On Healing By Extended Fasting
After I ended my long-term opiate use in 2014, (which I did because I didn’t need that kind of pain relief anymore, have you read my blog?), I developed a very severe and irresistible sugar binging problem. Not unusual for life after opiates. It was demoralizing. Utterly. Demoralizing.
Try as I did, I could not get any decent medical advice on healing my brain after opiates. Doctors told me in time it would heal. It did not. My brain was toast after all those opiates and the ravages of withdrawal. I feel truly for sorry for addicts. More on that later.
I began reading everything I could about the brain, to try to find a way to recover. I learned that heavy exercise, which I was already doing, boosts your production of brain healing BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor). I learned that extended fasting boosts it also. Like, not eating for long stretches makes you smarter, for real.
Extended fasting resets insult sensitivity. Well, that was perfect. I continued to struggle with the sweet stuff, giving in to it no matter how much I tried to resist. I worried I might become pre-diabetic.
So, I began fasting for my brain health and diabetes prevention.
Between 2016 and 2017 I did many 36 hour and 48 hour fasts. I tried to get to 72 hours because from what I could learn back then, that seemed even greater benefit. Sometimes I succeeded. Getting past 48 hours is realllllllly hard. You have to push through when you are hungriest and feel the worst. Ugh!!!
There was not much solid information based on research about fasting back then. How much? How often? How to do it? I read everything I could.
Note that this was before people began calling not-eating-for-part-of-the-day “intermittent fasting.” That is time-restricted feeding, not fasting.
This was also before the mega trends of keto-paleo-bulletproof-brand-building and the stuffing-your-face-with-fat-and-let’s-pretend-that’s-healthy-fad promoted by obese food addicts. And also before half the world became self-declared gluten-allergic and/or vegan. What confusing times we live in.
Back to my fasting saga, one time I focused and amped up my motivation and did a five day water fast. It was miserable. I felt so bad, so weak afterwards. But fasting also feels so wonderful at times.
There was another time that I couldn’t eat for about 10 days because my stomach hurt so much. Lets’s call that one an extended fast, shall we? Did I mention that getting off long-term opiates devastated my digestive system? Also not unusual consequence of long-term opiate use. Oh well. I really can’t complain because opiates got me through pain that was unlivable. Now, I was paying the bill.
The physical stress of fasting was overwhelming to my exhausted hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis. Any stress was, even very minor ones. I was beyond desperate to recover so I pushed myself.
I never get too down about how my Ehlers-Danlos body malfunctions. I always find something else to try that might improve it. I get enthusiastic and distracted by my next adventure. And sometimes what I try really works. Have you read my blog?
My endocrinologist even put me on a Libre sensor. Mine was the best readout he had ever seen. Yay!
Then, in January of 2018, I had all my joints x-rayed as I do every two years to see how things are holding up. Much to my shock and amazement, all my arthritis had healed. It had been in both hips, both knees, my L spine and my C-spine. Yay!
I still had very mild endplate irregularity in my T spine, upgraded from mild. Yay! Note that since reading the work of Dr. Stuart McGill, it seems endplate irregularity is evidence of old injury, not degeneration. Yay!
This healing bonanza happened In spite of my very high refined sugar intake and my excessive alcohol consumption, another gift from long-term opiate exposure. How about that! F*ck yeah!!
What happens during an extended fast?
The body breaks down old, damaged tissue to use it for energy. When eating resumes, the body makes stem cells to go and rebuild stuff. W-O-W.
Fasting causes histamine to downregulate and inflammation to drop. That does make you feel wonderful.
Fasting can have a powerfully positive effect on autoimmune disorders by cleaning up damaged immune system cells and resetting the immune system. How marvelous! Powerful medical treatment! And it’s free!
Fast forward to now, 2019.
I had stopped fasting when I got completely burned out on it. I just couldn’t do another.
I got very busy getting on with my life and finding other ways to recover from long-term opiates, which turned out to be successful. I do need to write about them sometime.
Dr. Longo has come up with a protocol that mimics a five day water fast, except you get to eat. A little. You can find many YouTube and podcast interviews with Dr. Longo, and hear him talk about his research in his adorable Italian accent. This is based on . . . studies! Lots of studies! Lots of putting people through fasts! Putting sick people through fasts! It is not based on Garden-of-Eden-fantasy-ideologies and attempts-to-build-a-health-related-brand-and-get-famous-and-super-rich.
Then I remembered . . .
After I gave up on extended fasting, once I ate two candy bars a day for five days. It was fun! What was really surprising is that I felt totally awesome, peaceful and serene, like I had been at the spa retreat. Except I was hungry the whole time.
Unfortunately, my stomach did not like all those bad oils and high fructose corn syrup. The candy bars triggered a long episode of stomach irritation. Once my stomach freaks out, it can take forever for it to calm down. So I didn’t try that again.
But I never forgot . . .
During my five days of two candy bars per day, I felt soooooo much better than my five days of water fasting. Plus I lost a lot more weight than water fasting. Whut????? This was all very interesting. Five days of ultra-low calorie, ultra-low protein eating kept my body going and my metabolism up, so it was more effective.
