What happens to our body when we fast? In today’s episode of Dr Nora, I take you through some of the changes that occur when we fast for periods of time and the benefits to the body.
Fasting is performed by many people around the globe. Each year billions of people observe the holy month of Ramadan which means fasting from sunrise to sunset. During this time no food or water is permitted. Others fast for health purposes, such as those undertaking intermittent fasting. But why are so many people fasting and what are the health benefits?
To understand this better, we need to be aware of what happens to food that we eat. When we eat, food is broken down and nutrients are absorbed. Glucose is produced which is our main energy store for functioning. When we fast, a number of changes occur over time.
0-4 HOURS - ANABOLIC PHASE
During this time, our body is still relying on the energy source from our last meal. It is using glucose to keep us functioning as well as other essential nutrients. The glucose can be used as an immediate energy source, or it can help with protein synthesis in muscles, or it can be stored for later use either short term or long term. It is called the anabolic phase because this is a period of growth as nutrients are available to the body.
4-16 HOURS - CATABOLIC PHASE
During this time, the body has now utilised its available source of glucose and signals are released to start breaking down stored glucose, otherwise known as glycogen. Interestingly, during fasting, our basal metabolic rate (which is the amount of energy our body burns whilst resting) drops and so we become more efficient as utilising energy. An impact of this is that our heart rate and blood pressure drop.
12 HOURS - GROWTH HORMONE
At around the 12 hour mark of fasting, a special hormone is released, called growth hormone. This is also released during exercise. Growth hormone is our main fat burning hormone. It also has a number of other special properties, such as anti-ageing as it thickens the skin, it also helps to heal joints, helps the production of protein, repairs cells and stimulates the immune system. It is also involved in our learning and memory.
Towards the end of this time, once glycogen stores have started to deplete, and this can occur faster if you are exercising for example, the body no longer has access to glucose. So the liver releases a chemical known at Ketones which become the main energy source. During this stage the body goes into ketosis. This is the ideal stage for weight loss and balancing out sugar levels.
18 HOURS - AUTOPHAGY
If all of these changes weren’t enough, around 18 hours of fasting, a process known as autophagy occurs. As we live and age, our cells in our body become damaged or die. Autophagy is a process whereby these cells are marked and cleansed and recycled, putting these valuable nutrients elsewhere. Autophagy is essential for healthy functioning cells.
Of course, not everyone can fast and it is important that if you are considering fasting that you seek medical advice from your own doctor to check your suitability first.
How much salt are you eating? In today’s episode of Dr Nora, I take you through why we need salt in our diet, how much we need and what happens if we have too much.
Salt is a chemical compound made up of sodium chloride. Our bodies need sodium to maintain fluid balance and volume which is thought to be less than half a teaspoon a day. However, if we have too much sodium in our bodies it can lead to a number of negative health impacts.
Current recommendations allow the average Australian adult to consume no more than 5g of salt a day or 2300mg of sodium per day. Unfortunately it’s been reported that most adults consume 9g of salt per day which is almost double the recommendation.
Consuming too much salt over prolonged periods can cause a raised blood pressure. When blood pressure is persistently elevated and not treated this can cause strain on the vital organs of the body such as the heart, increasing the risk of heart attacks and in turn increases the risk of stroke.
HIGH SALT FOODS
Foods that are generally higher in salt include, deli meats, cheese, bread, processed meals, canned fruit or vegetables, sauces and salad dressings. Take a look at the nutritional labels, there is a line that illustrates how much sodium is in a food per 100g. A low salt option would be a food that contains under 120mg of sodium per 100g and a high salt option would be a food that contains over 400mg of sodium per 100g. It’s these higher salt foods that you should limit at much as possible.
HOW TO REDUCE DAILY SALT
Other than being mindful of the nutritional labels, actively seek labels that say ‘reduced salt’ or 'low in salt’. These options will generally have less salt than the original item but still maintain the same flavour. It’s important to know that even though they generally contain less salt, they still contain salt none-the-less, so be wary of your consumption.
You could also try 'light salt’ options which are generally are made up of both potassium and sodium chloride, in these options, there is more potassium (another chemical element) than sodium and hence allowing it to have a lower sodium content.
Instead of using salt in your food preparation you could use aromatic flavours, such as spices or curry leaves to help maintain that kick in your food.
It’s a pleasure to be presenting how I have improved my patient satisfaction for cosmetic patients with the use of Treatment Pad at COSMEDICON, a boutique aesthetic medical conference held in Sydney on 6th March.
For more information on Treatment Pad and to try it for yourself, head over to treatmentpad.com.