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I didn’t eat for 3 days

More American’s have run a full marathon than have completed a 3 day fast. I was surprised to find it easier than I’d imagined. I attribute this to my practice of intermittent fasting weekly for the past 3 years.

As the healing miracles continue to be revealed in the research of fasting, I had to try it out myself. Most attractive to me was the promise of DNA repair, cellular autophagy (consuming damaged cells), and creating my own stem cells. Some people spend up to $30,000 on stem cell therapy. We have our own internal, built-in pharmacy and can use fasting to regenerate stem cells for free! See geeked out research article excerpts below.

From Thursday night to Sunday night, I drank only water and black coffee. I took a couple capsules of magnesium and potassium each day as well as a small amount of pink himalayan sea salt. Nothing else!

I felt my worst end of day 2 and felt my best end of day 3. I kept up with my daily routine of hot and cold exposure by way of infrared sauna and cold plunge ice bath. My breathwork routine felt wonderful as always and really took the edge off if I started to feel like a headache might be coming. I treated 45 patients over the first 2 days of fasting. I was worried about running out of gas at the office on day 2 and felt that if I could make it past that point, the home stretch on a lazy Sunday would be fine.

The most trying temptations came during the cutting of the pizza for my children on Friday night, and the peeling of apples for them on Saturday afternoon. I slept great night 1 and poorly night 2. I was tossing and turning through the nightmare that I’d eaten one of those beautiful apples, ruining the 3-day streak early. I felt ashamed and upset with myself for not making it as long as I had targeted. What a relief to find upon waking that it wasn’t true.

I tried a urinalysis on Sunday night and found ketones as predicted. This told me that my body had successfully adapted to ketosis to burn fat as fuel instead of carbs. I weighed in on Sunday night down 6 pounds and again on Monday night back up 10 pounds! Now I have a only a slight idea of what my MMA patients have to go through regularly during weight cuts in preparation for fights. 

After a glorious meal Sunday evening, I woke up Monday feeling pretty groggy. After the fog lifted, I felt refreshed, motivated, excited and proud to have accomplished the challenge. One of my favorite osteopaths, Dr. Joseph Mercola, practices prolonged fasting once every quarter to reap the amazing benefits.

The challenge of fasting can be described as “homeodynamic eustress” or good stress. Similar to the good stress that is induced when we exercise. By exposing the human body to these challenges, it becomes stronger. We can sometimes over-train with exercise and cause more harm than good. The same is true of fasting.

Some benefits of prolonged fasting include:

1. Promotes Blood Sugar Control by Reducing Insulin Resistance

2. Promotes Better Health by Fighting Inflammation

3. Enhance Heart Health by Improving Blood Pressure, Triglycerides and Cholesterol Levels

4. Boost Brain Function and Prevent Neurodegenerative Disorders

5. Aids Weight Loss by Limiting Calorie Intake and Boosting Metabolism

6. Increases Growth Hormone 

7. Delay Aging and Extend Longevity

8. Aid in Cancer Prevention and Increase the Effectiveness of Chemotherapy

Fasting is not recommended for everyone! Consult your doctor and proceed at your own risk. 

Side effects of fasting include dizziness, headaches, low blood sugar, muscle aches, weakness, dehydration and fatigue. Prolonged fasting can lead to anemia, a weakened immune system, liver and kidney problems, and irregular heartbeat. Fasting can also result in vitamin and mineral deficiencies, muscle breakdown, and diarrhea. The risks get more complicated and severe the longer you stay on a fast, or if you repeatedly go on fasts.

Individuals who are underweight, struggling with weight gain, under 18 years of age, pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid prolonged fasting. People with comorbidities like diabetes and heart disease should consult a professional before attempting prolonged fasting.

Geeked-out research:

“72 hours of food restriction can induce widespread upregulation of autophagy in CNS neurons. Disruption of autophagy can cause neurodegenerative disease, and the converse also may hold true: upregulation of autophagy may have a neuroprotective effect. Starvation in neuronal cell lines can remove toxic molecules and damaged mitochondria from neurons.”  

Cheng, Adams, Perin, et al. Prolonged Fasting reduces IGF-1/PKA to promote hematopoietic stem cell-based regeneration and reverse immunosuppression

“Our results indicate that cycles of an extreme dietary intervention represent a powerful mean to modulate key regulators of cellular protection and tissue regeneration but also provide a potential therapy to reverse or alleviate the immunosuppression or immunosenescence caused by chemotherapy treatment and aging, respectively, and possibly by a variety of diseases affecting the hematopoietic system and other systems and organs. Prolonged fasting reduces damage in bone marrow stem cells.”

