Fasting has been a part of many cultural and religious traditions for ages. In ayurveda, it is used to balance the doshas and treat certain diseases. Fasting or upavasa is one of 10 langhana (that which produces lightness) therapies and it is considered beneficial in diseases characterized by heaviness such as obesity, indigestion, sinusitis, diabetes etc.
Benefits Of Fasting As Per Ayurveda
It is used to tackle an imbalance in kapha and pitta and is thought to help:
- kindle the digestive fire
- rectify metabolism
- control ama (toxins)
- remove blockages in your tissues or channels
- bring a sense of lightness and health to the body
- reverse pathological processes in the initial stages
- strengthen the digestive system
- fight inflammation
- aids weight loss
- boost brain function
- delays ageing
- controls blood sugar by reducing insulin resistance
Pitfalls Of Excessive Fasting
Langhana therapies are supposed to be done under the supervision of an ayurvedic doctor. Inappropriate or excessive fasting can result in:
- Parva bheda: cracked skin, crackling sound in small joints
- Kshut pranasa: loss of appetite
- Aruchi: anorexia
- Mukha shosha: dry mouth
- Trishna: thirst
- Kasa: cough
- Angamarda: body ache, malaise
- Sambhrama: dizziness, memory loss, bloating
- Tamo hrudi: lowered functioning of the heart, loss of the power of digestion as well as body strength, and emaciation
- Weakness of the ears and eyes
It is important to maintain a healthy weight because obesity is known to cause complications such as high blood pressure, sleep disorders, atherosclerosis, diabetes, heart disease, high blood cholesterol, and certain cancers.[red][Overweight and Obesity].National Institutes of Health.}} Fasting has traditionally been used in ayurveda to treat obesity.
What Are The Types Of Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting (IF) is an eating plan where you regularly switch between eating and fasting according to a schedule. While many weight loss plans and diets focus on what you eat, intermittent fasting is focused on when you eat. In this eating plan you only eat during a fixed time – this can translate to various schedules such as fasting for a specified number of hours in a day, having only one meal for a couple of days a week, etc. Let’s take a look at some common intermittent fasting methods:[Intermittent Fasting: What is it, and how does it work?].The John Hopkins University.
1. 5:2 Or The Twice A Week Method
In this kind of intermittent fasting your calories are restricted to 500 calories for any two days in a week provided that they don’t immediately follow each other. This typically translates to 2 meals on fasting days – a 200 calorie one and a 300 calorie one – with a focus on high protein high fiber foods. You have a healthy, normal diet for the other five days in the week.
2. Alternate Day Fasting
In this pattern of intermittent fasting you limit your calorie intake to 500 calories or around 25% of your normal diet on every other day. In strict variations of this approach you don’t consume any calories at all on alternate days. On non-fasting days you have a healthy normal diet.
3. The Eat. Stop. Eat Method Or 24-Hour Fast
People following this form of IF fast completely for 24 hours – for instance, you can fast from lunch to lunch or breakfast to breakfast. It’s usually done only once or twice a week. And you may experience side effects such as headaches, fatigue, hunger, low energy, and irritability with this version. On non-fasting days you have a healthy, normal diet.
4. Time-Restricted Eating (For Instance, The 14/10 Or 16/8 Method)
In this pattern of intermittent fasting you have set time periods during which you eat or fast. For instance, in the 14/10 method you fast for 14 hours in a day and you can eat for 10 hours, say between 10 in the morning and 8 at night. Meanwhile in the 16/8 method you fast for 16 hours and you can eat for 8, say between 7 in the morning and 3 pm.
You can follow this pattern of eating once or twice a week or repeat it whenever you like.
And do keep in mind that it’s important to have a healthy balanced diet while intermittent fasting no matter which method you follow. You can’t consume excessive calories or junk food during the non fasting days and lose weight.[Intermittent Fasting: 4 Different Types Explained].Cleveland Clinic.
How Intermittent Fasting Works For Weight Loss?
Intermittent fasting can help with weight loss. This makes sense to us instinctively. In fact, in prehistoric times it used to take a lot of time and effort to hunt for food, so we have evolved to go without food for long periods.
But how does it work? When we consume food it’s broken down in our gut and released into our bloodstream. Carbohydrates are broken down into sugar, and moved from the bloodstream into our cells by a hormone known as insulin. This sugar is used for energy by our cells. If our cells don’t need to use it all up then we store it as fat in our fat cells. When we fast our insulin levels go down. Instead of sugar moving into our fat cells, stored sugar is released from fat cells and used for energy. The basic idea behind intermittent fasting is that when our insulin levels go down sufficiently, for long enough, we start to burn fat. So we’re essentially giving our bodies time to burn through the calories that we had during our last meal and then start burning fat.[Intermittent fasting: Surprising update]. Harvard Health Publishing. [Intermittent Fasting: What is it, and how does it work?]. The John Hopkins University.
Which Form Of Intermittent Fasting Should You Try?
