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The Brain & Fasting: 14 Mental, Spiritual, and Physical Benefits

Fasting is one of the most historically used healing strategies and integrated in numerous religions. To this day, the eating patterns continues to reveal benefits to physical, mental, and spiritual health.

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Fasting is one of the most ancient healing strategies and has extensive history throughout various religions. The eating patterns continues to spark interest in the modern world, even revealing benefits to physical, mental, and spiritual health.

What is Fasting?

In the simplest use of the term, fasting is abstaining from all food. Fasting may be inquired for weight loss, medical purposes, religious observances and traditions.

Realized or not, fasting tends to be a part of common eating patterns. Most people fast between dinner and breakfast, which may tally at least eight hours of fasting, given they sleep the recommended seven to nine hours. However, fasting may also be intentional.

There are numerous forms of fasting, including:

• Absolute and dry fasting, in which individuals abstain from all foods and drinks for an outlined period of time.

• Wet fasting, an abstinence from all food and drink besides water, and potentially black coffee and tea.

• Intermitting fasting, a less restrictive fasting form where people feast during a specific window of the day and choose not to eat food (or fast) for the remainder.

The Physical, Mental, and Spiritual Benefits of Fasting

The Physical Benefits of Fasting

There are a number of physical benefits of fasting, including the following:

1. Supports Weight Loss

Fasting in various forms has been an area of interest in the weight loss world, as it. Though intermittent fasting does not prove to bare greater results than caloric restriction, new research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows implementing the “5:2 diet” leads to significant weight loss.

2. Promotes Heart Health

The Mayo Clinic suggests, "Researchers aren't sure why, but it seems that regularly fasting — severely restricting food and drink for a 24-hour period on one to two days a week — can potentially improve your risk factors related to heart health." What’s more, the American Heart Association positions, “Intentional eating with mindful attention to the timing and frequency of eating occasions could lead to healthier lifestyle and cardiometabolic risk factor management.”

3. Suppresses Cancer

As the search for a cure continues, there is evidence baring fasting may fight against cancer. Researchers from USC piggybacked on standing evidence, which shows short-term fast starves cancer cells and facilitates the chemo drug therapies to better target the cancer. Specific to the new study, the researchers found following a fasted diet, particularly when used with chemotherapy drugs, raises the levels of bone marrow cells that generate immune system cells that infiltrate tumors.

4. Manages Diabetes

There is significant interest in using intermittent fasting to manage diabetes and a recent case report published in the BMJ shows it may be a safe alternative to insulin. More specifically, the report shows fasting reversed insulin resistance, which resulted to cessation of insulin therapy while maintaining control of blood sugars. The patients also lost significant amounts of body weight, along with reductions in their waistlines and glycated hemoglobin levels.

5. Leads to Longer Living

The fountain of youth may lie in not exactly what you eat, but when you eat it. Scientists from the National Institute on Aging (NIA) added to the body of what is already known about fasting, in which they found health and longevity improved with increased fasting time. Regardless of what the mice ate or how many calories they consumed, "This study showed that mice who ate one meal per day, and thus had the longest fasting period, seemed to have a longer lifespan and better outcomes for common age-related liver disease and metabolic disorders," said NIA Director Dr. Richard J. Hodes.

The Brain and Mental Benefits of Fasting

In addition to physical health benefits of fasting, the eating pattern also lends these impressive advantages to mental health:

6. Protects from Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a common neurodegenerative disorder in the elderly and characterized by progressive cognitive dysfunction and behavioral impairment. According to a study published in Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience, intermittent fasting protects against Alzheimer’s disease.

7. Improves Memory and Cognition

Higher glucose levels has been associated with poorer cognitive performance on tests of inhibitory control, especially among individuals with prediabetes levels. There is corresponding evidence showing intermittent fasting improves brain functions and structures in mice.

8. Augments Mood

Summarized in the Current Neuropharmacology, fasting shows to augment move and sleep quality. Additional findings suggest fasting markedly reduces negative emotions, including tension, tension, and depressive feelings.

9. Limits Cravings

Food cravings are more of a mental desire than a physiological need like hunger. Fasting can help limit cravings by encouraging individuals to tune into hunger and satiety cues, along with reminding the reality we do need to rely on food as much as we think, especially in a Westernized diet.

The Spiritual Benefits of Fasting

There are a number of religions that practice their own form of fasting, with the most prominent form being Ramadan. When it comes to fasting benefits, spiritual gain is one of them, including these more specific rewards according to Guideposts:

10. Cleanses the Soul

Dieters alike often turn to certain eating patterns in hopes to “detox” the body. But respective to fasting and meditation benefits, you can cleanse the soul, which “makes it new so we can receive the Holy Spirit and become empowered to live for Christ in a new way.”

11. Sparks New Desire for God

When fasting, Guidepost claims there is a realization that God is needed more than food. And “when we acknowledge through fasting that we need God to live, and to live more abundantly, we can begin to desire God in a new way.”

12. Supports A Deeper Praise

When the body does not have to focus on digesting food, there is more energy allotted to devoting and praising God on a deeper level.

13. Sensitivities to God’s Voice

Because, “When we detox the spirit and become consumed with desire and praise for God, we become sensitive to His voice.”

14. Empowers A New Satisfaction

Ending the fast, you will feel renewed, full of energy, and detoxed and empowered with a new desire, praise, and sensitivity to God’s voice. And you will find the absence of food was small in comparison to what was gained. “When Christ’s disciples noticed that He hadn’t eaten all day and tried to get Him to slow down to eat, Christ said, ‘I have food to eat that you know nothing about. My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work.’ ”

Written By Christy Zagarella, MS, RDN. Published on December 16, 2018. Updated on September 07, 2019.

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