Intermittent Fasting is a Healing Modality:
Intermittent fasting is one of the oldest nutrition practices that dates back to the beginning of mankind. Our ancient ancestors grew up in a world of stress and scarcity. Food was not often not available and intermittent fasting was common. This form of life left a genetic blueprint with key information pertaining to our health and wellbeing. Intermittent fasting reduces oxidative stress, enhances cellular repair processes and appears to be a key strategy for anti-aging and longevity.
Our ancient ancestors lived in a world where food had to be fought and won. Many days went by with little food. Occasionally, a big hunt would score days of food at a time. This was rare. Typically, one or 2 big meals every few days was sufficient to keep our ancestors nourished.
The Benefits of Food Scarcity:
Thousands of years of food scarcity led our bodies to develop a protective mechanism to adapt to alternating phases of food abundance and scarcity. During times of food scarcity our cell membranes become more sensitive to insulin. This is especially important when food is scarce because it ensures that every bit of food be efficiently used or stored.
During times of food abundance the body desensitizes the cells to insulin in an effort to avoid the stress of a heavy calorie intake. This results in elevated insulin levels, increased fat storage and increased oxidative stress and inflammatory conditions in the body. Insulin also enhances cellular division which is a risk factor for cancer formation.
Today, we have a massive abundance of food sources. We can virtually eat anytime we would like. In fact, many health coaches recommend eating 5-6 small meals throughout the day. This process, however, sends the body the signal of surplus that inhibits key tissue repair hormones that have powerful anti-aging effects.
Turning on Genetic Repair Mechanisms
Intermittent fasting acts to turn on certain genetic repair mechanisms that enhance cellular rejuvenation. This adaptation appears to allow certain cells to have a longer lifespan during times of famine. It is energetically less expensive to repair a cell than it is to divide and create new cells. This has a positive effect at shutting down cancer cell formation and proliferation.
These genetic repair mechanisms are turned on through the release of human growth hormone (HGH). HGH is known to create physiological changes in metabolism to favor fat burning and protein sparing. The proteins and amino acids are utilized to repair tissue collagen which improves the functionality and strength of muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones. HGH also improves skin function, reduces wrinkles & heals cuts and burns faster (1, 2, 3, 4).
HGH and insulin are opposites in function. HGH is focused on tissue repair, efficient fuel usage and anti-inflammatory immune activity (5). Insulin is designed for energy storage, cellular division and pro-inflammatory immune activity (6). Insulin is the dominant player in this game. When conditions demand an insulin release (carbohydrate intake) HGH is inhibited (7, 8)
Fasting is a Powerful Healing Modality
Intermittent fasting is one of the most powerful modalities for reducing inflammation, boosting immunity and enhancing tissue healing (9, 10, 11). This is one of the reasons why many people feel nauseated when they have infections. This innate mechanism is the body’s way of influencing us to fast so it can produce the right environment to boost natural immunity.
Researchers at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute found that men who had fasted for 24 hours had a 2000% increase in circulating HGH. Women who were tested had a 1300% increase in HGH (12). The researchers found that the fasting individuals had significantly reduced their triglycerides, boosted their HDL cholesterol and stabilized their blood sugar.
The best way to begin fasting is by giving your body 12 hours between dinner and breakfast every single day. This allows 4 hours to complete digestion and 8 hours for the liver to complete its detoxification cycle. After this is a standard part of lifestyle try taking one day a week and extending the fast to 16-18 hours. Eventually, you may choose to do a full 24 hour fast each week.
Various Fasting Strategies to Incorporate
Simple Fast: Basic fast with water only for 12 hours between dinner and breakfast which gives the liver a chance to complete its cycle.
Example: Finish dinner at 7pm and don’t eat again until 7am the next day.
Brunch Fast: Basic fast with water for 14 hours between dinner and breakfast which pushes the body to begin to have to tap into stored muscle glycogen and body fat for fuel.
Example: Finish dinner at 7pm and don’t eat again until 9am the next day.
Cycle Fast: Three times each week you fast for 16 hours by skipping either breakfast or dinner.
Example: Finish dinner at 7pm and eat again around 11am-12pm at lunch the next day. Do this on Monday, Wednesday and Friday each week.
Strong Fast: Consume all food in a 6-8 hour eating window each day. You would eat 2 meals per day and fast through either breakfast or dinner.
Example: This would mean fasting in the morning and eating between 12-7pm each day or 8am-3pm each day or whatever 6-8 hour period you like best.
Warrior Fast: Ancient warrior would often march all day and would feast at night. Consume all food in a 3-5 hour eating window each day. This may be from 2-6pm or 3-7pm, etc.
1 Day Food Fast: 24 hours each week with only consuming water, greens powders and herbal tea. Some may have bone broth during this fast.
5:2 Method: Consume 2 meals per day for 5 days and 2 non consecutive days each week, only consume one meal and allow your body to undergo a 24 hour fast.
How I Do Intermittent Fasting:
I personally like to go 18 hours from dinner to my first meal the next day. I will typically drink 48-60oz of water and herbal tea in the morning during this period. Sometimes, I will do greens powder in water. I usually eat my first meal between 12-2pm and finish my last meal between 5-6:30pm depending upon my schedule. I also practice the 5:2 fasting strategy where I do 2 full day fasts on Sunday and Wednesday where I will only eat one meal on those days.
I will often instruct my clients to do some organic coffee or herbal tea with coconut oil and/or grass-fed butter or ghee in it (1 tsp of each is good). This provides small and medium chain fatty acids that are easy on the digestive system and provide immediate energy in the form of ketones for the brain. This helps to stabilize blood sugar and stress hormones. If someone struggles with hypoglycemia than this is an important step.
I find that doing the 5:2 and a daily 18 hour fast helps me feel strong and full of vigor. It also improves my digestive system, skin health and immune system. Experiment with this and see if you can find the right rhythm for yourself. Here are some additional benefits to fasting: