FAST HEALTH

January 13, 2012

Post image for FAST HEALTH

“Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint.” ~Mark Twain

If you have been reading this blog at any length, you will have probably noticed that I am fascinated with self-experimentation doing uncomfortable things. In that vein, I have been focused on fasting for just at a month now. Fasting is not new to me, as I have fasted for spiritual reasons in the past.

Here recently I have been fasting for reasons not specifically related to the spirit, though I believe fasting of any kind touches the spirit as it tames the flesh. My fasts of recent have been aimed at improving my health and attempting to lessen attachments towards food. To put my mind more in a place of eating to live, rather than living to eat.

ISSUE OF HEALTH

As I mentioned, my reasons for fasting have been more for health reasons. Being older now, I am feeling some aches and pains I have not experienced before. I have been developing at an increased rate of sensitivities to certain foods and drink that caused digestive problems and heart palpitations . No amount of change in my diet or supplements seemed to be helpful.

Additionally getting my weight down to lower levels has been a struggle regardless of diet and exercise. I was also experiencing chronic inflammation that would not go away in spite of supplements, diet changes and avoiding allergenic foods.

“Everyone has a physician inside him or her; we just have to help it in its work. The natural healing force within each one of us is the greatest force in getting well. Our food should be our medicine. Our medicine should be our food. But to eat when you are sick is to feed your sickness.” ~Hippocrates

All in all these issues I mentioned was telling me that my digestive system had become compromised in such a way that no amount of good food or the best supplements would make any difference. It was at this point I decided it was time to experiment with nature’s natural and free medicine for healing- fasting.

“To do nothing is sometimes a good remedy.” ~Hippocrates

Most animals will naturally abstain from eating when they feel sick. Humans overall do not do this naturally anymore. We have been programmed to eat many times a day and not to skip a single meal. Many of us will go eat more food when we have a bad day, feel emotional or are upset. We have lost touch with the natural wisdom and innate intelligence built into every cell of our bodies that tell us to avoid food during sickness and tumult.

Science and research is replete with evidence that full on fasting or intermittent fasting provides your body with the chance to repair and rest. It can provide longevity of life and peace of mind. It really is a case of less is more.

There are many myths that surround fasting. I have personally taken on fasting and intermittent fasting as a means to test what works and what doesn’t, and to see if  the negative things the nay-sayers have been saying about fasting is true.

“To Lengthen thy life, lessen thy meals. The best of all medicines is rest and fasting.” ~Benjamin Franklin

MY EXPERIENCE

For about month now I have been doing varying periods of fasting. My first week of fasting over a month ago went for 6 days where I ate no solid food. I consumed only water, green tea and bone broth. In the following weeks after that fast, I would vary my fasting periods anywhere from 2 to 5 days and allow myself a few days to re-feed before entering another fast.

In about a months time I have dropped 15 pounds and have maintained my strength. I have not noticed any appreciable loss of muscle mass. I have also been able to see significant improvement in health issues as well as aches and pains that I have not been able to alleviate through other means.

As I write this, for the first time in a long time I have a significant and ongoing reduction of the chronic and systemic inflammation that has plagued me for a few years now. I have also gotten a relief from what felt like the beginnings of arthritis in my knuckle joints which often had signs of inflammation and fluid retention.

I have also gotten relief from a minor but persistent pain in the area of my liver and gall bladder. I have also noticed a tightening in my skin and my mind has started to feel more clear than it has in a long time.

Even though I have not had any real issues with asthma as of late. I felt like my lungs were more clear and that I could breathe deeper.

My experiences with each fast has been similar with some differences that stand out in each fast. Somethings that I noticed consistent to each fast is that my weight would not change much until the third day when I will usually drop 2 pounds between the evening of the second day and the morning of the third day. I also notice that inflammation in my face drops dramatically around the fourth day.

I have an increased sense of peace by the fourth day and a relaxation of the mind and body that becomes intensified around day 5. My sense of smell is more sensetive by the fifth day as well. The ability to be meditative feels stronger. I also feel like I notice the little things more. I felt like I was seeing common, everyday things for the first time.

Getting up in the morning is harder to do on the third through fifth days of fasting. My body feels like a hunk of lead in the morning on the forth and fifth days. I have found a cold shower is just the ticket to shake off the heaviness and shock the body into providing some energy.

My first fast that went 6 days had something in it that was profoundly different from the other fasts. Starting with the fourth day I started to experience a range of emotions that included intense bouts of happiness, anger and depression. I am not usually given over to experiencing intense emotions like what I experienced, so this was definitely out of the ordinary. Almost as if the fast was moving me through pent up feelings and unresolved issues of the past.

