Intermittent fasting has been all the rage in health and wellness in the last few years, but did you know that forms of intermittent fasting have been part of ancient medical traditions for thousands of years?
In Ayurveda, the ancient Indian system of medicine and sister science to yoga, the digestive system is the most important organ system for wellness and vitality. For the past 5,000 plus years, Ayurveda has recommended a 12-hour window of fasting every day to promote the steady release of toxins from the body and the proper regeneration of the body’s energy and digestive power every day.
Take a moment to check in with your own eating timeline – when do you stop eating in the evening and when do you have your first bite in the morning? Especially if you’re prone to late-night snacking, the time without food might be less than you think. In Ayurveda, skipping this 12-hour fast can leave you feeling sluggish and weighed down.
In intermittent fasting, the recommendation is to increase your 12-hour fast to 16 or even 18 hours, so you eat within a 6-8 hour window.
Is intermittent fasting healthy?
So let’s see if more of a good thing still a good thing.
The answer is more complicated than a simple yes or no. It comes down to your personal mind/body type, which Ayurveda calls your dosha. Your dosha explains information about your physical body, and personality. Knowing your dosha can help you make decisions about which health trends and recommendations will benefit your body, and which will leave you feeling just meh.
Don’t know your Ayurvedic dosha? Read on below to learn more about the three doshas, and see if intermittent fasting is right for you.
Intermittent Fasting and Vata Dosha
Vata Dosha describes people who tend to be creative and always have new ideas. Vatas will usually get dry skin and experience bloating/constipation. Under stress, vatas can get overwhelmed and anxiety easy.
If you have a lot of vata dosha, going more than 12 hours without food isn’t going to feel great. Vatas tend to get low blood sugar constantly and can feel spacey/detached when they don’t eat enough. People with vata dosha are so active through their day, and a solid breakfast is super important. Vatas need regular nourishment and grounding that extended fasts won’t provide. By creating routine and regulation in your day, vatas will find a sense of peace and calm.
Intermittent Fasting and Pitta Dosha
Pitta Dosha describes people who are sharp, fast, and on top of it all. Pittas are prone to getting red skin (especially after a hot workout), and are quick to anger. They are in control and are fabulous managers and leaders.
I know the pittas out there are so exciting to implement more rules in your day. The idea of having a box that you can check off feels great. But while this rule of eating in a 6 or 8 hour window can feel really appealing, in practice, it might be just a little too rigid and act to increase pitta in your body.
Pittas tend to have a big appetite and going so long without food could inhibit the large amount of energy you put out during the day. While you’ll do great with your 12 hour fast, and might even be able to get it to 14 or 16 hours, be wary if you get to strict or controlling about your food.
Intermittent Fasting and Kapha Dosha
Kapha Dosha describes people who are nurturing, soft, friendly, and always up for a good time. Kaphas can get stuck in ruts, doing the same thing again and again, even if it’s not healthy for them. One of the major goals to keep a healthy kapha dosha is to get the body moving!
Finally! Here’s the dosha that can really benefit from a 16-18 hours fast. Kaphas tend to hold on to everything. Memories, past resentments, and calories all stick to a kapha easily. For that reason, kaphas don’t need to eat as much as vata and pitta doshas, even though they might have a massive sweet tooth.
By having an extended fast, kaphas will find that they feel a lightness and freshness in their bodies, and they’ll be more prone to the movement that is so needed for their bodies and minds.
Modern intermittent fasting and Ayurveda do differ on one specific recommendation. In intermittent fasting, certain circles recommend eating as much as you want and anything that you want during your eating time. Ayurveda, on the other hand, still recommends eating balanced meals and not overdoing it. When we overeat, we clog the body tissues – stomach, liver, and intestines have too much to process, leading to low energy and brain fog. Basically, you undo all of the benefits of intermittent fasting! So if you can’t control your appetite with an extended fast, then dial it down a notch and do a shorter fast.
As usual, there is no “one size fits all”, “this diet is going to change everyone’s life”, quick fix. It comes down to personalization, knowing your dosha, and being mindful of what you’re eating and when. And isn’t that a beautiful thing? With that information, whether you choose to practice intermittent fasting or not, you can feel great knowing that you’re choosing to nourish and take care of your body.Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful day,
Samantha Attard, PhD, is the founder of Happy Healthy Human. Sam is a performance coach and yoga instructor who helps people eat, move, and live with intention. Learn more here.