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Most of us are at least familiar with fasting, and many of you have probably tried it. From intermittent fasting to water fasts, the concept of fasting is not new. It’s a way to reset the body, clear out inflammation, and most importantly, support longevity and our health from the inside out.
Fasting usually requires abstaining from food or drinks (aside from calorie-free beverages like tea, water, or coffee) to get the benefits. And there are so many different ways people choose to fast. Some may just extend their overnight fast a few hours past breakfast. Others may go multiple days as with water fasts. I know you might be thinking, WHY WOULD I DO THAT?! After all, you’re part of my community of food-loving people who believe in using food as medicine. I know it sounds counter-intuitive to deprive yourself of nutrients to gain health but I’ll share why we can use fasting as a tool, not as deprivation or punishment.
When we talk about why it can be so beneficial, I think it’s important to look back to more ancient practices. Even though fasting is popular now in the wellness world, it’s not exactly a new concept. In reality, it’s been a part of spiritual and health practices for thousands of years, meant to clear the mind, rid the body of toxins, and promote cellular repair and regeneration. It’s only recently that more of us started paying attention to the long list of health benefits: fasting is fantastic for weight loss, hormone balance, mental clarity, and more.
But in my opinion (and what is also well-backed in research), the biggest benefit to fasting is the impact on longevity. And not just how long you live, but how well you feel as you get older. There’s clearly a difference between a person who lives into their nineties, spending their time chasing grandchildren, working in the garden, cooking fabulous meals, and taking daily walks, than the person who ends up on a walker, barely able to make it up the stairs. You don’t just want to live a long life, you want to age successfully, and this is where the research on fasting gets exciting.
How does fasting help you age well?
When I first incorporated fasting as part of my wellness practice, I started noticing outward signs of the benefits – clear, glowing skin, mental clarity, and a few stubborn pounds that seemed to slip off. And while these are all amazing, the true benefits of fasting are related to what’s happening inside our cells. Don’t worry. I won’t bore you with too much high school biology. But it’s pretty incredible what happens inside our bodies, so I have to share.
Need a summary before diving in? Fasting turns your body into a cellular cleaning machine, getting rid of cells that contribute to aging and disease and making room for healthy, stronger cells.
Fasting triggers autophagy (aka “self-eating”)
Autophagy is how our cells remove aging and damaged cells to make way for new ones. I like to think of autophagy as the cleaning crew for my body, especially after several nights out or vacation. It’s constantly working behind the scenes to clean up all the junk that naturally occurs as part of metabolism or as part of exposure to things like food or toxins. Cleaned-up, healthy cells are what we want, while damaged cells are linked to chronic diseases and accelerated signs of aging. And here’s the key: autophagy turns on when you are fasting.
Fasting forces your body to adapt.
We usually think of stress as a bad thing, but caloric restriction is also a type of short-term stress that forces the body to adapt positively. Obviously, fasting too long can shift the positive over to a negative, but you get the best of all worlds when done right.
Your body is inherently brilliant. It wants to repair and rebalance, and when given the right tools, it does. When nutrient stores are low, your body has to figure out how to keep everything working without food coming in for energy – so begins the adaptation process.
Aging is linked to the health of our cells. More old cells and free radical damage equals more signs of aging. But adaptations during fasting triggers our body into producing more antioxidants, immune cells, and proteins that fight back against free-radical damage.
Also, your mitochondria (the tiny energy producers in our body) adapt and start burning fat for energy instead of carbs. This metabolic shift gives you the same benefits as a keto diet and leaves our cells with more room to repair. This means they can keep up their regeneration work while still supplying the clean-burning energy we need to live active lives. (And let me state for the record, we at The Daily Dose don’t believe that carbs are bad, but when we flood our bodies with too many of the junky, refined ones, our systems malfunction. One way to reset is using a safe and structured fast).
Fasting can also promote new healthy mitochondria, which is a big piece of the healthy aging puzzle. As we age, our mitochondria stop working optimally, or we just don’t make enough new healthy ones. So fasting helps regenerate new mitochondria while also turning on our cleaning crew to get rid of the old ones
This is all great news, except for some people, extended periods without food feels like total deprivation. Hunger pains, headaches and decreased energy don’t feel worth the price. And since we are all made so differently, some people just don’t respond well to fasting, possibly due to things like specific hormone imbalances or HPA-axis dysfunction (adrenal fatigue).
How can you get the benefits of fasting without deprivation?
Enter a version of fasting where you can actually eat some food while still getting the same benefits.
Wait what? Didn’t I just say that all the benefits from fasting are because the body turns on and adapts from a lack of nutrition? Yes, but the research behind this type of fasting focuses on what you eat and how your body adapts to that food.
In part two of our series, we will dive into the info behind this type of fasting and how we created the Daily Dose Five Day ReBoot to give your body the tools needed for a metabolic reboot that deeply nourishes your body.
Tricia Williams is a talented Chef recognized as a leader in the fields of Nutrition and Holistic Health. Some years ago, Tricia founded Food Matters, a boutique, nutritionally-sound meal delivery service. Closely collaborating with her clients’ coaches, integrative physicians, and nutritionists, Tricia was able to successfully tailor meal plans that met both their taste preferences and their health goals.
Alyson is the host of Ceremony Circle Podcast and best-selling Author of ANIMAL POWER book and deck. Alyson’s power animal shamanic journey was named “a top meditation to try” by O, The Oprah...
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