A fresh start feels good. And while juice cleanses reached the height of popularity recently, they’re certainly not a flash in the pan trend! Find out why fasting has been a traditional healing treatment since ancient times and why we’re still big proponents.
Fasting isn’t for everyone, but if you’re frequently feeling blah or simply wanting a mind-body reboot, it could be just what the doctor ordered. Here’s functional medicine guru and former TCM Guest Editor, Dr. Josh Axe on the four signs it’s time for a cleanse, and how fasting can help us heal…
It’s time for spring cleaning — and that includes our bodies as well as our homes. “Fasting” is the term for any period of time in which you choose to abstain from eating any solid foods, although some choose to still consume juices, other beverages or moderate caffeine. Fasting is also one of the best ways to detox the body naturally. Unfortunately, though, many people who could benefit most from a fast don’t often realize that they are in need of one.
The history of fasting is long, with people engaging in this ancient practice — and reaping the many health benefits — for thousands of years. The positive effects associated with fasting have been the focus of medical studies since about the 1940s, but fasting itself is a practice mentioned in the major text of just about every major religion, including those of the Hindu, Christian, Jewish and Buddhist traditions. As an example, according to traditional Chinese medicine, fasting is noted as a route to purification and a way to both increase energy and train the mind to deny cravings.
Fasting can be intense, with people giving up food for days or weeks at a time, but today a more gentle (yet equally effective) form of fasting is increasing in popularity. Intermittent fasting involves eating only during a short window of time during the day, and then abstaining from food the rest of the time (typically 12 to 16 hours). It’s a great way to reset the body with deprivation. And for those who have never tried fasting, I like to say that intermittent fasting is so easy that anyone can do it.
So what are some signs that a fast could serve you well? The symptoms can vary from individual to individual, as each of our bodies have different ways of telling us that something is “off.” Here are some of the more common ways that your body may be telling you it’s time to fast.
You’re feeling sluggish. Fatigue, lethargy and brain fog are all tied to decreased blood flow, poor management of blood sugar and sometimes stress or nutrient deficiencies. In certain eastern traditions, such as Taoism, practitioners view fasting as a helpful method for “balancing Chi,” or bringing warmth to the middle of the body near the heart and digestive organs, which improves circulation and, as a result, boosts energy. And while some assume that fasting would cause you to feel more tired, research shows that fasting usually doesn’t have any negative affects on most adults’ sleep/wake schedule, sleep duration, energy during the day or energy expenditure — as long as they’re practicing otherwise healthy habits.
You constantly crave junk food. Cravings for things like sugar, fast food, refined carbs and sugary drinks are often tied to both unhealthy habits and dysfunctional physiological processes like insulin resistance. Fasting can be great for normalizing insulin sensitivity, which will help supply your cells with the right amount of glucose needed for maintaining energy. This can also prevent spikes and dips in blood sugar and, in more serious cases, the development of diseases like diabetes, cancer and/or heart complications. Studies also show that fasting can help regulate the hunger hormones ghrelin (which is responsible for telling your body that it is hungry) and leptin (which helps you feel full after eating).
You have high cholesterol (or other risk factors for chronic disease).According to a 2015 review published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, fasting has been shown in at least three randomized controlled clinical trials to cause improvements in glucose-lipid metabolism, cholesterol, body weight and other risk factors associated with coronary artery disease (CAD) and diabetes. Studies suggest that fasting can decrease levels of “bad cholesterol” in the body and regulate triglycerides, and it also seems to have neutral or even positive effects on “good cholesterol.”
Your digestion is off. Digestion can suffer for many reasons, including emotional stress, poor food choices, allergies and intake of food pollutants or bad bacteria. Digestive problems can manifest in a variety of ways that include constipation, diarrhea, gas, bloating, reflux or the development of leaky gut. Giving your digestive system a break from metabolizing solid foods for a period of time — especially processed foods with synthetic additives that stress the organs — can encourage healing.
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The Chalkboard Mag and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. All material on The Chalkboard Mag is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health related program.