What you need to know about fasting

Fasting is one of those health trends that has really taken off in the past few years. While juice cleanses where all the rage for a while, many people are now taking it one step further and cutting nearly all food from their diet for a few days a week, every week.

The idea has attracted a lot of attention and its fair share of controversy too, with health professionals split on whether or not it is good for you.

The diet has spawned a whole range of books, blogs, and TV segments, with the perhaps the most famous being the ‘2 and 5 diet‘, which calls for two days of fasting per week.

With so much information out there it can be difficult to figure out what’s right and what’s wrong — and whether or not you should give it a go. Starts at 60 searched the resources available to bring you everything you should know about fasting…

Is it good for you?

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The science behind fasting is iffy. There is no scientific evidence to back it up, but a whole lot of holistic and historical recommendations. Fasting dates back as far as Greek philosophers Socrates and Plato, both of whom recommended it for health benefits and healing. On a holistic level, many claim it rids the body of toxins, cleanses your metabolic system, helps create clear skin, eliminates headaches and migraines, and aids in weight loss. Thousands of people who fast say they enjoy all of these things and more, but some doctors are pointing out there are dangers that go along with it.

“There is no scientific evidence it will detox the body. The issue of fasting to cleanse the body has no biological basis because the body is really good at that by itself,” says Madelyn Fernstrom, PhD, CNS, founder and director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Weight Loss Management Center. “The liver is a natural detox centre; the lungs, the colon, the kidneys, [the lymph glands] and the skin get rid of toxins.”

She also says that anyone hoping to lose weight by fasting should know that it actually leads to increased weight gain down the track.

“The appeal is that [fasting] is quick, but it is quick fluid loss, not substantial weight loss,” she says. “If it’s easy off, it will come back quickly.”

On the pro side

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Those who are for fasting say it is a naturally therapeutic way to heal your body and give it the rest it needs to stay healthy. Dr Ben Kim says fasting will hep your body regenerate and stimulate your metabolism.

“Fasting provides a period of concentrated physiological rest during which time the body can devote its self-healing mechanisms to repairing and strengthening damaged organs,” he says.

The fast is all about cleansing your colon and your intestinal tract and ridding it of any built up toxins and gunk. Over the years, your colon can become clogged with residue and bad bacteria, which can have effect your immune system and your health.

Fasting doesn’t necessarily mean not eating at all. If you’re following the 2 and 5 diet, it means only eating a quarter of your normal daily calorie intake on your fast days. A woman would end up eating around 500 calories a day, while a man would eat around 600. You’re encouraged to eat fresh, raw foods like fruits and vegetables, low-fat proteins, and soup broths — all of them in small portions and only two to three times a day.

The idea is that your metabolism has time to rest and flush out anything bad in your colon.

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One the con side

Many health experts have come out and condemned fasting, saying it can be dangerous and lead to health problems later on. Nutritionist and dieting Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, says fasting can lead to rebound overeating and effectively starves the body of nutrients during the days you’re limiting your food intake. Other health experts say anyone who is on medication, or suffers from a pre-exisiting health condition should also avoid fasting as it could do even more damage to their health.

What should you do

If fasting sounds like something you’d want to try, you should absolutely talk to your doctor before beginning. They’ll be able to tell you whether or not it’s right for you and if you’re likely to benefit from it or not. If you do decide to fast, make sure you do your research first and follow a regime that is best suited to your lifestyle and state of health. One that allows your to eat fresh food and drink plenty of water throughout the day will always be best.

Have you ever tried fasting? Would you consider this method of health management?