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Is Intermittent Fasting New or Old? Meaning & Benefits

"लंघनं परम् औषधं"

(Langhanam Param Aushadham)

An Ayurvedic verse from Ayurvedic literatures, that literally means,

“Fasting is the supreme Medicine”

Fasting is Ayurveda is also related with Pratyaahar, where Prati means “to be away” and Aahar means “the food we eat physically or the mentally i.e., our thoughts”. Therefore, Pratyaahar refers to avoid the harmful substances whether food or thoughts and opening up to beneficial things such as positive thoughts and balanced nutritious diet that contributes towards our health and happiness.

Intermittent Fasting – A new concept or A new name to the Old one!!

Intermittent Fasting refers to the eating plans that provide alternate between eating and fasting periods. It helps in keeping the body under starvation for a limited period to trigger the fat burning and promote the proper functioning of the body. But, it may not be good and suitable for everyone such as the patients of various diseases, etc. For that, many researches are going on. Still, it is a very good and effective way to prevent many diseases as it manages the digestive fire that is considered as the root cause of almost all the diseases, especially in Ayurveda. Let us understand what are Intermittent Fasting, its benefits and the proper way to do it?

Intermittent Fasting

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Our Body is well created by the world’s best technology and it is perfect enough to maintain its health through the proper functioning of our various systems. We only need to support our organs and let them work properly and naturally.

Intermittent Fasting is offering a day of rest to Agni (Digestive fire) inside the body, to digest everything that creates discomfort and illness.

Fasting on auspicious days is a vital part of Indian culture and tradition since the time immemorial. But, with the changing time and thoughts, people started to believe it unscientific and illogical until a Nobel Prize is awarded to a Japanese scientist, named Yoshinori Ohsumi, for his work in Autophagy. Autophagy refers to the process of recycling and renewing of the cells to maintain the holistic health of a person. This process gets activated through fasting resulting in the slowdown of aging process as well as positively impacts on the human body preventing and treating various diseases.

The Secret of Longevity and Health lies in
The Balance between Eating and Non-Eating

One important factor is that people are eating much more than the requirement of their body. If it can be controlled, more than 50% of the health problems can be prevented and eliminated at initial level.

Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

There are numerous benefits of Intermittent fasting, out of which the most common are as follows:

  • Stimulates our Digestive Fire
  • Rejuvenates our healthy organs
  • Improves Blood Pressure
  • Lowers Cholesterol
  • Resists Insulin
  • Slow Down the Ageing Process
  • Prevents and Treats Diabetes (best for Type-2 Diabetics)
  • Reduces the risk of heart diseases, depression, cancer, etc
  • Eliminates Toxins
  • Weight Loss

How does it work?

When we eat food, the carbohydrates present in our food get broken down into glucose. This glucose absorbs through the intestinal wall into the blood stream and gets transported to various organs as per the requirement. Consequently, it serves as the major source of energy within the body. Extra glucose gets stored for later use in the liver and adipose tissues as glycogen and fats. But, when we let our stomach empty for some period of time, that is fasting state, the liver converts that glycogen back to glucose to maintain the energy supply to all the organs of the body.

As per various related studies, typically an inactive person takes about 10 to 12 hours to use up all the stored glycogen in his liver, rather the active person, who is involved in physical works or exercises daily uses that stored glycogen in lesser time. Once this process completes and the reserve of glycogen gets depleted, the body starts using the reserve of fats in adipose tissues. Afterwards, that stored fat breaks down into free fatty acids and ultimately gets converted into additional metabolic fuel in the liver. Thus, if this whole process goes well with the help of intermittent fasting, the body can effectively burn fat for energy and does not let it affect our health. Moreover, utilizing this extra fat of our body to boost our energy levels provide numerous health benefits. The major benefits that affect our whole body are:

Regulates Insulin level

Insulin is the hormone responsible for transmission of glucose into cells. It is secreted after each meal that we have, and eating throughout the day or frequently can keep them high resulting in various health problems such as pre-diabetes and type-2 diabetes. The insulin level stays in control through intermittent fasting, as it increases after a meal and then lowers down during the fasting period till the next meal. Also, the growth hormones inside our body increase, that are the fat burners.

Improves Brain’s Health

Fasting promotes the production of neurotrophic factors inside the brain that further supports the growth and survival of neurons. Not eating for a certain period of time prevents lethargy, and let us utilizes our undigested food well in order to be more energetic. Thus, it also helps in active brain functioning, to think positively and clearly as well as to calm our mind.

