Ayurveda has a long tradition of utilizing fasting as an important practice for better health. It may be a new trend for western world but in India, it exists for thousands of years.
Fasting means voluntarily abstinence from the intake of food for a specific period of time. In Ayurvedic text Astang Hridyam, there are two timings for eating food, in morning and in the evening- one after sunrise and one before sunset.
So, there should be a gap of 8-10 hours between the main meals.
What is the Importance of Fasting?
Now-a-days, the majority of our food lacks prana or vital force as we are consuming processed foods, foods with pesticides, fungicides, preservatives, chemical additives etc. These low quality foods have lead to imbalance in the body.
- Due to this, our digestion suffers and there is an accumulation of ama or toxins. Ama is nothing but an undigested food matter.
- Ama is formed due to poor digestion. If poor dietary habits are continued, then this toxic undigested food stuff migrates into the blood stream and circulates throughout the body. This sticky and heavy toxic material settles into khavaigunas or the weak spots in the body which eventually manifests into more serious conditions.
- It is important to eliminate and halt ama before it causes deeper problems and fasting is one of the best methods to eliminate toxins within the system.
- Due to over-eating, the food is not digested properly and can become toxic if it is not processed.
What is the Purpose of Fasting according to Ayurvedic Perspective?
According to Ayurveda, agni or digestive fire is central to health as digestive fire is to absorb the nutrients from the food we eat and the role of digestive fire is to remove the waster products that builds up in our cells and tissues.
- When this digestive fire is low in our body, there is low nutrition in the body as well as poor elimination of the waste which can lead to weakness, low immunity, lack of energy etc.
- The idea of fasting according to Ayurveda is to give digestive system (agni) rest. This helps to revitalize and re-ignite our digestive fire and it also gives chance for agni to burn up the toxins that has built on the system.
- But, Ayurveda does not recommend fasting for longer periods as vigorous fasting can cause imbalances in the doshas.
- Therefore, Ayurvedic practitioners recommend a one-day fast each week.
How is Fasting helpful for Better Health?
Many Ayurvedic practitioners recommend regular one day per week fasting because fasting helps the digestive system to recover its strength. Fasting is also helpful in removing the build-up of Ama or toxins which is considered as the root cause of all the disorders according to Ayurveda.
Some of the Health Benefits of Fasting are:
1.Reduces Insulin Resistance: Fasting can help in modulating blood glucose and insulin levels as it causes rise in adiponectin levels and adiponectin possesses anti-inflammatory effect. Certain inflammatory compounds trigger insulin resistance which helps in the reduction of inflammatory markers thus leading to an improvement in the insulin sensitivity.
Fasting improves the levels of adiponectin which automatically improves the blood glucose levels.
2.Helps in Boosting Cognitive Power: Fasting induces autophagy, which means the self cleansing natural mechanism of the body where the old cells are broken down and recycled and autophagy helps in reversing memory decline due to age.
- Thus, fasting increases the tolerance of the different areas of the brain to toxins as well as protects the brain and nerve cells.
- As oxidative stress is the contributing factor in the brain aging and impairment of learning and memory, fasting is associated with the drop in the level of oxidative stress which improves functioning of the brain and reduces cognitive decline.
3. Enhances Longevity: Fasting aids weight loss which reduces the risk of metabolic disorders, reduces inflammation and oxidative stress which play a crucial role in the initiation and progression of the chronic disorders.
- It also improves blood glucose level and also boosts brain function.
- All these factors contribute to a healthy life span and longer living.
4. Helps to Overcome Laziness: Fasting helps to overcome laziness by clearing the ama or toxins as ama causes laziness.
- It helps the body to feel lighter from inside.
- According to Ayurveda, fasting boosts Pitta and Pitta dosha is related with enthusiasm, intelligence, analytical ability of the mind, dedication etc.
5. Helps in getting Rid of Foreign Matters: Fasting helps the body in getting rid of foreign matters.
- Therefore, it stimulates the immune system.
- It also reduces oxidative damage and inflammation in the body. These are the two factors are responsible for almost all the diseases.
For how long Fasting can be done?
According to Ayurveda, the duration of fasting varies according to the health condition of an individual. The long term fasting is not recommended except in few cases such as chronic fever etc.
- People having Vata constitution should not do fasting for more than a day because it can increase Vata dosha in the body but they can adopt intermittent fasting. In intermittent fasting, the person should eat within 8 hours and should not eat for 16 hours every day. Intermittent fasting is very effective if only plant based foods are taken. This method is more useful if a person suffers from obesity, metabolic disorders such as diabetes, hormonal imbalances, polycystic ovarian disease etc.
What are the Signs of Effective Fasting?
- There will be an increase in appetite and increase in energy levels.
- Feeling of lightness in the body.
- Clarity in mind
- There will be no digestive complaints such as abdominal heaviness, gas, bloating etc.
- No coating on tongue.
DR. Vikram Chauhan, MD – AYURVEDA is an expert Ayurvedic practitioner based in Chandigarh, India and doing his practice in Mohali, India. He is spreading the knowledge of Ayurveda Ancient healing treatment, not only in India but also abroad. He is the CEO and Founder of Planet Ayurveda Products, Planet Ayurveda Clinic, and Krishna Herbal Company.