The Spiritual and Physical Benefits
by Keith Bishop
Your body is made for fasting to survive seasonal changes and famines that have occurred over the millennia. Body fat is a virtual storehouse of energy similar to the battery in a cell phone or flashlight. The body will store fat (charge the battery) in feasting during times of plenty and burn fat during fasting or famine (draining the battery). Cells in the body, including the brain, heart and muscle, can use glucose (from carbohydrates) or ketone bodies (from fat) for energy.
For thousands of years, the human race has fasted due to lack of food. During forced times of fasting, people noticed an improved communication and relationship with the higher being. Today, most religions encourage times of fasting, meditation and prayer.
Fasting can take on several methods:
- Skipping an occasional or daily meal
- 16-hour fast with eight hours of moderate eating
- Fasting for one or two days with moderate eating five to six days
- Prolonged fasting for one or more weeks at a time
All of these options require sufficient hydration, since humans can’t live for more than three to four days without water. Proper hydration also helps eliminate toxins released from fat cells.
The New Testament of the Bible—the foundation for the newer beliefs of Christianity— discusses fasting 12 times. In Matthew 6:16, Jesus Christ states, “When you fast . . .” thus expecting his followers to fast. Spiritual benefits are difficult to qualify and quantify from a scientific and medical standpoint. People need to experience them for themselves. The following information pertains to the physical benefits of intermittent fasting from research published in medical journals:
Several studies of Muslim Ramadan fasting, a type of intermittent fasting for one month, found the practice might reduce body weight, waist measurement, body fat, blood glucose, blood pressure, anxiety, blood cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, inflammation and cancer-promoting chemicals.
The Journal of Neuroscience published a 2014 summary stating that intermittent fasting can improve brainpower; protect neurons against injury and neurodegenerative disorders (Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s); and improve energy production in the body and function of the nervous system, which controls the heart, intestines, sex organs, thyroid and adrenal glands.
The Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging published a study demonstrating intermittent fasting in men provided significant decreases in tension, anger and confusion while improving mood and energy, compared to the control group of men. Depression scores were not affected.
The Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics published results showing after four weeks of intermittent fasting, individuals gained improved spatial planning and memory.
However, several adult and child studies find the brain function of attention is not better in fasting and also found low blood glucose levels. This negative effect is even greater in children. Glucose allows faster brain function while ketones may slow brain function. Cognitive performance is the same in both groups. Also, schizophrenia patients with metabolic syndrome may notice worsening emotional symptoms during intermittent fasting.
Some people develop extreme hunger while trying to fast. This can develop if there are physical issues keeping the body from burning fat. Similar issues were measured in failing weight-loss programs, and it was discovered water retention and cellular damage worsens in this type of person. Usually this issue resolves with liver support that helps convert fat-soluble toxins to water-soluble, which can be eliminated in urine.
While intermittent fasting may provide many spiritual and physical benefits, it may not be appropriate for everyone. Children less than 18; people with schizophrenia, diabetes, gastroesophageal reflux disease or hypoglycemia; those with heart, kidney or eye disease; and pregnant or lactating women should consult with their healthcare practitioner prior to fasting.
Keith Bishop is the clinical nutritionist at Flourish Compounding Pharmacy and Nutrition Center. He has specialized in natural hormones, thyroid function, supplements and food programs in the Oklahoma metro area since 1985.