To Fast or Not to Fast?
The Martial Art of Wellness
Volume 15 – March 2016
DEAR WELLNESS WARRIORS
Welcome to this month’s BioNews. We must learn to free ourselves from the control that others exert over us. As we learn we become FREE, we become powerful. This pursuit of self defense in wellness, I call “The Martial Art of Wellness”. And as we practice we become Wellness Ninjas.
QUOTE OF THE MONTH
“Fasting is an institution as old as Adam. It has been resorted to for self-purification or for some ends, noble as well as ignoble. True happiness is impossible without true health. True health is impossible without the rigid control of the palate. A complete fast is a complete and literal denial of self. It is the truest prayer. A genuine fast cleanses the body, mind and soul. It crucifies the flesh and, to that extent, sets the soul free. What the eyes are for the outer world, fasts are for the inner. My religion teaches me that whenever there is distress which one cannot remove, one must fast and pray. Fasting will bring spiritual rebirth to those of you who cleanse and purify your bodies. The light of the world will illuminate within you when you fast and purify yourself. More caution and perhaps more restraint are necessary in breaking a fast than in keeping it. Experience has taught me that it was wrong to have dwelt upon the relish of food. One should eat not in order to please the palate, but just to keep the body going. When each organ of sense sub-serves the body and, through the body, the soul, its special relish disappears, and then alone does it begin to function in the way Nature intended it to do.”
Mahatma Gandhi(1869-1948), Indian Independence Movement
THIS ISSUE’S TESTIMONIAL
“When I fast and use intermittent fasting, the Bio-Algae Concentrates (BAC) helps me get through the low energy, the moodiness and the headaches that sometimes happens with caloric restriction. Thank you Dr. Kiriac for BAC!”
– R.W., FL, USA 2014
THE MARTIAL ART OF WELLNESS (To Fast or Not to Fast)
I truly believe that fasting is as important as eating. I call this approach “getting out of the way of health”. As opposed to the interventionist allopathic or cure model which encourages the belief that healing comes from a pill, fasting supports the scientific belief that medicine, cure, healing is innate, and comes from within. Fasting has been used as a means to regain health since the beginning of time. When an animal is sick, it stops eating until it gets better. Similarly in human, the great majority of ailment and diseases do heal if given time and space.
I just completed a three days juice fast, and while I am still “feeling” the benefits, I am inspired to write about fasting. I fasted many times throughout my life, and still practice the art of fasting. I did short and long fasts. My longest one lasted six months (on Indian chapati, yogi tea, and a 5 miles run everyday). I did many single food fasts, for example; eat just apples for seven days with some tea and water, 30 days on beets cooked and sauteed with garlic, ginger, onions and tamarind sauce, 15 days eating bananas and drinking Yogi tea. I did weekends on water and tea, and many one day fasts on water and tea. These latter are easier and fun. I have also read many books on fasting, and I can assure you that besides learning to resist the urge to eat, that I have derived many benefits from fasting.
The number one benefit of fasting may be longevity!
Common sense alone suggest that fasting is necessary at time; who has not heard about the fact that animals stop eating when they are wounded, and hunger in human is often absent in illnesses such as gastritis, tonsillitis, colds and influenza (flue). You likely have experienced it yourself. Nutritional science has shown that fasting has many benefits and positive impacts for the body, and there is abundant reliable evidence that regular fasting “nutrition without malnutrition” is a way to extend the lifespan of animals (humans too ARE animals). This was known already in the 1930s, when a famous study on earthworms demonstrated the extension of life due to fasting. The experiment was performed by isolating one worm and putting it on a cycle of fasting and feeding. The isolated worm outlasted its relatives by 19 generations, while still maintaining its youthful physiological traits. The worm was able to survive on its own tissue for months. Once the size of the worm began to decrease, the scientists would resume feeding it at which point it showed great vigor and energy. “The life-span extension of these worms was the equivalent of keeping a man alive for 600 to 700 years!”
This research and several subsequent studies have shown that:
- During a fast, work is diverted away from digestion towards cleansing, repair, and regeneration.
- Abnormal growths like tumors within the body do not have full support of supplies and become more susceptible to autolysis.
- Replacement of damaged cells is more efficient as fewer mistakes are made by the DNA/RNA genetic controls governing this process.
