Is fasting the way to better health?

Published December 8, 2021, 4:35 PM

by Dr. Kaycee Reyes

The benefits of fasting

Fasting is a religious, philosophical, and scientific practice that requires meticulous planning (Freepik)

Has a friend turned down a dinner invitation because they are fasting? Or maybe you have turned down invitations once or twice as well? Fasting has become mainstream because of its reported health benefits, and it is true. There are, however, still some beliefs about fasting that needs to be corrected. Is fasting for everyone? Is it really the solution to better health? Will I feel tired if I fast? Let’s find out.

Fasting increases the human growth hormone that is responsible for the body’s metabolism and promotes insulin sensitivity that lessens the risk of diabetes, obesity, and more.

Fasting means holding back from eating or drinking for a period of time. It goes way back and began as part of religious practices to show faith and devotion, whether as penance or sacrifice. Early philosophers and healers used fasting for healing and therapy, as it was observed that the body has a way to heal itself in times of stress, illness, or pain. Later on, scientists studied fasting that yielded favorable results. Apparently, fasting increases the human growth hormone that is responsible for the body’s metabolism and promotes insulin sensitivity that lessens the risk of diabetes, obesity, and more.

According to the book The Complete Guide to Fasting: Heal Your Body Through Intermittent, Alternate-day, and Extended Fasting by Dr. Jason Fung and Jimmy Moore, insulin levels rise whenever we eat and it functions in two ways: Either by turning food into energy or storing the excess energy. But when the body fasts, insulin levels drop and use stored energy. When insulin levels are kept low, it will help the body become more insulin sensitive, lowering the risk of serious diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke, among others.

Book cover of The Complete Guide to Fasting by Dr. Jason Fung and Jimmy Moore

But what do other people think about fasting? Unlike what others may believe, fasting does not cause electrolyte imbalance, nor does it make you feel lethargic. In the book, Dr. Fung and Jimmy Moore mention that electrolytes, such as sodium, magnesium, chloride, calcium, phosphorus, and potassium, may decrease its levels, but not below normal limits. Taking a multivitamin may also help. Moreover, those who fast do not feel lethargic—they might even say otherwise. As also mentioned in the book, this is because adrenaline is used to release glycogen, which may explain the reason, instead of feeling tired, those who fast feel energized. But Dr. Fung and Moore also reiterate that fasting is not the only solution to better health. It should be supplemented with whole, unprocessed food—this means no to junk food, no to sugar, and no to refined grains.

While fasting has its benefits, it is still not for everyone. This is why it is important to consult with your physician before even trying. (For those who have an eating disorder, pregnant, or who have a medical condition, fasting is not recommended.) Also, if you are on the clear to try fasting, start with small time intervals. Most important, take care of your body with nourishing, healthy food. It may be difficult to let go of your favorite sweets and snacks, so you must try harder to reduce your intake of them. Instead, eat more fruits, greens, and healthy fats. Lastly, supplement this with other healthy habits like getting quality sleep, exercising, and practicing a healthy lifestyle.