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An Ayurveda Perspective on Intermittent Fasting

A woman's hand holding a dish full of spices, while spooning out some of the spices to add to a pot on the stove

Intermittent fasting is currently a popular diet trend, and clients often ask me if it would help them. Some clients are already experimenting with intermittent fasting, and others are curious about the benefits.

The most common way people practice intermittent fasting is by eating all of their calories within an 8-hour window. For example, a person might eat their first meal at noon, and finish dinner by 8pm.

Ayurveda doesn’t specifically recommend intermittent fasting in the way it’s generally applied. This is because Ayurveda recognizes the connection between the sun and our own digestive fire. Our digestive fire, or agni, is what transforms food into the cells of our body. When it’s functioning well and balanced, we get hungry regularly and have no digestive complaints. But when it’s out of balance, we may have hard or dry stools, loose stools, bloating, gas, heartburn, or other digestive discomforts. 

Ayurveda teaches that our digestion is the strongest when the sun is at its highest point in the sky. This is when we should eat our largest meal of the day. But, if this is also the first meal of the day, our digestive fire might not be up for it. As with building a fire, we need to first begin with kindling–or small, easy-to-digest foods. This is what our breakfast should consist of, and this is why we need to eat a light breakfast in the morning to “kindle” our agni.

When the agni is properly kindled, we should feel hungry around midday, when the sun is at its highest point in the sky. Then, just like throwing a big log on a fire, we are ready to have a bigger, sustaining meal.

At the end of the day, before the sun sets, is the best time to have a light dinner. We don’t want our dinner to be so heavy that we can’t digest it before we go to bed, because once you are asleep your digestion shuts down and food will just sit in your digestive system. Dinner should be eaten at least three hours before bed, and should not be too heavy or too much.

Ayurveda also does not recommend snacking between meals (although there are exceptions for some conditions/imbalances).

This is where intermittent fasting, as it’s generally applied, can become problematic. If you eat all of your calories between 12-8, you’re not waking up the digestive fire early enough to digest a big lunch. And you’re probably eating too many calories too late in the day to fully digest your food before bed.

However, if you eat breakfast around 8 or 9am, lunch around 12-1, and dinner before 7pm, you could still have 13-14 (or more) hours of fasting overnight. Your digestive system will get the break that intermittent fasting provides, which is most responsible for the benefits people experience with this trend.

To learn more about an Ayurvedic diet and lifestyle while resetting your digestion, consider joining the Spring Ayurvedic Cleanse. Register by March 7th.


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