- Higher efficiency in protein synthesis (cells synthesize proteins when needed) results in healthier cells, tissues and organs.
The many observed facts and benefits of fasting
There are many other proven and anecdotal benefits from regular and rational fasting as part of your nutritional regimen. Many of those benefits are tangible, you can feel them, you can see the results, while many are also supported by measurable blood analysis, stool analysis, hormone analysis, and the so on;
Repair, Regeneration and Healing
- When fasting, the metabolism diverts energy from digesting to healing.
- Human Growth Hormones (HGH) increase during fasting, due to greater efficiency in hormone production.
- Anti-aging hormones are also observed produced more efficiently.
- There is evidence that all hormones are more efficiently delivered.
- Associated rejuvenation and longevity is likely.
- Repair of damaged cells improves and the body heals faster.
- Due to the lack of incoming new food/energy, the body turns to its internal resources, a function called autolysis, breaking down fat stores in the body to produce energy.
- Homeostasis is improved, and the connection to cellular biochemistry is harmonized.
- Many other metabolic functions (such as protein synthesis) kick in or increase during fasting.
- Accelerated replacement of damaged cells results in healthier cells, tissues and organs.
- Organs like the pancreas, the liver and gall bladder are revitalized.
Detoxification / Cleansing
- During fasting, increased detoxification is observed and proven: the body eliminates toxins through the colon, liver, kidneys, lungs, lymph glands, and skin, those things that cause diseases, built up over years such as fat cells, arterial cholesterol plaques, mucus, tumors, even stored up worries and emotions.
- There is increase removal from fat reserves of stored heavy metals and chemicals like carbon monoxide and DDT.
- Regular regulated fasting leads to safe weight loss without flabbiness from extreme weight loss.
- The skin becomes silky, soft, and sensitive.
- Energy level and sensory perception is increased.
- You often need less sleep.
- Metabolic cell oxygenation is increased; breathing becomes fuller, freer and deeper during a fast.
Reduction of Pain, Greater Ease of Movement
- Reduction of chronic acidosis.
- Reduction in chronic inflammation.
- Reduction in arthritic and other pain.
- There is greater ease of movement.
- The digestive system is rejuvenated and becomes more effective.
- Peristaltic action of the intestines (the cause of a natural bowel movement) is stronger after fasting.
Mental and Spiritual
- The nervous system becomes more balanced and one feels calmer and at peace.
- There is increased inspiration and spiritual connection during prayer and meditation.
- Increased connection in fitness practices like running, yoga, qigong, tai chi, etc.
- Mental focus and clarity improves and brain fog is lifted.
- Fasting retrains your tasting sense back towards healthier foods as acute sensitivity is improved.
- Fasting increases our ability to have control over our lives and our appetite.
- Fasting increase awareness that our body is self-regulating and self-healing.
Fasting is a science that dates back thousands of years.
As a child, I was wowed by the story of Jesus fasting 40 days in the desert, which I attributed to his “superpowers”. Today I know that spiritual teachers did not just talk the talk but they also walked the talk. I envision Jesus eating figs and olives, drinking pure water, having a glass of wine with friends, walking miles and miles, and fasting. And if his story is true, I am certain that in living this high vitality life, he was in touch with his higher self, he was inspired and inspiring. Today, we know that anyone can do a 40-day fast and also be more in touch with our higher self, be inspired and inspiring to our family and friends. Rational fasting means a fast done with reason, carefully and with the necessary how-to.
What is fasting?
A. J. Carlson, Professor of Physiology, University of Chicago, states that a healthy, well-nourished man can live from 50 to 75 days without food, provided he is not exposed to harsh elements or emotional stress. Human fat is valued at 3,500 calories per pound. Each extra pound of fat will supply enough calories for one day of hard physical labor. Ten pounds of fat are equal to 35,000 calories! Most of us have sufficient reserves, capable of sustaining us for many weeks.
- Fasting is a period of abstinence from all food or specific items.
- Fluids are consumed in sufficient quantity to satisfy thirst and physiologic requirements.
- During the absence of food, the body will systematically cleanse itself except vital tissue.
- Starvation will begin only when the body is forced to use vital tissue to survive.
