What Ayurveda Has To Say About Fasting
Intermittent fasting has garnered widespread attention in recent years because of various claims that it can be good for a variety of things such as weight loss, slowing the aging process, and prevention of neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Although much of the research surrounding fasting points to it being a positive addition to a healthy lifestyle if undertaken safely, there are some caveats. For example, people with diabetes shouldn’t fast, and older adults, adolescents, and underweight people should only fast under medical supervision.
Since the fasting fad is proving to be more than just a passing diet craze, many people have adopted the technique, and it appears that numbers of intermittent fasting adherents will only rise in the coming years. Just like traditional doctors have their own opinions on fasting, those who work in Ayurvedic medicine do as well. Read on to find out what Ayurveda has to say about fasting.
What is Ayurvedic medicine?
Ayurveda has been around for centuries. It was developed in ancient India as the prime source of medical assistance. This type of medicine relies heavily on natural approaches, otherwise known as holistic approaches, to both mental and physical health issues. As one of the oldest medical systems in the world, Ayurveda is still used in India today as a traditional form of medicine.
The aim of Ayurveda is to promote optimal health through the use of plants, animals, metals, and minerals in a combinational and therapeutic way. Also included in the teachings and healings of Ayurvedic medicine are ways to eat better, exercise more, and lead an overall healthy lifestyle. This style of medicine aims to prevent diseases before they develop by encouraging people to be healthy from the get-go.
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting involves choosing hours in which you will eat and not eat over the course of a day. There are many different combinations to choose from, such as eating for eight hours a day while fasting for 16, or eating normally one day and then completely avoiding food the next day. Many people swear by the former; however, other eating-window options give you a chance to experience intermittent fasting before jumping into the deep end of the diet.
Does Ayurveda recommend intermittent fasting?
Ayurvedic medicine has been recommending fasting for countless years to help strengthen bodily processes such as the Agni, which is the digestion process. Within Ayurvedic medicine, people are split up into doshas, otherwise known as mind-body types. Each dosha is based on the different earth elements. This separation leads to Ayurvedic doctors being able to focus their treatments on a person’s specific type and problems they face health-wise. For example, Kapha is one of the doshas that is based off of earth and water, and those who belong to this category often have slower digestion that others. Fasting has been shown to be beneficial for those who belong to the Kapha dosha. Other doshas, Pitta (fire and water) and Vata (air and water) can also benefit from fasting occasionally.
As is the case with all other branches of medicine, Ayurvedic practitioners do not recommend intermittent fasting for all types of people. For example, some Vata people may experience Vata imbalances that can make fasting difficult because of their need for mealtime structure. Ayurvedic medicine also states that women may not be able to fast as long as men. The type of fasting therapy provided in Ayurvedic medicine is also slightly different than typical intermittent fasting.
Fasting therapy in Ayurveda
Fasting in Ayurveda is typically synonymous with the practice pratyahara, which is the process of withdrawing from the senses. During this practice, you can choose what you put into your body, but also your mind and spirit; food, breathing, and sensory input are all affected during pratyahara. When you avoid certain things entering the body, mind, or spirit, it leaves the door open for beneficial things to be consumed that can help to improve overall health and happiness.
In Ayurvedic fasting, people don’t have to completely go without food, essentially depriving the body of what it needs and forcing themselves to suffer through the feelings of hunger. The main goal of an Ayurveda fast is to eat and consume only clean and light foods and beverages that would be beneficial for your state of health. This is because of the Ayurvedic belief that undigested food, or ama, can create toxins. Those toxins are also believed to be the root of all disease.
Ama occurs when the body isn’t digesting food properly due to a weak digestive system or agni. Ayurvedic medicine states that cravings, mood swings, fatigue, anxiety, bad breath, body odor, and fogginess are all caused by a buildup of ama. When the build-up becomes too great, ama can make its way into the bloodstream, where it can circulate throughout the body, causing further health issues. Fasting the Ayurvedic way is designed to keep this accumulation of ama out of the body for the best digestion possible – and thus the best overall health possible.
If you wish to try out Ayurvedic fasting, just remember to speak to your doctor prior to beginning.