Fasting therapy, as advocated by traditional Naturopathy, can lead to enhanced health, weight loss and a greater sense of wellbeing. Fasting gives our digestive organs ample time to restore optimal functioning that have been disturbed with poor food choices and sedentary lifestyles.
Fasting has various health benefits that include improved cardiovascular health, better insulin sensitivity, decreased blood sugar levels, improved mitochondrial energy and enhanced detoxification. Fasting also helps us to better assess hunger levels and portion sizes that play a vital role in determining our health in the later stages of life. Fasting, in a way, enables us to listen to the needs of our body and make healthy choices to ensure longevity and good health.
Intermittent Fasting (also known as ‘Time Restricted Feeding’) is the practice of extending periods of non-eating so that glucose and glycogen stores are fully utilised before the next meal is consumed. The literature is variable on how long this takes, but it’s somewhere between 12 and 16 hours, and likely dependent on your individual metabolic status. The reason the first meal of the day is called breakfast is because sleeping through the night is often long enough for the body to achieve this fasting state.
Animal studies indicate that this long stretch of fasting between dinner and breakfast can lead to more variety of beneficial bacteria in the gut, leading to less aggressive extraction of calories from the diet, which could be great for weight management.
Simply put, it just means avoiding returning to the fridge for a late-night nibble. For instance, if you finish eating dinner at 6pm, don’t eat a single morsel of food again until at least 7am, although drinking water is permitted.
The beauty of intermittent fasting is you don’t have to count any calories or go through periods in the day when you need to be performing well, whilst battling hunger and irritability.
Studies of intermittent fasting show that not only do people see improvements in blood pressure and their cholesterol levels, it can act as a breast cancer preventative, and reduce insulin sensitivity (which relates to type II diabetes and metabolic syndrome).
What’s more, couple this with healthy food choices, regular exercise and stress management will create a recipe to help you achieve optimal health once more.
A note on the 5:2 Diet
On the Fast 5:2 diet, you eat ‘normally’ for 5 days and then fast for 2 days, eating a quarter of your recommended daily calorie quota on the fast days. This usually works out to be 500 calories (2092 kilojoules) for women, or 600 (2510 kilojoules) for men. Researchers have found that most people who fast tend not to eat as much on the days following a fast, although weight loss success also depends on not over-eating on your ‘normal’ days.
An example day on your 2 fasting days may include light with beverages such as herbal teas, a healthy salad (greens, celery, radish, sprouts, and an egg for lunch) and a vegetable soup for dinner (no fats just vegies). In between, it is important to stay hydrated with at least 2 litres of water daily. In addition, supplementing including green powers including spirulina or chlorella may assist in detoxification and adjusting to a more alkaline pH, thereby reducing inflammation.
Intermittent fasting is not for everyone and is not recommended during pregnancy or whilst breast-feeding. Planning and organisation are the key and knowing whether this is appropriate for you. Knowing what to eat and portion control is important. It is recommended to consult a qualified naturopath or nutritionist If you are planning on starting any diet regime.