Some experts seem to favor time restricted eating over other forms of intermittent eating. For one thing, we already fast when we sleep. It’s easier to extend this fast by a few hours than going for a version of intermittent fasting which requires severe restriction of calories.[Intermittent Fasting: 4 Different Types Explained].Cleveland Clinic.
Does it work? Yes. One study looked at the effect of restricted time eating on people with metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a combination of factors such as abdominal fat, high blood pressure, high triglyceride level, high fasting blood sugar, etc. which raises your risk for diabetes, heart disease, and other health issues.[Metabolic Syndrome]. U.S. National Library of Medicine. When the participants in this study restricted the window of time during which they consumed food to 10 hours for 12 weeks they found that it promoted weight loss and reduced abdominal fat, percentage of body fat, and waist circumference. It also reduced blood pressure and improved cardiometabolic health.Wilkinson, Michael J., Emily NC Manoogian, Adena Zadourian, Hannah Lo, Savannah Fakhouri, Azarin Shoghi, Xinran Wang et al. “Ten-hour time-restricted eating reduces weight, blood pressure, and … Continue reading
Experts also suggest that “early time-restricted feeding” where your meals are taken during the early part of the day (say between 7 am and 3pm) might be more beneficial because our internal clock has evolved to be in sync with the cycle of day and night.[Intermittent fasting: Surprising update].Harvard Health Publishing.
But irrespective of the method you choose, it’s recommended that you ease into it. For instance, if you want to follow the 16/8 method you might want to start off by fasting for 10 hours before gradually increasing the fasting period to 12 hours and then eventually 16 hours.[The benefits of intermittent fasting]. UCI Health.
What Are Other Benefits Of Intermittent Fasting?
While weight loss might be an obvious benefit of fasting, it also appears to trigger many functions and reactions in the body. Research indicates that it may offer various benefits:
- Reduces cell damage due to inflammation and oxidation. Since intermittent fasting can help reduce inflammation, it may be helpful for improving conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, asthma, and multiple sclerosis which are associated with inflammation.
- Lowers blood pressure and blood sugar. Both these conditions are linked to heart disease so intermittent fasting might be good for your heart.
- Reduces risk of cancer.
- Improves memory and brain functions.[The benefits of intermittent fasting]. UCI Health. [What is intermittent fasting? Does it have health benefits?].Mayo Clinic.
- You should check with your doctor before trying intermittent fasting.
- Intermittent fasting is not recommended for children under the age of 18 or pregnant or breastfeeding women.
- You should avoid intermittent fasting if you have blood sugar problems or diabetes.
- If you have a history of an eating disorder you should avoid intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting has been observed to increase the chances of binge eating in some people.
- If you have gastroesophageal reflux, kidney stones, or other medical problems, consult your physician before trying intermittent fasting.
- Consult with your physician if you experience nausea, headaches, unusual anxiety or other symptoms after you begin intermittent fasting.
- Intermittent fasting may have side effects like fatigue, hunger, irritability, low energy etc. In most cases, these may go away in about a month.[Intermittent Fasting: What is it, and how does it work?].The John Hopkins University. [Intermittent Fasting: 4 Different Types Explained].Cleveland Clinic. [What is intermittent fasting? Does it have health benefits?].Mayo Clinic.
Q: Is intermittent fasting recommended for young adults?
A: Young people below the age of 18 should avoid intermittent fasting as it may hinder growth.
Q: How often should one partake in intermittent fasting?
A: If intermittent fasting is safe for you then, you can make it a part of your lifestyle, that is, you can continue with your regimen indefinitely. But do check in with your doctor before you start this eating plan.[Intermittent Fasting: What is it, and how does it work?].The John Hopkins University.
Q: Can people with medical conditions do intermittent fasting?
A: Intermittent fasting might not be suitable for people with diabetes, gastroesophageal reflux, kidney stones, or a history of eating disorders. It is important to check with your doctor before you try intermittent fasting.
|↑1, ↑12, ↑15||[Intermittent Fasting: What is it, and how does it work?].The John Hopkins University.|
|↑2, ↑5, ↑13||[Intermittent Fasting: 4 Different Types Explained].Cleveland Clinic.|
|↑3||[Intermittent fasting: Surprising update]. Harvard Health Publishing.|
|↑4||[Intermittent Fasting: What is it, and how does it work?]. The John Hopkins University.|
|↑6||[Metabolic Syndrome]. U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑7||Wilkinson, Michael J., Emily NC Manoogian, Adena Zadourian, Hannah Lo, Savannah Fakhouri, Azarin Shoghi, Xinran Wang et al. “Ten-hour time-restricted eating reduces weight, blood pressure, and atherogenic lipids in patients with metabolic syndrome.” Cell metabolism 31, no. 1 (2020): 92-104.|
|↑8||[Intermittent fasting: Surprising update].Harvard Health Publishing.|
|↑9, ↑10||[The benefits of intermittent fasting]. UCI Health.|
|↑11, ↑14||[What is intermittent fasting? Does it have health benefits?].Mayo Clinic.|