Fasting is an integral part of many of the major religions including Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Christianity. Many are dubious as to whether the physiological effects are as beneficial as the spiritual ones as promoted by these religions. This article which is an extract from Will Carroll's research paper is an attempt to raise awareness on possible physiological benefits that may result from fasting.
Definition: Fasting technically commences when the carbohydrate stores in the body begin to be used as an energy source. The fast will continue as long as fat and carbohydrate stores are used for energy. Once protein stores begin to be depleted for energy (resulting in loss of muscle mass), a person is technically starving.
Physiological Response: Due to the lack of incoming energy, body reduces the core body temperature by slowing down metabolic rate and general bodily functions. It turns to its own resources for energy, a function called autolysis. Autolysis is the breaking down of fat stores in the body in order to produce energy. The liver is in charge of converting the fats into a chemical called a ketone body, and then distributing it via the blood stream. When this fat utilization occurs, free fatty acids are released into the blood stream and are used by the liver for energy.
Detoxification is a normal body process of eliminating or neutralizing toxins through the colon, liver, kidneys, lungs, lymph glands, and skin. This process is enhanced by fasting. Undesirable chemicals (like DDT, BHA, Sodium Benzoate, Polysorbate-80 etc.) which body absorbs through environment or through consumption of various food items, are stored in fat reserves of body. During fasting the body turns to fat reserves for energy. In the process it releases these chemicals from the fatty acids into the system which are then eliminated through the aforementioned organs.
Healing Process is precipitated as body search for energy sources and conserves intelligently. During fasting energy is diverted away from the digestive system and towards the metabolism and immune system. Abnormal growths within the body, like tumors, cyst, fibroids etc. do not get the necessary support of the body's supplies and therefore are more susceptible to autolysis. Production of protein for replacement of damaged cells occurs more efficiently. A higher efficiency in protein synthesis results in healthier cells, tissues and organs. Efficiency in hormone production significantly improves during fasting, hence releasing growth hormones and anti-aging hormones.
Feeling of Rejuvenation and extended Life Expectancy is contributed by slower metabolic rate, more efficient protein production, an improved immune system and the increased production of hormones, including anti-aging hormone. A study performed in 1930's on earthworms demonstrated the extension of life due to fasting. The experiment isolated one worm and put that on a cycle of fasting and feeding. The isolated worm outlasted its relatives by 19 generations, while still maintaining its youthful physiological traits. The life-span extension of these worms was the equivalent of keeping a man alive for 600 to 700 years.
In conclusion, there are many reasons to consider fasting as a benefit to one's health. The body rids itself of the toxins that have built up in our fat stores throughout the years. The body heals itself, repairs all the damaged organs. And finally there is good evidence to show that regulated fasting contributes to longer life. There are still many schools of thoughts among healthcare practitioners. Some deny these points and claim that fasting is detrimental to one's health. Though it is a moot point, society has come to view fasting as essential to our survival, spiritually or physiologically.
From the desk of your health manager - Mohammed Hussain Naseem