The Physician Within

The healing power of fasting


In a culture so conditioned to snacking, the idea of going without food for days may sound crazy. But fasting is one of the oldest known health remedies and such a powerful tool that the 16th-century physician Paracelcus described it as "the Physician within." Modern science is now beginning to understand the physiological processes that make fasting so beneficial. 

Fasting can have a wide array of science-backed benefits such as:

  • Longevity - fasting has been shown to decrease biological age!
  • Resetting metabolism and improving blood sugar control
  • Lowering inflammation and reducing pain
  • Improving brain function
  • Fasting can even play a role in the prevention of cancer, heart disease and neurodegenerative disorders

Past of fasting's healing power is simple energetic math. When we stop eating, energy that would otherwise go towards digestion (which by some estimates uses up 80% of the energy we consume) goes instead to cleaning and repair. Our cells use this energy to take out the "microscopic garbage" (made up of things like old cell parts, toxins, pathogens and misshapen proteins) and repair damaged tissue. It's like when you have some days off work you might use that free time and energy to clean out some closets, throw away some junk or finally fix that loose door handle. 

The physiological process that really levels-up fasting as a healing too is called autophagy. This literally means "self-eating", which sounds kind of weird, but it actually makes sense. When we stop providing our bodies with constant sources of fresh calories, it turns inward for fuel - and that's a good thing!

Imagine you lost electricity to your house in the middle of winter and had to start burning stuff around the house for fuel - you wouldn’t start with your new dining room table, would you? No, you’d start with the scrap wood and get rid of anything old or broken. Our body does the same thing when we fast, taking advantage of the opportunity for deep cleaning that it otherwise wouldn’t get around to.

The cumulative result of the processes that occur when we fast is reduced inflammation. While acute inflammation is another of our super-powers, helping us to fight pathogens and heal injuries, chronic inflammation is more like our achilles heel. Inflammation that goes unchecked leads to cellular damage and has been identified as a culprit in most chronic diseases, ranging from cancer to Alzheimer's to heart disease. 

So why isn't fasting more widely prescribed? Despite its healing power and numerous, scientifically backed benefits, fasting remains an underutilized tool - because it's hard. It's not like popping a pill, or even eating more veggies. In our daily lives we are surrounded by constant social and biological triggers for eating, which makes taking a break from eating really challenging. And fasting during our normal day-to-day routine is not ideal for other reasons - the benefits from fasting from food can be multiplied when combined with a technology detox, time in nature, contemplation and relaxation. 

For all these reasons, we are excited to be offering a doctor-designed fasting retreat for anyone interested in tapping into this amazing tool in a supportive setting.