There is a physician inside each of us

Fasting for Health

Posted:  Wednesday, August 8, 2018 - 2:00pm

Intermittent fasting has been practiced for thousands of years by ancient Greeks. Plato, Hippocrates, Aristotle fasted for mental and physical health. Buddhists fasted to find enlightenment. The Jewish fasted for atonement. Gandhi fasted for political reasons. 

In today’s world, fasting has been used for medical reasons, as an adjunct treatment for cancer and Alzheimer’s Disease. 


“Everyone has a physician inside him or her; we just have to help it in its work. The natural healing force within each of us is the greatest force in getting well.”


— Hippocrates


Research at NIA, National Institute of Aging, found fasting to have positive effects on the human body and brain. There is evidence that fasting reduces inflammation and oxidative stress which are linked to chronic diseases and aging. To prevent free radical damage, the body has its own defense systems of antioxidants and periods of fasting.

To extend the life of lab animals, NIA found that by decreasing energy demand (fasting or reducing calories), aging slowed down and nerve cells were protected. The mice lived longer and improved their performance in mazes. Their neural circuits in their central nervous system were found to be more active. 

One way to reduce workload on our body is by reducing the frequency of meals or the amount of food we ingest. 

Many of us are eating around the clock because of the easy accessibility of food. The body has no down time to fully digest, repair and heal when it is in a constant state of receiving and digestion. With continuous food intake, the body adapts to a sugar-based fuel source for metabolism. The excess calories are stored as fat.

With intermittent fasting, the body can become a fat-based fuel system for maintaining body functions. The body will burn fat more efficiently from your fat stores. Fats do not directly trigger an insulin response, therefore the body doesn’t go into storage mode as often when fat is the primary fuel source. With reduced sugar circulating in the body, there is less damage to body organs. 

Living in Maine, this reminds me of burning wood as a fuel source. Green wood vs seasoned wood, sugar-based fuel vs fat-based fuel. There is a difference in quality.

Intermittent fasting has several beneficial effects on the human body. In a fasting state, cells adjust and adapt by recruiting genes such as BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor) to help cope with stress, repair disorders and provide maintenance to help resist diseases. This fasting period, (down time), gives the body a chance to remove, cleanse, heal and restore the body. 


Time Restricted Fasting

There are various schedules of fasting, 12-hour, 14-hour, 16-hour, 24-hour fast, or several days.

Time restricted feeding (TRF), is a form of fasting, when we eat within a specific amount of time. For example, 12 hours of no food consumption, (6PM-6AM) is doable once a week, 3 times a week, or every day.  

Another way of looking at it, if you choose to follow a 10-hour (7 a.m. - 5 p.m.) eating phase, this will be followed by a 14-hour (5 p.m.-7 a.m.) fast. if you follow an 8-hour (10 a.m. - 6 p.m.) eating phase you will have a 16-hour fast.  

When we fast for 10 to 16 hours, our body will complete the digestion of the last meal using sugar-based fuel. Once that source is depleted, for energy later on, your body will tap into its fat stores, using fat-burning pathways instead of sugar-burning pathways as a source of energy. 

During the fat burning process, fatty acids called ketones are released into the bloodstream and have been shown to protect memory and learning centers as well as slow disease progression in the brain.

The goal is to find a routine that works for you, to help you feel mentally and physically sharp. 

One important note, when fasting, hydration is important.

EXCEPTIONS: if you have medical conditions, such as diabetes and digestive disorders, intermittent fasting needs to be discussed with your physician. A dietitian/nutritional professional will work with you creating a food plan that includes a fasting component.

I have been following a 12-16 hour fast, every day for 8 months. It has helped stabilize my weight. I do not experience dramatic mood swings and I feel mentally steady and strong. I find myself making better food choices with less cravings for sugary products. My goal is to train my body to use fat as my main source of fuel for energy.  My desire in my life is to maintain my weight and possess mental and physical energy to live and enjoy every day. 

Take care of your health.

There is a physician inside each of us. 

Roe Chiacchio RN, CPT, CDP, can be reached at