Intermittent Fasting... if you haven't already heard
I have never been one that easily goes without food. Like, the word ‘fasting’ was something I always put a blind eye to because I was basically the definition of hangry. In fact, years ago I remember going just a couple of hours without eating whilst working at a festival, serving mainly beers, egg and lettuce sandwiches and chocolate over and over again. The lineup I had to serve was getting longer and longer, and I suddenly had such a large drop in my blood sugar levels that in the middle of serving someone, I dropped everything, grabbed a Picnic bar out of the fridge ran to the bathroom with a cold sweat, my face white as a ghost and on the verge of vomiting and/or passing out. I shoveled the Picnic bar in my mouth in time to raise my sugars. This, my love, is an example of someone with serious insulin resistance and if I continued the way I was going I would be a diabetic and a lot more.
Now? Well now I can easily go a full day without eating quite comfortably, because my body utilises other stores efficiently and this in short is known as being ‘fat adapted’. It is a crucial survival mechanism our body needs to comfortably adapt to. I have found it very helpful, too. In times when I am travelling and there is no real food available for hours and hours, or I am in high adrenaline mode with work and food would simply not be able to digest properly (in high adrenaline/stressful states your body shunts energy and focus away from your digestive system and into your limbs).
Intermittent fasting; I have spoken about it in seminars over and over again, recommend it to so many clients and have written about it numerous times for Changing Habits… so it was about time that I share it here in detail. Though please note: it can take time for someone to be able to even consider intermittent fasting, so the first step is certainly real food, and if you need to consult a practitioner for support then please do, otherwise you might end up reaching for a cheeky Picnic bar or pass out.
As the name suggests, intermittent fasting means to undergo a period of time with no eating. Ideally, the period of time without eating is at least 14 hours to be classified as a fast, with 16 to 18 hours showing to be the most effective. The amount of time beyond this varies depending on the individual’s needs. All animals, including humans, have been fasting since existence. Food has not always been available in such great amounts, and we have not always been told to have a breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks in between. Animals and true hunter gatherers today still endure regular fasting though not necessarily by choice, and specific religions still undergo fasting rituals including Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, Christianity and Hinduism to name a few, and lastly, fasting is also advised and practiced by Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. Think of it as putting a ‘positive stress’ on the body, just like exercise, saunas or cold plunge pools.
A powerful detox tool…
Once you can safely endure fasting, your body utilizes stored glycogen for roughly 6-8 hours for a source of energy, though once this is used your body then switches to using your fat as energy. Detoxification can occur via not only giving your kidneys, liver and digestive system time to rest and repair, though also by the coolest process I’ve learnt about yet known as autophagy. Autophagy is a crucial survival mechanism that involves a self-degradative process, which clears damaged organelles such as mitochondria, endoplasmic reticulum, peroxisomes and intracellular pathogens and turns them into useful products that the body can use.
Okay… I find the research to be pretty incredible… so wait for it…
Intermittent fasting has…
- Has been recognized as a defense mechanism against malignant tumour, infection, liver disease, autoimmune diseases and neurodegenerative diseases.
- Increases the Human Growth Hormone which helps muscle building and repair, and therefore the intermittent fasting does not lead to muscle loss
- Can lead to fat loss due to the lowering of insulin levels
- Is anti-aging
- Can help normalize insulin sensitivity
- Can help lower cortisol levels
- Supports detoxification of your organs
- Prevents hormonal imbalances like menopause and PCOS
- Drastically reduces inflammation and oxidative stress
- Can protect individuals from age-related memory loss
- Reduces sugar cravings by getting you into the fat burning process
- Puts you into a mild ketosis state which can be great fuel for your brain
- Alternate day fasting (a form of intermittent fasting) has shown to result in weight loss and the reduction of cardiovascular disease risk factor.
- Linked to lower prevalence of coronary artery disease and diabetes
- Can have medical applications that have been shown to be as effective as those of approved drugs such as the reduction of seizures and seizure-associated brain damage and improving illnesses such as rheumatoid arthritis
- Increases the Brain-derived Neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which increases the function of your brain. Low BDNF is linked to Alzheimers, other brain disorders, aging, and neurological issues, neurotransmitter issues (depression, anxiety)
- Changes your gut bacteria to those that are linked to a longer lifespan
- Increases mitochondrial energy efficiency
- Reduces blood pressure
- Can reduce all the major abnormalities of the Multiple Sclerosis
- Promotes clearance of pathogenic overgrowths by boosting IgA production and increase in phagocytic inflammatory cells (include many types of white blood cells)
- Changes your gene expression for the better
So, how do you do it?
Breakfast, or ‘Break your fast’ – though not too soon! Have an early dinner if you can, skip breakfast and then eat some lunch after you have gone 14-18 hours without eating. In this time you can have fats as they have no impact on your insulin levels, though the body mustn’t be supplied with any dietary protein or carbohydrates in order for it to remain in the fasting and autophagy state. Consuming fats, particularly those rich in medium chain triglycerides like coconut oil during the fast can boost the metabolic rate, enhances autophagy and ketosis of the individual during a fast. I love having a Bulletproof Coffee, which you can find a recipe HERE. Healing herbs like ashwaghanda, tulsi or antiparasitic blends or teas, lemon and apple cider vinegar should not break the fast.
Please note that you do not need to do this every day for some benefit as research shows, it may just be a few times a week depending on your needs. In the beginning of your healing journey you may require extra nourishment, so having breakfast or nourishing snacks may be essential to your health depending on your circumstances. Intermittent fasting may just be a tool you utilise whilst undergoing a detox or healing protocol like a parasite or candida cleanse, or in the treatment of a more serious illness like a neurological disease.
Who shouldn’t do it?
At this stage, I don’t recommend the following undergo fasting of any kind; pregnant women, those with adrenal fatigue, those with past or current eating disorders (unless under guidance), or those that are diabetic on insulin.
I know, it seems a little strange that a Nutritionist is recommending no food? But when you know and take advantage of this sweet little trick and combine it with a healing diet, then you might fast track your results.
This topic and it’s research is deeply fascinating to me; so let me know if you have tried it before or if you are going to try it!