Fasting is not new to humans. As cavemen, we were hunters and walked for hours to hunt and slept hungry if we were out of luck. Eating natural foods that kept us fuller for longer and being active was our basic way of living. What’s new, however, is our sedentary lifestyle and fussing over fad diets.
Indians have been fasting for centuries—traditional cultural fasts, fasting for the rain gods, or for the spouse’s longer life, it’s in our DNA! Nowadays, we are forcing ourselves to fast. Fasting reluctantly and then binging ravenously the next couple of days beats the purpose of fasting completely. It confuses the body and your mind and is more damaging than regular eating.
Enter intermittent fasting
Eating and fasting at specific intervals of time is called intermittent fasting. It is gaining popularity with celebrities and weight watchers because it allows you to increase or decrease the window gradually, according to your comfort level.
The fasting window could be a certain number of hours in the day to start off with or full days of fasting, spaced out within the week. The most important change I have experienced in my body, received as feedback from my clients is how the gut feels whilst on IF.
Inflammation in the gut lining and the microbes that help heal depend completely on the type of food we eat. It also depends on the amount of food we eat and at what intervals. When at rest, the body heals the fastest. Similarly when we rest the digestive system, the enteric nervous system also rests and heals the gut and brain axis (GBA).
Intermittent fasting—a boon for your health
The most popular and easy way to go about intermittent fasting is to do the 16:8—eating for 8 hours of the day and fasting for the remaining 16 hours. Don’t worry, most hours you would be sleeping and not thinking about food.
Alternatively, you can do a 24-hour fast with water/without water once or twice a week
You see, intermittent fasting allows your digestive system to take a break from working hard all day and night. It also:
1. Reduces inflammation in the gut and other parts of the body
2. Helps multiply the good microbes needed for digestion, satiety and weight loss
3. Controls your insulin levels helping you control weight and future obesity-related problems
4. Can be maintained during long distance travel. For that matter, you can follow it just almost anywhere!
What to keep in mind?
While, there is no need to count calories while intermittent fasting, it doesn’t mean you can eat cakes, cookies, and guzzle sodas. That is not how you’ll see results.
So if you plan to try intermittent fasting, make sure you go about it sensibly. Eat colourful vegetables and hydrate well. Skip fast food, sodas, and alcohol. Your gut will thank you for it!
Payal Kothari is an integrative nutritionist and gut health coach who believes all fad diets fail, but when a holistic approach is taken a transformation lasts a lifetime.