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To be slim is now a trend. Almost everyone is so diet conscious these days that we often skip our meals whenever we put on some weight. Intermittent fasting is currently a very popular fitness trend. It is far from new.
Intermittent fasting is not only limited to losing weight it also has many other advantages. Let’s discuss its methods, how it works, what it does to your body ,its benefits and side affects and what is told in Ayurveda about it.
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is also called restricted feeding. As it’s name suggests intermittent fasting is when you restrict your time of eating during day. It is the cycle of fast and feast. For instance, After fasting for12 hours (fasting period) you can eat something light (feast period) and then again continue your fast.
Methods of Intermittent fasting
Everyone fasts daily. How? Well you don’t eat while you sleep. Intermittent fasting simply adds few more hours in period of fasting including your sleep.
Fasting can be done by splitting a day or a week into cycles of feasting and fasting. In fast, either you eat a little or eat nothing. There are several ways to fast, these are-
1Eat Stop Eat
This method was popularized by fitness expert Brad Piton. It involves 24 hours of fast once or twice a week. For example-If you had lunch today at 1:00 pm (say Tuesday) and you don’t have lunch the next day till 1:00 pm (suppose Wednesday). This completes 24 hour fast.
In eat stop eat you are not bound to fast from lunch to lunch. You can fast from dinner to dinner or breakfast to breakfast also.
Diet between fast : water, zero calorie drinks.
Not allowed: solid food items.
Also known as Leangains protocol. It was popularized by fitness expert Martin Berkhan. In the period of 24 hours, you fast for 14-16 hours and eating period is of 8-10 hours. That means,period of feasting is 8-10 hours in which you are allowed to eat only the suggested food items.
Diet between fast: water, coffee, zero calorie beverages
Not allowed: solid food items.
Also known as fast diet. It was popularized by British journalist Michael Mosley. Fasting time is 2 days in a week with intake of 500 – 600 calorie. For instance, suppose on Monday and Tuesday you are allowed to take healthy food not exceeding 500-600 calories. (precisely small meal of 250 calories for women a 300 calories for men) And for rest of the days you can have normal diet.
4Alternate day fasting:
In this you eat normally one day and either completely fast or have one small meal (500 calories) the next day.
Note- Not recommended for beginners.
5The warrior diet:
It was popularized by fitness expert Ori Hofmekler. Here, one has to fast for 20 hrs in a day and can eat anything of their choice in the remaining 4hrs.
Diet between fast: small amount of fruits and veggies and heavy meals in dinner.
6Spontaneous meal skipping :
It involves skipping of one or two meals when you don’t feel hungry.
Mechanism and benifits of Intermittent fasting
Dietitian Sue Ryskamp explains –“When our insulin levels go down far enough for long enough,as they do during a fasting period, we’re able to burn off fat.”
In simpler words, when we don’t feast, insulin level decreases in our body. As a result, stored glucose is released from cells to produce energy. When we repeat this process regularly with intermittent fasting, we lose weight. By fasting, gastrointestinal tract rests and repair. When we fast ,our body uses stored fat. Thus ,during fasting we don’t store fat- instead we burn it.
Harvard research says it may help in :
- Lowering blood pressure
- Lowering cholesterol
- Lowering ageing process
- Weight loss.
Some suggests that intermittent fasting may benefits more than any other diet in reducing inflammation and improving condition associated with inflammation like
- Alzheimer disease
- Multiple sclerosis
Are there any side effects of Intermittent fasting?
Well, answer is yes. It you are thinking to reduce weight through intermittent fasting then it’s better to be aware of it’s side effects too. These are-
- Orthorexia: It is disordered eating behavior which is defined as an obsession with proper or “healthy” eating. Symptoms include an increasingly restrictive diet, hiding or concealing food from others.
- Disrupted sleep: It may effect your sleep cycle by disrupting amount of REM sleep(Rapid Eye Movement). REM sleep is important for memory, mood and learning.
- Increase level of cortisol: Cortisol is a stress hormone.
- Increase in headaches, nausea and vomiting.
- Increase in guilt: If you are unable to follow fast properly you may have a guilt of not doing it in a right way.
