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Benefits of Fasting
Health Benefits of Fasting
Fasting is an act of abstaining from or going without food, drink or both for a specific period of time. The number of hours and days a person fasts depends on the reason for and type of fasting.
Types of Fasting
- Juice fasting is a type of fasting when you abstain from solid food and only drink fruit and vegetable juices. Some of the reasons people go for the juice diet is to do a body detox, lose weight, as an alternative healing technique or to restrain oneself from drinking soda, alcohol and caffeine. The period of fasting depends on each individual unless it is a supervised juice therapy.
- Water fasting is when you eat and drink nothing but water. The purpose people do this is to do an internal cleansing and detox, for weight loss or spiritual reasons. How long a person goes on with water fasting diet depends on the reason behind his motivation to do it.
- Fasting before blood tests is between 6 hours to 12 hours before your blood sample is taken. It also depends on the type of blood test you are taking.
- Religious fasting is practiced by Hinduism, Islam, Jainism and Judaism.
In Hinduism, fasting is done on certain days of the week and month. The Hindus either do not eat and drink at all from the previous day's sunset until 48 minutes after the following day's sunrise or limiting food and drink intake or types of food.
In Islam fasting for 30 days in the month of Ramadan is compulsory except for prepubescent children, people who are sick, mentally ill or travelling and women who are having their menstruation or nursing. The Muslims are prohibited from drinking, eating, smoking and having sexual activity from dawn to dusk. There are also certain days in the week and month where Muslims are encouraged to fast but it isn't obligatory.
Fasting in Jainism requires abstinence from food and water until sunrise the next day or only boiled water is allowed. Another practice is to eat only lentils or food with only salt and pepper added. There is a specific time called Paryushana to do it but the Jains can also opt for other times. The fasting can be between eight days to a month.
For the Jews, fasting means no food, drink and sexual activity for major fast days and they are the day of the atonement or Yom Kippur and Tisha B'Av. There are also four other public fast days and three minor fast days.
Other types of fasting include biblical fasting, spiritual fasting and milk fasting.
The Health Benefits of Fasting
- One of the immediate benefits of fasting is your digestive tract and digestive organs get a rest. Your mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, colon, rectum, anus, liver and pancreas are able to take a break. It also includes your gallbladder and certain parts of your nervous and circulatory systems that are involved in the digestion process.
- Another one of the benefits of fasting is it helps you lose weight by burning the excess fat or triglycerides in your body. Excess carbohydrates and sugar that aren't used are stored as fats in the body. Since you are restricting food, your body has no choice but to use the reserved fats to produce energy to do your daily activities.
- Fasting is also a natural way to cleanse your body, detoxify and eliminate toxins from your colon, liver, kidneys and other organs in your body. After several days of fasting, your body metabolism will slow down, your stomach shrinks and you intestines and colon are cleaner.
- Fasting strengthens your immune system and body defense against disease. Studies showed that fasting increases macrophage activity whereby a type of white bloods cells is able to ingest infectious microorganisms. It also helps increase immunoglobulin levels which then raise the body's immune system. Furthermore, since your body is not ingesting any food, it isn't providing any support for bacterial and tumor growth.
- When your body is free from fat, sugar, protein, nicotine and alcohol, it is free from toxin and toxic substances. The energy that is supposed to be used for digestion and elimination focuses on renewal and restoring activities instead. Fasting gives your body an opportunity to repair and maintain tissues and organs. So, another one of the benefits of fasting is it is a natural healing and repair process.
- Fasting has shown to lower high blood pressure and high bad cholesterol levels. When you fast you are restricting or stopping the intake of cholesterol. Besides not blocking your arteries further, the body works on removing the existing ones in your system.
Other Benefits of Fasting Include
It is one of the ways to practice self restraint or self control. When you make a decision to fast, you are exerting control over your desires and indulgence. It could mean restricting your food intake, smoking, drinking alcohol and so on.
Fasting is one of the ways to change your lifestyle and habits. After restraining from alcohol and smoking for a certain period of time for example, you may develop the disciple to follow through and quit for good.
It is one of the alternative methods of healing from conditions and diseases. Instead of taking prescription medications, fasting is a better and safer choice.
Muhammad (pbuh), Jesus, Moses, Plato, Socrates and Hippocrates are some of the great prophets, philosophers and teachers who practice fasting with meditation and prayer in their spiritual journey. Most of us who are mere mortals may benefit by increasing our spiritual awareness when we try to detach ourselves from habits of overconsumption and indulgence.