As I write this post, I have almost reached the end of my three day fast.
I had tried a "one day fast" during my teacher training in India (yes I know that does not sound ground breaking, but please hear me out), which left me feeling energised and clear-minded the day I stopped, that I craved more of the experience. The only downfall? I have the appetite of an elephant.
But once I started talking to people who were "experienced fasters", I was advised to try it for longer. I was advised that benefits were only yielded after the 3rd day, once the initial hunger pangs had kicked in and once we got over them, to which I might add was a recipe for me dreaming about dancing chicken steaks in wraps. And that's a serious consequence, since I have become a 99 % flexitarian.
I was determined to do this but wanted to be as well-informed as I could be since there were so many controversial articles on the net concerning pros and cons of fasting.
The one sure thing I have learned in my educatuon surrounding nutrition is that there is no absolute truth in healthy nutrition theory. There are so many conflicting stories, it can feel overwhelming for any individual to kickstart their journey to becoming healthy and well nourished.
The most important thing to consider is bio-individuality and to listen to your body - a theory I will elaborate on in another article, however inappropriate that may sound in fasting! The intermittent fasting diet is another topic altogether in the field of holistic living which teaches us not to listen to our hunger pangs in order to yield the health benefits. See what I mean about conflicting theories?
But here's my take. When we are sick or worn out from illness, our bodies automatically switch off to having no appetite. This actually translates into the notion of self-healing. One would be surprised how much we can heal ourselves without medicine. For this reason the body does not have to go into overdrive to digest it's food, so the rest of the energy can be used to getting well.
So this healing tactic is the root cause of fasting. The idea to detox the body with its own natural processes by performing a spring clean internally.
When our hunger pangs kick in, it is also an oppurtunity to control our desires as we tend to consume too much food in these modern times. Hundreds of years ago it was inconceivable that we had this amount of access to food, which explains our digestive sytems feeling overwhelmed, which were not designed to process this much food we consume daily.
When we fast, our body fuels it's energy from the excess glycogen stored in our liver and also helps the body metablise more efficiently and ultimately sets the tone for a detox. After a few days of fasting, our body goes into a state of ketosis, which then uses fatcells as a source of energy for the brain and muscles.
So much of our energy is consumed for digestion and consequently overeating which in turn makes us sluggish, tired and can be the cause of many illnesses we experience today. It also leaves unanswered problems such as damaged nerves or embedded toxins in the gut to be ignored for our liver and body to eliminate which ultimately leads to disease = Dis Ease - as the word describes, or 'malaise' in french.
Bloated, gassy, burping sound familiar? Have you ever walked out of an italian restaurant and felt invigorated, refreshed, light or even well? I didn't think so.
Fasting has been known to improve cholesterol levels, diabetes, hypertension, lower high blood pressure and even help prevent inflammation in the body which in itself is a sign of the body telling us we need to slow down and listen.
Fasting teaches us to slow down and observe what our bodies can do with the power of self-healing. There's a nice ring to that right?
Some symptoms I recognised when I neared the end of my fast.
Extreme clarity of thought, Abundant energy during yoga (if going to excercise during a fast, consider a slow paced gentle form), easier meditation practice, clearer skin, deeper sleep, detoxification smyptoms such as nausea, very clear vision with vibrant colours (my favourite part!), less stress. But most importantly, my asthma symptoms greatly improved which sustains the argument for fighting inflammation.
All in all this was enough evidence for me to believe that there was something to this fasting theory. I will admit that it is not easy and if considering a fast, you will need to be in a situation where you can get lots of rest, be in an enviroment that is not taxing on your energy levels and that your body is well nourished and strong to begin with before the fast. I have not been brave enought to test a water fast, a topic where alot of controversial theories surround themselves, however I am intrigued nevertheless.
Personally, I found it important to nourish myself throughout the three days with coconut water (electrolyt and mineral fix), a green juice or even fruit juice during mealtimes (natural sugars and nutrients) accompanied with a wheatgrass shot (protein fix) once or twice a day depending on how crazy I was! woot!
The most important thing to bear in mind was the detox and cleansing process for my digestive system to take a holiday from solids.
There are countless and more extreme ways of fasting such as a water fast or a 7 day juice fast, however the system I used was perfect for beginners since I survived it rather painlessly (albeit the dancing chicken wings in my dreams), and was a great introduction to understanding my body and the benefits it yielded for me.
And it makes you smarter!
Additionally, fasting teaches us to withdraw from our constant desires of needing to be fed three times a day including snacking in between. This withdrawal is the catalyst to producing new neuron pathways in the brain.
New research suggests that during fasting, the brain releases a protein (BDNF protein) which aids the brain to form new neural connections, thus regrowing neurons and ulitmately protecting the brain from potential neuro- degenrative diseases such as Alzeihmers and Parkinson. Big brainers such as Gandhi, Plato and Pythagoras were regular fasters, so that's enough evidence for me!
This gave me the motivation to incorporate this practice into my weekly regime.
So when I go back into my "normal" life back home, I will start to have a light fast once a week. This means giving my digestive system a break once a week to do it's spring cleaning by just having juices and small portions of fruit or salad during two meals of the day in order to keep up with our busy routine back home.
This technique is proving to be very popular for people living a fast paced life but need a mini-detox at home, usually termed as the 5/2 diet, which allows people to eat normally for 5 days and fasting on two of the days.
I personally choose one, considering how busy our lives can get during the week and the weekend committments many of us have. A Sunday is a perfect day to eat lightly since it's literally our day off....Why not for our digestive systems too?
So why not try a fast fasting program? Try eating lightly just once a week and experience how you feel. (just juicing greens)
It might just give you that extra spring in your step.
If you have any questions, feel free to drop me an email with any questions firstname.lastname@example.org