To be completely honest, the thought of going without food terrifies me a little. I do not like feeling super hungry.
But at the end of last year, I was suffering from severe asthma – having multiple asthma attacks per day, using my inhaler way too often, and was desperate for a change.
As I looked into diet and lifestyle changes I could make to help, I learned about juice fasting and decided to give it a try. To my joy (and also dismay) it totally helped! I was so glad to be breathing better, but I was sad that it took going without food to see a difference.
A few months later, I heard an interview with Ben Tanner on a podcast. He’s the founder of FastingWell.com, where he focuses on educating and encouraging us all to incorporate some form of fasting into our lives. Here are a few things he discussed in the episode.
What is fasting?
Fasting is going without food. There are many different ways to fast. One common method is intermittent fasting (IF), where you eat during a certain window of the day and fast the rest. Many people start out eating for 12 hours and fasting for 12 hours, and then increase the fasting window from there. For example, someone doing a 16:8 intermittent fasting schedule would fast for 16 hours and eat all their food during an 8 hour window (i.e. from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.).
Some people do alternate day fasting, where they eat a regular amount on one day and significantly reduce calories (perhaps down to even 500 or fewer) the next day. They alternate this way day after day.
There are also times when a person may want to do a longer term fast, for days or even weeks, depending on their health.
This was the main focus of the podcast interview! First of all, you may have heard about the benefits of fasting on blood sugar regulation. People with fatty liver disease or type 2 diabetes may benefit from some form of fasting because their insulin and blood sugar come down, and their liver and pancreas begin to clear out fatty deposits. Additionally, it is common to lose a bit of weight when engaging in regular fasting. That can help even further with blood sugar regulation, reducing A1c level, and lowering the risk of heart disease. Metabolic conditions and excess weight contribute to so many other health problems, and fasting is a cheap and simple way to help combat them!
What was new to me was his information about the benefits of fasting on autoimmune conditions. With autoimmunity, the body’s immune system is basically working in overdrive, attacking the good guys, mistaking them for bad. Did you know that longer fasts can help “reset” the immune system?
Here’s how: At about 24 hours of fasting, autophagy starts to ramp up in the cells, maximizing at about 72 hours. Autophagy means “self-eating,” which basically means the cells in the body start cleaning out, breaking down old stuff, and recycling used parts. After a few days of fasting, about half of your white blood cells have undergone autophagy, while at the same time your body starts making more stem cells. When you start eating again, your body rebuilds the immune system with those new stem cells! Of course, this won’t completely take care of all your problems, but you may certainly see a drop in symptoms, especially if you do it a couple times.
How to start?
To get started, Ben suggests you make it really easy – start slow. If you’re going to try intermittent fasting, shorten your eating window by only an hour or two each week. Eventually start mixing in longer fasts occasionally. Just choose something that sounds doable, and give it a shot. He does mention that it is normal to feel uncomfortable – you’re going without food, afterall. But if you start to feel truly physically ill, don’t hesitate to stop! Eat some food, and try again later. It’s not a big deal.
Of course, it’s great to talk to your doctor about the method that may work best for you for your situation and your goals.
Want to learn more?
Obviously, I am no expert. If you want to learn more, check out his website at fastingwell.com. I signed up for his email letter after hearing his interview and it’s been awesome. His emails are simple, informative, and applicable to beginner fasters like myself.
Have you had any experiences with fasting for health benefits? I’d love to hear about it!
About the author
Hey! My name is Brittan and I live in Utah with my husband and one adorable toddler. I love finding holistic and natural ways to care for myself and my family. I particularly enjoy learning about nutrition, herbal medicine, the emotional, spiritual, and energetic aspects of health, and anything else that contributes to complete wellness. Thanks for joining me!
I am not a doctor. Everything I write about is from my personal experience and perspective. Consult a physician if you have questions specific to your health.