Intermittent fasting is one of the most powerful methods for reducing inflammation, boosting immunity and enhancing tissue healing. Fasting helps our body build a level of metabolic flexibility and energy efficiency. This healing strategy costs us no money and has an incredibly rejuvenating impact on our immune system and cellular mechanics. Fasting is an incredibly effective way to recover from harmful toxins.
Here are some important reasons why you should consider this fantastic strategy;
The harder the meal is to digest, the more inflammatory activity it will provoke.
Improves Immune Regulation – The practice of fasting allows the body to put more energy and focus into the process of effective immune regulation. Fasting while drinking water and cleansing beverages flush out the digestive system and reduce the number of natural microorganisms in the gut.
Stimulates Cellular Autophagy – Fasting stimulates the process of autophagy, where the body breaks down old, damaged cells and abnormally develops cells to recycle for energy. Intermittent fasting stimulates autophagy processes, which restrict viral infections and the replication of intracellular parasites.
Fasting Improves Insulin Sensitivity – During times of fasting our cell membranes become more sensitive to insulin. This is especially important when food is scarce because it ensures that every bit of food is 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. Fasting has been shown to reduce insulin secretions and improve cellular insulin sensitivity.
Intermittent Fasting and Chronic Diseases – Individuals with autoimmune diseases such as systemic lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, colitis and Crohn’s disease have seen a tremendous improvement in symptoms with the incorporation of intermittent fasting. This process reduces the hyperinflammatory processes these individuals undergo and allow for more normalized immune function. Intermittent fasting starves cancer cells and leaves them vulnerable to free radical damage and ultimate destruction.
Some additional benefits to fasting include:
Takes stress of the digestive system;
Stimulates fat burning;
Boosts energy levels;
Enhanced mental health;
Improved relationship with food; and,
Spiritual growth and fine-tuned intuition
The top 5 fasting strategies
The 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 7 pm and don’t eat again until 7 am
The Brunch Fast:
This is where you do a 14 hour fast between dinner and breakfast. It is called the brunch fast because you are going to eat your breakfast a bit later than most.
Example: Finish dinner at 7 pm and don’t eat again until 9 am
The Crescendo Fast:
Two times each week you fast for 16 hours by skipping either breakfast or dinner. You would do these on non-consecutive days such as on Monday and Friday.
Example: Finish dinner at 7 pm and eat again around 11 am-12 pm at lunch the next day.
The 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 12-7 pm each day or 8 am-3 pm each day or whatever 6-8 hour period you like best
The 1-Day Food Fast:
24 hours each week with only consuming water, greens powders and herbal tea. Some may also include a diluted organic broth during this fast.
What are the potential risks?
- Intermittent fasting isn’t the best strategy when we are under a lot of stress, aren’t sleeping enough, are exercising a lot, are trying to get pregnant, have a history of disordered eating or have hormone imbalances or thyroid or adrenal issues.
- Women’s hormones are super susceptible to perceived stress and scarcity, so intermittent fasting can worsen existing hormone imbalances. It may be a useful tool in menopause or for hormone imbalances if sleep, stress and exercise are balanced.
- Adrenal Fatigue/HPA Axis Dysfunction: When an individual is not able to produce enough stress hormone due to hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis dysfunction (also called adrenal fatigue), they can feel fatigued and inflamed as they fast.
- Give fasting a miss if you have period pain, PMS or you’re trying to get pregnant. For some, low blood sugar and hunger means more stress on the body. Going through long periods of fasting, resulting in low blood sugar and stress on the body, can mean bad news for your hormones and fertility.
- You have certain preexisting medical conditions, like diabetes. There are certain groups of people who should not try intermittent fasting, due to real risks and dangers to their health. People underweight or with type 1 diabetes and/or on diabetic medications may be more susceptible to unwanted side effects or struggle with controlling their blood sugar levels.
- Fasting can increase the risk of vitamin/nutritional deficiencies. It can be difficult to get all of the nutrition you need in a day when limiting the time you eat. Be aware of this and ensure you get what you need when you can and remember your supplements.
- Fasting can still Lead to binge eating. Feeling starved during your fasting period might make some people more prone to binging behaviours when they’re not fasting. If you are having trouble maintaining your hunger and end up going completely rogue on your non-fasting periods, you could end up binging. Going rouge during your non-fasting periods can sabotage your health goals.
- Skipping Meals Can Cause Headaches, Dizziness, and Nausea. Long periods of fasting can lower your blood sugar levels and leave you feeling lightheaded, dizzy, with headaches, and/or nausea. Your body will also need some time to adjust, so try choosing a day of the week or period of time that you don’t need to be very active when first starting a fasting practice.
Here are my top 10 tips to ensure you stay nourished and avoid burning out when fasting:
- Focus on hydration and electrolytes: If you have never done an intermittent fast before, begin with the simple fast and stick with it for a while until you feel that it is simple. Be sure to drink 250ml to 400ml of water (as a minimum) when you first wake up to help reduce morning hunger, prolong the fast, improve the cleansing process and help to keep you hydrated to assist cell rejuvenation and recovery.
- Eat enough during your eating window: Intermittent fasting isn’t about cutting calories or going hungry, so make sure you eat plenty of highly nutritious, healthy food. You may find yourself gradually eating less, and that’s ok but the aim is not to restrict your calories to an unhealthy low.
- Eat wisely: Think ahead and meal prep your meals for after your fast to ensure you’re nourishing your body and avoiding unhealthy binge eating.
- Start your fast early: I recommend wrapping up dinner by 6 thus ending your fast sooner the next day. So enjoy an early dinner and begin your fasting early in the evening. This makes achieving a fast easier (as most of your fast will be accomplished overnight) This also helps you sleep well at night as your body won’t be in full digestion mode while you’re trying to get in your zzz’s.
- Get your nutrients in ASAP!: Fuel yourself with big nutrient-dense meals and avoid overly sugary or salty food. Prioritize protein, healthy fats, fruits and veg. Break the fast with a nutrient-dense bone broth or a delicious smoothie filled with nutritious superfoods.
- Begin with moderate workouts: Save your intense workouts for non-fasting days until you’ve adjusted to fasting.
- Take your Magnesium: Magnesium is key for calming the adrenals and improving bowel motility. Using a good magnesium citrate, glycinate, malate or threonate supplement can help you function much better during a fast
- Stay Calm: If you begin to feel anxious, practice deep breathing, grounding your body with bare feet on the Earth will help keep those stress levels down.
- Consume Immune Support Enhancing Foods: Eat an immune-supporting, anti-inflammatory, nutrient-dense diet with plenty of healthy antioxidants.
- Focus your nutrition on organic dark leafy greens including chard, kale, and spinach. Hydrating Foods, including cucumber, celery, and watermelon. Herbs and spices include turmeric, ginger, basil, and mint. Low glycemic index fruits include lemon, lime, and berries. Healthy fats like avocado, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, grass-fed butter, and ghee. Clean protein like grass-fed beef, free-range poultry and eggs, fatty fish. Fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, and kefir. And medicinal mushrooms like reishi and other adaptogenic ingredients to elevate your nutritional income.
- Listen to your body: If you feel fantastic on an intermittent fasting protocol, terrific. If you don’t, modify your protocol, take a break, or eliminate fasting altogether
Fasting, when done right, is a fantastic strategy for your overall wellbeing. I hope you are inspired to begin practising intermittent fasting in a healthy, healing way that leaves you nourished, rejuvenated and feeling great.