“Fasting has quickly become embedded in the wellness lexicon as a way to improve your overall health and wellbeing. The principal is simple. By reducing the ‘eating window’ you have each day (note: NOT the caloric amount) you are able to free up time that your organs may have spent on digestion to focus on other important body processes like detoxification, clearing out inflammation, upregulating cellular repair and renewal.
The concept of fasting is nothing new, in fact, it has been a natural practise for most of human history. Traditional cultures eat when the sun is up during the Yang time of day when our digestive organs are most active, and rest during night time, the Yin time of day, when our digestive systems don’t have as much ‘oomf’ and would prefer to be having a rest.
Whereas in modern society, we often eat any time of day. Late dinners are a common occurrence, having the option to either cook for yourself or eat out at a restaurant or take away 24/7. An option our ancestors absolutely did not have.
As a result, the boundaries of our ‘eating window’ and our ‘fasting window’ become blurred, and our digestive system doesn’t get the full chance it once did to take a break and our body to focus on repair and renewal.
A popular type of fasting is intermittent fasting, where the eating window is reduced to approximately 8 hours. This could look like having your first meal at 10am and last meal no later than 7pm. This gives a 12 hour overnight fast with no food consumption and allows the digestive organs to have a break. Typically, the benefits of intermittent fasting are seen when the fast is 12 hours or longer.
Other types of fasting include the 5:2 fasting. Where you eat as normal 5 days per week and fast completely for 2 days. This is understandably a much bigger undertaking then intermittent/overnight fasts which are relatively easy to achieve.
Who fasting would be suitable for:
Fasting has been shown to be beneficial for reducing inflammation. All chronic diseases have roots in inflammation and are likely to benefit from incorporating elements of fasting.
Conditions like breast cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease have been shown to improve with intermittent fasting. As always, check with your health care provider before implementing new therapeutic techniques into your routine.
Other conditions like joint inflammation, fatigue and insulin resistance can also see some benefit from fasting.
People experiencing digestive issues such as bloating, reflux, constipation, diarrhoea/loose stools, IBS and inflammatory bowel disease may also consider intermittent fasting as a way to reduce inflammation and take the pressure off their digestive systems and allow the space for rest and cellular repair.
From a Chinese medicine perspective, damp constitutions would benefit from fasting for the benefits of resting the digestive system and allowing energy to go to detoxification and elimination of waste.
Who fasting wouldn’t be suitable for:
As a general rule, fasting isn’t recommended for people who have a current or history of eating disorders, as it may encourage food restriction. Whereas the point with intermittent fasting is to reduce the eating window, but not the actual amount of food consumed daily.
Caution should be taken with those with hypothyroidism as the fasting may further slow down metabolism, but not always.
From a hormonal perspective, fasting of any kind isn’t recommended for women in their reproductive years long term as it can create hormonal imbalances. However success can be found when employing a fasting routine for short periods of time (eg six weeks) and then having a break. If you are actively trying to heal a hormonal imbalance, fasting may not be the best option as it has the potential to destabilise blood sugar levels, depending on how it is done, and stable blood sugar levels are the cornerstone for happy hormones!
This also ripples out for women who are actively trying to fall pregnant, as this time in life is more centered around nourishing the body as much as possible to prepare for pregnancy. In the same vein, fasting is not recommended for pregnant, postpartum or breastfeeding women.
From a Chinese medicine perspective, deficient constitutions (either blood, qi or yin, or a combination of all three) would do well to avoid fasting and instead focus on nutrient density with very regular meals to help rebuild these essences.
Fasting with Your Tea herbs:
Employing an overnight fasting routine whilst also consuming Your Tea herbs is likely to be unproblematic. However, care needs to be taken that you are getting enough nutrients during the day and blood sugar is remaining stable (energy is good, not feeling tired, no dizziness or shakes). Experiment with where your sweet spot is for your eating & fasting window ratio. If you start to notice any jitteriness, check in with your body and lengthen your eating window.
As always, before introducing a new therapeutic technique into your life, check in with your health practitioner to make sure it is suitable for your specific needs.”
Written by TCM Dr. Lauren Curtain.
Yours in information,
Traditional Chinese Restoratives