11 Reasons To Start Fasting Now
Our mammalian bodies have had hundreds of thousands of years to develop the biochemical adaptations required to survive — even thrive — during periods of food scarcity. Intermittent periods of fasting mimic these historical environmental conditions and trigger many of these evolutionary adaptations.
Fasting is a great tool to have in your health and wellness arsenal. It’s easy, it’s cheap and it works fast.
Here are some other good reasons to start fasting now.
Fasting stabilizes blood sugar and improves insulin sensitivity: Eating, especially the continuous consumption of carbohydrate-rich foods, raises glucose levels, which triggers the release of insulin. Insulin pushes glucose out of the bloodstream to our organs and muscles, but if glucose is not used as fuel it’s stored in cells and converted to fat. When cells become insulin-resistant, more glucose accumulates in the blood and eventually becomes fat (insulin is known as the “storage hormone”). During fasting the body secretes less insulin because you’re not continuously consuming carbohydrates. Lower levels of insulin naturally lead to increased insulin sensitivity, which supports healthy blood sugar levels.
Fasting strengthens the immune system: During fasting, the immune system gets a chance to rest and take a break from fighting the inflammation caused by a constant stream of food antigens. Short fasts can even trigger the activation of stem cells to produce new white blood cells, boosting immunity.
Fasting stimulates cell regeneration: Fasting promotes the destruction of malfunctioning cells and tissues through a process called autophagy, which is the body’s way of clearing out damaged or dysfunctional cells. Fasting also helps protect healthy tissues, which must adapt to adverse conditions like famine or fasting. Continuous access to food prevents your body from undergoing the repair and rejuvenation processes that occur during fasting.
Fasting reduces hunger and cravings: Your fatty tissue produces several hormones, including leptin. Your leptin levels control how hungry you feel, and how satisfied you feel after a meal. With fasting, leptin levels drop initially, but as you lose weight, you increase leptin sensitivity. Becoming more responsive to leptin signals corresponds to feelings of greater satiety.
Fasting reduces hormones thought to promote cancer: Fasting reduces blood levels of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), which is associated with increased risk of some cancers, including breast and prostate. Fasting also reduces levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines, small proteins that also have a role in promoting cancer growth.
Fasting reduces inflammation: An unhealthy diet is a pro-inflammatory diet. Refined sugar, refined carbs, alcohol, meat, dairy, and fried or charred foods all create free radicals, which cause oxidative damage to cells, resulting in chronic inflammation. Foregoing a few meals prevents inflammation caused by food over-consumption.
Fasting promotes longevity and healthy aging: Fasting is a key component of a longevity diet. It can promote longer life and healthy aging through better insulin sensitivity (reducing risk from Type II diabetes), improved cardiovascular and heart health, lower blood pressure and better blood triglycerides.
Fasting improves body composition: After your body burns through its glucose reserves during fasting it enters what is known as ketosis, or the fat-burning state. Ketosis is the metabolic process which converts fat into energy rather than glucose, the body’s primary fuel source. Fasting, particularly intermittent fasting, helps you reach ketosis more quickly than traditional calorie restriction. One study found that fasting significantly boosted fat metabolism in humans, which is important to overall health because excessive fat stored around organs (like the liver and kidneys) interferes with organ function. By turbo-charging fat burning, fasting leads to weight loss, the shedding of excess body fat and improvement of the ratio of fat to lean muscle mass.
Fasting improves brain function: Fasting boosts the production of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a naturally occurring growth hormone that is responsible for neurogenesis (the creation of new neurons). BDNF has been called “Miracle Gro for the brain” by Harvard neuropsychiatrist John J. Ratey, MD, author of Spark, The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. Higher levels of BDNF are associated with increased intelligence, mood, productivity, and memory and with decreased risks of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's & Parkinson's.
Fasting makes chemotherapy much more toxic to many cancers, including melanoma, breast cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer, colorectal cancer, neuroblastoma and many other cancers, according to Valter Longo, author of The Longevity Diet and inventor of the Fasting Mimicking Diet.
Fasting can change your relationship to food: Fasting helps eliminate binge eating, establishes healthier eating habits and patterns and leads to greater satiety. Periods of voluntary fasting will help you learn how to control food rather than letting it control you.
While fasting can be easily practiced by most adults (it’s even an important component of many spiritual and religious traditions) you should talk with a professional (a doctor or nutritionist) before incorporating fasting into your health and wellness regimen, especially if you’re an older adult, you’re suffering from an untreated chronic illness, have reason to believe that you’re already deficient in certain key nutrients or might be pregnant.
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