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Health Benefits of Fasting

Vivek Vichare
Aug. 18, 2011

BTech + MTech (IIT Bombay)

MS (University of Michigan)

'A genuine fast cleanses the body, mind and soul. It crucifies the flesh and to that extent sets the soul free.'
- Gandhiji

Great leaders such as Gandhiji and recently Anna Hazare have demonstrated the importance of fasting. The myriad benefits of prolonged, scientific fasting occur on three levels - physiologically, psychologically and spiritually. The focus of the article is to highlight physiological benefits of fasting.

Fasting is actually one of the oldest known medical practices used to treat all types of ailments. Even Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine, acknowledged the power of fasting. He believed the practice allowed the body to heal itself. Health benefits of fasting are attributed to the giving your digestive system a break from its work of breaking down foods. Through the practice of fasting, the digestive system also gets a break from combating the toxins that enter the body in the form of the highly processed foods that made up the majority of our modern diets. Since the body is not expending energy in the digestive process, this energy can be used for other purposes such as allowing the body to heal itself. Also, since the body's immune system is not busy fighting of bacteria and other toxins that enter the body through the foods we eat, the immune system can concentrate on healing what diseases and sicknesses in the body.

Fasting is exceptionally beneficial in chronic cardiovascular disease and congestive heart failure, reducing triglycerides, atheromas, total cholesterol, and increasing HDL levels. A recently published study in American Journal of Cardiology confirms close correlation between cardiac health and fasting.

Fasting has been found effective in the treatment of type II diabetes, often reversing the condition permanently.

Because of its long term effects on metabolism, fat stores in the body, leptin, and disease conditions associated with obesity, fasting has been found to be one of the most effective treatments for obesity.

A number of studies have found that fasting is beneficial in epilepsy, reducing the length, number, and severity of seizures. Fasting is especially effective for helping alleviate or cure childhood epilepsy.

In a 1988 trial of 88 people with acute pancreatitis, fasting was found better than any other medical intervention. Neither nasogastric suction or cimetidine were found to produce as beneficial effects as those from fasting. Symptoms were relieved irrespective of the etiology of the disease.

A number of studies have found that fasting is effective for treating both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Fasting induces significant antiinflammatory actions in the body and researchers found decreased ESR, arthralgia, pain, stiffness, and need for medication.
Autoimmune diseases such as lupus, rosacea, chronic urticaria, and acute glomerulonephritis have all responded well to fasting.

Severe toxic contamination has been shown to be significantly helped with fasting. Clinical trials have found that people poisoned with PCB experienced "dramatic" relief after 7-10 day fasts.

Poor immune function improves during fasting. Studies have found that there is increased macrophage activity, increased cell-mediated immunity, decreased complement factors, decreased antigen-antibody complexes, increased immunoglobulin levels, increased neutrophil bactericidal activity, depressed lymphocyte blastogenesis, heightened monocyte killing and bactericidal function, and enhanced natural killer cell activity.

Thus, fasting is a practice that has many benefits for the body. Not only does it give the body a chance to heal itself, it also cleans all the toxins and poisons from the body. The health benefits of fasting can leave you feeling more energized and more physically fit that ever before.

Comments on this Article:
Posted By : M R Sasidharan         on :Sept. 5, 2011

When one fasting, naturally it may upset the regular functions of our interior organs because it is being functioned systematically every day as per our regular intake. What will happen to these functions when we stop food at once. The juices produced by the organs may harm the delicate portions of intestines etc. Please advise. Sasidharan

Posted By : Vivek Vichare         on :Sept. 30, 2011

Hi M.R. Sasidharan,
We consulted our panel of doctors and they completely agree with you. However, we do not comment on the frequency or the time-period for which individual should practise fasting. Depending on the frequency/time-period of fasting, there is a balance between positive/negative effects of fasting which is governed by individual's physiological conditions. Fasting when appropriately done will have positive effects on the body.

Posted By : Anonymous         on :Jan. 19, 2012

Hi Sasidharan,
Keep one day fast in a week. Take liquid diets. You can include juices, milk, water. Do not take solid food. Taking regular water works good, I am doing it from last 20 years and I feel good at the age of 53. Try it and feel it.

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