• Fasting Has Amazing Health Benefits

    by Dr. Susan Sklar
    on Oct 7th, 2014

Fasting has amazing health benefits. Although I’ve known this for a long time, I have not had the courage to incorporate it into my routine. However, I had my attempt at fasting this past weekend. It was the Jewish holiday of atonement and part of the process is a 24 hour fast. It goes from sundown one day to sundown the following day. During this time one is not supposed to eat or drink anything.

In past years I complied with this but by hour 18 I would start to feel very fatigued, dizzy, and somewhat disoriented.

This year I committed to a food fast but planned to drink water or dilute herbal tea.  I did fine the first evening, but my growling stomach at bedtime seemed like it would prevent me from sleeping. So I had a small slice of plum. The next day, I woke up hungry but drank fluids to fill my stomach and dampen the hunger.  I did fine until the early afternoon when hunger pains became severe.  I tried water and tea, but the pain continued. So I had two small chunks of melon that I was cutting up for the meal later in the evening. (It’s especially difficult to fast when you have to prepare food for the company that will gather to break the fast at sundown). 

It is interesting to note how little food can keep a person satisfied. I made it through the rest of the evening until sundown when my family came together to enjoy our traditional foods—lox, cream cheese, bagels (none for me, I’m gluten free), chopped liver, pastrami, corned beef, and salads. 
  
So now the question is how to fast as a routine. First, let’s talk about why fasting. 

Fasting allows your body to go into a nutritional resting state where fewer harmful chemicals are produced, your hormone function increases, and you burn fat instead of carbohydrates. This reduces risk of chronic disease significantly. 

Chronic diseases include heart attacks, strokes, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. Intermittent fasting is a very successful way to lose weight and keep it off. You improve your cholesterol markers also.  Also, your brain works better when you burn fat for energy (this is called ketosis).  Dr. David Perlmutter discusses this in his excellent book “Grain Brain.” 

Not sure how to fast?  There are a variety of ways to fast that seem to activate these healthy pathways.

  1. Do a 24 hour modified fast for 2 days each week. On these days, you eat one meal (lunch or dinner) that is 500 calories for women and 600 calories for men. The other 5 days you eat normally.   
  2. Eat your food every day within an 8 hour window. This gives you 16 hours of fasting. 
  3. Do an overnight 12 hour fast three times a week. This means finishing dinner for example by 7 pm and not eating again until 7 am the next day. 
  
Our prehistoric ancestors had feasts and famines. They went long periods of time without food and then would feast when they caught prey. Our bodies are physiologically designed to work with periodic fasts. Want to give it a try? It will do you a world of good.

Author Dr. Susan Sklar

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