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Fasting - Text What it is. Fasting has several meanings. Diet is one of them, and going without food is another. Going hungry, denying oneself and refraining from eating are also included.

A perspective. There are many diseases around. Fasting hardly cures all of them. There are many overweight folks around: Fasting helps some of them.

Wider perspectives. Now, some profess that fasting help them along, and others think nothing of it, or worse, that it is a fad that gives smart, business-oriented persons, dealers, sellers or clinics an abundance of well-fed customers. Dieting and fasting form a great market. It is linked to the slowly alarming, growing problem of overweight and obesity in industrialised countries, for one thing. Smart persons think: "A problem? I see an opportunity in it!" Some get into fasting to help, though. Honour such well-meaning souls, especially those whose methods are backed up by sound research.

Fit for fasting? There are three grounds for practically oriented fasting. They are:

  • Losing fat, slimming - fasting to prevent weight gain; fasting, trying to lose weight. A vast, increasing number of people in industrialised countries are getting overweight or obese, they are the basis for a speculative and remedial market. "2 billion people worldwide are now overweight or obese." [1] There are also knowledgeable persons in such a jungle, and say thanks for them.
  • So-called autolysis: stimulating white blood cells to be built and thereby rejuvenating the immune system, followed by the breaking down of unhealthy tissue and cells and getting rid of them, and crowned with the organism rebuilding new cells and tissue in its own time. People in this group range from mild attempts to future-oriented, stoic fasting.
  • Getting rid of poisons and toxins: Detox fasting has had many advocates, and most of their claims are mistaken, according to novel studies (further down). However, although some claims have been wrong, some fasting regimens are good, on Jon Barron's word. And example follows:

A wrong fasting claim from times gone by. The Americanised guru Yogananda (1893-1952) and the church he founded, SRF, encourages its lay followers and monastics to fast on juices and water regularly to "cleanse the system" once a week and also on three consecutive days each month. Yogananda:

Every week you should fast one day on orange juice to rest the internal organs . . . When you fast on orange juice it scrubs every cell [Not so, really.] At least once every month you should give a thorough house-cleaning to your body by fasting. Do not let poison accumulate in your system . . . The greatest way to maintain health, and the simplest, is to fast on orange juice one day every week and for two or three days consecutively once a month. [Jse 335; cf. Dr 212; Jse 13].

SRF hastens to add:

Persons in good health should experience no difficulty in fasting for two or three days . . . Anyone suffering from a chronic ailment or an organic defect should apply the dietary and health recommendations offered in this article only upon the advice of a physician [Jse 335n].

Yogananda's fasting guidelines were given in some of his delivered speeches. He says fasting one day a week is good, and also for three consecutive days each month. Good for what? - that is the question. Later research has verified that fasting for three days has different effects than the guru wrongly claimed. It hardly has such effects as he says, but other possible effects that are not detoxing effects, no "house-cleaning" of accumulated poisons. There is a chance for helpful effects of cleverly done fasting, obviously.

  • Fasting for detoxing - hardly works at all.
  • Fasting for regenerating blood cells and the immune system and fasting for less fat - may work, provided there are good ways of going ahead, well founded rules of the thumb for what to fast on, why, and for how long - generally and individually, and much else.

With some major why's of fasting sorted out (the list above), may you find the blithe helpers who not just make your wallet lose weight. If you know the basics of how fasting affects your system, you get better cards on your hand for a more successful outcome of planned fasting attempts.

Basic method. Skip a meal if you can or are allowed to, drink juice or vegetable broth instead of that meal, and voila: you have gone through a short period of intermittent fasting (details are further down). Many ways of fasting "take it from there."

Below is some information I have gathered. T. Kinnes

Detoxing and fasting

Detox diets do no more than the body's own natural system to get rid of toxins, US researchers claim," according to BBC. [◦Compare]

In one British study two groups were compared. Those who had fasted on vegetable juices and so on to "cleanse" their bodies, were not better for it than the control group, who had eaten and drunk what they pleased. The reason there was no measured differences between the groups is that bodily cleansing is handled by the kidneys and the liver mainly, and anyhow. [◦More]

"Detox" diets usually include fruits and vegetables as the main part of one's food intake. Professor Alan Boobis, a toxicologist at Imperial College London states: "It is remarkable that people are prepared to risk seriously disrupting [their sophisticated and versatile body] systems with unproven "detox" diets, which could well do more harm than good." Dr John Emsley, "Many of the detox diets and supplements really aren't that good for you, nor have they been properly tested."

Professor Martin Wiseman adds about the popular idea "that in some way the body accumulates noxious chemicals during everyday life, and that they need to be expunged by . . . detoxification" that detox fads are examples "of the capacity of people to believe in (and pay for) magic despite the lack of any sound evidence. This is a trend that should worry us all."

Finally, Dr Paul Illing says, "Detox diets and products may not do harm, except, perhaps, to your wallet, but neither do they do you much good. Your natural bodily functions are effective at clearing out harmful substances and there is little you can do to enhance these. Patience and a proper diet are more valuable than detox products and supplements."