Cheng, Adams, Perin, et al. Prolonged Fasting reduces IGF-1/PKA to promote hematopoietic stem cell-based regeneration and reverse immunosuppression

“It is now understood that fasting can switch the metabolism from using glucose as fuel to using fatty acids. This shift seems to trigger our stem cells to become more active and regenerative. Prolonged fasting can activate pathways that enhance immune system regulation improving cellular resistance to toxins and stress. Stem cells drastically increased their rate of regeneration in subjects who were in a fasted state.”

Louis A. Cona, MD Medical Director of DVC Stem cell therapy clinic in Grand Cayman


Intermittent Fasting: 16/8 Method


Food clock

Food clock

Fasting is not as difficult as it sounds

Intermittent fasting is a term for a cycling eating pattern between periods of fasting and eating. It does not say anything about which foods you should eat, but rather when you should eat them. In this respect, it is not a “diet” in the conventional sense. It is more accurately described as an “eating pattern.”

Humans have actually been fasting throughout evolution. Sometimes it was done because food was not available, and it has also been a part of major religions, including Islam, Christianity and Buddhism.

If anything, fasting from time to time is more “natural” than constantly eating 3-4 (or more) meals per day. If you think of your digestive system as a machine, you would understand that the less often you use a machine, the longer it will last. Our digestive machine will last longer if it is not overworked.

There are many different types of intermittent fasting. For the purpose of this blog, I will focus on my favorite and the most popular type, which is the 16/8 method. It involves skipping breakfast and restricting your daily eating period to just 8 hours, for example from 10 am to 6 pm, 11 am to 7 pm, or from 12 pm to 8 pm. (The actual 8 hour window can be during any time of day but makes the most sense for a majority of people at these times) Then you “fast” for 16 hours in between. I’ve personally found the 16/8 method to be the simplest, most sustainable and easiest to stick to. Timing it so that most of your fasting is done while sleeping works great!

When you fast, several things happen in your body on the cellular and molecular level. For example, your body changes hormone levels to make stored body fat more accessible. Your cells also initiate important repair processes, and change the expression of genes. This is a wonderful discovery in the area of epigenetics.

Here are some changes that occur in your body when you fast:

  • Human Growth Hormone (HGH): The levels of growth hormone skyrocket, increasing as much as 5-fold. This has the benefit of fat loss and muscle gain. Another great way to boost your HGH is to practice High Intensity Interval Training.
  • Insulin: Insulin sensitivity improves and levels of insulin drop dramatically. Lower insulin levels make stored body fat more accessible. This provides answers to those struggling to manage their blood sugar levels and are labeled pre-diabetic.
  • Cellular repair: When fasted, your cells initiate cellular repair processes. A natural and healthy occurrence where cells digest and remove old and dysfunctional proteins that build up inside cells. Cleansing and “taking out the trash” so to speak.
  • Gene expression: There are changes in the function of genes related to longevity and protection against disease. Less stress on the system allows for longer life span. Ask your body to express healthy genes, not flawed ones.

These changes in hormone levels, cell function and gene expression are responsible for the health benefits of intermittent fasting.

Here are the main health benefits of intermittent fasting:

  • Weight Loss: Intermittent fasting can help you lose weight and belly fat, without having to consciously count calories.
  • Insulin resistance:Intermittent fasting can reduce insulin resistance, lowering blood sugar by 3-6% and fasting insulin levels by 20-31% which is protective against type 2 diabetes.
  • Inflammation:There is a significant decrease in the lab work markers of inflammation, a key driver of many chronic diseases.
  • Heart Health:Intermittent fasting may reduce LDL cholesterol, blood triglycerides, inflammatory markers, blood sugar and insulin resistance. These are all risk factors for heart disease.
  • Cancer:Animal studies suggest that intermittent fasting may help prevent cancer.
  • Brain Health:Intermittent fasting increases a brain hormone called BDNF, and may aid the growth of new nerve cells. It may also protect against Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Anti-aging:Intermittent fasting can extend lifespan in rats. Studies showed that fasted rats live as much as 36-83% longer.

What if I don’t want to lose any weight? Intermittent fasting is not just for those who hope to lose weight. While it is a very effective way to do so, many people who practice IF are doing it to sculpt lean muscle and provide preventative healthcare benefits while maintaining a healthy body weight.

I invite you to give intermittent fasting a try for a few days. You will likely enjoy the benefits as much as I have and be surprised at how efficiently the body is capable of working.