Benefits of Fasting – An Ayurveda View

Ayurveda intermittent fasting is beneficial in erectile dysfunction, PCOS, Psoriasis and also helps in weight loss. It improves skin glow detoxifies body and mind.

Ayurveda Fasting

What ayurveda says about intermittent fasting

Benefits of fasting ayurveda

Fasting for erectile dysfunction

Fasting and psoriasis,

Fasting for PCOS or PCOD

Religions and Fasting

Oil pulling during fasting

Fasting in Ayurveda

In medical terms, the word ‘fasting’ can be defined as “voluntary abstinence from consuming food for varying lengths of time.” Fasting is used as a therapy for several medical conditions. It is also a vital component of ritualistic and spiritual practices in many religions.

Fasting is a very good exercise to body and mind. Ayurveda recommends fasting based on individual body constitution, agni (metabolic rate) and aim of treatment.

Ayurveda recommends to chose food or or sensory input which will be beneficial to us to achieve the goal. Fasting influences our body, mind and conscious. So when we decide to fast in ayurvedic way we have to shun harmful foods, thoughts and deeds. Beneficial foods, fresh air, blissful thoughts and good deeds should be accepted. This rejuvenates our body , mind and spirit.

Ayurveda Benefits of Fasting

Almost all medical systems in the world acknowledge the therapeutic benefits of fasting. Ayurveda has catalogued and elaborated upon these benefits exhaustively. Fasting plays a key role in ensuring the efficacy and success of ayurveda detoxification therapy or Panchakarma treatments. Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine, believed fasting enabled the body to rejuvenate its self-healing capabilities. Many western healers have opined “fasting is the greatest remedy, the physician within.”

Physiology of fasting:

According to researchers the following changes take place in our body when we fast:
The body uses glycogen reserves (stored sugar to help energy supply).
Major detoxification process starts.
Number of white blood cells increase.
Immunity gets boosted.
Inflammation of inner layers of digestive system decreases.
Some muscle loss occurs during fasting.

Liver converts stored fats and non-essential tissues into ketones to fulfil the supply of energy to brain and heart. The process is called as ketosis. This stage is reached on third day of fasting in men and second day of fasting in women. At this stage the sensation of hunger vanishes and many people experience increased energy level at this stage.Between the fourth and seventh day of fasting, hormonal levels are balanced, excess fat and damaged tissues are burnt and clarity of mind is experienced.

Intermittent Fasting Recommended by Ayurveda

Ayurveda recommends regular, short-term fasting. Infrequent long term fasting vitiates doshas and may lead to imbalanced body functions. The fasting method must be decided according body constitution. The duration of fasting and type of fasting is determined after analyzing level of toxin (ama) accumulation, digestive strength, vitiation of doshas and body constitution. The following fasting methods are recommended in ayurveda.

Consuming light foods like gruel, kitchari or kanjee.
Fasting with fruit juice or vegetable juices
Drinking only warm water or herbal teas.
Abstaining completely from food and water.

A healthy fasting leads to a feeling of lightness in the body, clarity in the mind, and increased energy. It helps to regularize bowel movement and relieve constipation. Clean tongue and fresh breath indicate completion of detoxification process during fasting. It is very important to stay calm during fasting. Texts of Ayurveda strictly recommend avoiding physical exertion and mental stress and anxiety,  during fasting.

Fasting for Erectile Dysfunction

Based on principles of ayurveda intermittent fasting unclogs the minute channels or srotas and detoxifies body. This improves supply of nutrients to reproductive organs and frees up arteries from clogs to ensure good blood supply to penis and testicles.

Apart from this regular intermittent fasting helps to improve control on mind and help to quit smoking, alcohol, drugs etc which are harmful for libido.

Few naturopaths advice as follows

“Consider intermittent fasting e.g. not eating or drinking energy containing food or beverages from 7pm to about 11am, allowing insulin levels to remain lower for longer, thus fostering weight loss, boosting testosterone levels and improving Erectile Dysfunction.”

Fasting and psoriasis, water fast helps to clear psoriasis

Patients narrate the stories of benefits of water fasting in psoriasis

“I heard about the benefits of water fasting several time and considering the state of my skin I thought I would give it a try. I studied the subject for a couple of days and embarked on a 6 days water fasting. After 3 days my body entered in ketosis mode and started to get rid of toxins quite quickly. After 4 days the inflamed patches started to turn pink. On the 6th day I could not believe how much better it was.”  (1)

According ayurveda avoid foods which are opposite in nature and follow an ayurvedic psoriasis diet which is suitable for you. Fasting once in a week helps the skin to heal itself and recovery can become faster. Take care not to allow ama or toxin to accumulate in body through indigestion.

