The more frequently I get asked the same irritating question, the higher the chances of me writing an article answering said question.
Q – Won’t fasting cause gastritis and ulcers?
Ans (Short) – No
Ans (Medium) – depends on the individuals health status, resilience and diet.
Ans (Long rant) – There are no definite answers in biology. The range of variations will go even wider in human biology, which has overlays of culture, habit, tradition and technology.
Common sense will tell you, that humans that were unable to go without food for long periods of time would not have survived the frequent periods of scarcity that came with being a hunter gatherer or even a subsistence farmer.
If humans developed gastric and duodenal ulcers every time they failed in a hunt, or if they couldn’t go out of their shelters due to bad weather, they’d have gone extinct by now.
Instead what happened was that fasting acted as a hormetic stressor that made the individual stronger with each instance. Humans grew more resilient and anti fragile each time they starved. And they starved. A lot. This abundance of food were now experiencing is only a few generations old. Our evolution has not equipped us to handle abundance add well as famine. Our genes expect occasional starvation, and we’re not supplying that input.
All stressors are not the same. A hormetic stressor makes you stronger by challenging your body to adapt positively. Like carefully planned exercise, or cold exposure, heat exposure, immune challenges by microbes. The human tendency to seek comfort from hardship has continued to weaken us. Avoiding hunger or deprivation of food, with a phobia bordering on insanity, is destroying our collective health. Mental and physical.
“Gastritis” is now a term that is thrown around by even semi literate people. Sadly, even doctors are learning from them. Gastritis, is inflammation of the stomach lining. It’s a histological /pathologic diagnosis. You need to see inflamed gastric mucosa to say it is present. A clinical diagnosis can be made, based on symptoms, agreed, but the causes for gastritis are numerous.
It’s not always hyperacidity.
It can also occur in patients with too little stomach acid (hypochlorhydria). They’ll need extra acid supplementation to fix their problem.
It can occur with Bacterial overgrowth in the stomach or intestine, causing reflux and belching.
It can occur with nutritional deficiencies that cause poor mucosal regeneration.
It can occur in autoimmune conditions that attack the lining of the gut /stomach.
Some people respond poorly to certain food triggers. Coffee / lime / oranges /legumes / potatoes/ spicy food / sugar
Carpet bombing all of the above possibilities with an acid production lowering drug, may work, but at the cost of side effects, nutritional deficiencies and a physical dependency on the drug.
Ideally, you should be cutting out all the Junk food, sleeping adequately, and at regular timings, controlling stress, identifying triggers that are specific to you and avoiding them to control “gastritis”. What you should not be doing is accepting a blanket diagnosis of “gastritis” and taking Pantoprazole daily for the rest of your life. Which is very likely going to be a miserable one, if you’re on a long list of medicines. Half of which you’re taking because you’re too lazy to correct your lifestyle and diet and the other half are to counteract the side effects of the first half.
Coming to fasting and “gastritis”, a person with gastritis due to a poor quality diet will probably get relief from their symptoms by fasting. Sometimes after an initial period of exacerbation that won’t last more than 48 hrs.
A person with an impending rupture of a gastric or duodenal ulcer, can end up in trouble with fasting.
Most people are already fasting atleast 8 to 12 hours every day. Between dinner and the next day’s breakfast. It would be next to impossible to kill oneself by delaying or bringing forward breakfast or dinner respectively by a few hours.
I say “next to impossible” because there’s always some obstinate person who will try their best to prove me wrong by dying 😜
The idea would be to gradually increase the gap between dinner and the next day’s breakfast, so that your body gets the chance to adapt from gluttony that it is used to. Give it time.
The usual advice is to increase that gap by half an hour every week.
There’s usually no significant extra benefit to be gained from fasting longer than 16 hours daily.
There are people who have found success with 20 hours daily, but it is not recommended for the general population.