Is fasting a good idea for our health?

fasting for health

Reading Time: 4 minutes

by Joni

Intermittent fasting is topical in the health news and Ramadan is upon us, so it is relevant to ask, is fasting a good idea for our health?

Can anyone fast?

Intermittent fasting is a cycle of eating and fasting that has attracted devotees aiming to improve their health or lose weight. Various ratios of eating to fasting are recommended depending on age and health issues. However, children and adolescents, pregnant and breast-feeding women, those with diabetes and on certain medications should not fast.

It is dangerous for them as their blood sugar levels can drop too far. I would add those with eating disorders to this list. As a past sufferer of anorexia nervosa, I know that missing meals can easily revert to anorexia.

What are the types of fasting?

There are categories of intermittent fasting that involve a 24 hour fast or an eat 5 days, restrict 2 days fast or alternate day fasting. In addition, there is the promoted for weight loss version of eat only within an 8- or 10-hour time frame and the Warrior Diet where you eat only salad or raw fruit in the day and one meal at night. If you don’t eat after 8pm until noon the next day, then that is a 16 hour fast to an 8-hour eating cycle. This version of fasting is promoted on social media.

Longer fasts of 24 to 72 hours are also common for health reasons but during these, unlike Ramadan, the person should drink plenty of fluids or juices.

Fasting dates back centuries and plays a role in many traditions and cultures. Ramadan is the Islamic religion version of this tradition. For a whole month, Moslems practice fasting between sunrise and sunset. This is a spiritual discipline that allows the devout to concentrate on prayer and acts of charity. April is the month when pilgrimages to Mecca take place. The fasting/abstinence discipline extends to no sex, drinking, smoking or lying.

For Christians, fasting and prayer is encouraged during the 46 days of Lent starting on Ash Wednesday and leading up to and including the solemn observance of Easter Friday and the celebration of Christ’s rising on the Easter Sunday. The Sabbath or Sunday is a feast rather than fast day as it is a celebration of Jesus’s resurrection.

Benefits of fasting

So, what are the benefits of fasting? And what are the dangers?

Fasting can be good as it can do the following

*Lower the blood glucose levels and assist in blood glucose level control so helping avoid insulin resistance that leads to diabetes type two.

*Reduce inflammation in the body. Many conditions like arthritis and muscular sclerosis are an inflammatory response.

*Fasting promotes weight loss. This is no surprise as there were no fat inmates in Auschwitz. With a surplus of food and calories in the Western world, many people overeat and are obese.

*Lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels which is beneficial for blood vessel and heart health as deposits of excess amounts of these can clog the blood vessels.

*If you eat healthily when you eat then it is a way for the body to detox and repair itself. Processed foods are not good for us as a regular part of our diet. So, a clean fresh fruit and vegetable, lean meat and wholegrain diet is better.

*You should save time with less food preparation and even save money.

*You learn self-discipline which is a valuable skill.

That all sounds great, heh, but are their downsides to fasting or abstaining?

Downsides to Fasting

*Guess, what, you may get hungry. But this will pass as you adjust to the regime. Just think of the wonderful effect this temporary suffering will have. besides you will appreciate your food more after being without.

*You may get a bit tired as your blood glucose levels drop and this could make your mood slump as well.

*It is hard to stay on a fast if you have to feed other people like husbands and children. So shorter or infrequent fasts may be better if you are a busy mum.

*A fasting regime may clash with your work or social schedule. But you don’t have to go all out. A one day fast every two weeks is better than nothing.

Anticipate, be grateful and savour your food.

If you are considering the option of fasting or going without food, then you are one of the fortunate few on the planet who has a choice. Millions worldwide are perpetually hungry, and children and adults die every day in Africa for lack of food and clean water.

Be grateful that you have food available. Gratitude is a feel-good emotion. So is anticipation. Look forward or anticipate the food you are about to prepare and eat. The smell and sight of food can do this for you. Our mouth starts to salivate, preparing the saliva which digests the food and lubricates it for swallowing. Then as you eat, chew well and savor the flavors and textures.

You can remember to do this by remembering the acronym GAS. It’s not suggesting you will get indigestion. Jumble the letters if you prefer. Then you have SAG or AGS and a few others. This acronym, whether it’s GAS or SAG or AGS can apply to life in general and we can be grateful, anticipate and savour life’s experiences. Turia Pitt promotes this in her book on happiness.

Mind and body are interconnected. Happy gut, happy you. Probiotics and fermented foods can add to the fasting, cleansing experience to replenish your gut bacteria. But beware of bad bacteria from food spoilage and unwashed utensils and crockery. Blenders can carry harmful bacteria that can lead to food poisoning. Wash them well after use, especially the base and O-rings of bullet blenders.

I will finish with a cute form of grace that my family says at mealtimes. Translating from Robert Burns Scottish version it goes like this,

Some have meat and cannot eat, and some can eat but have no meat. But we have meat, and we can eat so let the lord be thanked.’

Enjoy your fast and the food you eat afterwards or in between. And remember to practice the anticipation, gratitude and savoring of it and your life!

Photo by Vitalii Pavlyshynets on Unsplash

Joni Scott is an Australian author with three published novels: Whispers through Time and The Last Hotel and Colour Comes to Tangles. Joni also co-hosts a women’s blog; and has her own website;


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