Fasting: What It Is and Why You Should Incorporate It into Your Life

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Fasting :

Has been performed for centuries: from different cultures, to different religion and even different regions of the world: so there must be some importance to this ancient tradition: fasting essentially means a period where you are not eating (and sometimes not drinking): fasting can range from hours to days and even in extreme cases weeks and months 

A more scientific definition of fasting is decreasing your oral food intake by 60-80% per day 

Modern day science has been able to show that intermittent fasting and even prolonged fasting has a multitude of health benefits on the body and mind: intermittent meaning up to 12 hours/day and prolonged such as daily, weekly and so on but this usually incorporates fluids – the most strictest fasts only allow water (I do not recommend any fast that does not allow water intake) 

Prolonged fasting has greater benefits on the body than short fasts 

Believe me I am aware of the challenges that are faced when it comes to fasting: it is hard especially when food is so delicious but good things take effort and sacrifice and fasting is a very good thing

You’re probably sitting here thinking: I was taught fasting in religion but where’s the Science?

Science has been able to confirm that increased caloric intake leads to conditions such as cancers, hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes, obesity and increased inflammation (which is arguably the stem of all disease) 

Conversely fasting has clearly been shown to reduce inflammation and oxidative damage in the body which can lead to optimized energy metabolism and cellular protection and ultimately leads to a delay in disease progression and aging. 

Energy intake is necessary for normal cell growth and repair but excessive caloric intake is associated with increased incidence of many common cancers and diseases, while decreased energy intake may lower risk. Innumerable studies have shown the health benefits of fasting in plant, animal and human studies: fasting has been shown to protect against chronic diseases that run rampant in modern day society such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, neurodegeneration, obesity, hypertension, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis and more. 

Fasting can help alter the physiological pathways that involve insulin, inflammation, sex hormones and cortisol.  Chronic caloric restriction extends lifespan across the animal, fungal, and plant kingdoms: it is not limited to just humans and the earlier you start limiting your calorie intake the greater your potential lifespan 

Fasting and Cancer:

Cancers use glucose as one form of energy reproduce: therefore if you restrict your caloric intake you restrict the one of the forms of fuels that cancers can use to grow and reproduce: intuitively this means that increased caloric intake (through a series of pathways) results in increased levels of inflammation, insulin and other factors that can help cancer cells proliferate and prevent them from dying. 

Some studies have been able to show that fasting can be as effective as chemotherapy but the greatest therapeutic response is when both fasting and chemotherapy are combined  "These results suggest that cycles of fasting can delay the growth of some cancer cell types, in some cases as effectively as chemotherapy drugs, but that the combination of fasting and chemotherapy cycles provides a more effective, consistent, and potent effect on a wide range of tumors” ( Lee, 2012). Further studies have shown that fasting can help decrease the side effects of chemotherapeutic drugs on the body such as the nausea, vomiting and fatigue and generally fasting has been found to be safe in cancer patients. 

Weight loss can be a concern in cancer patients who wish to fast. 
Short fasts in animals do not result in long-term weight loss. For example, in the fasting and chemotherapy study just discussed, animals regained lost weight within five days 

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Where to start: 

First and foremost set an intention: “I am going to ease myself into the world of fasting and I will be successful”

 

 When my patients come to me during times of illness I tell them to focus less on eating than on ensuring hydration: the body needs to allocate its energy on healing rather than processing rge amounts of calories that you ingest erroneously thinking it will help you heal.

As aforementioned I practice daily intermittent fasting and try not to eat for at least 12 hours in a day: initially when I started it took some planning and thinking and it definitely makes late night dinners with friends hard (I do cheat once in a while) 

Here are some simple steps to take to begin your transition to a healthier you!

  • START SLOW: fasting is hard. It takes time to teach your body that it is OK not to eat all the time. Start with a few hours/day then build it up.

  • I usually don’t eat two hours before sleep and then try not to eat at least one hour after waking up - gives me usually 12 hours of fasting (and 7 restful hours of sleep) 

  • After you master the art of intermittent fasting then move onto half day fasts: ensure hydration along the way

  • Lastly join a group fast like the one Chef Lynnette - who has been practicing the art of fasting for over 12 years and has done over 30 fasts during this time  -  is curating this March 23rd, 2018. Log in here to register and join like-minded individuals that want to create healthier lives for themselves:  https://www.superfoodschool.com/courses/superfast

* Caution:  fasting is something that should be discussed with your integrative practitioner and/or oncologist before starting and may be contraindicated in people with diabetes, underweight or malnourished peoples, peoples with eating disorders, the elderly

**Side effects of fasting:  weakness, a drop in blood pressure, headache, cold hands and feet, lethargy, and moodiness: however these symptoms resolve over time once your body learns to adapt to fasting 

Sources: 

Lee, Changhan, et al. “Fasting Cycles Retard Growth of Tumors and Sensitize a Range of Cancer Cell Types to Chemotherapy.” Science Translational Medicine, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 7 Mar. 2012, stm.sciencemag.org/content/4/124/124ra27.

Longo, Valter D., and Luigi Fontana. “Calorie Restriction and Cancer Prevention: Metabolic and Molecular Mechanisms.” Trends in Pharmacological Sciences, vol. 31, no. 2, 2010, pp. 89–98., doi:10.1016/j.tips.2009.11.004.

Speakman, John R., and Sharon E. Mitchell. “Caloric Restriction.” Molecular Aspects of Medicine, vol. 32, no. 3, 2011, pp. 159–221., doi:10.1016/j.mam.2011.07.001