24 Hours Without Food — The Bodily Benefits of Fasting

§ In the desert of Galilee — wherever it was — where Jesus fasted for forty days and forty nights, Jesus gave us an example and a lesson of an important life-saving, life-enhancing practice called fasting. As Jesus himself was engaged in this doubly-worthwhile exercise, the devil, the deceiver, who detracts from the good, came to tempt him, beguiling him that hunger is not good for him, urging him to turn stones into bread and ‘eat something’. Jesus debunks the lie, saying “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone”. (Matthew 4:4)

§ Though Jesus was referring to the necessity of the spiritual food that is the word of God, he was also teaching us that, sometimes we can do without food, sometimes we can be better off without food, sometimes we can be nourished without food, sometimes we can be healthier without food. Jesus was teaching the needfulness of fasting.

§ Fasting is an age-old practice of many religions, especially the Judeo-Christian religion and Catholicism in particular. In the foregoing nuggets, Jesus teaches it and becomes himself an exemplar of it for us.

§ But fasting has also been practiced from time immemorial as a therapy or a health remediation practice. The use of fasting as a way of restoring health balance in the body or as an auxiliary curative process is also growing in our own time.

§ Since we are already aware of its spiritual powers and benefits, we shall in the following nuggets point out the health and bodily benefits of the practice of fasting.

§ In Christian piety fasting is usually associated with Friday, as a form of spiritual union and memory of that Good Friday, wherein Christ suffered and died. Within Catholicism — which I am more acquainted with — fasting is more often and more officially associated with the Lenten season and has been marked as the second pillar of the Catholic Church’s annual Lenten observance.

§ Usually as we prepare for Ash Wednesday — the official beginning of the Lenten season; as we prepare for Advent — which ushers us into Christmas; and as we prepare for any special or particular period of prayer or spiritual exercise; we are reminded of the necessity of fasting. But this is usually done to chasten the flesh in order to give ascendancy to the spirit; and not because of any bodily benefits.

§ Here, rather, I would like to call our attention, not only to the fruitful practice of fasting — the many benefits that accrue from fasting — but also to its necessity as a life enhancing therapy. Here, I would like to talk about fasting, in favour of the body, not the spirit. Here I would share, in nuggets, some biological advantages that come to us when we fast. Hence the tittle: ‘The Bodily Benefits of Fasting’.

§ In addition to the times when we practice ritual or religious fasting for spiritual purposes, we can also practice fasting for bodily and health purposes. The bible records that the historical Jesus fasted for forty days and forty nights. Not many people can do that. But many people can fast for just one day. We call it 24 HOURS WITHOUT FOOD.

§ DISCLAIMER: But I must first say, that I am not a medical professional, nor did I do the scientific investigation of the following facts myself. I am only sharing a summary of my findings, as drawn from many researches by nutritionists and medical professionals on the health benefits of fasting — many of which, however, I have experienced in my own practice of fasting. Yet, this piece is not a therapeutic prescription. Only a licensed health practitioner can give a health prescription.

§ Fasting helps maintain healthy blood sugar level; it increases insulin sensitivity and reduces insulin resistance, because during fasting, surely the intake of carbohydrate and other sugars are reduced. Fasting helps reduce the risk of diabetics and sugar disorders in the body.

§ Fasting has been advocated for cancer prevention and treatment. Staying off certain substances and even from food at all both prevents and/or delays the development of cancerous cells and tumours as well as starves cancerous cells of nourishments and sometimes starves them to death.

§ Fasting helps combat chronic inflammation; a situation in which the immune system is overburdened by remaining in the attack-mode even in the absence of infection or injury in the body.

§ Fasting benefits the heart in many ways; it reduces bad cholesterol and increases good cholesterol by regulating triglyceride.

§ Fasting helps in the control of the body’s blood pressure because the absence of food-processing in the body, helps to reduce the rise of systolic blood pressure.

§ Fasting boosts fats-burning and general weight loss. During fasting the body uses the energy stored in the body as fats. Fasting helps combat obesity.

§ Fasting enhances brain and cognitive functions. During fasting, body activities like digestion, etc, are reduced or normalized. Bodily activities are in a state of balance; thus, brain function and cognitive activities are enhanced.

§ Fasting provides the body an opportunity to heal and reset itself as the entire system becomes like it is given ‘spare time’ to handle backlog of issues.

§ Fasting provides maximum opportunity for the activities of stem cells in the body bringing about cell regeneration and healing worn-out tissues etc.

§ Fasting provides opportunity for hormonal balance and optimization in the body, including estrogen, insulin, thyroid etc.

§ Fasting helps to soothe different pains in the body — neck, knee, back — as it reduces the pressure on the body and creates body balance.

§ Fasting heals the appetite and even restore the taste buds; good fasting leads to good use of food and to a true appreciation of food and the giver of food.

§ Fasting improves the quality of sleep, since it frees the body of excessive activity and unwanted substances.

§ Fasting helps to purge the body’s systems and the eliminations of toxins hitherto stored in the body.

§ Fasting also improves bone health. During fasting a molecule called parathyroid hormone (PTH), which is vital for bone formation and wellness is produced to strengthen the bones.

§ Fasting slows down the aging process by helping the body have time to remove accumulated dysfunctional proteins and organelles in the cell and producing human growth genes HGH in the cells.

§ Fasting helps to regulate hunger by helping in the production and release of leptin (and ghrelin), the hormones that regulate hunger and by helping to combat obesity, which often leads to leptin resistance.

§ Fasting promotes discipline of the body and of the mind. It enhances the capacity for self-control. Fasting is an exercise in self-mastery. A weekly or monthly or quarterly practice of 24 hours without food would increase our level of self-mastery and our bodily wellbeing.

§ NB 1: In her wisdom and centuries of experience, the Church officially exempts aged persons and those with unique health conditions from the obligation of fasting. This reminds us to take informed decisions!

§ NB 2: Again, remember that this is not a medical advice or prescription. This platform is not a hospital or medical facility. It is always better to consult a medical professional in health and medical issues, including, fasting for health reasons.

§ NB 3: Yet, fasting is an age-long practice of all religions which most of us are acquainted with. These nuggets are only written to encourage those who are fit and capable, to embrace fasting and enjoy its many bodily (as well as spiritual) benefits, during the Lenten or Advent seasons, on Fridays or during your special period of spiritual or bodily exercise. Wishing you a fruitful fasting in advance!

Michael Richmond Duru
February 24th 2020



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Michael Richmond Duru

Michael Richmond Duru


Michael Richmond Duru is an Igboman. From Amaulu, Mbieri clan. His Igboland is in the gulf of West Africa. A priest of the Archdiocese of Owerri. Lives in Rome.