anxiety and stress

Understanding fasting Part 1 – Why it reduces anxiety and stress

Topic of the article might surprise you. Only if you are interested, go on reading. It will require some amount of will power to being with fasting.

Definition of anxiety

Anxiety is a feeling of worry and fear about every day situations. It is condition of fear or dread as to what will happen next.

It induces faster heart rate, rapid breathing and sweating.

Anxiety makes you nervous and disrupts your ability to think and act. It keeps you worrying about what will come next, sometimes late into the night too.

Anxiety is the natural response of your body to stress.

Definition of stress

Stress is a normal reaction by the body against a physical or emotional challenge.

While pushing weights in a gym, you are creating a measured physcial stress on the muscles. In response, body builds up muscles. This example to show stress is not always bad.

Chronic stress keep you worried all the time. It keeps you in a constant state of alert. Sympathetic nervous system which is part of the Autonomous nervous system is responsible to activate the fight or flight mechanism in response to any external or perceived threat. Pending deadlines, unpaid bills, exams, some major event, and so on can be categorised as stressful events.

Metabolic switch and fasting

Food is the main source of energy for the body. Carbs, sugars and fats are digested by the body to produce fatty acids and glucose, both of which can be used as source of energy by the cells. Each body cell can produce its own energy and is a powerhouse independently.

Body prefers to burn glucose over fat because glucose or blood sugar is toxic to the body and as soon as the blood glucose level rises, the body works to bring it down by pushing it into the cells. Excess sugar in the blood creates all sorts of metabolic problems in the body and leads to obesity.

Once the sugar levels in the blood are normal, then the body switches between fat burning and sugar burning depending on the needs at that time.

After 8 to 12 hours after your last meal, metabolic switching occurs between sugar burning to fat burning.

Fat burning and ketones

Liver is the refrigerator of your body. Excess sugar in the blood which cannot be used by the cells is recalled by the liver, converted to glycogen (a type of fat) and then stored for later use.

When blood sugar levels go low, the liver converts glycogen to ketones and releases them in the blood stream so that they can be used by the cells as fuel for energy production.

Humans as cave dewellers

Human evolution began 50 lakh years ago. Till 50,000 years ago we were still evolving as hunter but we started using hunting tools. About 10,000 years ago, we came out of caves and began agriculture. So we have been staying in the safety and security of caves for a really long time and our evolution shaped staying in caves.

Men used to go out to hunt, on an empty stomach, early morning. Hunting was risky but rewarding. Hunting needed mental focus, clarity in thought, powered up muscles and lots of energy. Above all, they needed to be calm while being focused on the hunt. All this had to come from ketones, because the hunters were in a fasted state. At least 14 to 20 hours since the last meal. That is the power of ketones.

Ketones also switch off Ghrelin hormone, also known as the hunger hormone. One more thing taken off your mind so that you can focus on hunting.

Fasting for women in caves meant that they can finish all house hold chores and prepare for the men folk to come back home with the hunt so that cooking can begin.

GABA and relation with ketones

GABA is the primary neuro transmitter responsible for calming the brain. Neurotransmitters are chemicals which trigger certain actions in the brain.

Ketones induce the calming effect we talked about earlier by releasing GABA. There are other ways of releasing GABA like physical exercise, performing a routine, doing an activity you like for example a hobby, listening to music, yoga, meditation and so on.

Imagine however, releasing GABA without eating. Not the easiest way to do it, but fasting and ketones do have some additional benefits which we shall see in the later series.

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