Immune function and hormone production are notes as being more efficient during dietary restriction, and this includes the anti-aging hormone, produced by the pituitary gland, Human Growth Hormone (HGH) - production of which is also encouraged by exercise and sound sleep.
So a pattern of eating and living which includes periodic fasting. monodiets or detoxification periods (and ideally which also discourages a high calorie diet) is likely to enhance health as well as retard the aging process via all the means described - slower metabolic rate, reduced free radical activity, better protein synthesis and enhanced immune function, combined with greater growth hormone levels. These are not theories but facts, and the proof is there for you test for yourself.
Is Fasting Universally Applicable?
Since fasting has no specific aim, but rather had a general potential to enhance the function of all the organs and systems, it could be seen as being universally applicable, and it is - almost.
The following quotation, with which my experience agrees completely, is from the writing of Alex Burton ND DO who is one of the leading proponents of fasting currently in practice,
"I have found few health problems which are absolute contraindications to fasting. In my experience, if the need is evident, the only genuine contraindication is fear ... As for the other conditions often mentioned [as contraindications], e.g., kidney disease, heart impairment, TB, etc, they merely require extreme caution, because of the limits imposed by pathology, but they are not inexorable contraindications."(4)
Short Fasts? Long Fasts?
Fasting for longer than two days can hardly ever cause harm, although some short-term symptoms might be noted, as will be discussed later.
Some experts say that up to five days of unsupervised fasting is acceptable - however I disagree and insist that no-one fasts for longer than four days without the advice and potential for supervision from a health care professional who is qualified to give advice, in case symptoms of an unpredictable nature start during a fast.
And What Are The Risks?
In the medical literature up to 1985, involving thousands of cases of fasting, usually involving severely ill patients often with life-threatening conditions, there are only 7 cases of death reported and in five of these drugs were administered during their fast, something which is quite definitely contraindicated. (4), (5), (6), (7), (8)
As Joel Fuhrman MD explains,
"If we look at the details of these cases we can clearly see that the individuals were fasted improperly, using multiple drugs during the fast, in patients who had heart failure and kidney disease prior to the fast.....[some of] these patients drank unrestricted amounts of coffee, tea, and fruit juice during the fast and were given digoxin, diuretics and anticoagulants. These were not total fasts, and might more appropriately be called coffee and fruit juice feasts."
A statement taken from the ultra-cautious and medically conservative journal The Lancet (9) helps to put into context the relative danger,
"Fasting short of emaciation is not hazardous, if death results, reasons other than those of the fast should be considered before concluding that all supervised fasts should be discouraged."
And remember that NONE of these tragedies were related to short term fasting, which is the most highly recommended tactic for home use.
ALL long-term fasting needs to be performed under supervision by a qualified and experienced health care professional.