What happens when the body is starving? Hunger is an exceptional situation for our body. Because in our consumer society it is possible and common to eliminate every feeling of hunger directly by a small snack. The consequences of such eating habits range from obesity and diabetes to cardiovascular disease. By fasting and meal skipping, many people are trying to shed a few pounds and protect themselves from such industrial diseases. This article looks at the effects of fasting on the body and its well being.
Fasting is part of the history of human development
Neanderthals did not yet have supermarkets where they could buy food. Therefore, the food supply was extremely fluctuating. On good days, a lot of food was brought by hunting and gathering, but on bad days there was sometimes nothing at all. The human body is used to fasting because of its evolutionary history. Some bodily functions, such as cell renewal in autophagy, are even dependent on periods of fasting. Basically, the food shortage – properly carried out – is therefore a burden, but not a danger to the body.
People in industrialized nations have come a long way from this natural fasting. We take it for granted to always have enough food available and to be able to eat at any time. However, this leads to the fact that many people suppress every budding feeling of hunger directly by eating something. The result is obesity and numerous industrial diseases. By returning to fasting and its positive qualities, it is possible to prevent such risk factors and diseases.
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The difference between fasting and starvation
There is a serious difference between fasting and starving. When starving, the body is not fed any calories. This is a considerable stress situation for the body and is not recommended. The lack of food intake easily leads to poor concentration, balance problems and headaches. Only liquid in the form of water and tea is not enough. Fasting, on the other hand, involves deliberately reducing the number of calories drastically for a certain period of time. Nevertheless, the body gets what it needs for everyday tasks. For all activities beyond that, however, it must fall back on the body’s own reserves and, for example, break down fat. In addition, fasting is voluntary, whereas starvation must always be enforced. Accordingly, the body reacts much more positively to fasting than to stressful starvation.
Interval fasting is on the rise
Intermittent fasting is gaining more and more fans. Here, the 16:8 rule is mostly followed. The users eat early in the evening and have breakfast late. This reduces the time window in which they take in food to eight hours. In contrast, there are 16 hours in which nothing is eaten at all. The daily rhythm therefore consists of 8 hours eating, 8 hours fasting and 8 hours sleeping. The advantage of this method is that nothing has to be renounced during fasting. There are no forbidden foods, but everything may be enjoyed in moderation. In addition, this type of fasting can be easily integrated into everyday life. For example, if you don’t like breakfast anyway, you can skip this meal. If, on the other hand, you don’t have time to cook in the evening due to your schedule, you can have the last meal of the day very early. This leaves enough room for breakfast in the morning. Through this type of fasting, the body changes its behavior significantly. For example, it reacts better to insulin and lowers blood pressure. Both are helpful in the prevention of diseases such as diabetes or cancer.
The importance of autophagy in fasting
The word autophagy or autophagocytosis comes from the Greek and combines the words “autós” (self), “phagein” (to eat) and “cýtos” (cell). It describes the organism’s ability to cleanse and regenerate the body’s own cells. Through autophagy, residual and toxic substances have no possibility of being deposited in the cells. Instead, the degraded cellular components are used to build new cells or to generate energy for the body’s own processes. Thus, the body cleans itself independently once autophagy kicks in. This has the positive effect that pathogens and pollutants have no opportunity to trigger a negative effect, making the development of diseases less likely. Due to the longer intervals between meals during interval fasting, autophagy kicks in and does its work.
This is what happens in the human body after a day of fasting
Already after one day of fasting clear changes in the body are noticeable. This is because the change in food intake shifts the metabolism down a gear. This means that the reserves of carbohydrates are converted into sugar and used up. This gives the brain energy to do its work and also allows the body to perform other tasks. Even after such a short time, autophagy sets in and the cells rid themselves of old waste and unneeded cell components. As soon as this has happened, the building of new cell components begins. So, if you try fasting once, you will already notice differences after 14-18 hours compared to before and will quickly find out if fasting is the right way for him or her.
This is what happens in the human body after two weeks of fasting
Within two weeks, the body accustoms its metabolism to the new food supply as far as possible. This means that the sugar required for many processes is no longer obtained from food alone, but increasingly also from protein and fat cells. Fat cells in particular serve as energy stores that the body can fall back on when needed. In earlier times, when food was still scarce, this ensured people’s survival. Nowadays, there is almost always and everywhere to eat, so that the storage of energy would basically no longer be necessary. Nevertheless, the body stores any excess energy for a rainy day and is very reluctant to give back fat deposits.
During a two-week fast, the first fat cells – primarily abdominal fat cells – are already attacked in order to extract glycerol and fatty acids from them. The glycerol is converted directly into sugar, the fatty acids serve as a kind of sugar substitute. This has positive effects on health. Because it is precisely the fat deposits on the belly that promote various common diseases such as diabetes or cardiovascular diseases through the release of messenger substances. In addition, there is a noticeable weight reduction, which leads to more mobility and well-being.
This is what happens in the human body after 40 days of fasting
The 40 day fast has its origins in religion. Just as Jesus once fasted for 40 days in the desert and won a battle against evil (embodied by Satan), people still fast for 40 days today to cleanse their bodies and make a kind of fresh start. This period is also well suited, as it can be endured by a healthy adult on the basis of existing reserves alone, without any great danger to health. Nevertheless, it is advisable to talk to a doctor about such a long fasting period and to draw up a joint fasting plan. In addition, the doctor regularly clarifies whether the sodium and potassium values change due to fasting, and can prevent an undersupply of these minerals.
During the 40 days of fasting, autophagy does all the work. The cells have enough time to break down residual substances and regenerate comprehensively. It should be noted here that the fat cells in the body not only store energy, but also serve to store harmful substances such as organochlorine compounds. If these are released by the breakdown of fat cells, they must be excreted by the body. Therefore, it is important to lose weight constantly and not to reduce too many fat deposits at once in order to keep the concentration of such substances in the blood as low as possible.
Conclusion: Improve health and quality of life through targeted fasting
Fasting brings with it many benefits. It is important that it is carried out correctly. This is the only way to avoid an undersupply of the body. Both in the short, medium and long term, fasting improves health and well-being. Annoying pounds disappear, mobility increases and the new diet soon no longer takes getting used to, but is part of the normal rhythm of life. It is advisable to try fasting first in order to get to know its effect on your own body. It is also advisable to talk to your doctor before the first fast in order to determine the best fasting method together.
Tips: Healthy eating and weight loss
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