All living organisms have developed complex adaptive systems to survive within their ever-changing environments. This includes our human biological systems, responsible for growth, repair, energy and survival. Our human biological systems have developed these adaptive systems as a way to survive ever-changing environmental and economic conditions, including cyclical times of feast and famine.
When food was available, our biological systems adapted to burn glucose for fuel and growth. When food was not available, our systems adapted around scarcity, deriving fuel for growth, repair and survival from our storage systems in the form of fat and protein.
Since the 1950s and ’60s, we in the western climate have not really struggled with starvation or cycles of true deprivation. On the contrary, all too frequently our cycles of ‘plenty’ seem to stretch from one season to the next, and from one year to the next, as we have all systems in place for warmth, clothing, constant access to food, and even store credit if we’re living more hand-to-mouth.
The result being, modern life is associated with disproportionate time locked into our mTor ‘growth and repair’ genes, due to our high eating frequency, high caloric intake, sedentary lifestyles, and chronic unresolvable stressors. With not enough time spent engaging our SIRT and FOXO ‘transcription’ genes, associated with fasting, hormesis and autophagy.
These metabolic processes are balanced, like a sea-saw, between ‘growth and re-building’ and ‘clearing out of cellular debris’ otherwise called autophagy. Autophagy is the process of cells ‘self-devouring’; disassembling and the removal of dysfunctional components (basically recycling of cellular debris and taking out the rubbish!). The cool thing is, only those cells that are damaged in some way self-devour. Amino acids and other valuable components are liberated and re-distributed for the benefit of re-growth and repair.
We are now finding that the chronic dysregulation of these two metabolic states is directly associated with a higher incidence of metabolic inflexibility and metabolic diseases such as hypothyroidism, obesity, cancers. Also arthritis, general toxicity, digestive complaints including a coated tongue, adult-onset diabetes.
Fasting or intermittent fasting has been recognised and practised as a way to stave off diseases and even stymie the ageing process and entropy, heralded as the hold grail within many religious cultures, for many thousands of years. But, even without this spiritual awareness of ‘what Fasting can do for our consciousness and health’, historically we have embraced fasting as a way of life due to climatic conditions. Even the Romans would go through cycles of Feasting and Fasting.
In our modern world, intermittent fasting helps re-dress our modern-day imbalances of excess. It addresses our addictions, substances that we have become habituated to, resetting homeostasis. It also resets your taste buds and makes healthy food taste so much better!
The word Metabolism comes from Greek, meaning ‘change’. Our metabolism as two sub-categories; anabolism and catabolism. And these two sub-categories are polar opposites of each other, that undergo a constant dance, directing the body to conduct certain metabolic functions and lead it to a certain direction: Anabolism, meaning ‘Upward’. And Catabolism, meaning ‘Downward’.
During periods of intermittent-fasting, we oscillate between periods of eating and not eating, but without malnutrition, since we can eat exactly the same amount of calories as before, just with more control over our feeding-window. These fasts are classified as either periodic-fasts or time restricted-windows-of-eating. The benefits of which comes from our potential for mitochondrial flexibility; mediated by switching from glucose-derived energy to fatty acids and ketones for fuel whilst inactivating our nutrient-sensing pathway and Growth cycles via mTOR. On the face of it, the system is quite simple: Fat and fatty acids support these transitions while glucose and amino acids inhibit them.
There are however many nuances to time-restricted feeding, with emphasis on our desired outcome. When we have a focus on weight loss, then consider lower carbohydrate options for your restricted feeding windows. When we have a focus on the cellular repair benefits; exclude the amino acids methionine and cysteine as these are particularly potent activators of the associated pathways.
For all advanced fasting plans with a specific caloric allowance, it is recommended that calories are consumed in one sitting later in the day, with a small amount of fat if needed for compliance. Typically time-restricted feeding is when food is consumed within a set time frame each day, less than 12 hours, but preferably 10, 8 or 6 hours.
Syncing the individual’s circadian rhythm with the daily-eating-window cycles is paramount, for instance, eating the last meal of the day between 6-7pm. Dysregulation of this circadian cycle is associated with excess calorie intake and accelerated ageing. It is important to note that any calories consumed at all during the fasting-window re-start the biological clock. But if those calories are in the form of fat, then the benefits associated with periodic fasts continue.
Compliance over the long term is certainly challenging, as restricted-feeding can challenge our emotional relationships with food, especially when food has been used to pacify emotions, oral fixing fore instance. Or when we struggle with biochemical imbalances that lead us to use food for addictive purposes, not for emotional pacification or numbing-out, but literally to alter the biochemical pathway that enslaves us.
There are disease states that will naturally mean fasting becomes particularly tricky. Those who struggle with a degree of insulin resistance will also struggle with fasting, due to mitochondrial inflexibility. Insulin resistance delays the onset of the metabolic switch from glucose over to fatty acids. This lack of mitochondrial inflexibility causes a metabolic imbalance. Glucose and glycogen stores run low while insulin levels are relatively high so fatty acids cannot be accessed. The typical symptom of mitochondrial inflexibility can be hunger, moodiness, and tiredness.
