Benefits of Fasting
Merriam-Webster defines fasting, as abstaining from all kinds of food and drink, especially for religious purposes.
Many different religions practice fasting for spiritual reasons.
Celebrities popularize fasting as weight control and detox their bodies. Jimmy Kimmel has followed the 5:2 diet for the past two years, crediting it for his significant weight loss.
New Agers practice fasting as a way to detox the body and for greater enlightenment to the spirit world.
Our early ancestors as hunters never knew when their next meal would be available; surely they must have fasted for days at a time between harvests of game. They didn’t sit around eating three meals a day plus snacks.
Many doctors advise forms of fasting for health reasons. If you have been sick enough to stay overnight in a hospital, you have been on a restricted food intake: a partial fast. We all have had to fast before certain medical tests.
Mark Mattson, a neuroscientist, hasn’t had breakfast in 35 years; as a form of fasting.
People fast when they are heavy with sorrow over the loss of a loved one, or after a traumatic experience.
Animals know to quit eating when they are sick; giving their bodies time to heal.
Fasting also gives human bodies time to cleanse itself and to heal itself.
There is a study done on mice showing those who fasted for two to five days each month reduced their biomarkers for diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. The same is true for studies done with humans.
Even Hippocrates and Plato recommended fasting for health reasons.
Benefits of Fasting:
- When the body fasts, it is unable to secure energy from food, so it uses glucose stored in the liver and muscles. When the glucose is used, then it burns the fat, which results in weight loss. Dr. Razeen Mahroof says this preserves muscles and reduces cholesterol.
- Detox also occurs because toxins stored in the body fat is dissolved and removed as waste. After days of fasting, higher levels of endorphins are released, resulting in a feeling of well-being.
- Prolonged fasting also increases regeneration of immune cells. Dr. Longo says;
“When you starve, the system tries to save energy, and one of the things it can do to save energy is to recycle a lot of the immune cells that are not needed, especially those that may be damaged. “2-4 days of fasting may even reboot the immune system.”
- It has also been found that repeated cycles of 2-4 days without food over six months destroys old and damaged cells and generates new ones.
- Fasting re-tunes the body, reduces taste for sugars as the body gives up its store of sugar or glycogen, which in turn reduces the need for insulin to digest it.
- Fasting reduces free radicals, which also reduces the risk of cancer. Free radicals attack proteins, DNA, nucleus, and membranes of cells. They damage molecules in cells which increases aging and chances of disease.
- Fasting has been known to help break old habits. Addictions to nicotine, alcohol, drugs, all have been broken by extended monitored periods of fasting.
Dr. Michael Mosley, the author of “The Fast Diet” speaking of the 5:2 Fast Diet, says;
“This fast shows improvement in blood pressure and cholesterol levels, as well as insulin sensitivity.”
The 5:2 Fast Diet is eating recommended calorie intake for five days and then reducing calorie intake to 500 calories for women and 600 calories for men, for the remaining two days.
Scientists who have studied calorie restrictions in mice and humans agree that there are definite health benefits to decreasing the calories you consume, even to extending the human life-span.
Those who carry extra body fat have more health issues. Even moderate levels of body fat have been shown to increase the risk of age-related diseases including Alzheimer’s. Fat cells increase inflammation which damages cells, which invite disease.
Fasting is healthful if done with wisdom and with God’s Word as your handbook. Fasting will not kill you and very low-calorie diets will not make you sick if done properly. Think of the Jews who survived the horrors of the Holocaust with nothing more to eat but a hard moldy piece of bread, and some putrid smelling soup made with one rotten potato; God gave them supernatural strength to endure it all, without damage to their health.
Some people due to health reasons cannot fast, but most of us can forsake a few meals here and there. The Bible is full of fasting of many different types and for different lengths of time. Health was the side benefit of the proper God directed fast, with the main focus to humble oneself before God in repentance of one’s sins, and for seeking the divine intervention of God’s grace and mercy in their lives.
In part two I will look at the types of fasting in the Bible. Isaiah gave us God’s view on fasting and its purposes in Isaiah chapter 58. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for getting it all wrong in their twice-weekly fasts.