Can you imagine going without food for 72 hours straight? Most of us cannot and it is indeed extremely difficult. It would require immense discipline and willpower to be able to do something like that. Yet, as recent scientific research has shown, fasting for that period of time can actually give us a fresh immune system. The obvious result is a heightened immunity along with all the positive health effects that the rejuvenation of the immune system entails.
According to the preliminary findings of Valter Lango, published in the Cell Stem Cell journal, new white blood cells are formed in greater numbers by the stem cells after a person is on fast for a period of three days. As it is commonly known, these WBCs or leukocytes are responsible for our body’s immunity. Consequently, a significant rise in their number means a greater immunity.
Ancient wisdom propounded by the traditions of Ayurveda and Chinese medicines has long since held such a conviction. Among the Buddhist practitioners of the Theravada traditions as well, it is common to not eat any food during particular hours of the day. They eat only in the morning and spend the rest of the day without any food. Followers of Islam practice a similar fasting cycle during the month of Ramzan. The Hindus and the Sikhs follow similar practices of fasting.
Moreover, our hunter-gatherer ancestors would also have similarly spent long stretches without food. It is quite possible that because of this tradition, our bodies have developed a sort of positive response to fasting.
In short, the idea of fasting and its health benefits have been quite recognized since ancient times. Now, there are scientific studies as well which support this idea.
According to a study by the Longevity Institute at the University Of Southern California, Leonard Davis School Of Gerontology, conducted in 2014, it was found that by consuming less than 200 calories per day while fasting for a period of 3 days, our body is able to completely rebuild its immune system at the cellular level.
When we go without food for that much period of time, the old white blood cells in our bodies are killed off in an attempt to conserve as much energy as possible. That doesn’t sound quite assuring, right? Well, that isn’t, but the next part is.
When we eat after the fast and provide adequate nutrition to our body, the stem cells, functioning with a renewed energy, produce a great number of new WBCs, leading to an overall increase in their number and efficiency.
Well, that’s not all. There are other significant benefits as well.
Stem cell activity is also increased in the brain which leads to better memory and learning. It also reduces our chances of acquiring Alzheimer’s disease. It also makes the functioning of the heart better by reducing the amount of visceral fat. Moreover, it protects us against the negative effects of chemotherapy on the body’s immune system.
How to do it?
Well, let’s face it, the ideal 72 hours fast is quite impossible owing to our living conditions. If we fast for that much time, we would have no energy to do our regular activities during that period. So what to do in that case? Well, there are other, more pragmatic ways, which can help you achieve similar results.
1. Fasting Mimicking Diet or FMD
One way is to follow a five-day program in which you take 1,100 calories on the first day and then 800 calories on each of the following days. Half of the day’s calorie intake must come from vegetables and the rest from fat-rich items like nuts. This has to be done once a month or on alternate months.
2. Following the 5:2 diet
According to this protocol, you take 500 calories on alternate days and a normal 2000-2500 calorie diet on the other days of the week.
3. Time-bound diet
In this form, you are required to complete your daily calorie intake within a span of, say, six to eight hours. This has shown promising results in reducing cancer vulnerability as well as in promoting weight loss.
That being said, obviously, there has been much opposition to these theories. In fact, it is indeed true that these are based only on preliminary findings and a final conclusion can be reached only after performing more widespread research on this matter. Moreover, the fact remains that fasting may be harmful to many and one must consult their doctors before getting on with it. But, if done properly, fasting would surely do more good than harm.