Dry fasting for good health has raised eyebrows for its complete abstinence from food and water for an extended period, but the trend has been presented as a “superior form of fasting and cleansing” by Luke Coutinho in his book The Dry Fasting Miracle: From Deprive to Thrive, published by Penguin Random House India.
Coutinho, a holistic lifestyle coach-integrative medicine, who has co-authored the book with Sheikh Abdul Aziz Nuaimi aka Green Sheikh, from UAE’s Ajman royal family, advocates dry fasting and intermittent fasting for healthy living. He talks to indianexpress.com on the book, why fasting is for everyone, and how it could be a way to build immunity given the pandemic concerns.
Why do you think fasting is important?
Fasting in earlier times was built into one’s lifestyle; people ate early because there was hardly any light after sunset and their next meal would only be after sunrise. This practice spread to all religions as a discipline due to its health and spiritual benefits. Sickness too was followed by fasting, because it allowed the body to redirect its energy towards healing and repairing. So, fasting is very natural to us, however, we have moved too far away from this concept because of the habit of constant nibbling, an abundance of food and storage options, etc. Our bodies were never designed to eat the amount of food we actually eat today. Overeating turns out to be one of the most common causes of sickness, more so when the quality of food is bad and inappropriate.
Today, science is proving how necessary fasting is for the immune system, digestive system, energy, spirituality, cardiovascular health, obesity, mental health and so much more.
Fasting draws up an image of no food, no water, and basically starving. How is dry fasting different?
Fasting is not starvation. Fasting is not deprivation. Fasting is a discipline where one willingly gives their body and digestive system a break, redirecting the energy towards rejuvenation and detoxification. Fasting is way more disciplined and planned. Skipping meals is not fasting.
Fasting must be practiced around the same time, so our body builds a memory around when it can expect food. Starvation can lead to nutritional deficiencies and acidity, whereas a well-planned fasting schedule eradicates acidity.
Isn’t it dangerous for the body to go without food and, more importantly, water for more than 12 hours?
Dry fasting is a cleansing practice that involves complete abstinence from food and water (in any form) for a brief period of time, which could range from 10 hours to 16, 18, 20 hours, depending upon an individual’s comfort level.
Our digestive system utilises almost 80 per cent of the energy into digestion, absorption and assimilation with 20 per cent of the energy towards – healing, repair, recovery, growth, rejuvenation, detoxification and building the immune system. Too much eating, eating at the wrong timings, overeating can all drain energy, leaving little or no energy for repair and recovery. Fasting gives the digestive system a temporary shutdown, boosting the immune system, stem cell regeneration, hormonal balance, etc.
Dry fasting also sends our body into the autophagy mode (prolonged fasting) wherein its intelligence sacrifices the sickest cells and activates stem cell regeneration. All of this and more can be achieved through fasting, provided it’s done the right way.
Of course, if someone has a medical condition and cannot fast, they must refrain or modify it according to what their health experts recommend. For example, dry fasting may not suit someone with recurrent UTI infection, so he/she may adopt intermittent fasting. Or someone on water restriction may not be able to do intermittent fasting and can take short fasts under expert guidance only.
Interestingly, the book also mentions hard dry fasting, which means absolutely no contact with water, not just consumption of it but also bathing, washing or cleaning. Is it possible?
Yes, for a brief period of time. Also, hard dry fasting is intense, so it’s a personal choice whether one is comfortable with fasting by not washing hands, bathing, brushing, or handling water. Not many people are because they go to offices and travel or work and that is absolutely fine. Soft dry fasting (which includes brushing, bathing, etc) if done the right way is powerful in itself.
Fasting is viewed from a religious angle. But in the book, you mention, it is more than that. Can you elaborate?
Fasting does have religious and spiritual significance but its benefits extend beyond that. In fact, it improves the health of an individual from all dimensions – physical, mental, emotional, intellectual as well as spiritual.
Fasting is also turning into another fad simply because it is used as a quick fix to achieve health goals, especially losing weight and belly fat.
Fasting is not a solution for weight gain. Use it to instill discipline with reference to eating and constant nibbling, start listening to your body.
Secondly, individuals try to complete with each other on fasting and the number of hours fasted. If someone is doing a 16-hour fast, everyone wants to do a 16 hour fast. Fasting is not a competition. It’s what suits you. There is no magic number of hours one should fast.
Lastly, some people claim to be fasting but still have tea/coffee/juices, etc. Such an approach can be detrimental to one’s health. Fasting is not a fad.
You mention that the human body is designed for fasting and the simplest way to begin is to have an early dinner. But, people rarely follow that and tend to even eat at odd hours. Is it healthy?
Times may have changed, but not the way the human body functions. While the wisdom of early dinner comes through our grandparents, today, science is proving how late-night meals mess up our digestion, immunity, blood sugar levels, weight, etc. The very fact that the pancreatic cells have melatonin receptors on them proves that our pancreas is meant to shut down when our body starts to secrete melatonin – which is when the sun sets. A person who has had a late-night dinner would be able to answer how heavy and uncomfortable it could make one feel the next day and even during the course of the night. Even worse, if the dinner is heavy, because our body is just not designed to digest it at night.
By far, eating an early dinner which is as close to sunset is a powerful lifestyle change. It can result in better immunity, digestion, energy levels, better skin and hair, etc.
Considering each and everyone’s body systems are different, do you think dry fasting is everyone?
Absolutely. What do you lose by trying? Most people do not fear fasting, they resist moving out of their comfort zones. There are so many people who report literally magical benefits from fasting. If someone is in a dilemma, read about these inspiring stories. At the same time, fasting doesn’t have to suit all. Also, if one form of fasting doesn’t suit a person, for e.g. dry fasting, in case of a health condition like recurrent UTI, they can adopt intermittent fasting. In the end, it’s about what suits a person.
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