The health benefits of intermittent fasting are powerful and well documented. “Dramatically reducing calories on two days per week not only kick-starts weight loss, but also rejuvenates the body’s systems, repairs cells and restores vitality,” explains holistic nutritionist, yoga and meditation teacher and wholefoods chef Lee Holmes.
And the benefits don’t stop there. In this special extract from Lee’s new book, Fast Your Way to Wellness, the author of the bestselling Supercharged Food series explains the health benefits of intermittent fasting, how often to do it, where to find nutritious recipes and how good gut health transformed her …
“Many of you will know that I was suffering from health issues and that I managed to restore myself to health, improving the symptoms of my fibromyalgia and autoimmune condition, through healing my digestive system. As my gut lining startedto repair itself and my gut microflora (the population of good bacteria in my intestines) became balanced, many aspects of my health improved dramatically.
It’s fascinating what an astoundingly accurate reflection of our emotional state our gut is. An unhealthy gut can bring us down, but if we take care of our digestive system, our emotions and mood will be affected in a positive way. For more on this and other aspects of gut health, please consult my book Heal Your Gut and the four-week online gut-healing programs on my website, superchargedfood.com.
“If you want to feel great physically and emotionally, the first phase of looking after your gut and ensuring that it’s performing optimally is giving it some downtime — let it lie on the couch, be in charge of the remote and relax. The next phase is nourishing it with organic, natural wholefoods; hydrating it with pure, filtered water and alkalising and nutrient-rich green juices; giving it a little boost with some probiotics and fermented foods; and supporting it by eating slowly and mindfully, chewing thoroughly, and keeping stress and negative emotions at bay.
Once your gut is in a healthy state, it’s important to realise that, just like you, your digestive system sometimes needs a little rest and recuperation to be able to function at its best. That’s when intermittent fasting can be really helpful. Think of fasting as a self-care practice, a much needed timeout for your gut for which your body and health will thank you. This isn’t another fad diet or period of deprivation, and you’re working within your own constitution and bodily systems.
In my book Eat Right for Your Shape, which is based on Ayurvedic principles, I introduce fasting recipes and benefits centred around increasing digestive fire (agni). I believe in the metabolism-boosting properties of a healthy meal during the period of highest digestion, so I eat my largest meal at lunchtime. On my fasting days, I try to eat dinner as early as possible to achieve double benefits, and I eat small quantities of nutrient-rich, easy-to-digest, seasonal foods suited to my dosha (personal energy type) during the ‘feeding’ phase. This lightens the load on my gut and prepares my body for a longer overnight fasting phase, to give my digestive system twelve to sixteen hours of total rest.
There are several approaches to intermittent fasting, but doing it twice a week, for example, will give your overworked digestive system some much-needed restorative time. It’s just a case of eating fewer high-calorie processed foods and focusing on easy-to-digest wholefoods a couple of days a week. You can do this by following the recipes in Fast Your Way to Wellness. It’s that simple.
Apart from gut health, intermittent fasting has a range of regenerative and healing effects beyond its fat-burning benefits. Religions have long maintained that fasting is excellent for the soul, but its specific bodily benefits were only clinically recognised in the 1900s, when doctors recommended it to treat a multitude of disorders from diabetes to epilepsy. Research before 1945 and the advent of antibiotics and industrial pharmaceutical drug production highlighted the idea that periods of time without food reduced the risk of cancer and delayed the development of disorders that lead to death. It’s only recently that researchers have begun to delve further into the age-old practice of intermittent fasting, with enlightening results.
Studies on mice have shown that periods of fasting protect the immune system from damage and induce immune system regeneration. Fasting may therefore have huge implications for the way we age, as immune system decline is a major contributor to disease and degeneration. During periods without food, the immune system responds by trying to save energy, so it recycles a lot of unused immune cells, especially those damaged by such things as ageing, chemotherapy, drugs and a toxic lifestyle. Fasting also lowers levels of insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1), a hormone linked to ageing, tumour progression and cancer risk.
Fasting may also hold the key to boosting brain health. Dietary restriction has been shown on experimental models of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease and stroke to pump up the resistance of neurons (nerve cells) in the brain to dysfunction and death. It does this by stimulating the acceleration of protein activity that suppresses oxidisation and the formation of free radicals.
Overall, research is beginning to point towards amazing cell-recycling and cell-regenerating mechanisms that are a direct result of intermittent fasting. This helps explain why, during times of sickness, we’re less likely to want to eat – the fasting kicks our body into a mode of immune-cell sacrifice and regeneration, upgrading your immune system with the long-term goal of survival and vitality in mind.”
ABOUT: Lee Holmes is a holistic nutritionist, yoga and meditation teacher, wholefoods chef and author of the bestselling Supercharged Food series, which includes Eat Your Way to Good Health; Eat Yourself Beautiful, Eat Clean, Green and Vegetarian; Supercharged Food for kids; Eat Right For Your Shape; and Heal Your Gut. Lee runs four-week and two-day ‘Heal Your gut’ programs at www.superchargedfood.com
This is an edited extract from Fast Your Way to Wellness by Lee Holmes (Murdoch Books RRP $29.99) – a companion to Lee’s bestseller Heal Your Gut. It is perfect for those starting a fasting program as well as those already committed to one. Fast Your Way to Wellness offers essential information, facts, tools, meal plans and more than 90 recipes to help you thrive on this lifestyle plan, improving your gut health and overall wellness.
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