by Thilaka Ravi on  June 20, 2009 at 2:00 PM Health Watch
Benefits of Fasting
Fasting may be defined as a period of complete abstinence from all types of food or just specific food. Contrary to perception that fasting is akin to subjecting the body to austere measures, it may turn out to be a 'good treat' for the body. What is perhaps a rare phenomenon with humans is rather second nature to animals, who instinctively avoid food to ease pain, discomfort or disease.

Many are wary of fasting fearing unhealthy outcomes. According to A. J. Carlson, Professor of Physiology, University of Chicago, a healthy person can survive without food for 50-75 days, of course only in the absence of  health problems or emotional stress. The rationale is each pound of human fat is equivalent to 3,500 calories. Even one pound of superfluous or extra fat is enough to provide the required calories for a full day of strenuous physical exertion.

Fast Healing 

Phenomenal benefits occur when fasting is done following the advice of a specialist. During the initial days of a fast, usually the toughest phase, large quantities of waste flood the blood stream, ready to be flushed out. The body throws out waste through every pore, perceptibly as a thick coat on the tongue and a foul breath emanating from the mouth.

As the fast extends, the cleaning process is perfected, cleansing the body off fat, diseased cells, and mucus. When people undertake extended fasts, even toxins accumulated in the cells are removed. Diseased cells, dead cells, thickened coating of mucus on the intestinal wall, waste from - blood stream, liver, spleen, and kidney make an exit from the body. The body holds on to important minerals and vitamins throwing out toxins and old tissues. When the toxic load of the body is lessened, the efficiency of each cell is enhanced. This promotes healing. Thus during a fast, the body is on a 'conserve energy' and 'healing' mode.

Fast Treat

Why do people feel more energetic after a fast? In addition, why do they experience less hunger?

Not many of us may know that the body requires abundant energy to digest food. Fasting enables rest for the digestive system, and this saved energy goes into self-healing and repairing operations. Cleansing and detoxification in the intestines, blood and cells heals the body from many ailments.  Fasting thus, invigorates the immune system to function at its best and helps promote physical and emotional health, by rejuvenating the body. 

Fasting is especially beneficial in the following situations:-

• Finding relief from a variety of health disorders may no doubt begin my making lifestyle changes. Supervised fasting for a stipulated period helps patients make those required changes in their life that will positively influence their health.

• Fasting is a blessing to overcome addictions - to caffeine, nicotine, drugs, smoking and alcohol. Fasting helps lower withdrawal symptoms, which commonly deter people from overcoming addictions.

• Fasting helps lower cholesterol.

• Fasting works wonders in alleviating disorders of the gastrointestinal system like constipation, bloating, and gastritis. 

• A supervised fasting program is a boon to diabetics to make crucial lifestyle and diet changes, sacrosanct to effective treatment of the condition.

• Fasting improves mental alertness - when toxins are cleared out of the lymphatic system and blood stream, it improves mental clarity. Further, eating less results in energy conservation, which can be used by the brain for thinking tasks.

"Fasting is simply a process of deep physiological rest. This rest period helps you rebuild functioning power and recover from the energy dissipation caused by hectic daily schedules and abusive living habits." - Frank Sabatino, D.C., Ph.D.

Briefly, a fast could result in:-

• Weight loss
• Improved mental clarity
• Improved breathing
• Improved energy levels
• Good skin 
• Rejuvenated digestive system

Religious Fasting

Those who observe religious fasting believe they derive a double benefit -both physical and spiritual, from the practice. Perhaps the benefits of fasting were experienced since time immemorial, which is why major religions have inculcated fasting as a spiritual discipline and a devotional practice. The regimen could include juice fasting, liquid fasting, abstinence from meat and from whole meals for varying periods depending on the religion and the practitioner. Christianity encourages fasting during the Lenten season and Judaism during Yom Kippur and Tisha B'Av—the purpose being a sign of repentance, commemorative mourning and gratitude and to establish self-mastery of spirit over body.

Fasting is an integral part of Hinduism and it varies from eating only one meal during the day to refraining from taking food and water for 48 hours. Fasting for a month during the holy month of Ramadan is mandatory in Islam. Fasting in all religions promotes a sense of brotherhood and solidarity. When one goes hungry there is a greater awareness of how our needy and hungry brothers and sisters suffer from want. The very young, the very old and the ailing are however exempt from fasting in all religions.

Fasting - A blessing of good health

It is imperative to consult a specialist before embarking on a fast. A specialist usually conducts a thorough medical examination and may even recommend certain diagnostic tests to ascertain if fasting is safe with respect to the patient. Given the medical clearance, a fasting program supervised by a health expert can ensure a memorable fasting experience.

Undoubtedly, fasting is a great way to kick-start the body's self-healing properties into action and enjoy the blessing of good health.

"Under qualified and experienced supervision, fasting is the greatest gift which can be given to an overburdened, sick body without benefit of any other form of therapy or treatment."- William Esser, N.D., D.C.

Source: Medindia

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