SHREVEPORT, La -- Are you looking for a way to lose weight, reset your immune system or lower blood sugar? Then fasting may be an option for you.
KTBS 3 health reporter Linnea Allen talked with registered dietician Julie Hartley to get an in-depth look at fasting and the benefits it provides.
Linnea Allen - “So, Julie, what exactly is fasting?”
Julie Hartley - “Fasting is defined really as a period of time, and that can be pre-determined. It can go as short as 13 hours or as long as days without food and without calories. And it's important to make that distinction, because a lot of people think that they're fasting when they're drinking coffee with creamer, or maybe they have just a little bit of wine at night. And those calories will be breaking a fast.”
Hartley - “You can. Herbal tea, water’s the best, some people can drink black coffee without creamer in it.”
Allen - “So why does it help? What's good about fasting?”
Hartley - “There are so many incredible benefits about fasting. Once we go about 13, really closer to 15, hours without food, our body makes a switch to a method called autophagy. And what this does is it helps repair cells, it helps regulate hormones like insulin, and growth hormone. It increases fat burning, increases energy, it's anti-aging, and it also helps you sleep better. It does all this while it also down-regulates hunger hormones, and so you're really not hungry. So you can see why so many performance athletes and even people struggling with other chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease, and autoimmune diseases are really finding success with fasting.”
Allen - “Okay, so wait, back up just a second. You said something about it makes hunger go away. But when I don't eat after a few hours, my stomach starts growling.”
Hartley - “Sure. And it takes some time. Fasting is like a muscle. So, the more we practice, our body gets better. We have two energy systems that we burn, much like a hybrid car. It’s what we call being a sugar burner and a fat burner, to make it simple to understand. And we, as Americans, because of our standard American diet, really stay in sugar burner mode, burning glucose all day long. And when we do that and never get to burn fat, we don't get the benefits.”
Allen - “You mentioned diabetes and other diseases. So, why is fasting good for those specific conditions?”
Hartley - “Most of our chronic diseases like diabetes, but also heart disease, cancer, and even Alzheimer's are really diseases of not just genetics, but of our American lifestyle. So, we eat lots of processed foods, lots of fast foods, and we eat all day long. So this stimulates insulin, it also stimulates fat storage, and it causes lots of inflammation, which really causes a whole host of problems. So, when we fast and give our body breaks from all that, it actually makes our cells stronger, it makes us more insulin sensitive.”
Allen - “There are different types of fasting too, correct?”
Hartley - “Yes, most people are familiar with the intermittent fasting. That's probably one of the most popular, and really, that goes between 13 to 18 plus hours. We'll see some autophagy, we'll see some increase in human growth hormone with those. But then also there is what we call a 24 hour fasting, or some people might know this as one-meal-a-day fasting. Again, greater results with the longer period of time that we go, the more mechanisms that are triggered are in your body and can also be more powerful.”
Fasting is not recommended for pregnant or nursing women, people with kidney disease, anyone in a frail condition, or elderly people. It is recommended that you seek healthcare supervision prior to fasting, especially if you are planning to fast for longer than 24 hours. If you are interested in fasting, reach out to your healthcare provider for guidance.