Imagine you were a person who ate food every eight hours of every day for your entire life. Such a schedule would mean you would eat right before going to bed, then again as soon as you awoke in the morning, followed by more food at eight-hour intervals.
What might happen metabolically and hormonally to such a person? First, for your entire life, you would be in a “fed,” or anabolic, state. An anabolic state means you are producing the necessary hormones, particularly insulin, that signal you are “fed,” and that any excess consumption should be stored as fat. Day after day, year after year, you would get fatter and fatter, almost regardless of the content or quality of your food. This high-insulin state would ensure that you would wind up having the full-blown “metabolic syndrome,” which is the combination of obesity, high blood pressure (insulin causes fluid retention, hence more pressure in the blood vessels), arthritis (insulin causes inflammation), diabetes and other signs of degeneration.
Luckily, nature has other plans for us, which is at least one of the reasons we sleep and fast when we feel sick. Our bodies are organized so that when we go 12-plus hours without food, we run out of constituents in the food that keep our blood sugars in the normal range. Then, we tap the stored starch in our liver (called glycogen), which is the next readily available source of blood sugar. Once this 12-hour mark hits, our metabolic/hormonal state shifts, and we transition into a catabolic, or breakdown, phase.
The main hormone of the catabolic state is glucagon, the antagonist of insulin. Glucagon catalyzes the mobilization (breakdown and turnover) of our fat stores as the next line of defense against dropping blood sugar. As this temporary fasting state continues, the body shifts more blood flow to our heart, brains and muscles, possibly to get us more mentally and physically focused on finding food. The hormone glucagon and the entire series of events that accompanies this catabolic state reduce inflammation wherever it might be occurring in the body; they also create turnover of the fat cells so they can eliminate any stored toxins.
Consequently, anyone suffering from an imbalance related to deposition (i.e., plaque deposits in the arteries, calcium deposits in the joints) would be well served to enter this temporary catabolic state regularly. Also, nature and our bodies are so sophisticated that one purpose for getting an acute illness, such as the flu, might be to increase time in this catabolic state. If we’re not willing to do it consciously, our inner wisdom will do it for us. We get sick, stop eating, increase our temperature, flush out stored toxins, and eventually get back on our feet.
However, rather than living a life of chronic depositional disease or repeated acute illness (and the mental fogginess that goes with it), we can take matters into our hands and do intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting just means going for 12-plus hours without any food, particularly a food or supplement that contains any trace of proteins or carbohydrates (pure fats like coconut oil or ghee don’t alter the hormonal events I described). After 12 hours, you run out of glycogen, and you start burning fat. If you gradually extend this fast to 17 or 18 hours one to even six days a week, you have a powerful strategy to burn fat, lose weight, manage diabetes, lower your blood pressure, reduce inflammation and increase mental acuity -- not to mention saving money from having skipped a few meals in the week. By most accounts, intermittent fasting is the single most effective anti-aging strategy out there.
Intermittent fasting is simple: Eat an early dinner, finishing by 6 p.m., and eat nothing else after that. The next morning, instead of having your usual breakfast, drink plain water and, if you can, engage in a slightly or moderately vigorous activity (I like to garden) until around 11 a.m. or noon. After the fast, eat your usual high-quality foods until 6 p.m.
Over time, you will feel the positive effects, both physically and mentally, and you might even start to almost crave your fasting days for the sense of well being that goes along with them.
Still, ease into this practice slowly. If you get headaches or otherwise feel unwell, decrease the fasting time. Pregnant women should not fast at all, and people with adrenal issues or hyperthyroidism generally should not do any fasting until their conditions are resolved. Again, if you feel unwell during or after the fast, it’s possible that it’s not for you. If you would like further help implementing intermittent fasting, please contact Sabine at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up an appointment (per hour rate).
In other news …
I am writing a book on autoimmune disease and one on all things heart-related. If you have a story to share about your experience being treated for autoimmune disease with diet or low-dose naltrexone, I would love to receive a one- to three-paragraph description of your experience. For heart patients, if you have benefited from the use of strophanthus or ouabain extract, again, I would love to receive a one- to three-paragraph description of your experience. If I want to include your story in either book, I will contact you for permission. Of course, I’ll protect your anonymity. Please send your story to email@example.com.