Fasting from an ayurvedic perspective

15/01/2023

Intermittent fasting has recently become fashionable and the topic inspired me to share the Ayurvedic perspective with you. Intermittent fasting, also known as intermittent energy restriction, is an umbrella term for various meal timing schedules that cycle between voluntary fasting and non-fasting over a given period.

Many people feel better applying intermittent fasting for two simple reasons:

1. the pandemic has forced us to live a more sedentary life and eating fewer times a day can balances us and

2. most people eat more than they need, and intermittent fasting helps them feel better.

Ayurveda, as always, suggests different techniques according to the constitution of the individual:

Vata in general is the constitution that should fast the least because they have such a fast metabolism not eating makes them feel scattered, anxious and causes them to lose weight.

If Vata wants to fast to give their digestive system a rest, they should eat a mono-diet of warm food good for Vata. Two mono-diet options would be: 1. Kitchary or 2. Miso Soup. As always Vata should eat every 3-5 hours during the day, that is three to five small meals during the day. They should not exceed 12 hours of fasting during the night / morning. Example: have dinner at 7 pm and have breakfast at 6:30 or 7 am.

Pitta can benefit from intermittent fasting as long as the number of hours is not exaggerated. This constitution has the fiercest appetite of all constitutions and often leads them to overindulge. Pittas should not exaggerate fasting because it can make them angry, frustrated, intense or it can increase their appetite. It is good for them to fast for about 12-14 hours overnight / morning. Example: have dinner at 7pm and do not have breakfast until 9am.

As always, they should feed their body three times a day, ideally every 4-5 hours. This can be food that benefits Pitta. If they want to fast one day a month to give their digestive system a break, they should eat one of two options: 1. watermelon with a pinch of coriander seed and a pinch of cardamom or 2. green juices with options for Pitta. Example: celery, cucumber, parsley, apple, watercress and nopal. Occasionally a detox using cold-pressed juices or raw vegan foods helps because it cools Pitta's heat.

Kapha is the constitution that benefits best from fasting. This is because they have a much slower metabolism than Vata and Pittas. Fasting gives them a lot of energy and mental clarity. Kapha ideally fasts one day a week. As it is a cold constitution, they should take infusions and/or decoctions of spices that warm them and stimulate them during their fast. Example: decoction using the whole versions (or powdered) of ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, black pepper or a combination of these ("yogi tea" type hot beverage).

On a daily basis, Kapha must fast for 16-18 hours overnight. In other words, having dinner at 7pm implies that they do not need to eat until 11am or 1pm. This is not a problem as Kaphas usually aren't hungry first thing in the morning anyway. As always, Kaphas can eat only twice a day. They only need maybe a third light meal if they are exercising A LOT. One day a week they can completely fast from solid food. 

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