Of all the Spiritual disciplines, fasting is the only one that is simultaneously beneficial and potentially harmful to your health depending on the duration and intensity of practice. Because of this, it causes us to really think through and suss out the Holy Spirit’s guidance on the matter.
In 2011, the Intermount Heart Institute completed a study on 24 hour water-only fasting and its impact on cholesterol levels. Their research found that after 10-12 hours, the body begins to look for other sources of energy, one of which is LDL or the “bad cholesterol”. This is actually a good thing. It takes the pressure off of your pancreas to create insulin. In 2014, the University of Southern California published an article in the Journal Cell Stem Cell about the effects of prolonged fasting for 2-4 days at a time. It showed that “fasting appears to shift stem cells of the immune system from a dormant state to an active state of self-renewal”, cleansing the body of toxins.
What about the negative effects of fasting? Short-term, the most frequent problem is dehydration due to the misconception that fasting is just “skipping meals.” People who are fasting should be replacing those meals with plenty of fluids. Another symptom associated with fasting is heartburn. Our bodies have been conditioned to react to smells with a pavlovian response. Smelling foods that would normally cause heartburn will trigger your body’s acid production in preparation for ingestion. When there is hardly anything in the stomach to compensate, it leads to heartburn. Finally, the tongue becomes coated in a biofilm as toxins are being forced out of the body.
Long term fasting is where concern & precaution are encouraged. At the 72 hour mark, the body enters into autophagy due to the lack of fat cells at that point in the fasting. Your body begins feeding off of protein in muscle tissue for energy. After energy sources are almost entirely depleted, the body stops sending out hunger signals and metabolism drops as the body attempts to exert as little energy as possible. It is not unheard for hunger pains to go completely away.
So I have to question myself and be fully convinced that the Holy Spirit is guiding me down a path of long term fasting. Given the effects of fasting, have you had an experience making the decision to fast or not?
Help us out. How did you finally make the decision to fast for a longer term?
Discipline of Fasting Series
- Spiritual Discipline: Fasting
- Fasting: Lens of Tradition
- Fasting: Lens of Reason
- Fasting: Lens of Experience