We were recently asked about whether a client could benefit from a short fast as part of their program. It was a good question, and clarification of the role of intermittent fasting in overall health maintenance is important.
We often talk about how important eating regular meals is for our overall health, but, when properly done, the occasional period of not eating can be just as beneficial. Much of the underlying cause of chronic disease can be traced back to two problem areas:
- the energy balance within our body, or, how we process the food we eat and how we utilise the resulting energy;
- the toxins and allergens that hitch a free ride into our body through our food supply;
What is Intermittent Fasting
Most people are terrified when we initially suggest the idea of fasting. Food is comfort, food is social, food is relaxation…. but often we can forget that first and foremost food is fuel. Skipping a meal or two is not going to cause most of us to die, in much the same way as the fuel light on the car means you won’t immediately run out of petrol.
An intermittent fast is our opportunity to give our hardworking digestive system a little time off to recoup.
There are a number of different types of intermittent fasting, that people will commonly use:
- daily fasting – by skipping the same meal every day, usually dinner;
- single day fasting – by not eating over a 24 hour period. Usually done weekly or fortnightly;
- multi day fasting – taking two to three consecutive days without food. Usually done every 6-12 months;
Longer Fasts May Cause Serious Health Complications
Marathon fasts of weeks or even as much as 40 days are not considered intermittent fasting. While intermittent fasting offers many health benefits, extending a fast too long leads to many nutritional deficiencies and can cause serious health complications.
The Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
There is no denying that an intermittent fast is a great tool in preserving and enhancing health and wellbeing.
Medical literature has shown intermittent fasting to benefit:
- blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity;
- cholesterol levels and blood pressure;
- mental health;
- hormonal balance and levels;
- skin conditions and allergies;
Best of all, using the forms of intermittent fasting mention above (daily fasting, single day fasting and to a lesser extent, less frequent multi day fasting) means the cost on lean muscle mass and good quality active tissue mass is minimal. In fact, single day fasting in particular, has been associated with increased levels of human growth hormone. Provided a correct diet and adequate nutrition levels are maintained this means single day fasting can be used to increase and build active tissue mass.
How We Use Intermittent Fasting in our Programs
We once started all our clients on a short two day juice fast. The goal of this was to give the digestive system a break, start the detoxification process and to help jumpstart the cleanup of any intestinal dysbiosis. All of these are things a short fast does admirably. We don’t do that anymore however for a number of reasons:
- many of the health concerns we see in our clinic have an underlying toxicity factor, and in the majority of cases we found the detoxification reaction experienced was too severe.
- existing nutritional deficients mean that body composition (lean muscle mass) was being too badly affected as the body began to use it’s own tissues essential nutrients;
Just because we removed the juice fast, doesn’t mean we threw the baby out with the bathwater. We still use intermittent fasting, but a little more judiciously:
- We use daily fasting – by shortening the “eating window” and suggesting that we reduce the size of, or eliminate dinner, we implement a smaller, daily fast from lunch / mid-afternoon until breakfast;
- We now suggest single day intermittent fasting be introduced at a more advanced stage – as the early results from cleaning up diet, correcting nutritional deficiencies and increasing water intake begin to plateau, the introduction of intermittent fasting can give help give another boost.
- We use intermittent fasting for specific purposes – where blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels or other parameters are dangerously high we may use a short multi day fast to help reset some of these systems.
Do You Want to Use Intermittent Fasting?
Obtaining your optimum health is a journey. If you would like to try intermittent fasting to see if this benefits your health, talk to our Naturopaths today.
We can help you to implement an intermittent fasting program that will not damage your health.
Learn how to:
- plan your pre and post fast meals to prevent digestive problems;
- support your bodies elimination channels to gain optimum results from your fast;
- modify your fast to address specific health concerns such as high blood sugar or cholesterol.