It is fasting time in churches again. Despite its numerous spiritual benefits, not many people are used to it.
Most times, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. However, both – the spirit and the flesh – benefit from fasting. Over the years studies have continued to find many health benefits of fasting, making it a two-for-one exercise.
The well-known spiritual benefits of fasting, which involve exchanging what we need to survive for what we need to live for God, include the following identified by religious experts:
Soul cleansing: Fasting is a great time to remember the spiritual connection we have to our physical bodies.
Without the toxins we put in our bodies, we not only give our bodies a break from the digestive process, but we also allow our spirits to be detoxed. Fasting is a faith-move, an expectation we have that God will fill us with His Holy Spirit, just as He promised. Fasting and meditation cleanse the soul and makes it new so we can receive the Holy Spirit and become empowered to live for Christ in a new way.
A new desire for God: When we acknowledge through fasting that we need God to live, and to live more abundantly, we can begin to desire God in a new way. When we realize we need God more than we need food, we get closer to him, knowing He is the sustainer of all life.
A deeper praise: We appreciate Him more are able to praise Him as desired. Once we get caught up in our desire for God and our praise for His mighty acts, we won’t have time to be hungry or count down the hours until our fast is over. We’ll be celebrating the whole time!
Hearing from God: With body and soul cleansed to activate the spirit or give it more room, we increase our perception of spiritual things. When we detox the spirit and become consumed with desire and praise for God, we become sensitive to His voice.
A new satisfaction: When you finish your fast, renewed, full of energy, detoxed, with a new desire, a new praise and sensitivity to God’s voice, you’ll find that the absence of food was small in comparison to what you gained. Physical food never fully satisfies; in a few hours, you’ll need to eat again. But when you are fed from doing the work of the Lord, you will find a new satisfaction like you’ve never experienced.
Health benefits of fasting
The health benefits of fasting have become an interesting field of study. It is even being promoted as a means of preventing your risk of chronic disease, as well as aiding long life.
Intermittent fasting has been found to give the body more time to effectively digest what you are eating and eliminate waste. Many biological repair processes take place when your body is in the “rest,” not the “digest,” mode, which is why all-day grazing is bad for you.
An expert, Dr Edward Group, breaks it down as follows:
Improves Body Composition and Fitness: People fast for all kinds of reasons, and many are particularly interested in the effects fasting has on the body’s fat tissues and overall weight loss. Others fast or intermittently fast for better exercise results. Fasting contributes to a better body composition in several ways, primarily through its actions on hormones and fat metabolism.
Promotes Greater Satiety: Your fatty tissue acts as a kind of endocrine organ, producing several different hormones. One of these hormones, leptin, affects how full you feel. Fasting and weight loss significantly affect your hunger level and post-meal satisfaction through this hormone. With fasting, leptin levels drop initially, but as you lose weight, you decrease leptin resistance. Becoming more responsive to leptin signals increases how full you feel.
Supports Fat Loss: Ketosis, or the fat-burning state, is reached either by fasting or eating a diet centered on healthy fats. Ketosis helps you burn through your fat reserves. Excessive central fat stored around organs, like your liver and kidneys, interferes with organ function. Fasting, particularly intermittent fasting, helps you reach ketosis even faster than traditional caloric restriction. One study found that fasting significantly boosted fat metabolism in humans.
Encourages Better Insulin Sensitivity: Fasting causes the body to secrete less insulin because you’re not giving yourself steady doses of sugar. Lower levels of this hormone lead to increased sensitivity in those with insulin resistance. Excessive fat stores seem to contribute to this resistance. Some research points to excessive fat in the body, blood, and diet as a contributor to insulin resistance by preventing it from doing its job, i.e., opening the pores on your cell membranes to allow sugar to pass into them.
Improves Cardiovascular Health: One of the main benefits of fasting, particularly for people that have metabolic syndrome-related health concerns, is the many immediate cardiovascular benefits. Fasting improves cardiovascular function, blood composition, and blood pressure. Those with type 2 diabetes or high cholesterol may find fasting helpful for addressing some of the associated health concerns.
Lowers Blood Pressure: While fasting, many people develop lower blood pressure, primarily during the first week of a fast. It might not be fasting itself that decreases blood pressure, but rather a significantly lower salt intake and increased loss of salt through the urine.
Decreases Blood Sugar: In just the first few days of fasting, blood sugar drops over 30 per cent, a significant perk to anyone with hyperglycemia. This drop usually makes people feel low energy, but your blood sugar levels should stabilize as you continue to fast.
Promotes Heart Health: Another animal study found that fasting leads to improved heart health. In animals, researchers found that intermittent fasting improved heart muscle performance, reduced free radical damage, and increased the growth of blood vessels within the heart.
May Slow Aging and Enhance Longevity: Research into fasting for longevity and healthier aging is well-established in animals, but controlled testing on humans is still in its infancy. Better blood composition alone improves healthier aging and health outcomes. The effects of fasting appear to lead to a healthier, longer lifespan.
Decreases Inflammation: Inflammation has many causes, but an unhealthy diet is a consistent source of free radicals and the foods that cause inflamation. Refined sugar, refined carbs, alcohol, meat, dairy, and fried or charred foods provoke inflammation. But food isn’t the only source—metabolic reactions also generate free radicals like superoxides and hydrogen peroxide. Foregoing a few meals prevents food-related inflammation before it even starts.
Another way that fasting decreases inflammation is through better hormone balance. Several studies have found lower insulin levels and improved insulin sensitivity decrease oxidative stress caused by free radicals.
Increases Resistance to Stress: Free radical-related damage is a well-known contributor to premature aging. The benefits of fasting include better blood composition, improved hormone signaling, less oxidative stress, and healthier gene signaling. These benefits make your body’s oxidative stress plummet, a feat that keeps your genes, cells, and tissues healthy as you age.
Improves Cell Recycling: As we age, rogue cells, both human and foreign, can proliferate throughout the body unchecked and this damaged tissue can contribute to progressive disease. Fasting sends your body into cell recycling, a process of self-digestion at the cellular level called autophagy. But you’re not just digesting your fat to fuel yourself while fasting. Your body also targets malfunctioning cells and old tissues to optimize resources for survival.
Fasting promotes the destruction of malfunctioning cells and tissues through selective protection. It selectively protects healthy tissues because they respond to adverse conditions like famine or fasting.
Protects Your Brain: Studies on aging and brain function have substantially increased in the last decade. Life expectancies have increased well past what was once even thought possible. The public’s profound interest in brain health throughout all stages of life reflects a desire to age gracefully, healthfully, and with full mental faculties intact. Fortunately, fasting seems to specifically kickstart protective mechanisms in your brain.
Promotes a Healthy Stress Response: Mild, infrequent stress is good for you. It challenges your body, and you come out stronger after going through it. Moderate, short stress on the brain produces a similar result. Fasting exerts a small amount of stress on the brain. This stress sets of a cascade of actions that protect neurons from damage and death in animal models.
Enhances Recovery From Injury: You would think that fasting after injury, especially one to the glucose-hungry brain, would make recovery even more difficult. But the opposite seems to be true. In animal studies, intermittent fasting after injury improved brain function from stroke and diseases that affect the brain. At this time, the mechanism is not yet understood, so further investigation is required before your health care practitioner can start recommending intermittent fasting for recovery.