Fasting literally means to ‘cover’ your mouth and take in nothing. It is the process of abstaining from consumption of solid food, sometimes even liquids, for spiritual, medical or experimental reasons. Religious scriptures describe the process of fasting as a medium to make us realize the fragility of our existence and how much we depend on things beyond ourselves for survival.
However, in the medical literature, the effects of fasting have been highly debated. Some scientists believe and propagate depriving the human body of the food, which is responsible for production of energy in the body, causes weakness and fatigue. On the other hand, recent scientific researches have concluded that abstaining from meals for a certain period of time can actually help in regeneration of the immune system in human body!
Far from being a potential hazard for health which many label it as, fasting has been proved in recent studies to boost the immune system and regenerate it entirely. As remarkable as it sounds, it is an exercise that is absolutely cost free too. Even intermittent abstinence from consuming food, for a small period of 8-10 hours, can prove to be beneficial for the overall health of the body. To evaluate the history of mankind, in ancient times regular meals were not accessible. Food was eaten when available, rest of the times were spent on an involuntary fasting. Until a prey was caught for meals, our ancestors went for long with the absence of food.
And, they evidently lived healthier lives. A hypothesis given by scientist Valter Longo, based on extensive studies describes the benefits of fasting. When the body is starving, the whole system functions to conserve energy stores of the body by recycling the unwanted immune cells of the body, majorly the damaged ones, and saving energy. This decrease in the number of white blood cells triggers the stem cells to form new immune cells. The enzyme protein kinase A (PKA) and IGF-1 levels are reduced in the body during fasting, which leads to a transduction change in the hematopoietic stem cells that promote self-renewal and regeneration. PKA enzyme is also related to aging, so the decrease in its levels promotes anti-aging.
Prolonged period of fasting forces the body to use the stores of fats and glucose. The benefits of fasting can prove beneficial for patients who have undergone chemotherapy or are susceptible to diseases or even for the people seeking anti-aging treatment.
The basic mechanism of destruction of the unwanted population of white blood cells and replacement of these old cells by triggering a fresh release of new immune system cells, aids in the regeneration of the immune system.
Currently, research work is being conducted to study the benefits of fasting on other parts of the body apart from the immune system.