I don’t know about you, but once April arrives I am thinking colors, warmth and beautiful sounds. The sandhill cranes have returned to our hay field. I am hearing birds chirping and saw a blue jay at my bird feeder the other day. Spring is a time where I clean house and de-clutter, including frequent stops at St. Vincent’s. What about spring cleaning our health? How does that look? What steps can each of us take to re-set?
Fasting is a topic I get asked about frequently. If you go back in history fasting was a practice done for many reasons including spiritual, self-discipline, religious and also health benefits. Lets focus on how fasting can benefit our health.
Human body cells disintegrate and recycle their own parts constantly. Most of the tissues in our bodies replace their cells with new ones on a regular basis. Each organ requires its own time to renew itself completely. The process by which human cells recycle their trash is referred to as autophagy. “Auto” meaning self and “phagein” translates as eating. When this process occurs it allows the body to break down different protein structures and transform them into amino acids, which are then used to create more cells. This process works for all cells including toxic cells to get rid of the waste. When fasting occurs, cells break down during this process quicker. Levels of nitric acid also increase. The nitric acid molecule helps to detoxify and rejuvenate the body, thus giving you more energy. When we increase this energy there are numerous health benefits that occur.
- First, periods of fasting decrease insulin levels. This will in turn decrease inflammation and decrease blood sugar levels.
- Second, fasting decreases oxidative stress. When this is decreased we have less free radicals which mean a reduced risk of chronic health conditions, including diseases such as cancer, heart-related illness and neurodegenerative diseases like dementia and cognitive decline.
- Third, it can help with weight loss. When fasting occurs, insulin levels drop and cells release glucose stores as energy which is effective in weight loss.
- Fourth, fasting causes the body to rely on ketones for energy as opposed to glucose which prevents cognitive decline.
So how long should fasting be, and is there a time of day that is more effective? The answer to this is variable and dependent on the individual and other health factors. A simple way to begin this practice is to begin with longer periods of fast during the evening. For example, if you typically eat dinner at 6:00pm and have breakfast at 5:00am the following morning try to extend that time by eating dinner 30 minutes earlier and breakfast 30 minutes later so that you are going 12 hours without food. As I have referenced Dr. Bredesen before, he refers to the 3/12 fast meaning not eating 3 hours prior to bedtime and going for periods of 12 hour fast during the night. It is a great way to begin the practice of fasting and re-cycle and rejuvenate our cells.