Fasting – Beneficial Or a Hazard To Your Health?
Fasting is the act of willingly refraining yourself from food & drink for a period of time. People are known to fast for religious, medical or spiritual reason all over the globe.
The fast is mentioned in the bible in chapter 58:6–7. In this chapter, ‘the nation of Israel is rebuked for their fasting, and given this exhortation’.
“Is not this the fast that I choose to loose the bonds of wickedness…Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house”
With Christianity’s point of view it is very clear that the fast is not merely the abstinence from food or water, but a decision to fully obey God’s commands to care for the poor and oppressed. The Day of Atonement is described as the day the Bible sets aside one whole day in a year for fasting.
“Everyone must go without eating from the evening of the ninth to the evening of the tenth on the seventh month which is the Day of Atonement.”
Mormonism are also known to fast on the first Sunday of each month. Surprisingly enough fasting is a very integral part of the Hindu religion based on personal beliefs and local differences across India. Orthodox jews are known to fast 6 days in a year as well as during ‘Yom Kippur’ which is considered to be the most important day of the Jewish year. It shows society is almost naive to believe fasting is only practised by muslims. Though in Islam, fasting for a month is an obligatory during the holy month of Ramadhan from Fajr (dawn) til Maghrib (dusk). Muslims not only abandon food & drink but are also encourage to abandon negative emotions & body pleasures in order to draw closer to Allah (god). Therefore, fasting strengthens control to develop good behaviour. By reducing food intake they are also encouraged to maintain a healthy diet. On a moral level they try to improve certain characteristics such as generosity & showing mercy to others. In essence, Muslims are trying to improve what they believe to be good moral character.
In Medicine, patients are told to fast prior a surgery which requires general anesthetics. This prevents vomiting & more importantly preventing a life threatening situation where the patient inhales the vomit. Since the 1900s doctors are known to prescribe a fast to eliminate hypertension & doctors still continue to use this method. A study on mice ‘show that fasting every other day while eating double the normal amount of food on non-fasting days can lead to improved insulin and sugar control, resistance to injury, and general health indicators. Punctuated fasting diets produced superior improvements compared with mice on 40% calorie restricted diets.Calories restriction may prolong lifespan and attenuate diseases associated with inflammation, oxidative stress and aging.’
The benefits of fasting is indicated by a look at the body’s progression when deprived of food. Due to the lack of incoming energy, the body must turn to its own resources. This process is called autolysis. Autolysis is the breaking down of fat stores in the body in order to produce energy. Fasting also allows the body detoxicate. This process is called Detoxification. As food is no longer entering the body it allows energy (from fat stores) to be focused on removing toxins through the colon, liver, kidneys, lungs, lymph glands, and skin. Another benefit of fasting is the healing process that begins in the body during a fast. During a fast energy is diverted away from the digestive system due to its lack of use and towards the immune system. Growth hormones are also released during a fast, due to a greater efficiency in hormone production. Scientist Will Carroll wrote
“The healing process during a fast is precipitated by the body’s search for energy sources. Abnormal growths within the body, tumors and the like, do not have the full support of the body’s supplies and therefore are more susceptible to autolysis. Furthermore, production of protein for replacement of damaged cells occurs more efficiently because fewer mistakes are made by the DNA/RNA genetic controls which govern this process. A higher efficiency in protein synthesis results in healthier cells, tissues and organs. This is one reason that animals stop eating when they are wounded, and why humans lose hunger during influenza. Hunger has been proven absent in illnesses such as tonsillitis and colds”
A study was on earthworms that showed the extension of life due to fasting. By isolating one worm and putting it on a cycle of fasting and feeding. The isolated worm outlasted its relatives by 19 generations, while still maintaining its youthful physiological traits.
The main hazard of fasting is that it may cause dehydration & absent of food is a danger in itself. This is why many doctors warn against fasting for extended periods of time without supervision. But has short periods of time it is proven to be very beneficial to your health by reducing excess fat, improving the immune system & reducing the unwanted toxins built up & accumulated in the body over time. Mainly religions believe God prescribed us to fast for many reasons which includes these health benefits.