Although now it is much much about the sense of strict diets and that the best nutrition is varied and balanced, the idea of the benefits of complete fasting is still alive. It is promoted as a means of losing weight, a way to carry out a “detox” and get rid of “toxins” and even as a medicine for a variety of diseases, including cancer. Let’s figure out where the “fashion” for fasting came from, whether it can be curative and whether it can be harmful.
How to do fasting
Therapies, which include refusal of food, last ten to twenty days on average, and in some centers, up to a month. During this time, patients are under strict medical supervision. Fasting is completely contraindicated for people with such problems: the risk to health and life is too high.
With hidden, not yet diagnosed diseases, for example, during the initial stages of diabetes mellitus or heart failure, fasting can be fatal, so a thorough examination is really necessary. It must be understood that there is currently no conclusive evidence that fasting can prevent the development of cancer or cure any disease – and no official therapeutic guidelines describe such a method of “treatment.” Sanatoriums and centers where fasting is carried out, by and large, have come up with a profitable business – after all, there are still many who want to find a panacea, and it is safer to do it under the supervision of a doctor.
What happens to the body during hunger
On the first day after the last meal, people feel a strong feeling of hunger. During this time, the body spends its stores of carbohydrates and tries to conserve energy until something else is eaten: all activity decreases, including pressure and heart rate. Carbohydrate stores run out in about one to two days, and the body enters the next stage of hunger – it can last for several weeks. During this time, fat is used as an energy source. Adipose tissue is broken down into fatty acids, and when they break down, in turn, ketone bodies are formed – poisonous chemical compounds, one of which is, for example, acetone.
An excess of ketone bodies in the blood leads to an increase in its acidity, but if the body is working normally, then the blood pH is normalized – for this, acetone is constantly excreted from the body through the skin and exhaled air, and a characteristic odor is felt. Besides, with an increased breakdown of adipose tissue, the level of cortisol, a hormone that regulates blood glucose levels, participates in the development of the stress response and reduces the activity of inflammatory processes, increases. Also, during hunger, levels of another anti-inflammatory protein, ghrelin, increase. This is why inflammatory diseases such as infections and asthma can be relieved.
On the Internet, references to the so-called intermittent fasting, a less radical version of the above, are increasingly appearing. Usually, it means giving up food for sixteen hours (for example, between lunch of one day and breakfast of the next), for a day (from breakfast to breakfast), or even for two days (in the latter case, it is still recommended to get a small number of calories during this time). It is assumed that such short-term refusal of food serves as a “shake-up” for the body, helps to improve the regulation of glucose levels, or to triggers an anti-inflammatory process. True, in Silicon Valley, intermittent fasting has already been taken to a new level: refusal to eat lasts three, four, and even seven days, and its goal is to increase productivity and “refresh” the brain.
To take risks or not
Fasting is accompanied by unpleasant sensations: abdominal discomfort, irritability, and anxiety, a feeling of fatigue, not to mention the obvious feeling of hunger. If abused, this practice can lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies, which in turn can be detrimental to health. When the body starts using fat stores as its primary resource and enters a state of ketoacidosis, the smell of acetone arises – and this stage can also be accompanied by dizziness, nausea, or vomiting. Long-term refusal to eat weakens the immune system – and this can be overlooked for a while if the anti-inflammatory effect of fasting works.
Under the supervision of specialists, if you carefully follow their recommendations, the fasting course will not do any harm – but it is important to understand that there will be no particular benefit from it. Fasting is not a panacea – it can only alleviate some symptoms without solving the underlying problem; trying to reduce weight with its help is also questionable. The main thing to remember: a course of fasting at home is self-medication, dangerous to health, and sometimes to life.