Fasting: Food for the soul

 May 31, 2019  
Dr D. Vadivel, BNYS, MBA (Hospital Management)
Chief Naturopathy Consultant

Fasting or voluntarily not eating for varying lengths of time is a concept that most of us are familiar with. It has been used as both a medical therapy and a spiritual concept for eons now.

It is known to restore health, detoxify the body, promote weight loss and also treat chronic disorders such as allergies, anxiety, arthritis, asthma, depression, diabetes, headaches, heart disease, high cholesterol, low blood sugar, digestive disorders, mental illness and obesity to name a few.

Fasting & Autophagy

Fasting helps stimulate the process of autophagy in the body, which is simply the body's mechanism of getting rid of all the broken down, old cell machinery (organelles, proteins and cell membranes) when the body no longer has the capability to sustain it or when the cell reaches senility. It is a regulated, orderly process to degrade and recycle cellular components, instead of destroying the complete cell.

What activates autophagy?

Increased glucagon stimulates the process of autophagy. In fact, fasting, which raises glucagon, provides the greatest known boost to autophagy. If insulin in the body goes up, glucagon goes down. If insulin goes down, glucagon goes up. As we eat, insulin goes up and glucagon goes down.

Benefits of fasting

Fasting has been proven to be more beneficial than just stimulating autophagy. By stimulating autophagy, our body also clears out all our old, 'junk' proteins and cellular parts, while stimulating the growth hormone. Think of it as a renovation or spring cleaning for your body.

In fact, on October 3, 2016, the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institute awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine to Dr Yoshinori Ohsumi for his discoveries of the mechanisms for autophagy.

Precautions during fasting

Autophagy is a highly regulated process, which if goes out of control would be detrimental.

Remember, fasting may not be appropriate for everyone and in some cases could be even harmful. Anyone undertaking a first fast longer than three days must seek medical supervision and those with health conditions should always have medical support during fasting.

Performing a fast

Fasts can be performed for varying lengths of time, depending on the person and their health objectives. For chronic conditions, doctors recommend anything from two to four weeks to get the maximum benefits. Seven-day fasts are also commonly performed.

Ideally try and consume a good portion of your consumption raw. Uncooked fruits and vegetables are said to be biogenic or 'life-giving' and cooking foods depletes alkalizing minerals.

If fruit doesn't aggravate upper digestive symptoms, they are a healthy food group to eat daily and have been shown to reduce chronic disease risk. Despite their initial acidity, most fruits are alkalizing.

If you have any questions about fasting and the kind of fasting that will work best for your body type, feel free to write to me on naturopathy.advisor@naadwellness.com

About the author: Dr D. Vadivel, Chief Naturopathy Consultant at Naad, is a graduate of the Government Yoga & Naturopathy Medical College, Chennai and brings with him an experience of over ten years. During the span of his career, he has worked in renowned hospitals, including allopathic set-ups and wellness centres across the country. He is currently researching energy healing methods for psycho spiritual dimensions, which are a part of anthroposophic medicine. Dr Vadivel's expertise lies in healing asthma, vertigo and migraine and he also specialises in acupuncture for neurological disorders.