Intermittent fasting is an umbrella term that encompasses a number of different fasting regimens, which involve consuming few or no calories for a predetermined period of time. The concept of fasting in religious and medical practice has been established for thousands of years. Even research on human evolution indicates that early humans in hunter-gatherer societies spent extended periods of time with access to very little to no food. Today, many people still choose to follow fasting regimens for spiritual and health reasons.
How does intermittent fasting work?
The purpose of fasting is to shift the body into a metabolic state known as ketosis. When the body’s available glucose (sugar) and glycogen (glucose stores) get depleted, the hormone glucagon is released and it breaks down fat releasing fatty acids and ketones to be utilized as energy. The use of fat instead of stored sugar usually occurs 12-36 hours after the cessation of any caloric intake (food or liquid) but this can vary depending on activity level, metabolism, age, and stored glycogen. Also, if you have elevated fasting insulin levels from excessive carbohydrate consumption, alcohol consumption or too frequent snaking this process will take longer because while insulin is elevated glucagon can not be released but the fastest way (pun intended) to remedy this is to fast!
What are the health benefits of fasting?
Fasting has numerous health benefits including decreased oxidative damage and inflammation, enhanced insulin sensitivity, improved cardiovascular risk factors, improved glucose metabolism, reduced fasting insulin levels, as well as weight loss and improved body composition. Anecdotally, many people will tell you their mood and memory improves, skin and hair improve, gastrointestinal symptoms improve. The body has a naturally ability to heal itself and when we give it a break and let it clean out the toxins everything improves.
“Fasting is the greatest remedy-the physician within”
Philippus Paracelsus-one of the three fathers of Western Medicine.
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Thanks for reading
Dr. Stefanie Maass PhD, FNP-C, FAARM