There are many different reasons why someone would undertake abstinence from food or food and water for a short period of time. For some people, fasting forms part of religious or spiritual practice while for others it is a way to help cleanse the body of toxins or lose weight. Putting food aside for a limited period of time is thought to have health and spiritual benefits. While some fasting proponents praise its value, some health experts question its safety, particularly when taken to the extreme.
Is Fasting Natural?
According to a paper published in the Journal of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by an international group of researchers, our normal eating pattern of 3 meals per day with in-between snacking is highly abnormal when taken from the perspective of human evolution. This is based on the fact that our early ancestors who were hunter-gatherers ate intermittently when food such as captured prey became available.
Intermittent Fasting For Health Reasons or Weight Loss
Fasting can be defined as abstaining from eating and drinking for eight hours or more. Technically we fast every night when asleep and when we awake in the morning our bodies are in a fasting state, meaning it has stopped absorbing nutrients from the food we consumed before going to bed. At this time our bodies start using stored-up glucose for energy. When these energy stores have been depleted, your body functions may start to slow down and you may feel tired and rundown. After the body has gone without food for an extended period of time, typically about 48 hours, it will enter a state of ketosis where the body starts to break down stored fat for energy. Several types of ‘intermittent fasting’ diets have recently become popular for health reasons or to lose weight.
Fasting to Detox
Anywhere from a couple of days to a few weeks of fasting can help cleanse and rejuvenate your body. There are a variety of ways to detox with fasting including complete abstinence for a period of time or cutting out solid foods but drinking water and juices. Fasting has been used for hundreds of years by cultures all around the world as a way to rid the body of excess toxins. However, before going on a prolonged fast to detox your system, be sure that you are healthy and well-educated on safe ways to fast that will not harm you in the long run.
Fasting for Religious or Spiritual Reasons
Fasting for religious reasons is usually a deliberate decision to deny physical gratification that includes abstinence from food for a short period of time, typically during special religious holidays. It means intentionally renouncing the natural needs of the physical body in order to focus on a specific spiritual goal. It is the way that saints seeking direction received a breakthrough in times of crisis or obtained relief from the burdens of life which included emotional, relational, circumstantial, ministerial, and other kinds of issues. Fasting, as intended by God, is meant to be a humbling experience when the desires of the flesh are denied in order to be nourished by spiritual food instead of physical bread and water. It is always connected to some form of prayer or meditation.
Fasting may be good for the soul, but is it good for the body? Although it has been practiced for thousands of years, fasting is still a subject of intense debate among medical professionals. While fasting for a couple of days won’t cause any problems if you are healthy, it can be dangerous for people who are not currently on a healthy, nutritious diet and for those with liver or kidney problems; a compromised immune system; or on medication – even something as mild as Tylenol.