- Decrease alertness: Body is devoid of fuel in intermittent fasting. As a result body is insufficient to supply proper energy, which leads to decrease in alertness.
Who should avoid Intermittent Fasting ?
Fasting should be avoided by:
- Menstruating, pregnant and breastfeeding woman.
- Are very young or elderly persons.
- Are underweight or suffering from chronic illness.
- Person with eating disorders.
Does Ayurveda suggests fasting?
Yes, Ayurveda suggests fasting.
In Ayurveda everything is dependent on digestion (agni)whether it is about health or a disease. Ayurveda says that if your digestion is good, you will not encounter any disease. On the other hand, poor digestion leads to poor health. Poor agni disturbs the doshas( Vata, Pitta, Kapha)and this is the cause of disease.
Digestion helps to absorb nutrients from food. These nutrients further, build up our body and provide energy. Beside this excretion too is a result of digestion.
Now you must be thinking why should I fast? That is because if our agni is low, all the food that we eat doesn’t digest properly. This results in accumulation of wastes in our body. And it leads to weakness, loss of energy and appetite, increase in weight, lethargic activities and many more. In this case, Ayurveda suggests fasting.
Through fasting, digestive system will start working efficiently again. As a result digestive fire ( jhataragni) will be reignited. Reignited agni will stabilise the doshas and thereby make us disease free.
Fasting also makes our body toxin (aama) free. How? Well, for this first you should know the concept of aama according to Ayurveda.
Ama is produced from improperly digested toxic particles that clog the channels in human body. Reasons? Reasons are –
- Diminished digestive fire.
- If any of the doshas (Vata, Pitta, Kapha)or two or all three are unstable.
Why aama is formed?
It’s because our faulty diet habits like :
- Eating heavy or indigestible food.
- Taking unpleasant food.
- Eating food soaked in too much water
- Regularly consuming raw, cold and uncooked food.
- Foods that cause inflammation of stomach or intestine.
- Consumption of unclear, contaminated or infected food.
- Consumption of dry, fried, or dehydrated foods in large quantities.
These lead to indigestion and thus produce aama (toxins)
How aama (toxins)effects on body?
When undigested food remain unabsorbed, they get accumulated in large intestine. The food turns into a foul- smelling sticky substance that is aama( toxin).
Aama clogs the intestine and other channels like bood capillaries. As a result, aaama is absorbed by blood. Now, it circulates in whole body via blood circulation. Aama gets accumulated in body and there it causes contraction, clogging, organ weekness. This happens because aama(toxins) settle in our ‘weak spots’ known as ‘khavaigunyas’in Ayurveda.
Is intermittent fasting a treatment for aama?
There are many procedures in Ayurveda for removal of aama (toxins) but langhan that is fasting is considered as the first line treatment for aama.
In diseases like fever(jwar), indigestion ( ajjerna), skin diseases (kusth), diabetes ( prameh) and many more, fasting is mentioned as a treatment.
It is said-
“ Fasting is like spring cleaning for your body.”
– Jentezen Franklin.
It should be noted that in Ayurveda, fasting is recommended for both rogi( diseased) and nirogi( a healthy one). In rogi, it is for removal of toxins while in nirogi, it is for maintaining good health.
“For keeping your body away from disease Ayurveda recommends fast ONCE A WEEK.“
Types of fasting according to Ayurveda
Fasting is classified in Ayurveda on following basis-
According to duration of fast :
- Short duration – for 1-2 days
- Long duration – for 5-7 days
- Very long duration – for 3-4 days.
Accordingondition of body :
- For Healthy person
- Acute disease
- Chronic disease
On the basis of your diet during feasting period :
- Dry fasting- one which don’t include solid foods but water, the other one that only includes water.
- Acidic and alkaline fruit or it’s juices.
On the basis of purpose-built :
- Spiritual fasting
- Fasting for maintaining health.
While fasting, we practice ‘Prathyahara’. Prathyahara simply means withdrawal. It means to restrict ourselves or our sensory organs to attain tranquility. In practicing Prathyahara, we intentionally choose what to take into our body mind and spirit.
