body and soul and as a common ritual of many religions from all over the world. However, there are no hard and fast rules to fasting as different people follow different practices. While some go nil-per-oral, others partake of fluids, and yet others fast for only part of the day while others fast full day.
It’s well known that the body can survive without food for a number of days, but fluids are essential to keep the body functioning. While it’s good to fast once in a while, have you ever wondered what happens to the body while you are fasting and whether it’s healthy. Here are a few pointers to what’s happening inside your body as you deprive it of its daily quota of fuel.
Digestion – Fasting is a great way to give your digestive system a break from over-eating or binge-eating as digesting large volumes of food can become stressful for the organs involved in digestion; fasting also shrinks the size of your stomach, so fasting more than once in a week isn’t too healthy. However, do note that the body interprets fasting as starvation and starts using fatty deposits to get 60-70% of its energy requirements. Since it is meticulous about ensuring steady levels of blood glucose, after about 16 hours, the body starts getting its glucose from protein metabolism and starts breaking down muscle proteins. This process is further hiked after about 28 hours of fasting.
Weight loss – People with body image disorders opt for fasting as a way to reduce weight quickly. Unfortunately, this has a way of boomeranging back once you do start eating, as the metabolism would have slowed down and you would be storing even more fat from what you eat. And the lost weight would be back bang on again! For people obsessed with becoming skinny, frequent fasting can lead to starvation and the disorder called anorexia nervosa.
Instead go for partial fasting where you can take fruit and vegetable juices, making it a perfect detox for your body resulting in a glowing skin and more energy.
Mood – Frequent fasting can drain the mind and body of energy and nutrition. It can also make you more irritable and moody as you struggle with hunger pangs while ghrelin keeps growling in the background telling your body to find food. However, for people who suffer from loneliness or depression, breaking a religious fast can be a social event that they can look forward to as it uplifts their senses and reminds them that they are not alone but part of a community.
Addictions – There are many benefits to fasting, the least of which being that it teaches your body that it can cope without depending on certain desires like coffee, beverages, sugar, etc. The desire also gets lessened as the body learns to do without the dependency and clears the blood of excessive addiction by-products.
Overall, there are a few benefits to fasting, provided fasting is done on a regulated basis and with sufficient fluid intake.