Intermittent fasting during Ramdan, the Islam fasting month has beneficial effects on psoriasis.

Fasting for PCOS

Intermittent Fasting and PCOS

Intermittent fasting is not to eat anything between 7 pm to 11 am. This type of fasting has various benefits in PCOS or PCOD.

Weight loss

We know weight loss helps to heal PCOS or PCOD. But it is very difficult to lose weight when you have PCOS. Various studies have shown that intermittent fasting helps to lower insulin level and promotes weight loss (2)().  With intermittent fasting it is very essential to eat healthy nutritious food and exercise in evenings.

Lowered Insulin Levels

Intermittent fasting helps to lower insulin levels. When there is more insulin in blood ovaries tend to produce more testosterone. This prevents healing of PCOS. When insulin levels are low in blood the testosterone in blood lowers and makes it easy to manage PCOS.

Apart from the above mentioned benefits fasting also helps to reduce blood cholesterol level and reduce inflammation of body tissues. Thus intermittent fasting can be best home remedy for PCOS or PCOD

Other Health Benefits of Fasting

  • Acne, pimples and other skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis clears up faster when a person fasts.
  • Fasting reduces joint pains in conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and gout.
  • It helps to overcome addictions and help in deaddiction.
  • Fasting brings glow to skin and makes skin radiant.
  • Body energy level and Immunity increases when you fast.
  • Body tissues get rejuvenated.
  • This Helps in weight reduction and to control obesity.
  • It sharpens brain and memory

Fasting and Religions

Fasting is recommended in almost all religions as a means of spiritual purification.

Ekadashi a Hindu Fasting Day

Ekadashi is 11th day of hindu calender. All hindu scriptures insist on fasting on this day for 24 hours. This helps to detoxify body and mind. Fasting on ekadashi helps us to be in spiritually elevated condition. It is explained in following verses

According to Hindu scriptures fasting on ekadashi helps create a harmonious relationship between the body and the soul. Hindus believe that denying physical needs is necessary for spiritual gains.

Fasting in Islam

Islam has given utmost importance for fasting. Muslims observe fasting during the month of Ramadan. Prophet Muhammad has explained the benefits, significance and regulations of fasting.

Benefits of fasting during Ramdan have been studied by various scientists (3). This has a positive effect on psoriasis

Fasting in Christianity

Christians believe that fasting helps them to deepen their relationship with god. They also believe that fasting heightens their awareness of spiritual self. They fast for 40 days before easter. It may be a full fasting or juice fasting or water fasting.

Fasting in Jainism

Jain religion strongly emphasizes on fasting to purify our souls, improve morality, spiritual power, increase knowledge and strengthen relationships Paryushan Parva is a jain fasting festival which is observed in month of September.

Oil pulling during fasting

Can we do *“oil pulling” after a long fast like *Ekadashi before breaking the fast?

Here goes the conclusion of our debate about this question.

The method of fasting during Ekadashi varies from person to person.  There are many people in India who fast during Ekadashi without consuming a drop of water. This type of fasting is known as Nirjala Ekadashi . Persons who go out for work prefer fruit fasting. They consume only fruits or fruit juices throughout day .

The process of “oil pulling”, before breaking the fast is contraindicated when you fast for long hours without taking anything as in Nirjala Ekadashi. The reason is Vata gets usually aggravated during fasting. Oil pulling further aggravates vata and does more harm than good.  The oil pulling process can be started again after bringing back the digestive fire or agni to normal condition by breaking the fast with light foods.

If a person has done fruit fasting or juice fasting, the oil pulling process has to be done for a very short duration ( for 5 minutes instead of 20 minutes).

Happy fasting and happy oil pulling

*OIL PULLING – This is an ancient process practiced in India to maintain oral health. A table spoon of oil is held in mouth and then swishing it around your teeth for 10-20 minutes. This should not touch the throat.

*EKADASHI – Ekadasi is an auspicious day dedicated to Lord Vishnu on the eleventh day of every lunar fortnight in traditional Hindu calendar.

Author : Dr. Savitha Suri Consultant Ayurvedic Physician

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