Fasting in India has long been part of many spiritual practices. It is also a traditional way of detoxifying the body and giving rest to the successive system, which then allows the healing of different organs. But, for the last decade, fasting has become a fad as many of us are blindly following 20-24 hours of fasting without thinking about the digestive system and metabolism.
I have observed many of us are following what others are doing without considering the consequences that may follow. It is important to note that nutrition and calorie requirements are different for each individual and so is energy spending. Also, if one person can fast for 14-16 hours, it doesn’t mean an individual with high blood pressure or sugar levels can also follow 14-16 hours of fasting to reduce weight.
Follow circadian rhythm
Many people are using fasting as a way to compensate for a bad lifestyle; however, this will only result in acidity and deficiencies of vitamins, minerals and nutrients. The body has its clock and memory to eat, sleep and wake up. So, we can’t use fasting to compensate for a late-night party. Fasting is done best in a cycle which is aligned with nature, but if you change this timing and cyclic rhythm it will increase body stress, create an acidic environment, raise cortisol levels and thyroid levels as the adrenaline gland gets exhausted pumping cortisol thus making our body sluggish and with affected metabolism.
That’s where we have to follow ‘circadian rhythms’ — a natural, internal process that regulates the sleep-wake cycle and repeats roughly every 24 hours. It is advisable to keep your health care professional in the loop and start with 8-10 hours of fasting and then build on this later. Following one routine for fasting, for changing time from morning to the evening, will put the body in survival mode where a sympathetic nervous system gets activated leading to accumulating more fat and stopping the detoxification process.
The right way
The best-suggested way of fasting is by following it up with an early dinner — around sunset or before sunset. You can then fast for 10-12 or 14-16 hours depending on your body’s cue and break the fast the next morning. This way, your hours of sleep will also get counted in the fasting window. During your fasting period you should only drink plain water; no lemon water, tea, coffee, infused water, herbal infusions, etc. When you want to break the fast, start with lemon water to keep the body alkaline and in case you can’t tolerate lemon then fennel water is also an option.
After that, have a bowl of fruit to get natural digestive enzymes to line the gut and keep the body alkaline. After an hour or so you can have a cooked breakfast or lunch depending on when you break your fast. We don’t have to fast every day as once or twice a week is completely fine to detoxify the body and improve metabolism. Don’t push yourself to extremes as it’s harmful to the body. Follow fasting the right way and mindfully!
Chief Nutrition Officer, Luke Coutinho Holistic Healing Systems. The writer is a clinical nutritionist with a focus on healthy lifestyle choices.