Dieticians advocate drinking (pure) water, however, but not above what you are comfortable with. "Drinking many litres of water a day, and drinking even when not thirsty, could cause problems if taken to extremes". [◦Link] [◦BBC Link]

An advocate of fasting: Nutritionist Jon Barron

The ◦nutritionist Jon Barron (1948-) thinks that autolysis should be given due thought when it comes to effects of some days' consecutive fasting. By autolysis he means that the body has the ability to intelligently adjust to changing circumstances, so that while fasting, it can break down "unneeded, damaged, and toxic tissue first. Then, when you start eating again, it rebuilds from the ground up with fresh, new, healthy tissue." He refers to several studies that "demonstrate the value of fasting . . . fasting produces definite, quantifiable benefits in the immune system."

Barron refers to a study by Professor Valter D. Longo, an American biogerontologist and cell biologist. The article is in the journal Cell Stem Cell. Longo finds that fasting - for as little as three days - prompts stem cells to produce brand new white blood cells, and regenerates the immune system. In such ways fit fasting can protect against immune system damage and stimulate the regeneration of the immune system.

During sensible fasting the body may break down unhealthy tissue and cells and get rid of them. Also, it begins to rebuild new cells and tissue in its own time. Professor Longo points out, "There is no evidence at all that fasting would be dangerous, while there is strong evidence that it is beneficial." Finally he says: "We are investigating the possibility that these effects are applicable to many different systems and organs, not just the immune system."

Detoxing and fasting are not the same thing. Barron thinks that unless fasting is done properly, it is not a great way to lose weight. Much of your weight loss during fasting tends to be muscle. Loss of muscle is not what is wanted. Also, a fast longer than 48 hours runs the risk of causing your metabolism to slow down, which means you gain weight more easily when the fast is over - the so-called yo-yo effect: Weigh goes down, weight goes up, and so on in far too many cases. Add to this some statistically had figures. What about this? "40 per cent of 14 years old girls in Norway diet, and keep at it for years." [2]

Fasting one day a week may not cost you muscle tissue and doesn't slow down metabolism, but may save you a couple of thousand calories or more that day, which adds up to 10-15 kilos a year. It's simple math: calories in vs calories out, says Barron - a great tip.

As for detoxing, you have to understand just what may remove toxins from organs in your body, and to stimulate those organs in fit ways looks fine too. Well chosen series of yoga postures could work very well, for example. But mere fasting and common fasting may not detox you, just as other studies show. Sensible fasting's primary benefit could be autolysis, as suggested above.

Barron's practical outlet: "Once a month I'm now letting my body intelligently self-digest old, damaged, and toxic tissue and then replace it with new, dynamic, revitalized tissue. Twelve times a year I'm rebuilding and recharging my immune system - and every other major system in my body. And along the way, as a side benefit, I'm helping control my weight."

[Jon Barron. "Fasting and Intelligent Autolysis" (2014)]

[Jon Barron. "Water Fasting and Juice Fasting" (2013)]

Weight loss by fasting

Intermittent fasting. When fasting for fat loss, one is advised to perform it in an intermittent style: An intermittent fast is a short break from food and beverages that contain calories. Such fasts may be tried and tested out with due care for 14 to 36 hours at a time generally speaking. When you start testing the method, first skip a meal and check, and so on. [WP "Intermittent fasting"]. [1]

Learn something from the successful and slim ones - and what marks their eating habits and customs. David L. Katz, assistant professor in public health at Yale University School of Medicine, says slim persons are not as preoccupied with food, and are more relaxed about it. They stop eating when they are satisfied, before they get satiated, contrary to "all others". Feeling a little hunger is seldom a big problem. Slender women are not immune to comfort eating, but they tend to recognise the signs when they do it and stop. - Slim people usually have a fixed plan or overview of what they eat, and thereby limit the opportunities to overeat. And at Tufts University it has been found that the most common cause of weight gain among women in their 50s and 60s was related to levels of self control and self discipline in the area of social eating and eating at parties. It may also help to keep healthy snacks at hand. [3]

After all, "there is a knack to it". Just how one fasts, by which means and in what ways, need to be taken into account, not just "fasting". There are silly ways and means of fasting and maturer fasting. And there is evidence for saying that some ways and means of fasting is of little or no use, and also evidence that some forms of fasting are useful. It comes down to this: Not everything that is green is a vegetable, and not everything that is called fasting, has to be ineffective or good for your "good sellers, but not yourself". The outcome is decided on how one fasts, on what, for how long - and these things need to be considered well. Before you start fasting, consider what sort of fasting it is, how the typical outcomes are, as verified by neutral and qualified research - and by such means you improve your odds for getting good results. Good odds may be glimpsed, but guarantees may be few and far between.

Barron refers to studies on fasting, and cautions that "in some cases, where the faster [!] doesn't know what they're doing, water fasting even presents a risk of death from the lack of electrolytes." And: "Diabetics need to exercise special care when fasting – even short-term." "Fasting is not recommended for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding . . . And anyone who has a chronic illness, is using prescription medications, or is under a doctor's care should check with their doctor . . ." Another caution: "Unless you are consuming protein, you will lose overall muscle mass." — Barron about juice fasting: " If you rely too much [whatever that may be] on sweet fruit juices for your fast, you can push glucose [blood sugar] levels up much too high, which can lead to severe glycemic swings."