Well, turns out, my candy bar fast was similar to Dr. Longo’s fast mimicking protocol, except his fasting kit, the Prolon Fast Mimicking Diet, is more nutritious and has been clinically studied. That’s a food package you can buy and consume for five days to do you fast just perfect. It is what they use in their studies to keep things uniform.
I am so curious about the Prolon product. I really would love to try it, but I worry it might irritate my stomach. Maybe someday I will.
Instead, I decided to DIY the Fast Mimicking Diet.
I ordered Dr. Longo’s book but it hadn’t arrived. I had some time to try a fast. So, I read other people’s blogs about DIYing the Fast Mimicking Diet. Sounded like fun. I did my best to match the macros and calorie limits of the Prolon Fast Mimicking Diet:
The first day is 1090 calories of 10% protein, 56 6% fat and 34% carbs.
Then for four days of 725 calories of 9% protein, 44% fats and 47% carbs.
I dove right into the 725 days so I wouldn’t have to do any extra math. I really am that lazy. Plus I am an experienced faster so why waste time.
I used the app Simple Stupid Macros to track.
I thoroughly enjoyed my DIY FMD, in spite of being constantly hungry through most of it. I didn’t realize the FMD is supposed to be vegan. Oops. No wonder my protein always came in too high. Still, it seems to have worked well.
I felt so relaxed. My brain processing was a little slower so I spent more time chilling and watching Netflix. It’s nice to have a break from your regular routine.
Day one was easy. You’re hardly even hungry in the first 24 hours, as it takes a while to burn through your food stores.
Day two was the hardest as far as hunger and weakness goes, just like during a water fast. Must get through that 48 hour mark.
Day three I felt peaceful, blissful, if a little sleepy. Day four, the same. I felt f*cking awesome! other than being hungry. I wanted to keep going.
I slept very well every night. Even better than usual. Lots of profound, emotional and healing dreams. It was so refreshing.
When I felt tired, I adjusted by exercising less or skipping a day of exercise. I usually exercise everyday.
I wanted to eat more, of course, but that is part of the fun.
It’s nice to have a break from your regular routine.
You get to exercise your muscle of self-restraint, very useful in this era of family-sized portions for one. We all need to practice refusing food.
I cheated a little. I think it’s very important to misbehave. I had a sliver of dark chocolate on most of my FMD days. So there! Can you imagine the extraordinary pleasure of a taste of chocolate amidst such deprivation? Bliss!
Late at night at the end of my fourth day, I had some severe personal stress. I was so upset I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t do much about my stress but I could eat to end my hunger. So, I called it “done,” poured a shot of vodka, ate some crackers and quit my DIY Fast Mimicking Diet fast.
I gave myself an A++ for my fast.
I always give myself an A++ because no one else will.
Other people are very ready to tell you how wrong and stupid you are, so I let them while I ignore it, because no one tries harder than I do, so f*ck off, thanks.
Normal people have no idea how much you can physically suffer with a disease like Ehlers-Danlos, so their input is generally of no relevance to me. Their life experience has been ridiculously easy compared to mine, which they would never understand. I keep that to myself and try to have patience with them. What else is there to do.
I continued to feel wonderful for dayssssss after I ended my four day DIY FMD.
I felt a healing surge.
I bounced back quickly from my stressful event.
I felt relaxed and happy.
Food tasted so rich and wonderful. I was satisfied with so little.
Since then, I got around to reading Dr. Longo’s book. I will try another DIY FMD in a few weeks, and get it more correct. I will tell you all about it after I’ve done it.
Fasting and restricting here and there is fun. It makes you appreciate eating. It’s always nice to set a target and try to reach it. You learn a lot along the way.
Too much fasting or chronic calorie restricting may give you an eating disorder, as you might activate a strong sense of starvation in your body and get uncontrollable hunger. So don’t overdo it. Anorexics are very stressed out people and no fun to be around. Neither are food nazis. Do take good care of yourself and don’t go to extremes. In the rest of my life, I find regular, consistently-sized three meals per day and maybe one snack if I really really need it to be as complicated as eating needs to get.
I eat everything except what tends to bother my stomach: sugar alcohols (they end in -ol), coconut fat, cashews, avocados, asparagus. I love love love gluten and dairy. Coconut is just about the worst.
Take care of yourself from a place of love and compassion, not perfectionism. Do it because you deserve better health. You do!
Many of us with chronic illness grapple with self-hate as our bodies torture us into wishing we were dead. Be kind to yourself, always, always, always. Your life is already unfairly difficult.
Don’t be a dummy. If you are on medication or have medical conditions, figure out what your risks are and get advice before you try fasting, especially if you are diabetic. Fasting heals the pancreas swiftly and you will need to monitor and change your diabetic medication as you go through your fast.
Burning your own fat uses up electrolytes, so you’ll need extra salt and maybe some potassium.
Yes, I continued with my intramuscular Vitamin C shots every day of my fast.
Happy healing. ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️