I do a fast every quarter, or at least I try to. Often, this is a water fast that is 3-5 days long. For the first two fasts this year, I did the fasting mimicking diet. This diet, called Pro Lon, makes your body think it’s fasting in order to get many of the benefits of a water fast, while at the same time being able in eat a special, reduced calorie diet.
At the 4th of July party we attended, I was sharing about fasting with a girl who had some digestive issues that I thought could benefit from a water-only fast. As I was sharing, I realized that it’s time again for my quarterly fast, which I started Monday.
So, what are some of the benefits of fasting?
As I was explaining to this girl and her family, one benefit of fasting is what I call a “reset.” It’s like a hard reboot on your computer after it freezes or gives you the blue screen. When you fast, it provides an opportunity for everything to rest. And if you have gut issues, this rest can provide your digestive tract time to heal.
This is because, after 3-5 days, you have a proliferation of stem cells. Stem cells are cells that can go to places in your body that are injured or not working properly and provide healing. Some stem cells come on day 3. More come on day 4. And the most come on day 5.
Another benefit of fasting is that cells that are older or dysfunctional in some way can die to make room for new, healthy cells. This is called autophagy. These cells degrade, and their components are recycled.
Similarly, there is the benefit of mitophagy, which is the death of older, dysfunctional mitochondria. The mitochondria are the energy center of the cell, where glucose is converted into ATP through the Krebs Cycle or TCA Cycle. Glucose is like money in the bank: it’s not in the usable form. But ATP is like cash money, which is usable in the cells. Therefore efficient, healthy mitochondria is central to wellness in that it provides for a healthy metabolic function which becomes more difficult as you age.
Lastly, fasting provides a die-off of your microbiome, e.g., your gut bacteria. There are 30,000 different types of bacteria that can live in your gut. Some of these bacteria are good and some are bad. In general, the bad bacteria feed off sugar and carbs and the good bacteria feed off of fats like Omega-3 fatty acids and medium chain triglycerides. With a fast, most bacteria die off, which can be beneficial if you promote the growth of healthy bacteria through your diet.
These benefits together are also reasons why fasting leads to the additional benefit of a longer lifespan in the science literature.
There is no doubt that fasting provides wellness benefits. If you’ve never fasted before, you should consider trying it. Start with a three day fast. Get a friend or two to fast with you. Or join the Facebook group Fasting With A Purpose, where you can almost always find someone who is fasting. If you have health issues, make sure you fast under a clinician’s supervision. But while it’s summertime, go ahead and take the plunge!