Nov 23, 2016
Fasting for the Spirit, Soul and Body
The relationship between the gut and the brain, and the relationship between your feelings and shopping habits, are just two examples of the multifaceted, interconnected lives we all lead—a concept often at odds with modernity. We live in a world that tends towards intellectual reductionism. Globally, we have become accustomed to a parts rather than whole approach, including the way we approach food. Why else would doctors, as our go-to health figures, have negligible training in nutrition, even at Harvard’s medical school? To say that what you eat affects your health is certainly redundant. Yet how can such a basic, fundamental fact be overlooked when dealing with matters of health and illness? For more on the Gut/Brain connection see Chapter 12 of Think and Eat Yourself Smart
It is imperative that we shift the way we think about health. Your brain is not input-output machine. Your body is not an input-output machine. You are intrinsically, brilliantly, and intricately designed with a spirit, soul and body (Genesis 1:26; 1 Thessalonians 5:23). This is known as our triune nature.
Our triune nature is divided into different components. Your spirit is your “true you,” or what I call your PerfectlyYou. The spirit has three parts: intuition, conscience and communion (worship). Your soul, which is your mind, also has three parts: intellect, will and emotions. Lastly, your body has three parts: the ectoderm, mesoderm and endoderm, from which the brain and the body form.
Your mind, or soul, has one foot in the door of the spirit and one foot in the door of the body. The mind creates coherence between the spirit of man and the body of man, and therefore influences and controls brain/body function and health, and influences spiritual development. Your mind, with its intellectual ability to choose and its emotional authority, controls all physical aspects. See this VIMEO (2.45mins). Thus emotions, as part of the mind, are an intrinsic part of our food choices.
Your brain is designed to respond to your mind, and your mind is designed to respond to your spirit (Roman 8:14; John 16:3; John 14:26; Galatians 5:16). Every thought, feeling and action begins in the internal activity of your mind, which means that we choose with our minds to listen to our spirits; we choose with our minds to listen to the Holy Spirit speaking truth into our spirit; we choose with our minds to act; we choose with our minds to speak; we choose with our minds to eat. And all these mind-based choices impact our physical brain and body, as well as our spiritual development and mental health. The ultimate question is, what have you implanted in your mind? What mindsets will be shaping your choices? Remember, “as he thinks in his heart [mind], so is he” (Proverbs 23:7, italics added for emphasis).
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FASTING FOR THE SPIRIT, SOUL AND BODY
Fasting, whether skipping one meal or more, or excluding certain foods from the diet, has played an important role in human history—spiritually and physically. In today’s world, however, eating three meals a day is generally understood as healthy, although there is actually no conclusive scientific basis for not skipping breakfast, lunch or dinner, or even all three occasionally.
A growing body of research actually indicates that different types of fasts can improve health and longevity, such as intermittent fasting (eating fewer meals), caloric restriction (eating less per meal), and alternate day fasting. These types of fasting can potentially improve cardiovascular function, increase longevity, increase resistance to age-related diseases, and enhance mental and physical health in general. Intermittent fasting and caloric restriction both affect energy levels and free radical production from oxygen metabolism, as well as cellular stress response systems, in ways that protect neurons against genetic and environmental factors, while enhancing energy production from the mitochondria, which generate chemical energy in the form of ATP (adenosine triphosphate). Likewise, caloric restriction triggers a decrease in inflammatory factors, which contribute to the onset of disease.
Skipping a few meals on a regular basis can even protect against the onset of illness. Fasting has been shown to enhance brain function, and reduce the risk factors for coronary artery disease, stroke, insulin sensitivity and blood pressure. For instance, restricting calories can support the induction of sirtuin-1 (SIRT1), an enzyme that regulates gene expression and enhances learning and memory. Fasting actually has a similar effect on the body as exercise. Skipping a meal or eating less and exercise are mediated by brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), suggesting they are underpinned by similar mechanisms in the body. And you definitely want BDNF mediating! This neurotrophic factor helps maintain brain health, prevents cell death and build memory
In fact, intermittent fasting and caloric restriction can aid inter-brain communication by supporting interactive pathways and molecular mechanisms that specifically provide benefits to the neurons. These pathways produce protective protein “chaperones”—neurotrophic factors like BDNF and essential antioxidants, which help our tiny cells cope with stress and resist disease. Similarly, fasting may protect neurons against the onset of Alzheimer’s disease by preventing amyloid beta and tau pathologies on synaptic function. Overall, research on fasting indicates that skipping a meal or two can promote resistance to stroke and neurodegenerative disease Your food choices literally change the environment around your cells and the environment within your cells—an incredible support system (one of many), which highlights the goodness and mercy of God. By making the right food choices we can change our brains!
For research links get the Think and Eat Yourself Smart book
On a spiritual level, fasting is a common practice. For example, Greek Orthodox Christians fast 180-200 days per year prior to Easter, Christmas and the Assumption. Catholic Christians fast for approximately 40 days before Easter. The Daniel fast is a very common among Christians, and usually lasts between 21-40 days.
Biblically, the call to fast is found throughout both the Old and New Testament. It is a way for Jews and Christians to make their beliefs part of the everyday lives, in a sense of bringing heaven to earth (Matthew 6:9-13). It enables us to put God above our earthly pleasures, in sense that we put God first and appreciate food and drink as a gift from him rather than love food and drink in and of themselves. It enables us to become addicted to God. We do not merely fast to get healthy and loose weight. We fast for the spirit, soul and body: by putting God first, “all these things are added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). The growing body of fasting research actually confirms the integrated triune nature of man, since as we discipline our mind and choose to reduce our bodily food intake and focus on God, our spirit, soul and body is develops (I Thessalonians 5:23).