Fasting has a long history, steeped in both mysticism and science. Its claims include bringing one closer to God and curing disease. The early great philosophers, thinkers, and healers used fasting for health and as healing therapy – Hippocrates, Plato, Socrates, Aristotle and Galen all praised the benefits of fasting. In the early days of mankind, when we were all hunters and gatherers, fasting was often a necessity. Humans often went days between meals and our bodies were designed to survive.
Today, most Americans now live off a constant drip of processed food, which keeps blood sugars elevated and immune systems depressed. When we fast, we rest our system from the constant onslaught of the food we consume (and which most Americans over-consume). We usually think of food as giving us energy, but all too often it has the opposite effect. It is estimated that 65% of the body's energy must be directed to the digestive organs after a heavy meal. During a fast, you free up this energy and it can be diverted to healing and recuperation. It can detox and repair cells, tissues and organs, eliminating toxins. During a fast, your body will take advantage of that time and energy to do some housecleaning.
Taking a cue from nature
When animals get sick or injured, they fast. They will find a safe place to hide, usually near a water source, and do nothing but rest, sleep and drink water. To put it another way, they fast and give their body a chance to heal and repair itself.
Fasting helps fight heart disease…
Research cardiologists at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute conducted a study the showed that fasting not only lowers one's risk of coronary artery disease and diabetes, but also causes significant changes in a person's blood cholesterol levels.
… cancer …
An extensive body of research conducted by institutions like the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Southern California, and Chicago's Mount Sinai now shows that fasting may help prevent and treat cancer. During a fast, cancer cells lose their fuel – glucose –because it disappears from the bloodstream. Without fuel, cancer cells shrivel and die. Normal cells aren’t affected, because during a fast, they go into protective mode. And with the glucose gone, they burn another type of fuel known as ketones. These molecules are created when your body runs out of glucose and starts to burn fat, which happens when you fast. Your system switches fuel sources from sugar to fat without breaking down muscle.
… and helps protect the brain
A recent study from the National Institute on Aging found that fasting one or two days a week eases the symptoms of those suffering from Alzheimer's, and other studies have shown that fasting increases life span as well as protecting the brain.
Fasting is not, in and of itself a “cure” for anything. It simply sets the stage for the body to heal itself, which it has been designed to do. In addition to the maladies listed above, fasting has been shown to ease the symptoms of allergies, arthritis, digestive disorders of all kinds, skin conditions, and asthma. Because fasting initiates the body's own healing mechanisms, any ailment may show improvement.