Fasting is necessary to avoid some diseases and to clean the body. What is fasting? Is it for everyone? What are the advantages and disadvantages of this "diet"? Does fasting help to lose weight? Here are some interesting answers to 10 frequently asked questions.
What is fasting?
Fasting is the act of going without food for a day or more and making do with what is left in the body. There is "hydric" fasting (drinking water only), or "modified" fasting. The latter consists of consuming only fruit juice or vegetables, or broths, in order to obtain the necessary intake of carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and bioactive plant substances. Fasting can be done with activity or rest.
What are the effects of fasting on the body?
The body undergoes a radical change during fasting and activates the fats in it. During the fasting period, the brain needs glucose. In this case, it obtains fat from the fatty tissues in order to get it. When the stock of fat is exhausted, the body takes proteins from the muscles and converts them into amino acids and then into glucose. Fasting for too long can be harmful to the body.
There are many reasons. Firstly, fasting is a religious habit related to prayer and almsgiving. There is, for example, the Islamic fasting also called Ramadan, for a period of one month, or the Jewish fasting of Yom Kippur. There is also the Catholic fast or Lent, followed by abstinence for 40 days. Not forgetting Gandhi's 'purification of India' fast, and the fasting practised by the great philosophers such as Socrates and Plato to increase their level of intelligence. Secondly, fasting helps a lot in the medical field to cure some diseases. Around 460 BC, Hippocrates practised fasting for his patients, which gradually disappeared in view of the arrival of modern medicine in the 20th century.
How to fast?
It is recommended to reduce food gradually before starting the fast. First stop protein foods (meat, fish, eggs, dairy products. . . ) and strong drinks (tea, coffee, alcohol). Then stop eating oils, fats and flours. Then cereals and legumes. And finally, vegetables and fruit, the day before the fast.
To make rapid progress in the fast, it is possible to empty the intestine on the first day. For example, take magnesium chloride or sodium sulphate, bought at the chemist's, preferably under the advice of a doctor.
By the way, there are several ways of fasting. One option is water fasting, which consists of drinking only water. The other option is modified fasting, which is roughly as follows:
Morning: one or two cups of herbal tea with a teaspoon of honey if necessary.
Noon: either ¼ litre of vegetable broth, ¼ litre of fresh vegetable juice or ¼ litre of bottled vegetable juice.
Afternoon: one to two cups of herbal tea
Evening: ¼ L fruit juice or ¼ L vegetable juice or ¼ L vegetable broth.
Drink water all day.
If the fast has been prolonged for several days, it is recommended to eat little by little. Start with fruit only, then add vegetables the next day, and finally other foods.
What are the health disadvantages of fasting?
According to a health expert, short-term fasting does not pose any risk. People who are ill should be assisted by a doctor.
Fasting at home should always be done with care. It is essential to make up for the loss of minerals and potassium during the fasting period in order to avoid the consequences.
Fasting for a long time, especially beyond three weeks, is more risky. Protein deficiency can be accentuated and subsequently lead to malnutrition.
What are the benefits of fasting for the body?
Fasting is said to prolong youth, detoxify the body, heal and prevent some diseases (i. e. diabetes, chronic inflammatory diseases, high blood pressure, asthma. . . )
According to animal and human studies, fasting is beneficial to health. It brings positive changes to the body such as normalisation of fat, glucose, and insulin levels. Ideal for weight training.
However, there is still insufficient evidence to confirm the effective treatment of diseases by fasting. Studies may be done to find out whether fasting is effective against cancer treatment.
Are there any side effects of fasting?
Fasting can cause discomfort, especially at the beginning. It is possible to feel cold. The heat caused by digestion is eliminated during fasting. It is therefore necessary to cover up well and to drink warm water such as herbal tea or infusion.
Undesirable effects such as headaches and nausea may also occur during fasting. These are due to the decrease in the pH of the blood plasma, which results in acidity.
Low blood pressure is another side effect caused by the lack of mineral salts which leads to fatigue and dizziness. It is also possible to have cramps. If the side effect persists even if the salt intake is sufficient, it is advisable to stop fasting permanently because of intolerance.
How to avoid deficiencies during fasting?
Even if protein is important for the body, it should not exceed 400 kcal during the day while fasting.
Mineral salts can be taken during fasting if necessary (calcium, potassium, magnesium but in the form of citrates). The same applies to poly-vitamins (groups A, B, C, D, E, F) and basic trace elements to help the body meet its needs during fasting, especially when the body is deficient.
What is not recommended for fasting?
Fasting is not recommended for people with cachexia, anorexia, a BMI of 18, pregnant or breastfeeding women, children, and people with kidney disease.
For people with addictions (e. g. alcohol), stomach ulcers, diabetes, cancer, multiple sclerosis, strict medical supervision is necessary.
Is fasting a slimming method?
Fasting is certainly effective for losing weight after a loss of 200 to 500 g per day for women and more for men. However, if the objective is only to lose weight, fasting is not the best solution. Losing weight requires long-term diets.
Those who propose fasting for the purpose of losing weight accompany this with sport. Often this is called intermittent fasting.