Intermittent fasting plus engaging in some kinds of stressful activity with induce cellular hormesis. Therefore, when the person engages in high-intensity exercise, saunas or hot and cold showers for instance, during a fasted state (meaning they are nutrient bankrupt) the mechanistic result is an adaptation. If you already practice these naturopathic techniques on a regular basis, consider doing them alongside fasting.
No two people are the same, and of course, there are many contraindications. Therefore if you are worried, do consult an experienced health care practitioner before embarking on any hormetic inducing practices.
Examples of contraindications might be; an issue with electrolytes, or hypoglycaemia, or the person may have congestive bile flow issues which are exacerbated by fat consumption. Or there might be a parasitic infestation and their drainage pathways are congested and backing-up. Or, the person may have a chronic health condition, in which case there are bound to be at least a dozen other considerations. Potentially, there are many steps that could be recommended prior to embarking on intermittent fasting
Any intermittent fasting that is too advanced for the individual-case will ultimately be experienced as a stressor and potentially not benefit the person, but cause stress and further exacerbate health imbalances.
How do I prepare my body for a longer fast?
First thing you want to do is to start with intermittent fasting, with a restricted feeding window. This could be for 12, 10 or 6 hours.
Focus on hydrating the body. Most of us are chronically dehydrated without realising it:
Start drinking 2-3 cleansing drinks a day; fresh vegetable and filtered water, not distilled. Distilled water is dead water. Anyone who recommends distilled water to you has not done their research or hasn’t ever really cleansed and has never really drunk a lot of it no matter what they claim.
One issue with distilled water is that loses out on essential minerals so you must replace them with a liquid trace mineral supplement – it’s like adding a drop of ocean water. Ocean 72 and E-Lyte are my recommendations here. Another issue is that it will leach minerals out from your body since the water is super clean it acts like a sponge. The last that I am aware of is that it lacks life and therefore oxygen. It’s literally dead, which would bring us onto another topic, too in-depth to discuss here.
Next thing you want to do is go on a cleansing diet, or fast, or a semi-fast. Simply start cutting out all the bad things in your diet – coffee, black tea, soft drinks, junk foods, fast foods, microwaved meals, wheat bread, margarine. Also, cut out mucus-forming foods such as milk and all foods high in sugar. Obviously cut out cigarettes and any drugs that are not completely necessary, sugar-substitutes except for stevia and the occasional xylitol. Switch from table salt to Celtic sea salt or Himalayan rock salt. There is no point in cleansing if you’re just going to dump everything back in your stomach and cells
It’s also important to refrain from drama. Take a break from gossip, anger, taking-offence too easily, powerplays, covert setups which place you as the victim. Watch comedies instead of horror films, calming music instead of heavy metal and rave music for instance!
Bowel management (stomach, small and large intestine; should be done concurrently with all the other cleanses and flushes.
Kidneys; goes back to hydration, so make sure they are cleansed by getting enough fluids. Kidneys will need particular attention after a couple of liver flushes.
Lymph management; should also be done concurrently with all the other cleanses and flushes. Use that Dry skin brush daily!
Liver flushes may be commenced after several weeks of bowel management and a cleansing diet. Look-out for my upcoming blogs on Enemas.
If your symptoms warrant it, you can do a parasite cleanse after your first liver flush. It’s advisable to flush the live-out at least 1-3 times before parasite cleansing so you can go into the parasite cleanse looking and feeling better than usual.
Stop cleansing if you lose too much weight or start feeling really run down since this implies that the style of fasting is to advance for your current health status.
How long should I cleanse?
The short answer is, forever. Since detoxification is a process, rather than a programme. One that I advocate as a way of life.
Therefore, if you are not working with a practitioner, and since it depends on your symptoms, one idea might be that you create a symptoms list. Update this every week, by keeping the old lists, and starting a new one. This is a way for you to self-monitor. You may see immediate improvements or your list may be growing longer! Healing Crisis are extremely common. Therefore under-going a cleanse without professional guidance usually leads to a healing crisis, of sorts. There are layers to detoxification, many layers since it is a bio-directional process, involving multi-facetted pathways. It is not linear.
List the actual symptom rather than the disease syndrome. For instance, instead of saying “IBS” say “bouts of diarrhoea followed by bouts of constipation.” Diarrhoea is curable, as is constipation. A syndrome is not curable. It’s just a label.
If you can’t commit to cleansing as a way of life, then if you’re under 25 and have never cleansed before, figure on doing 1-3 months of cleansing. Commit to at least a month and then re-commit if your symptoms suggest it.
If you’re over 25 but younger than 40 and have never cleansed before, commit to 3-6 months. The rest of us should commit to at least 6 months to a year. It took a lot of time for us to get out of balance, it will take time to get back into balance and vitality.
Conclusion on fasting
We were not meant to eat absolutely every single day, really. We know that tests done on single-celled organisms show us that feeding them sporadically helped them to live a staggering 50% longer than organisms fed every single day!! However, due to our individual genetic and environmental variations, an individual’s response to fasting varies considerably. One thing we can be sure of, is the success of intermittent fasting, and how it is a delicate balance between progress ‘by creating a hormetic adaptive growth experience’ and ensuring that it is maintainable and realistic.
When done correctly, progress can be experienced both immediately, as well as an investment in our long-term health. Supporting a more optimal balance of cellular growth and repair to include normalised weight and energy, and support of healthier ageing.