Fasting Part 2: Intermittent Fasting, A New Lens
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The “Why” Behind the Many Benefits of Fasting
It’s common to arrive at the idea of fasting from a standpoint of weight loss. But, how exactly does that happen? Insulin and sugar are the major players here. Insulin functions to move sugar from the blood into storage centers (liver & muscles). When we intake food, insulin levels spike, telling the body to store whatever sugar is coming in, into the liver or muscles. However, if those storage centers are full, that’s when the body stores sugar (this includes carbohydrates) as adipose tissue (fat). Fat is the commodity of the body system, we need it in order to have energy for all of our bodily functions. When the body goes into action, there is a certain amount of reciprocity with fat usage. Fasting benefits this commodity by burning off excess fat as means to exchange with the energy of physical and metabolic action.
Fasting is about so much more than losing weight (while that’s a plus!); it’s about resetting the bodily systems and giving our organs time to rejuvenate. When our digestive system is at rest, it falls back on ketosis as a means of providing cellular energy. Ketosis, the process by which fat is burned for energy instead of glucose (sugar), encourages healthy apoptosis (the death of negative cells in the body). “Negative cells” are essentially cells that are no longer serving us, and if they accumulate in the body they can cause a number of health problems. A balanced bodily system creates and destroys cells at an equal rate, thus maintaining a balanced and healthy cell population. On average, the body produces 500 billion new red blood cells in a day; red blood cells are completely replaced in the body every 120 days. Healthy apoptosis (cell death) is necessary for the functioning of a balanced bodily system, and fasting helps to promote this process.
The body exists in 2 states, the fed state and fasted state. When these 2 states are balanced, we maintain our weight. Similarly, when we are more often in the fed state there is tendency towards weight gain, and when we are more often in the fasted state there is tendency for weight loss. Intermittent fasting is meant to be done 12-16 hours each day, allowing for ½ to ⅔ of a day spent in the fasted state.
A Moment for the Liver
The fasted state is a time when the body detoxes. The liver is the conductor of the grand orchestra of digestion. Constantly detoxing and performing over 500 duties in the body, the liver is one of the main benefactors by intermittent fasting. Giving this organ time to rest and fully rejuvenates lends itself to better sleep, brighter skin, increased digestion and so much more.
The liver is the primary reason why eating late at night is not the optimum choice for healthy practices. Chinese medicine steps in here and offers some architecture in the form of timing to this ides. This ancient tradition gives us a clock for which every organ has its time of rest and time of optimum functioning According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the time of the liver is from 1am - 3am (for rest) and 1pm - 3pm (for optimum function). It’s ideal to not eat at least 6 hours before this time for full digestion to occur. That way, the liver’s only job will be to detoxify and rejuvenate itself, during its optimum time of rest.
Successful practices of intermittent fasting are easier to integrate through knowledge. Empowering your health means empowering your sense of intellect through that which understands and that which feels and experiences. To understand what we are doing and why, it’s best to take the birds-eye view. Yes, we fast and do the health practices, but let’s understand the larger picture of what is occurring. Fasting is the micro experience to larger of being in the digestive experience but understand what is going on with your body.