In Ayurveda, fasting is a bit different. It doesn’t mean that if you are fasting you should not eat. Ayurveda never recommends to suffer from hunger pangs.If you are feeling really hungry eat something light.
Idle time period for fasting according to Ayurveda
- In Ayurveda, you should fast according to constitution of your body (Vata, Pitta, Kapha) and state of health.
- When you feel indigestion, burping, bloating and burning you can fast.
- When you wake up with coated tongue , feeling tired, fatigue or heaviness. In this condition you can fast.
- In Ayurveda, fasting for long periods is never recommended. Fasting for long term disturbs the doshas and devoid us of energy.
Long term fasting in Ayurveda is said starvation and that for short duration is known as fasting.
- Total fasting period should not exceed the period of one week. If you are Fasting for more than one week, then it should be done under guidance of vaidya (doctor).
- Ayurveda recommends regular short fasting periods like once in a month or week.
- Zero or complete fasting ( fasting without any feeds) is very rarely recommended in Ayurveda as it reduces agni and Vata.
- Fasting is not recommended in winter season. Because, in winter it takes more energy to fire up the digestive system. Winter season is to built up body’s core energy.
When to Break your fast and How?
Just like idol time of fasting , Ayurveda suggests idle time to break your fast too. These are-
- When your tongue is devoid of coating.
- When you can’t resist you hunger.
- When you feel light and full of energy.
- When you feel sweetness in your mouth and breathe.
Everything matters while you fast. The results are good only if you follow every step. Fast should be ended in right way too so that you can follow your regular diet again without any side effects. You should open your fast in following way:
- End your fast early in the morning, with light sweet and easily digestible feeds.
- If you were water fasting, then you should end it by taking fruit juices.
- Avoid ending fast with junk, oily and heavy foods.
- Take light diet for two days before intake of heavy solids diet.
Once in a week fast : Ayurveda
You can fast for one day in a week to maintain your health and for giving power to your agni (digestion). In this fast, you are allowed to take little amount of feeds for whole day. For example-
For breakfast – you can take fruits ( avoid heavier one)
For lunch- yellow mung dal, small amount of green vegetables, quarter of lemon, basmati rice.
For dinner – same as lunch.
Note- Eat half stomach, don’t over eat.
Can anyone fast according to Ayurveda?
Answer is yes but Ayurveda too prohibits fasting for those mentioned earlier.
In addition, Vata prakriti or vata imbalanced people should also avoid it. The reason behind this is , fasting increases lightness, dryness and coolness in body. Vata have similar properties. Thus fasting will provoke vata and will lead to an unhealthy condition. However, if you still want to fast you should never fast for more than two consecutive days. If you have vata imbalance, then you should not do water fast .
For fasting you need to know your body ‘s constitution or type and your aagni ( digestive power).
Here are some diet forms according to body type that can be included in your feed while fasting-
For vata type : We are already aware of the fact that fasting provokes Vata. If vata prakriti person is healthy then you can fast with feeds like orange ,grapes, khichdi, teas with ginger and oinch of salt
Caution : Never fast for more than 2 consecutive days.
For pitta type: In pittaj prakriti digestion (agni) is strong. You can take feeds that are bitter. Leafy vegetables or their juices, pomegranate, fennel tea can be added in your feeds.
You can fast for 3 days or more.
Caution : Never do dry fasting that is you should never fast on eater alone.
For kapha type : If you are kapha type, then your digestion is not that much strong. So to ignite your agni you can fast for once a week regularly throughout year.
Hot water, apple, lemon and many more can be included in your feeds.
At the end it should be kept in mind-
- Everyone is not benefitted from everything. A tging may have positive impact on one and negative impact on other.
- While fasting remember – “ it’s not about the number of hours you fast per day, its how you spent those hours while fasting .“ – Anonymous
- You should not always follow the trend. Ask yourself do you need it? If yes, then do it after educating your self with their pros and cones.
- Don’t risk your life for just getting a ‘zero’ figure.
- Fast when you need not when you want.
- Remember “all that giltters is not gold”. Think before you experiment on your body.