It’s time to peel back the layers on fasting and take a look at what’s truly best for our bodies.
By: Anne van der Giessen
Holistic Health Coach
It’s time to peel back the layers on fasting and take a look at what’s truly best for our bodies. If you want to get out of bed each day feeling happier, healthier and stronger – fasting is certainly something that can benefit you.
BIO-INDIVIDUALITY AND BODY TYPE
With any health-based protocol, you must always begin with you. Bio-individuality is a concept which embraces and honours our own unique biology and adapts health and lifestyle practices accordingly. Some elements of our biology remain the same – such as our genetics, our bone structure, our body types. Others change, such as the presence of dis-ease within the body, metabolism, energy level and other transient factors. To help with this discussion, we’ll bring in some Ayurvedic principles which really help us to understand bio-individuality in a broader context.
Ayurveda is the oldest documented form of medicine which still exists today, originating
from India more than five thousand years ago.
One of the first considerations of bio-individuality, which is especially important in the context of fasting, is body type. If you’re an ectomorph body type (naturally leaner) you probably want to opt for a less intense fasting protocol compared so someone who is more of a mesomorph or endomorph body type, with naturally more muscle mass, bone mass and body fat.
In Ayurvedic medicine these body types are known as “doshas” and correspond to Vata, Pitta and Kapha respectively. The concept of the dosha is foundational in Ayurvedic medicine, and can be applied not just to body types but to foods, cycles and other elements.
BODY TYPES ACCORDING TO ARYUVEDA
Generally speaking, a Vata body type will do less well with a daily long fast of 16 hours or more. They are likely to suffer from blood sugar levels dropping too low, inducing a hormone-driven stress state, which, over time, can be detrimental to health. The main reason for this that the Vata dosha corresponds to a faster metabolism and an overall more delicately balanced system. A healthy Vata body type will do much better with a daily overnight fast of around 12 hours.
A Pitta body type may do well on a daily fast lasting 12-16 hours. The Pitta also typically has a strong metabolism which is somewhat more robust than the Vata dosha. Regardless, it’s still not generally recommended for a Pitta body type to do a structural daily 16-hour fast, though there may be short periods where this is supportive to health. It’s suggested to explore this range between 12-16 hours daily and see what feels best. Look for signs like higher energy, better concentration and potentially some weight loss.
A Kapha is going to see great benefit from fasting and may even be able to push out the time a little further or sustain a daily 16-hour fast for a longer period of time. Kapha corresponds to a slower, more sluggish metabolism which can be fired-up through fasting. Again – look for signs mentioned above and better regulation of weight and fluid in the body.
You should keep in mind that though there are three body types or doshas, you may have characteristics from more than one. That’s why it’s so important to look as your own physiology before adopting any approach. The doshas merely represent tendencies for our bodies to work in certain ways. In Ayurveda, balance is imperative, so it’s necessary to observe the current form and engage in practices which bring the body back into balance, or homeostasis as it’s known in the west.
Honouring the natural rhythm of life
Ayurvedic principles are also very useful in helping us design fasting protocols and to determine the best time of day is to eat. According to Ayurvedic medicine, we all cycle through six four-hour dosha-dominant phases each day, regardless of our own body type. During these phases, we are all more likely to exhibit the characteristics of the respective dosha for that phase. Consider the diagram below. There are some suggestions for what kind of activities function best in which of the six phases, but let’s focus on the digestion element for the purposes of this discussion.