Overconsumption of food is stressful for the body and brain. Research is beginning to show that fasting- abstaining from food for anything from 12-40 hours can benefit overall health and even slow the ageing process .
From an evolutionary perspective, fasting makes a lot of sense. Our ancestors didn’t eat three meals a day plus snacks. Food consumption alternated between times of plenty and times of scarcity.
In the paleothilic days of hunting and gathering, we were seldom overfed. We would go several days without food (in between big buffalo hunts), we didn’t have 24/7 access to hyper-processed carb-heavy foods (nuts and tart berries were our snacks), and we were significantly more physically active, and of course better rested.
Excess calories are not good from a metabolic perspective. This can create excess waste, oxidation and DNA damage. In addition, where there is glucose, there must be insulin, and we know by now that always-on insulin (and it’s counterpart also known as insulinlike growth factor IGF-1) is linked to chronic diseases like diabetes and cancer.
It’s not safe to just jump right in though. Find out if, how and when to fast safely for your body type. Speak to someone at Parsley Health .
Evidence shows that fasting may improve: cholesterol levels , how we metabolize glucose, how resistant our cells are to insulin , and even improve our cognitive function . It may also reduce auto-immune diseases in some cases. And it may boost natural levels of a hormone associated with youth and anti-aging called DHEA.
Fasting results in something called ketogenesis which is when the cells burn fat for energy instead of glucose. Being in a ketogenic state has been shown to promote cellular responses that ultimately lower inflammation and oxidative stress and optimize energy metabolism.
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Important distinction: Fasting is not the same as either calorie restriction (a 20-40% reduction in calorie intake) or starvation (a prolonged state of nutrient deprivation). At Parsley Health we don’t see the point of counting calories because not all calories are created equal and certain high-calorie foods, like good fats for example, are needed by the body everyday to maintain health.
Most research has been done on two different types of fasting. Intermittent fasting is fasting for one full day once or twice per week. Periodic fasting is fasting for a few days every couple of weeks. There’s no hard rule on which one is best.
“I recommend doing a mini daily fast, which means waiting at least 12 hours between dinner and breakfast every day or every other day. This will improve weight-loss and metabolism. You can also experiment with periodic fasting -fasting one full day per week or every other week -and monitor how it makes you feel. DO not do longer fasts without a doctor’s supervision,” says Robin Berzin MD, founder of Parsley Health.
Make sure you pick a day of rest for your fast day. Take things easy, get a massage, maybe go to a sauna briefly if you can or take an Epsom Salt bath to further promote relaxation and detoxification. Stay hydrated. Don’t try to do a workout on your fast day as this will only add stress and reverse any positive effects, including weight-loss.
There are several conditions for which fasting is not ideal – speak to your doctor first. We’re here to help!