Detoxifies the Body

Toxins are to be said as the root cause of any disease in Ayurveda. Accumulation of toxins in the body leads to the imbalance of Doshas, which in result, weakens our immunity and disturbs the functioning of all the systems inside our body. Fasting helps in detoxification of our body effectively. As when a person is in fasting state, his body has no choice for staying energetic, other than to utilize all the undigested food that is left inside with the help of digestive fire. It stimulates the digestive fire and digests all the food that we ate in our last meal. In countries like India, fasting gets mostly related with the religious thoughts, which consequently gets us in a state where we want to spend more time to connect us with the supreme soul, which further leads to the calm and positive thoughts, peaceful mind and soul that enlightens our path of life and helps our body to function in a well manner. It is considered as the detoxification of mind, which is as important as the detoxification of body.

तत्राल्पे लङ्घनं पथ्यं, मध्ये लङ्घन पाचनम्
प्रभूते शोधनं, तद्धि मूलादुन्मूलयेन्मलान्

Reference: AshtangHridyam, Sutrasthana, Chapter - 8

According to the verse, it is said that If Ama (toxin) is little, means the accumulation of toxins is in its initial stage, then “Langhan” fasting is the most suitable treatment. If it becomes moderate, then Fasting and the use of some digestive drugs are required. And if, it becomes severe, means the accumulation of toxins are increased to a high level that it started causing various diseases, then the purification therapies are needed along with the fasting and drugs.

Hence, we can say that, fasting is the supreme and the first aid to the body, when the body starts to get sick and in its initial stage.

Side-Effects of Frequent Eating or Non-Fasting?

The most common signs and symptoms that are visible in the human body, who eats continuously throughout the day or does not let its digestive fire work properly are:

  • Food Cravings
  • Mood Swings
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Bad Breath
  • Body Odor
  • Lethargy

Who should not do fasting?

Yes, it is true that fasting is termed as the best method for the treatment and prevention of various diseases, but still in some situations and ages, it does not give effective results. So, it is better to avoid fasting when the person is in any one or two of the following states:

  • Children & Teens
  • Pregnant & Breastfeeding women
  • People with eating disorders
  • Patients of Type-1 Diabetes (Advanced Diabetes)
  • Underweight people
  • Elderly

Fasting can also be unsafe if overdone or not done properly.

Perfect Ways of Intermittent Fasting

Fasting does not mean to be hungry for long hours, it only means to let your stomach empty for a certain period, until and unless your energy levels start to reduce. Hence, there are four most effective methods of intermittent fasting that are scientifically proven and studied for the holistic healing. These are:

  • Having 1 Meal per day, better to eat between 12pm to 4pm.
  • Eating on 5:2 method which means, choosing two frequent days for fasting of 24 hours and eating on remaining 5 days per week. E.g. Monday and Thursday on fasting, rest all 5 days eating.
  • Alternate day Fasting means one day eating and one day fasting.
  • Daily time restricted fasting (16/8, 18/6, 20/4), it is the most common way that is adopted by the people calling as intermittent fasting. In this method, you need to eat two meals, at 16 hours and 8 hours gap. Alternate methods for this type of intermittent fasting are to eat at 18 hours and 6 hours gap or to eat at 20 hours and 4 hours gap. In this way you take two meals a day. E.g., for 16/8 method, one meal is to be eaten at 12pm, and the other at 8pm. The same can be calculated and followed for other two ways.

Other Points to be Noted

A proper and good intermittent fasting that gives effective results should be supported with:

  • Eating a balanced diet including all essential nutrients
  • Staying hydrated
  • Avoiding Excessive Exercising
  • Slowly breaking of Fast (Overeating after fasting should be avoided)

Conclusion

Hence, we have read all the major points related to fasting and intermittent fasting as per our ancient system of Medicine i.e., Ayurveda as well as our modern and scientific system. So, adopt this supreme method to strengthen your immunity and prevent the diseases at the initial stages and to live a happy, healthy and prosperous life forever and to increase your lifespan that also being energetic and glowing.

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Reviewed By:

Best Ayurvedic Doctor in Mohali - Dr. Vikram Chauhan

Dr. Vikram Chauhan

MD (AYURVEDA)

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