Fasting is abstaining from all or some kinds of food or drink, especially as a religious observance or for the sake of health. . According to Hindu religion scriptures, fasting helps to create an attunement with the absolute by establishing harmonious relationship between the body and mind (soul). Why to fast? A wise quote says “When the stomach is full, the intellect begins to sleep. Wisdom becomes mute and the parts of the body restrain from acts of righteousness.”According to Hindu philosophy, food means gratification of the senses and to starve the senses is to elevate senses to contemplation.
Hindus fast on certain days of the month especially full moon and 11th day of the fortnight called Ekadasi. Certain days of the week is also marked for fasting, depending on individual choices and on one’s favorite god and goddess. In other religions also people fast on various occasions.
Is it good to fast? Answer is yes. Scientific studies have shown that fasting helps to achieve various goals related to body and mind. Fasting improves our body and cell structures in various ways. For instance, some people refrain from taking salt on particular days. It is common knowledge that excess salt and sodium causes hypertension or elevation of blood pressure.
Fasting in Sanskrit is upavaasa. Upa means “near” and vaasa means “to stay”. Upavaasa therefore means staying near (the Lord), meaning the attainment of close mental proximity with the Lord.
A lot of our time and energy is spent in procuring food items, preparing, cooking, eating and digesting food. Certain food types make our minds dull and agitated. According to Ayurveda, fasting helps to get rid of the toxic materials in the digestive system. By fasting, the digestive organs get relief from the work and results in body cleansing. To avoid feeling low energy or fatigue one can have warm lime juice during the period of fasting. Fasting also acts as antidote to emotional balance -as per Ayurveda, our body is composed of 80% of liquid and rest solid and the gravitational force from the moon affects the fluid contents of the body and can disturb the mind. Fasting helps to gain the balance.
What are the benefits of intermittent fasting?
1. Changes the way function of cells, hormones and genes:
• Blood levels of insulin drop significantly, which facilitates fat burning.
• It helps in production of good amount of hormones. Higher levels of this hormone facilitate fat burning and muscle gain, and have numerous other benefits. The body induces important cellular repair processes, such as removing waste material from cells.
• There are beneficial changes in several genes and molecules related to longevity and protection against disease.
2. It can help to lose weight and belly fat
• Intermittent fasting helps you eat fewer calories, while boosting metabolism slightly. It is a very effective tool to lose weight and belly fat.
• Intermittent fasting will make us eat fewer meals. Unless you compensate by eating much more during the other meals, you will end up taking in fewer calories. Additionally, intermittent fasting enhances hormone function to facilitate weight loss.
• Lower insulin levels, higher growth hormone levels and increased amounts of nor -epinephrine – this increase helps in the breakdown of body fat and facilitate its use for energy.
3. It can lower risk of Type 2 Diabetes
• Anything that reduces insulin resistance should help lower blood sugar levels and protect against type -2 diabetes. Interestingly, intermittent fasting has been shown to have major benefits for insulin resistance and lead to an impressive reduction in blood sugar levels.
4. Beneficial For Heart Health
• Studies show that intermittent fasting can improve numerous risk factors for heart disease such as blood pressure, cholesterol levels, triglycerides and inflammatory markers.
5. Induces Various Cellular Repair Processes
• Fasting triggers a metabolic pathway called autophagy, which removes waste material from cells. Increased autophagy may provide protection against several diseases, including cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
6. Help Prevent Cancer
• Intermittent fasting has been shown to help prevent cancer in animal studies. One paper in humans showed that it can reduce side effects caused by chemotherapy.. Fasting has been shown to have several beneficial effects on metabolism that may lead to reduced risk of cancer.
7. Fasting is Good For Your Brain
• Several studies in rats have shown that intermittent fasting may increase the growth of new nerve cells, which should have benefits for brain function. Intermittent fasting may have important benefits for brain health. It may increase growth of new neurons and protect the brain from damage. What is good for the body is often good for the brain as well.
8. Intermittent Fasting May Help Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease
• Studies in animals suggest that intermittent fasting may be protective against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease.
9. Intermittent Fasting May Extend Your Lifespan, Helping You Live Longer
• One of the most exciting applications of intermittent fasting may be its ability to extend lifespan. Although this is far from being proven in humans, intermittent fasting has become very popular among the anti-aging crowd. Given the known benefits for metabolism and all sorts of health markers, it makes sense that intermittent fasting could help you live a longer and healthier life.
How and when to fast?
It is not difficult to fast, one has to make up their mind and should have self -discipline to go through a day without much food. Try once or twice and then you will see how the body feels. Do not go overboard on fasting, as frequent fasting may cause acidity and ulcer. Talk to your physician. Select one or two days in a month or select one day a week to fast. You can consume fruits and vegetables and have tea, lemon juice or other fruit juices. Do not forget to drink water. Eat something that is meant for fasting (as per your religion), or eat something very light – preferably fruits. Do not eat meat, do not smoke or drink alcohol on fasting day. Select those days which you prefer to fast and make sure to eat good meal previous day of fasting.
Remember: Fasting is for cleansing the body and to keep both body and mind happy and healthy.