- In the breakdown of unhealthy cells, essential substances are used and conserved by the innate intelligence of the body.
- There is an unwarranted fear of fasting that strength diminishes.
- Even during long fasts, the number of muscle fibers remains the same.
- Although the healthy cells may be reduced in size and strength for a time, they remain sound.
When we do not eat or do not eat a lot for a period of time, our body and its energy has a chance to clean the house. It’s not complicated; human health is a lot like plumbing; where we know that “what goes in must come out.” Otherwise you’ll have accumulation of debris, fats, and plaque build-ups in your intestines, in your arteries, worse, in areas of your brain. You’ll have a mess on your hands. I often tell people, it’s just like your kitchen. You bring food in, you prepare it, you eat it, then what? Then we clean the table, wash the dishes and empty the garbage, right? Otherwise we are left with a mess, and eventually flies, worms and other critters will come in.
Did you know that we all fast regularly?
How many of you know that every-time you stop eating, you are starting to fast? Certainly when you go to bed you are engaging in a fasting. Fasting is stretching the duration between meals so that the body has a chance to digest and utilize the nutrients from your last meals, and begins using stored nutrients from your body. Fasting is the state when our cells are busy cleaning house rather than busy receiving more nutrients. Have you ever wondered why it is that breakfast is called “break-fast” in many languages like French, Spanish, English, Portuguese, and other? Nowadays it is no longer popular to fast. I remember 50 years ago my family fasted on Fridays, for Lent, and a few other days of the year. There was a time when certain groups knew to fast for wellness, not necessarily to please a god, and that it was embedded in the culture and religious practices, and passed down from generation to generation.
In this article, I will not suggest nor write about long therapeutic fasts. There is a place for longer fasts, and if you are interested, I recommend that you first read about it and then consult a specialized center that offer supervised longer fasts. There are books and centers listed in references below. Today I write about the shorter, and easier fast that you can safely do on your own. Nevertheless, to properly fast and build new dietary and life style habits that will bring robust health, one must gain the proper knowledge and discipline to carry it forth.
I want to try fasting … where do I start? Finding the right fasting method for you.
Once you have decided to try fasting, you need to establish basic rules to get the most out of your fasting.
- First, your objective must be realistic if you want to succeed.
- It is best that fasting does not interfere with your daily tasks.
- It is important that you inform your loved ones and get their support.
- It is ideal that you be able to live, work, sleep and practice your favorite sports like you would on a regular day.
Discovering the method that works and benefits you best is a personal journey.
Let us talk about Intermittent Fasting
Instead of starting from scratch to discover what works best for you, I invite you to take a shortcut. I have put together a list of fasting methods. Instead of starting with long fast programs, I suggest that you first learn with intermittent fasting. It is a simple and amazing training before jumping to longer fasting. Intermittent fasting is not meant for people suffering from an eating disorder such as anorexia, bulimia, pica, etc.
Here is what you can minimally expect even from short intermittent fasts:
- Weight loss: Studies have shown that regular intermittent fasting is just as efficient as reducing calories to lose weight, protect your heart and fight type-2 diabetes.
- Intermittent fasting allows you to eat less without suffering too much from hunger.
- Reduce asthma: people suffering from asthma have notice a diminution of their symptoms following intermittent fasting.
- Slowing down aging process: Intermittent fasting slows down the aging process in mouse by protecting the brain.
Intermittent fasting methods:
Intermittent fasting means repeating short fasting regularly. Unlike other longer fasting method, intermittent fasting can be part of the fabric of your life, practiced every day, weekly, monthly, all year long, without interfering with every day life. It will feel like a new way of life.
- Fasting 5/2 days a week – That method consists of eating normally 5 days a week and only allowing 500 calories intake for two non-consecutive days. For example, you could decide to fast on Tuesdays and Fridays and only intake 250 calories per meal on those days. If this does appeal to you, many websites can give you an idea of delicious low-calorie meals.
- Fasting 16/18 hours a day – This fasting method means that you will restrict your food intake for 16 to 18 hours during the day, allowing yourself to be eating during the remaining 6-8 hours. During those 6-8 hours, you can consume two or three meals whereas during the fast hours, you need to restrict yourself to water and tea. You will find that these liquids help fight hunger. During those eating hours, do not forget to maximize the quality of your diet. It is a fairly easy method to maintain.
