Periodic fasting can help clear up the mind and strengthen the body and the spirit. Ezra Taft Benson on benefits of fasting.
Fasting or not eating for certain duration is perhaps as old as life itself. Even animals fast when not well, or are under some other stress. It is the natural tendency of man and animals to conserve energy by not eating, whenever they are in difficulty. Thus living things instinctively understand the benefits of fasting. I was apprehensive of fasting when I was younger. I have a tendency to suffer from headaches, whenever I stay hungry for some time. Later I understood the importance of eating healthy and eating light. Nowadays I prefer to be on fruit diet, instead of not eating altogether.
People fast in many different ways. We can define fasting as abstaining from food and drink for certain duration, generally for 24 hours. Some people indulge in selective eating during fasts. They might eat certain food items such as fruits. Others do not eat anything, nor even drink water during fasts. In the same way, duration of fast also varies. Some fast from sunrise to sunset, others for 24 hours, and some others for few days together.
Benefits of fasting: Fruits only diet helps in detoxification of our body
Religion and fasting
Almost all religions in this world encourage fasting during certain period; mostly during fall equinox (autumn), and spring. Almost all major religions, be it Christianity or Islam, Hinduism or Judaism use fast as spiritual and physical purification. It is also used for penance and in a way as a sacrifice.
According to ancient Indian philosophy, we spend lot of time thinking about, preparing, and eating food. Some food types make us lethargic, whereas some other make us more aggressive. When we fast we decide to eat light food, or not eat at all, thus saving much time and energy if . We can use this energy in spiritual endeavours, and turn our thoughts towards noble ideas. Another benefit of fasting is that we learn self control. We learn to control our desires, and train our mind to be composed and peaceful.
Most cultures encourage fasting for healing the body and as a therapy for various illness. Most of the time we indulge in all kinds of food, sometimes we over eat. All this harms the body. In order to give a break to our metabolism, and allow the body to heal itself, most communities recommend fasting. Moreover, many cultures , both old and new, recommend fasting as a therapy for many ailments.
Ayurveda and fasting
Ayurveda is an ancient Indian system of medicine. It is a system of holistic healthcare. Ayurveda believes in the power of self healing of the body. Due to unhealthy lifestyle, toxins accumulate in the body. There are various biological energies that govern the human body and mind. These are called doshas. They define a person’s physiological, and personality traits.Our body suffers from various ailments, when these energies are imbalanced. Regular short term fasting can help in getting rid of various dosha imbalance.
Based on the constitution of an individual, a person is advised to be on fruit only diet, or on juice and liquid diet, and sometimes completely abstain from eating or drinking. Fasting should not deplete us of all our energy and make us weak. Those who are new to fasting should begin with eating only light vegetarian food. While fasting a person should stay calm and stress free. Performing yoga exercises while fasting helps in detoxifying the body.
Consume fresh fruits and juices during fasting
Health Benefits Of Fasting
- Fasting gives rest to our digestive system. When we are not eating much, our body uses its energy for healing and recuperation. Body cells and tissues, and organs are healed and repaired. Our body gets rid of toxins.
- Most of the time we tend to eat more than what our body needs. This leads to weight gain. Fasting helps in weight reduction. It is necessary to remember that if we completely starve our body for long duration, our metabolism becomes slow and body comes into energy saving mode. This will not help in weight reduction. It is better to eat light, and eat wisely.
- While fasting, we feel calm and focussed. We get clarity of thinking. We tend to take our attention inwards. This helps in coming close to our inner being.
When a person starts a fast, he/she may feel hunger pangs, and weakness. But with practice, the body becomes used to it, and then we start feeling light.
Though fasting has many benefits, but it should be done under the guidance of a qualified coach or physician. Many people have headache or suffer heartburn. Some people become dehydrated during fasting. It is necessary to take precautions to avoid dehydration.
Old, sick, and children should not fast. When we end fast, it is necessary to eat light food, and gradually come back to our normal diet. If we fast for few days, and then feast for rest of the days, we will lose whatever benefits we had gained by fasting. It helps more if we bring lifestyle changes, eat healthy, and lead an active life.
This article is written for informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Content should not be considered a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment.