One of the fastest ways to reduce caloric intake is to omit meals. Fasting has cultural significance in other countries, while some regard this activity as an expression of faith. Others simply fast for the health benefits it gives.
Depending on the type of fasting used, the health benefits may vary. The most common type of fasting is caloric restriction. This is recommended for individuals who want to lose weight.
There’s also more specific types of fasting where a nutrient is omitted from the diet. The type of nutrient omitted are macronutrients – these are carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. This type of fasting has medical significance and is used to treat certain diseases.
The Stages of Fasting
The body’s baseline for sending feedback to the brain to remind you the time to eat is your normal day-to-day blood sugar levels. Once the body detects a slight decrease in glucose, your gastrointestinal system starts to activate. This creates a feedback to the brain forcing you to look for sources of nutrition.
If you get past the hunger pangs, the body then starts to utilize existing fat and glucose stores. The liver has the ability to store and make glucose. This process is called gluconeogenesis.
Since the liver is pulling glucose from its stores, including muscles, weakness is expected. As long as there’s stored glucose, the body will refrain from metabolizing existing proteins from muscles.
The brain also starts to shrink unless a steady supply of water is available. Since the brain consumes about 20% of the available glucose in the bloodstream, fasting will also lessen cognitive capability. Dizziness and an inability to concentrate are some symptoms.
What Benefits Does Fasting Give?
There’s a lot of negative side effects of fasting, but it also has its benefits. The lack of food in the digestive tract gives the intestines time to recover and clean itself out. Since there’s a deficiency in calories, one also loses weight.
Fasting may also help people at risk for diabetes. Fasting “resets” blood sugar to healthy levels. This forces the body to burn calories from fat stores.
Fasting also helps avoid the development of certain allergies. If you’re fasting from a carb-heavy diet, you have a low chance of developing inflammatory diseases like gluten sensitivity.
In relation to inflammatory diseases, fasting helps improve brain function. Not only that, it showed that reducing caloric intake restructures the brain for better cognition. It has also been found that fasting can improve the lives of individuals with Parkinson’s or Alzheimers.
Red meat has also been attributed as causing colon cancer. Several other foods have a probability of inducing colon cancers. Taking a digestive “break” helps to reduce the chance of developing the disease.
Another benefit fasting gives is the improvement of cardiac function. It also helps reduce blood pressure and stabilize cholesterol levels. In a study, a group of obese individuals reported that they experienced improved blood pressure.