By Ramesh Bjonnes
Celebrities in Hollywood do it. CEOs in Silicon Valley do it. But why is changing your mealtime rather than your meal good for you? Research has proven that intermittent fasting, or time-restricted eating, can help heal chronic illnesses, including heart disease and diabetes and even extend our lifespan. But how does it work?
When you are fasting intermittently, you compress your meals into a shorter time span. That means fasters generally leave a 16-hour window without food and an 8-hour window for eating. Typically, you would end your dinner by 7 pm and not eat until lunch the other day. Some prefer the 5:2 diet, which means you are eating a normal diet for 5 days and have only one meal (about 600 calories) on each of the other 2 days.
One of the main reasons why regular fasting is so beneficial is a process called autophagy. During autophagy the body starts to recycle the structures inside its cells, including the nucleus, where DNA is stored. It also positively effects the mitochondria, which synthesize the chemical our cells use for energy, and lysosomes, which remove waste from our cells.
During fasting, the cell can remove defunct structures, freeing up new raw materials from which new cellular structures can be built. Some of the new raw material might be used to make cell-protective proteins that further extend the lifespan of cells.
Some animal studies have also linked autophagy to improvements in the immune system and even to the suppression of cancer growth. Dr. Walter Longo, who suggests a different type of fast over three days, has found that such a fast will reset the entire immune system.
During the feeding state, our body uses glucose in the blood as a source of energy. Once this energy is used up, the body switches to a catabolic state about 3 hours after eating. During that phase, glycogen stored in the liver and muscles is broken down into glucose. When we have depleted this storage, the body switches to producing ketones in the liver. It’s at that point the stage of autophagy sets in.
While fasting is healthy, it is equally important to have a balanced diet with lots of vegetables and fruits, whole grains, and an ample supply of plant-based protein from beans and lentils in the diet. This will ensure you are able to sustain your fast without feeling hungry. It is also very important that you drink plenty of water or herbal teas when you are fasting. This will also help increase the beneficial process of autophagy.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ramesh Bjonnes is the Director of the Prama Wellness Center where lifestyle is considered our best medicine. Ramesh is also a writer, yogi and workshop leader. He studied yoga therapy in Nepal and India, Ayurveda at California College of Ayurveda and is a certified yoga detox theraphist from the AM Wellness Center in Cebu, Philippines. He has taught workshops in many countries and is the author of four books, including Sacred Body, Sacred Spirit (InnerWorld) and Tantra: The Yoga of Love and Awakening (Hay House India).
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