There has been a lot of talk in the past few years about fasting and detox diets in an attempt to eliminate toxins from the body, feel healthier and even lose weight. Some fast to break bad habits like the over-consumption of caffeine, processed foods and smoking. Some may say it’s a trend, but it’s not a new concept. Fasting has been implemented for centuries and Muslims are currently marking the Holy Month of Ramadan and fasting during daylight hours for the lunar month of thirty days. Their reasons? To cleanse the body and mind, to feel more connected to one’s faith and to understand the feeling of hunger and show gratitude. It’s a time of purification of one’s body and mind.
What is a fast?
The definition of fasting is to go without food and drink for a specific period of time. This is usually done through intermittent fasting, either 8-12 hours of fasting then eating, or fasting for 1-3 days drinking only water and broth, or simply fasting for one day a month. There is lots of talk of the 5:2 fast which includes eating normally for five days and fasting for two.
There are many ways and reasons why you may choose to fast, the important thing is to do it in a healthy way and to understand what is happening in the body.
Detoxing the body through fasting
A number of diets and food programs focus on detoxing the body of toxins. These plans include elimination diets, herbal supplements, juice cleanses, and enemas but not all of them are backed by science. Some argue the body naturally eliminates toxins and by embarking on a detox diet you may create more problems upsetting the natural balance of your metabolism, the gut and digestive system.
Juicing or juice cleansing is a form of detoxing or fasting where only juices, broth, water, and herbal teas are consumed for several days. This might be a way to get more fruits and vegetables into your diet. However, be careful on the amount of fruit juice consumed as it can cause blood sugar levels to spike. Adding a few spoonful’s of raw honey can help add natural sweetness, goodness and aid in digestion and blood sugar regulation.
Dr. Andrew Weil, M.D. recommends fasting one day a week to rest your digestive system and regularly drinking herbal tea and water. He also cautions that fasting isn’t for everyone, including those who are pregnant, nursing or diabetic.
After a detox or fast people often report feeling more energetic, lighter, have better clarity of thoughts and overall feel healthier. It is always best to seek professional guidance when fasting for the first time. Everybody is different and what may work for one person won’t necessarily work for another. Headaches, fatigue, and digestive issues can be symptomatic of a fast, but they can be avoided if you listen to your body and are sensible in your choices. The most important thing is to stay hydrated.
Whatever your reasons to fast here are some things to consider and how raw honey can help your body in the process.
How raw honey can help you fast
Raw honey is full of natural sugars, enzymes, phytonutrients, minerals and vitamins and holds antibiotic and antiseptic properties all of which the body can benefit from at any time.
The three main components of all varieties of honey are fructose, glucose and water so you can imagine how good it can be to replenish, give energy and sustain you through the hours of fasting.
Drinking raw honey water on an empty stomach, such as first thing in the morning after sleep or after a long day of fasting can aid hydration, replenish vital nutrients and help you feel rejuvenated.
“The glucose in raw honey gets absorbed faster than sugar sources, so it gives a quick energy boost” says Banin Shahine, clinical dietician and nutrition fitness manager at Fitness First Middle East in an article about Ramadan in The National. “With about 17 grams of carbohydrates in a tablespoon, raw honey can be added to workout shakes and meals during Ramadan. She says desserts during Ramadan are often dressed in sugar syrup, which is bad for health. “People should try replacing sugary syrups with raw honey for sweetness. Even for diabetics, honey in small quantities can regulate blood sugar levels.”
Regulate blood sugar levels
Taking raw honey before a day of fasting helps sustain your energy as honey contains glycogen that is beneficial for blood sugar levels. You can also add cinnamon to honey to help with blood sugar balancing. After many hours without food or water, the liver is in need of nutrients. To feed the liver and blood stream it is advised to drink honey and water first thing to break the fast or on waking to give the body the fuel it needs to function well. This is known as the Hibernation Diet. Whether fasting or not, after eight hours of sleep it is a good way to start the day. Your liver carries out most of its metabolic repair at night. A depleted liver will run out of glycogen at some point in the night and may start to produce stress hormones instead (like cortisol) leaving you waking up groggy and tired so topping it up with a spoonful of raw honey last thing at night helps give your liver glycogen in the form of glucose and fructose.
Improve your digestive system
Raw honey is known to have anti-inflammatory benefits and to aid in digestion including those with IBS, colitis or gut issues. Taking a spoonful of raw honey can help as the live enzymes slip down the throat into the stomach colon. However if you take honey in water it will reach more of the body and the blood stream faster. Some people complain of bloating and changes in bowel movements whilst fasting and raw honey can help soothe the digestion and elimination process.
Improve sleep and aid cell repair
Many people speak of their sleep being interrupted when fasting and sometimes experience vivid dreams. The fast is cleansing your body and mind. Just a spoonful of honey in a glass of water an hour before bed time can help with the quality of sleep and your body repair and recovery. Honey also causes your brain to release the sleep hormone melatonin which should send you off into a restful slumber.
It’s important to note that fasting is not complete without proper breaking of the fast which can be just as important as managing the fast and can be even more challenging. One has to mentally prepare and be disciplined when facing food again because a relaxed digestive system can be sensitive and needs time to adjust. So it’s best to avoid overloading the system with a lot of food and avoid fried or fatty foods. It is advised to eat fresh fruit and vegetables slowly and drink fresh juice. Eating smaller meals, chewing your food well and eating according to hunger are all good tips. Muslims during Ramadan break their fast with water and dates as is tradition and again taking raw honey will also help in slowly easing your body into eating food again.
Read Raw Honey and Ramadan for more insights and recipe ideas for Iftar and Suhoor.
What is your experience of fasting?