GOING FORWARD

I am very pleased with the results achieved so far. The experience has been better than I expected it to be. As a result, I would like to extend my fasting into 10 days or perhaps eventually to 40 days. The challenge I will have though is not the food, but my weekly Friday night dinners with my family as we enter into the Shabbat. This is a special time for my family and I have done together the last 13 years.

As I analyze the benefits gained so far with fasting, I feel this maybe a necessary sacrifice in the short term to gain some long term benefits and over come some physical challenges.

The important part for me at this juncture is to determine what kind of changes I need to make to my diet to maintain any progress made from fasting.

I will be writing more on this going forward. I am experimenting with my fasts to see what can make them more powerful in detoxification and healing. I also hope to experience what it is like to fast for 10 days. Stay tuned for that.

In the mean time, I would like to hear from any of you that has done extended or intermittent fasting. I would like to know about your experiences and results. Feel free to comment below.

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Post by Chris Harris @ Between the TemplesImage credit: Laura Bittner

{ 8 comments }

Rick February 8, 2012 at 4:15 AM

Hi Chris,

Thanks for sharing; your experiences with fasting is very interesting.

Sounds like you should stop after 3 days, as it seems the bad experiences tend to happen after that.

My problem would be Thursday pizza night with my family; and heaven forbid I give up a few Coronas on Saturday night. However, a 3-day fast may prove interesting.

Rick

Chris Harris February 18, 2012 at 8:41 PM

Hi Rick,

Sorry for the delayed response… I have found going past three days of fasting to intensify good feelings within my body. I become more appreciative of the little things and more relaxed over all. One of the reasons I am using fasting is the intense feeling of inner peace that arrives around day 4 and 5. It makes me wonder what it would be like to go 14 or 21 days.

One thing I have experienced is the difficulty of fasting when you have a family. In my case, food is part of enjoying good company with family and friends. The experience of sharing food with others is more of conflict with my desire to fast than the hunger for food is.

Jon February 14, 2012 at 10:46 AM

This is very interesting to hear. People rarely talk about fasting in such a positive way, I suspect because many people try and fail to manage it well. I know there are some diet / health plans that dictate 1 day of fasting then a day of eating. Have you tried these? Rick’s suggestion of 3 days at a time seems sensible.

From my studies (not experience!) fasting should result in some muscle wastage, simply because the body needs around 45 grams of protein a day to maintain muscle. Maybe the bone broth is helping you maintain muscle?

Chris Harris February 18, 2012 at 8:36 PM

Hi Jon,

In the initial stages of fasting as the glycogen reserves are used up, there is some minor use of muscle until the body fully switches over to using fat reserves. Once on fat reserves the body goes into protein sparing in effort to preserve muscle. Muscle catabolism can occur even when you are not fasting.

My personal experience with fasting has shown no appreciable loss of muscle or strength. In fact, I have seen a boost in strength, and feel stronger when doing something like push ups.

Jon February 18, 2012 at 11:36 PM

Maybe I should experiment. I am awfully fond of food though! When you feel stronger doing pushups, is this on fasting days or following a fast? Could reduced bodyweight be the reason? Just wondering how you would get stronger!

Chris Harris February 22, 2012 at 10:56 AM

Hi Jon,

While I do weigh less by about 5 to 6 pounds on the 4th or 5th day, I don’t believe the weight loss is the sole reason for being able to do more push-ups or other exercises in one set. I have been doing push-ups and trying to push myself to do 100 in one set. My best record currently is 52 push ups while fasting.

While I can hit 50 push-ups in a non-fasted state, I usually hit 35 to 40 on average in one set. I also noticed I was able to lift heavy objects with more ease and less tension, here again I attribute this more to being strengthened by the fast and less about the weight loss as a result of fasting.

I am more in tune these days to how my body feels with regards to foods I eat, and I can distinctly tell when I am weakened by something I have eaten. It shows when trying to do push-ups or other exercises.

I have read of the accounts from other people who have taken fasting beyond where I have been with it, something I noticed was many of them were reporting tremendous boosts of energy and strength around the 14 to 15 day mark. I am sure this is going to be different for most folks.

I would like to test this for myself at some point and see if I experience this to a greater degree than I do at 6 or 7 days.

dl90 April 25, 2012 at 6:59 PM

You should consider some carb-cyling with your intemittent fasting. I’m obsessed with the whole thing – it’s so simple and effective, yet people refuse to accept it’s legitimacy, be it for weight loss or just health.

Chris Harris April 26, 2012 at 8:57 PM

Actually I have done some carb cycling with intermittent fasting and with low carb dieting… I have found once I have a little, I crave more and more and undo my progress. Generally speaking, I do not do well with carbs. Complex carbs like broccoli or other greens are fine in moderation. Anything more than that like beans, rice or potatoes and the cravings begin. I have to figure that out, for now I have found returning to carbs is my downfall.

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