Healthy Days and Nourishing Ways

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The Power of Fasting

To fast is to voluntarily decide to stop eating. For centuries people have fasted. Some fasted for religious or spiritual reasons; some fasted because food was scarce; and others fasted to restore good health. Today, people will usually fast to give their bodies a break from the abundance of food that is available year-round and allow rebuilding and rejuvenation. Fasting for either short periods of time (14 to 16 hours) or for long periods of time (days or weeks) can have benefits. Even reducing your daily caloric intake can provide positive results.

Let's take a look at some of the benefits of fasting.

* Insulin levels should fall, allowing the body to start burning glycogen, the glucose that is stored in the liver. If the fast is longer than 24 to 36 hours the body will begin to burn stored fat, a process called ketosis.
* Since less insulin is being produced, less stress is being put on the pancreas. This can be beneficial to people who are insulin resistant.
* While the liver is being cleansed of its stored glucose (glycogen), chances of developing fatty liver disease may be reduced.
* The microbiome of the gut may improve by starving off bad microbes and allowing good microbes to flourish.
* The ability of stem cells to regenerate may improve.
* There may be an increase in the secretion of human growth hormone which can have antiaging benefits.
* Inflammation, blood pressure, and weight may decrease.
* Metabolism may stabilize or increase.
* Autophagy, the process of cleansing the cells of damaged and run-down parts, may be prompted. This allows for new, healthy tissues and cells to be created.

Historically, some of the ailments physicians used fasting for included epilepsy, digestive problems, mental illness, obesity, heart disease, and high blood pressure.

Once you have decided that fasting and/or calorie reduction is something you want to try, you need to determine which type of fast you will undertake. I recommend planning a low-level fast to start. This type will be the easiest to implement into your routine and will be the most likely to be successful, especially if you have never fasted before. Let's take a look at some different ways to incorporate fasting into your lifestyle. I've listed the easier ones first.

* Stop eating at least 4 hours prior to going to bed. Resume a regular eating schedule the following day. Do this as often as possible.
* Eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner and skip all in between and after dinner snacks and desserts.
* For 3- to 7-day intervals, eat three meals each day comprised of vegetables, nuts, and healthy oils. Include avocados if they are available. Eat no animal products.
* Finish eating for the day as early as you can, such as 4PM, then resume eating your next meal the following day as late as you can, such as 11AM.
* Eat all of your meals in a small window of time, such as between 12 and 5PM.
* Simply skip breakfast, lunch, or dinner one or more days each week.
* Do a 20-hour fast. For example, finish your last meal at 5PM and eat your next meal at 1PM the following day.
* Do a 24-hour fast. For example, finish your last meal at 5PM and eat your next meal at 5PM the following day.
* Do a 36-hour fast. For example, finish your last meal at 7PM and eat your next meal two days later at 7AM.
* Do a 42-hour fast. For example, finish your last meal at 4:30PM and eat your next meal two days later at 10:30AM.
* Do a 48-hour fast. For example, finish your last meal at 4PM and eat your next meal two days later at 4PM.

It is especially important that during any extended fast you drink plenty of water. You can also drink coffee, tea, and good quality bone or vegetable broth. You can add to these liquids lemon, lime, cinnamon, apple cider vinegar, sea salt, coconut oil, or ghee. Never use any kind of sweeteners since these could prevent the intended effects on insulin levels.

If at any time during a fast you feel ill, light-headed, nauseous, or you decide you no longer want to fast, STOP. Break all fasts by drinking water and eating a small, nutritious meal. Shortly after, resume eating your regular meals, choosing the healthiest foods possible.

People who have certain medical conditions (especially diabetes) and/or are taking prescription medications, should consult their physicians before starting a fast. Also, children, women who are pregnant or breast-feeding, and people who are malnourished and/or underweight should not fast.

If you are willing to try a fast and have determined that it will be safe to do so, you can add your name to this list of people who not only practiced fasting, but who also advocated it: Hippocrates, Benjamin Franklin, Mark Twain, and Mahatma Gandhi. The longest known fast lasted 382 days. I do not recommend you try this!

As always, continue eating the most nutritious foods possible and maintaining the healthiest lifestyle you can. These habits will bring you many more healthy days and nourishing ways!