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Our 53rd Year

Fasting: Pros and Cons

Is fasting the new big thing? This practice, the deliberate abstention from food for  a specified period of time, has been around for millennia, but it’s been gaining  significant popularity in recent years for its potential health benefits. However, not  so fast: there are important things to consider — positive and negative — before  you embark.

The Pros: 

1. Autophagy: A Cellular Cleanup 

◦ Pros: One fascinating aspect of fasting is its role in triggering  autophagy—a cellular recycling process associated with removing  damaged cells and other debris that do not support bodily function.  This cellular cleanup can contribute to reduced inflammation,  

improved cellular function, longevity and overall health.

2. Weight Management 

◦ Pros: Fasting can lead to weight loss by creating a calorie deficit.  Additionally, it may improve metabolic health by enhancing insulin  sensitivity, which is beneficial for individuals with conditions like  type 2 diabetes. 

3. Improved Heart Health 

◦ Pros: Some studies suggest that fasting can positively impact  cardiovascular health by reducing risk factors such as blood pressure,  cholesterol levels, and triglycerides. 

4. Enhanced Brain Function 

◦ Pros: Fasting may stimulate the production of brain-derived  neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein associated with cognitive  function, learning, and memory. This could potentially protect the  brain against neurodegenerative diseases. 

5. Increased Human Growth Hormone (HGH) Production: 

◦ Pros: Fasting can lead to a significant increase in HGH levels, which  plays a role in muscle growth, fat metabolism, and overall anti-aging  effects. 

The Cons: 

1. Nutrient Deficiency 

◦ Cons: Extended fasting without proper planning may lead to nutrient  deficiencies, potentially causing health issues. It is crucial to ensure  adequate intake of essential vitamins and minerals. 

2. Potential for Eating Disorders 

◦ Cons: For some individuals, fasting can trigger or exacerbate eating  disorders such as anorexia or bulimia. It’s essential to approach fasting with a healthy mindset at a time when you are really “up” for it, not  just feeling you should do it. Seek professional advice if necessary. ◦ 

3. Energy and Productivity Levels 

◦ Cons: Fasting may result in decreased energy levels, fatigue, and  difficulty concentrating for some individuals. This could negatively  impact productivity and daily activities. 

4. Muscle Loss 

◦ Cons: Prolonged fasting may lead to muscle loss as the body breaks  down proteins for energy. Combining fasting with regular exercise  and sufficient protein intake can help mitigate this concern. 

5. Potential Disruption of Hormonal Balance 

◦ Cons: Fasting may affect hormonal balance, particularly in women,  potentially leading to irregular menstrual cycles or hormonal  

imbalances. Individuals with hormonal issues should exercise caution  and consult healthcare professionals. 

There are many ways to fast: long or short, water, juice, broth, etc. But any thing  beyond 2-3 days should be under the supervision of an experienced health  professional. We highly recommend a one day a week maintenance fast. Take  perhaps a weekend day to do a simple liquid only or fruit fast. This relieves your  digestive organs of the daily “grind” of processing food. It gets your body in a  rhythm where it can direct energy to repair and rebalance. It’s also important not to  be rigid about this. If you feel weak or really hungry, follow your body: eat  something! (Preferably something simple like fruit or pureed soup, rather than  running to the local deli…) 

Fasting, when approached mindfully, can offer a range of possible health benefits,  with autophagy being a key player in cellular rejuvenation. However, it is crucial to  acknowledge the potential drawbacks and consider individual factors such as  health status, lifestyle, and personal goals. Before embarking on any fasting  regimen, consulting with healthcare professionals or nutrition experts is  recommended to ensure a safe and personalized approach. Striking a balance  between the pros and cons is essential for harnessing the benefits of fasting while  mitigating risks. For more information check out Ruth Sackman’s Detoxification: A Sensible Method for Maintaining Optimum Health. Chapter 4 outlines a range of  fasting options, as well as how best to come off a fast.