Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting by Dr. Christie Smirl

Intermittent fasting means of voluntary abstinence from food and nutritive drink for a set period of time. Humans have fasted throughout evolution not just due to food not being available. Fasting is a part of major religions, including Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism, Toaism, Christianity, Judaism, Jainism and Buddhism with connections to strengthening one’s discipline, austerity, mental powers, spiritual connection and physical health. Ayurveda and yoga also advocate fasting. This type of nutrition practice has been shown to reduce the risk for several diseases and reverse disease processes.

There are several ways to intermittently fast. One way to intermittently fast is to only eat during a few hour window each day or set days. For example only eating during a short window of time such as noon and 4 pm, then refraining from food for 20 hours. Many people call this system OMAD (one meal a day). Another method is to eat healthy 6 days a week then fast for a full day each week. Most experts suggest gradually acclimating to fasting. Many fads promote juice fasting. The problem with this method is it is high in fructose and sugars are counterproductive to the objective of fasting. Occasionally I suggests green juicing (blending green veggies only – no fruit) to help people learn how to go without solids. However, the psychological and emotional hurdle of being hungry must be contended with eventually to successfully fast.

Whether trying to loose weight or not, fasting has vast medical benefits. Let us take a look at those benefits.

DIABETES PREVENTION AND TREATMENT

Intermittent fasting for 18 – 20 hours improves blood sugar levels. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 84.1 million people in the United States are pre-diabetic which often leads to diabetes in less than five years. Intermittent fasting can assist in weight loss, reduced insulin resistance and improved blood sugar maintenance. Intermittent fasting allows the body to produce insulin less often. Research shows that a diet mimicking fasting cycles may restore insulin secretion and promote the generation of new insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells in mice with type 1 and 2 diabetes.

IMPROVE CARDIOVASCULAR HEALTH

According to the CDC, about 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year. Heart disease can be reduced by eating healthy, exercising, not smoking, limiting alcohol as well as intermittent fasting. In research studies it is shown that people practicing an alternate-day fasting regimen successfully lost weight, reduced blood pressure, total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides which decreases overall cardiovascular risks.

ANTI-AGING EFFECTS

Intermittent fasting studies show that fasting delays aging as well as prevents and treats diseases. Fasting triggers adaptive cellular autophagy, the normal physiological process in the body that deals with destruction of cells in the body. Autophagy maintains homeostasis or normal cellular functioning by protein degradation and turnover of the destroyed cell organelles for new cell formation. This process also improves mitochondria function. Intermittent fasting balances the endocrine system and promotes growth hormones for healthier skin, bone, brain and muscles. Fasting also reduces free radical damage, inflammation and slows the effects of aging.

WEIGHT LOSS AND DIGESTIVE HEALTH AND DETOXIFICATION

Intermittent fasting promotes fat loss through ketosis and can jump-start metabolism. In addition, this practice allows the digestive system to rest from breaking down and absorbing food. This energy conservation allows the body to focus on elimination of toxins and healing itself. When the body is detoxified people experience more energy, happier moods, improved concentration and focus, feeling more relaxed, glowing skin, better sleep, stronger immune system, less joint pain as well as fewer colds and infections

Intermittent fasting is not safe for every individual and should be practiced only under medical supervision in conditions such as insulin dependent diabetes, certain rare metabolic disorders, unstable arrhythmias, dehydration, organ failure, Cushing’s syndrome, administration of potassium wasting diuretics, adrenergic stimulating agents, or actively gastric bleeding. Always consult your family doctor, Ayurvedic specialist or nutritionist before starting a fasting regimen and have guidance through the process.

Dr. Christie Smirl has over 25 years of medical experience. She completed a Doctorate of Ayurvedic Medicine from American University of Complimentary Medicine as well as Nurse Practitioner and Master of Science from Loma Linda University. Dr. Christie is also an E-RYT 500 Yoga Teacher Trainer YACEP, Reiki Master/Teacher, Tantric Energy Healer and Musician.

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