Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Is Fasting Good or Bad? Health Guidelines for Fasting

What is fasting?

According to Registered Dietitian Gail Sommerfeld of Loyola University and Peter Vash, M.D., Medical Director of Lindora (Calif.) Medical Clinic and past president of the American Society of Bariatric Physicians, a fast means no food whatsoever and no liquid except water. And if it is for less than 24 hours it isn't a fast, it's skipped meals.

Portland, Oregon chef Paul Wenner, creator of the Gardenburger and founder of Wholesome & Hearty Foods, Inc., strongly advocates fasting. In his book, Garden Cuisine, Wenner recommends ingesting nothing but distilled water, at least sixteen 8-ounce glasses of it, for 24 hours once a week for three weeks. Once a month, make it a three-day fast, and take one seven-day fast yearly. But if you go without food for more than three consecutive days, Wenner cautions, "you will need supervision."

The licensed professionals agree on this, that fasting is not for the young and not for the older. Before age 18 to 20, the body is still building bone, muscle, and brain cells, and after about 40 to 45 it begins to lose it. Before maturity the body needs constant nutrients to build it; by middle age it needs them to prevent deterioration.

Fasting, even for 10 to 12 hours, causes the body to lose calcium, according to a study reported in The Journal of Nutrition. Any calcium depletion is particularly ominous for persons under twenty, whose bones are still gaining mass, and over forty, who tend to begin losing bone density.

Fasting has been found to be an effective treatment for psychological and emotional disorders. It helps a person to firm up his will, cultivate and refine his taste and manners, strengthen his conviction of doing good, avoid controversy, petulance and rashness, which all contribute towards a sane and healthy personality. Besides nurturing resistance and ability to face hardships and endurance, fasting reflects on outward physical appearance by cutting out gluttony and getting rid of excess fat. The benefits of fasting on health do not stop there but are instrumental in alleviating a number of physical diseases, including those of the digestive systems, such as chronic stomachache, inflammation of the colon, liver diseases, indigestion, and conditions such as obesity, arteriosclerosis, high blood pressure, asthma, diphtheria and many other maladies.

A Swiss physician Dr. Barsilus noted that: The advantages of hunger as a remedy exceed those ingesting medicine several times.

Generally speaking, fasting hastens the destruction of the decaying tissues of the body by means of hunger, and then builds new tissues through nutrition. This is why some scientists suggest that fasting should be regarded as an effective means of restoring youthfulness and longevity. But fasting should have its regulations too, and not simply the in orderly skipping meals, that is bound to harm health and stamina, rather than improving them.

In view of the long hours of fasting, we should consume slow digesting foods including fiber containing-foods rather than fast-digesting foods; slow digesting foods including fiber containing-foods rather than fast-digesting foods. Slow digesting foods last up to 8 hours, while fast-digesting foods last for only 3 to 4 hours.

Slow-digesting foods are foods that contain grains and seeds like barely, wheat, oats, millet, semolina, beans, lentils, whole meal flour, unpolished rice, etc. (called complex carbohydrates).

Fast-burning foods are foods that contain sugar, white flour, etc. (called refined carbohydrates).

Fiber-containing foods are bran-containing foods, whole wheat, grains and seeds, vegetables like green beans, peas, sem (papry), marrow, mealies, spinach, and other herbs like methie, the leaves of beetroot (iron-rich), fruit with skin, dried fruit especially dried apricots, figs and prunes, almonds, etc.

The foods eaten should be well balanced, containing foods from each food group, i.e., fruits, vegetables, meat/chicken/fish, bread/cereals and dairy products. Fried foods are unhealthy and should be limited. They cause indigestion, heartburn, and weight problems.

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