In this fast-food world where processed food is easily accessible and obesity is the norm, it’s hard to imagine that anyone would willingly abstain from food.
Yet when we stop the overeating that has become so common in our modern world, we discover that going without food has many benefits. If we fast for even a short time, it becomes quite clear what is important in our lives.
And science is finally acknowledging what many have known for years — that fasting can rejuvenate your body. Here are five benefits of fasting.
Benefit No. 1: Fasting Repairs The Immune System
Research shows that fasting for at least two or more days can help to regenerate the immune system. When the body takes a break from digesting food, the cells focus on repairing and rebuilding the body. Professor Valter Longo, director of University of Southern California’s Longevity University, said:
“We could not predict that prolonged fasting would have such a remarkable effect in promoting stem cell-based regeneration. When you starve, the system tries to save energy, and one of the things it can do to save energy is to recycle a lot of the immune cells that are not needed, especially those that may be damaged.
“What we started noticing in both our human work and animal work is that the white blood cell count goes down with prolonged fasting. Then when you re-feed, the blood cells come back.”
Benefit No. 2: Fasting Helps Weight Loss
Most of the weight lost during a normal fast is water weight; however, intermittent fasting can lead to permanent weight loss. Research done by Dr. Krista Varady, author of The Every Other Day Diet, shows that alternate day fasting leads to fat loss. The alternate day plan encourages dieters to eat freely one day, than eat only one 500-calorie meal the next day.
Varady, an associate professor of kinesiology and nutrition at the University of Illinois, conducted studies on alternate day fasting. She shared her research with CBS News and showed that alternate day fasters:
- lost between 10 to 30 pounds in 8 weeks.
- lowered cholesterol and blood pressure.
- lost 90 percent of weight as fat.
Benefit No. 3: Fasting Helps Prevent Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
Not only is intermittent fasting helpful for weight loss, but it might also help your brain. Studies show fasting may prevent Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. For example, in one study of mice who had Alzheimer’s, alternate-day fasting delayed symptoms of Alzheimer’s by six months.
“We know from animal models that if we start an intermittent fasting diet at what would be the equivalent of middle age in people, we can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s,” Mark Mattson at the National Institute on Aging told The Washington Post.
Benefit No. 4: Fasting Gives Your Body A Much-Needed Rest
When you get sick, your appetite goes away. After all, God designed your body to heal itself. So when you have the flu or are fighting an infection, your body doesn’t feel like eating because it’s trying to focus all of its energy on healing.
We take vacations, turn our cell phones off, and go to sleep every night. But how often do we give our bodies a break from digesting food? Not often. Why not take a break now, before you get sick? And let’s face it: our bodies need a break from chemical-laden, processed food that we often eat. Since our bodies take a lot of energy to digest food, fasting allows our bodies to heal and detoxify.
Benefit No. 5: Fasting Promotes Spiritual Growth
Throughout Scripture, we read several examples of those who fasted. The Gospel of Matthew records that even Jesus Himself fasted for 40 days and 40 nights while He was in the wilderness.
We read in Matthew 4:4: “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” Abstaining from food is one of the most powerful disciplines of the Christian life. Through fasting, prayer and reading the Bible, you can grow closer to God.
While fasting has many benefits, it’s not for everyone. Some individuals — such as women who are pregnant or breastfeeding — shouldn’t fast. Also, you shouldn’t fast if you have any of the following conditions:
- Heart Disease
- Stomach Ulcers
- Blood Disease
- Liver Disease
- Kidney Disease
- Eating Disorders
If you’ve never fasted, start with a water-only fast for a day. Or try a juice fast for one to three days. And who knows? You might just become healthier and grow spiritually in the process.
What fasting benefits and tips would you add? Tell us in the comments section below.