Barron advocates diluting freshly pressed sweet fruit juices with water, and prefers freshly pressed vegetable juices to that again. The single-celled alga Chlorella and the cyanobacterium spirulina may be consumed for getting proteins during fasting, he says.

He tells: "I personally have done . . . different kinds of fasting over the years – including longer water fasts . . . and juice fasts. In the end, after years of trial error, I've settled on the vegetable juice fast (with a small amount of fruit juice), supplemented with chlorella or spirulina, as the best form of fasting for the vast majority of people." Observe that Barron advocates fresh-pressed juices, and not bottled juices. [5]

Barron tells in his article "Water Fasting and Juice Fasting" that there are doctors that oppose fasting in many forms, and he does not slur over the dangers and restrictions that are into fasting either. He goes on to present key concepts, and makes a distinction between three forms of fasting - (1) water fasting; (2) juice fasting; and (3) and fasting on juice plus single cell protein (chlorella and spirulina)" . Further, he generally advocates vegetable juices above sweet fruit juices. Sensible, well informed fasting is what he aims at. [And Britannica Online informs about some fruits and vegetables in "human nutrition".]

Happily, some juices and broths are pleasant and palatable. If they don't oust out proteins and other necessary food elements from your diet and do not make you imbalanced, why be against it? But be on the alert: Telling others to swerve from what their organisms need or thrive on, could backfire. To rub it in: A woman was awarded more than £800,000 after she suffered permanent brain damage while on a detox diet. [◦BBC Link]

On colourful food

A useful Yogananda counsel is to eat naturally colourful foods rather than pale, colourless and sadly withered foods. There is a knack to this type of counsel too. It is not meant to lead to eating dangerous and lethal, colourful foods like toxic mushrooms or to refrain from grains and some neat and balanced over-all plan. And food colours caused by additives, hardly count.

The peeling and outer parts of fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants and many sorts of phytonutritients, and these have many colours. A sad not creeps in at this point: If fruits and vegetables have been sprayed with pesticides, insecticides and birds know what (if they have survived), these remnants are diffused right below the surface, where the harmonious colours are.

If you don't select your fruits and vegetables with sound skill, those colourful outer parts may contain farm or pharmacy poisons too. But provided the foundation of your meal is fine, you may find yourself looking at your plate, asking yourself: "Have I got a bit of red food that may protect against cancer, a little orange for a healthy heart, a little yellow for a better blood pressure, a little green for the eyes and maybe some blue too, for the brain?" That is what the authors of The Color Code imagine you may do after reading their book. The book takes off from research and attempts to form many neat syntheses along the way. (Joseph, Nadeau and Underwood 2003:1-14)

Phytonutritients is a low key now: more than 25,000 phytonutrients are found in plant foods. Six ones that may be good to know of, are carotenoids; ellagic acid; flavonoids; resveratrol; glucosinolates and phytoestrogens. They have different actions, and there are different actions among the phytonutritients in the same group as well, but there may be some overall knowledge to garner anyway. For examle: (1) Carotenoids - there are over 600 known ones - provide yellow, orange, and red colors in fruits and vegetables, and act as antioxidants. (2) Ellagic acid is found in such as strawberries; blackberries; raspberries and pomegranates and might be shown to have some effect on cancer. Future research may determine its hows and whens and whys and so on, if the widely spread claim holds water enough to count. [Cf. Wikipedia articles on phytonutritiens]

Also worth some thought is that some cuisines, like the Mediterranean, are believed to be healthier than others, perhaps due to more use of olive oil and garlic. However, there are caveats here too: [Wikipedia, s.v. "Mediterranean cuisine"]


Fasting, Literature  

Joseph, Ames A., Daniel A. Nadeau and Anne Underwood. The Color Code: A Revolutionary Eating Plan for Optimum Health. New York: Hyperion, 2002.

Sinha, Phulgenda. Yogic Cure for Common Diseases. Rev. and enlarged ed. Delhi: Orient Paperbacks, 1980.

WP: Wikipedia Encyclopedia.

Notes

  1. Associated Press. "30 percent of the world is now overweight or obese, no country immune". Fox News, May 29, 2014.
    [www.foxnews.com/health/2014/05/29/30-percent-world-is-now-overweight-or-obese-no-country-immune/]
  2. John Berardi, PhD. "Ready, Set, Fast: How Strategic Meal-Skipping Can Help You Lose Fat, Gain Muscle, and Get Healthier." The Art of Manliness, January 25, 2012. Online. [www.artofmanliness.com/2012/01/25/intermittent-fasting/]
  3. Anne Haftstad. "Én av to jenter slanker seg." Aftenposten 19 Oct. 2011.
    [www.aftenposten.no/helse/article378748.ece#.U7rD7rEn92A]
  4. Adéle Cappelen Blystad. "Slik holder slanke kvinner seg tynne". KK, 23 March 2011.
    [www.kk.no/livsstil/slik-holder-slanke-kvinner-seg-tynne-19587]


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