Fasting Part 1: Down to the Basics

Hi, Im Esther!

I'm so glad you made it to my website

We live in a fast-paced time with rampant information at our fingertips and troves of references across the internet. When fast-fad diets and intriguing new health crazes bubble to surface, we are naturally inclined to see what it’s all about. The latest fascination in the health world is when the body is in a ketogenic state in the Keto Diet. Ketosis is a metabolic process in which some of the body's energy supply comes from ketone bodies in the blood, in contrast to a state of glycolysis in which blood glucose provides energy. Generally, ketosis occurs when the body is metabolizing fat at a high rate and converting fatty acids into ketones. While there are many intriguing factors to the Keto Diet, what I want to talk about is the aspect that I find most important- fasting.

Fasting has been practiced for thousands of years across many different cultures as a way of purification and rejuvenation, specifically around seasonal changes. In addition, the practice of fasting has been known to help a wide range of illnesses and conditions (however one should always consult your physician if you’re currently under the care of an allopathic/western medicine physician). So I inquire, how can the practice of fasting be done in a safe way that is not only nourishing, but applicable to our lives in a gentle and sustainable manner?

First, let’s breakdown the physiological aspects of fasting and explore what exactly it means to fast the body. When we begin a fast, we stop consuming solid foods, except for water, for an extended period of time. This allows the digestive system to completely breakdown and integrate food consumed from the previous period of time. It is important not to break a fast once begun, because essentially you have to start all over again; and possibly expend more energy than needed in the process.

For example: let’s say you’ve begun a fast and you’re 10 hours in...then it happens...

You feel those grubly indications of hunger churning in your tummy, and just as fate would have it your coworker comes around the corner with a delicious looking apple, just for you (or even worse- that croissant she gets every morning from your favorite baker!).

“Sure” you begin to justify to yourself.

“It’s just an apple. A healthy snack! Surely this can’t hurt. Maybe I’ll just take a bite.”

C-R-U-N-C-H!... You take your first bite to into that crispy, delicious apple- and then the biological forces of our body begin…

Those sweet, fresh juices from the apple let the brain know that we are eating and we have to make more saliva. As we begin to chew, the enzymes from the saliva and action of mastication of our jaw signal to the esophageal muscles to turn on in order to move food from the mouth to the stomach. As this signal is being communicated, the stomach turns on and begins to churn the hydrochloric acid in preparation to break down the food further. Then, the liver and pancreas are signaled to come online so that they can sort and deliver nutrients to the blood. The small intestine gets word that it too needs to prepare to take in food to reabsorb nutrients and eventually deliver excess waste to the large intestine where we will begin the process of excretion.

WHOAH! That’s a lot of work and energy just for a bite of an apple. Was is worth it? No, because now, not only has the body wasted a lot of energy for a measly bite of an apple, but you have also broken your fast, not giving your system the much needed rest it would benefit from had you given it what you intended in the first place. It may just have been worth it to follow through and give your system a well deserved, satisfying meal.

Now, now, now, this is not meant to demonize us for having our very human moments. The best changes happen slowly and over time. Especially when we are getting ready to integrate new practices. It’s my opinion that the most potent integrations come when we are armed with information and perspectives that allow us to not only intellectually but somatically take in information and reasoning. 

Now that we understand what fasting is, and why it’s important to the body,we can delve deeper into how fasting can be utilized in our life as a ritual of rejuvenation.