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Intermittent fasting: Health benefits and risks

While fasting is commonly associated with spiritual beliefs, many of us choose to fast with the belief that it benefits our health, but does it?

Numerous studies have suggested that intermittent fasting - abstaining or reducing food and drink intake periodically - can be good for us, making it one of the most popular diet trends worldwide and most searched diets on the internet.

First, intermittent fasting is not a diet. It is a time approach to eating, abstaining or reducing food and drink except water for a certain amount of time.

The potential benefits of intermittent fasting.

The body can’t get energy from food during fasting, so it pulls glucose from what is stored in the liver and muscles. When that source of energy is used up the body begins to burn fat. At the same time something called autophagy happens.

Auto means “self” and “phagy” means eat, therefore the literal meaning is “self-eating”. It is the bodies way of cleaning out damaged cells in order to generate newer healthier ones.

Health professionals who support the diet say all these things combined can control blood sugar, boost the immune system, improve brain function, reduce inflammation and help you live longer. Fasting also burns fat in the process.

With all, some people fast because it’s simple compared to diets that require tracking food, meals and counting calories.

The potential health risks of fasting

In general, medical professionals and academic articles tell us fasting can be a safe tool for most healthy and well-nourished people. However, calorie restriction can put stress on the body. Because of this fasting may not be ideal for everybody, especially if you are dealing with significant stress or have a specific medical condition.

People with medical conditions should consult their doctor before beginning any fasting program. People particularly at risk from fasting and who may require medical supervision include:

  • women who are breastfeeding
  • women who are pregnant
  • people who are trying to conceive
  • people with diabetes
  • people who have difficulty regulating sugar
  • people with low blood pressure
  • people on medications
  • people with eating disorders
  • people who are underweight

Some of the unwanted effects of fasting include; dehydration, depression, low energy, binge eating, confusion, tension and eating disorders.

If you are interested in fasting

Fasting is a natural part of the human life cycle. Most people have fasted unknowingly throughout their lifetimes by eating an early dinner and skipping breakfast the next day.

More structured approaches may work well for some people.

There are a variety of methods, including how long and how often to fast. No method is better overall than any other. However, some people might find they can sustain a particular eating pattern more successfully.

Health experts suggest you find the cycle of eating that works best for your lifestyle and health needs and goals.

It is important to keep in mind that although a person does not need to exclude certain foods from their diet, they should still aim to eat a balanced diet rich in protein, fiber, vegetables and remember to drink plenty of fluids.

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