Since the time of Adam, God’s people have fasted to help them draw near to Him and to worship Him. Jesus showed the importance of fasting by His own example. Fasting means to go without food and drink. Occasional fasting is good for our bodies and helps our minds become more active.
Although most people could safely benefit from fasting, it’s important to take caution if you have certain health challenges. If any of the following situations apply to you, you should NOT participate in extended fasting of any kind unless approved by your physician.
- Underweight: defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 18.5 or less.
- Malnourished: You need to put your focus on eating healthier, more nutritious food before you can safely fast.
- Children should not fast for more than 24 hours because they need nutrients for continued growth; if your child is obese, consider cutting him or her back on refined grains and sugar to promote weight loss.
- Pregnant and breastfeeding women put their baby’s healthy growth and development at risk when fasting because a consistent flow of nutrients must be shared continually with the baby to ensure its well-being.
One of my strongest cautions about fasting relates to food choices. Some claim that you can eat whatever you want as long as it is only consumed within your designated eating time frame. While you may achieve some of the benefits from intermittent fasting simply by respecting the time boundaries, regardless of the foods you consume, I strongly recommend you consume high-quality food.
Regardless of the program you choose, your food choices matter. Since you’ll be eating less, it’s vitally important that you get proper nutrition from your food. Healthy fats are essential because intermittent fasting pushes your body to switch over to fat-burning mode. Particularly if you begin to feel tired and sluggish, it may be a sign that you need to increase the amount of healthy fat in your diet.
Cutting net carbs (total carbs minus fiber) is equally important. Fructose is particularly troublesome as it activates a key enzyme, fructokinase, which in turn activates another enzyme that causes your cells to accumulate fat and hold onto it. If you’re insulin-resistant or overweight, reducing your sugar consumption will be a critical component to your success. Regardless of whether you are doing intermittent fasting or not, aim for a diet:
- High in healthy fats, obtaining 50 to 85 percent of your daily calories in the form of avocados, coconut oil, organic grass-fed butter, pastured egg yolks and raw nuts, such as macadamia, pecans and pine nuts.
- Moderate amounts of high-quality protein from organically raised, grass-fed or pastured animals, which translates to no more than 40 to 80 grams of protein per day, based on the protein limits.
- Unrestricted amounts of fresh, low-net-carb vegetables, ideally organic
If you take medication and it must be taken with food to achieve the proper effect, you will need to use caution when fasting. Medications such as aspirin and metformin as well as any other drugs that may cause stomach ulcers or stomach upset, need to be considered.
Risks are especially high if you’re on diabetic medication. If you take the same dose of medication but don’t eat, you run the risk of hypoglycemia, which is when your blood sugar drops very low. This can be extremely dangerous. It’s important to check with your doctor before adjusting your medication to accommodate fasting. You may need to find a doctor who has some experience with diabetes and fasting so he or she can guide you in how to implement this program safely.
Also, if you have high uric acid, fasting can precipitate gout. Fasting tends to increase your uric acid level because your kidneys increase their reabsorption of uric acid when you don’t eat. Most people will not experience a problem with this but if you have gout you may need to consult your physician before starting a fasting program.