- The EAT-STOP-EAT method: fasting for 24 hours 1-2 times a week – Brad Pilon, a Canadian nutrition specialist developed this method which consists of fasting completely for 1 or 2 days a week. There is no need to start at 12 am and finish at 23h59 the next day as long as you keep 24 hours between the meals that you eat. For example, try to fast from today’s dinner until tomorrow’s dinner. Of course, you will not be having solid foods or alcohol during these fasting periods. Try not to compensate for the fasting days by eating twice as much the next day. Despite the amazing health benefits, the EAT-STOP-EAT method stays a difficult one to maintain – especially after the 20th hour of the fasting. The water intake plays an important role and help reduce discomfort. This is where the 16/8 method may be easier in the beginning. Fasting can be extended as you get accustomed to the new lifestyle.
- Fasting every second day – Once you’ve mastered the EAT-STOP-EAT method, you can increase the frequency of fasting periods. The objective is to be able to alternate one day of fasting with one day of eating normally. This may be challenging for any one.
- The warrior diet: fasting all day and eating a regular meal at night – This method consists of eating small portions of raw vegetables and fruits all day and eating a regular meal at night. Ori Hofmekler, a special Israeli forces and renowned nutrition specialist, made this method popular. He has analyzed the human body reactions to extreme stress situation (such as military duties.) He matched his studies with existing researches about ancestral warriors. He feels strongly about eating raw foods as much as possible.
- Spontaneous fasting – This has been my principal fasting method over the years. If, just like me, your life is not 100% consistent. You travel, your routine often changes, you’re invited to eat here and there, and you can’t always refuse the food options, the longer fasting periods may seem impossible. This method does not call for you to be so strict to still benefit from fasting. Remember that your body has enough energy to last about 3 months without food, as long as you drink water. Whenever you travel hours, by train, plane or car, you may find it easier to fast, and drink lots of water, than eating expensive bad quality sandwiches and other junk treats. That is a great way to stay clean and in good energy. Also, when you know that a big dinner is on the way, learn to skip the meal before and maybe the next morning breakfast. You can also take advantage of those days where you’re not that hungry at lunch time, or the days where you’re too busy with a task, or even those days where you don’t feel like cooking or eating, and allow yourself to skip a meal.
Suggestions for easier fasting
- The water bottle –The idea is to consistently have a water bottle with you … and to have a sip every time you feel the hunger coming. While practicing intermittent fasting, the hunger is not very present. Hunger is a cycle, very similar to tiredness. If you work through that tiredness, you start a new awake cycle where the need to sleep is gone. Same goes with hunger. If you ignore it, the hunger goes away for a few hours.
- Quality of the food intake – With intermittent fasting as a way of life, the selection of your foods becomes more important. Your foods are what will sustain your short and long term energy. In any case, learn to make healthy food choices. Quality of the food that you eat matters with any of the intermittent fasting methods.
- Resting and napping – It is important to respect the feeling for sleep that may come up during fasting. Often when not fasting we respond to this need with coffee or candy, or more food. Since you cannot do that while fasting, you can have water or your “fasting” food instead, but I also suggest to answer this feeling with a nap. In America, we are taught to get up and work until bed time, no time for naps. While in all ancient cultures, and still in most Asian, European and Latina cultures, napping during the day is encouraged.
How about “Water Fasting… With a Twist (Stop Drinking Your Calories)”?
For those that think they cannot fast, there is such a thing as water fasting (with a twist) that will help you get in better shape without changing what you eat or doing a single exercise. When it comes to the “drink only water” diet for weight loss, I’m sure you think you’ve heard it all. You know its advantages, disadvantages, pros, cons etc… everyone’s touting the same old story. If you’re looking for a new, practical tip that you can apply today to lose extra weight, then you’ll love this infographic. Visit at http://www.manvsweight.com/water-fasting/ for a really nice infographic on this simple technique.
References and suggested reading
What is fasting? at http://www.falconblanco.com/health/fasting.htm
Rational Fasting – by Professor Arnold Ehret
The Mucusless Diet Healing System – Professor Arnold Ehret
HUNGERSTRIKE! – By Dr. Ria Casey
Tanglewood Wellness Center in Costa Rica