*** This blog is not to be prescriptive nor give you advice, merely to show you my way of navigating true health in a jungle of advice and pharmaceutical pressure. Please do your own research, ask your own specialists or contact those I have used if you wish to find out more about your personal condition and symptoms. To your very best health. ***
Over the past few weeks, probably since Christmas and New Year, I’ve been struggling to keep my attention to the goal of getting my auto-immunity in remission and hopefully a reduction or removal of my meds.
I’m not sure if it’s lack of real progress or the samey-ness of it all but something is making me feel twitchy. And when I get twitchy I go into ‘stretch it mode’.
It’s not full on self sabotage, but this stretching of the rules seems to make it more exciting or interesting.
It would make way more interesting reading if I’d been on a mad fast food spree, a chocolate binge and had a cheese hangover, but nah it’s not that. But it’s enough to tip the balance.
I’ve also been reading about ways to improve the immune system and fasting keeps coming up. I’ve done intermittent fasting before, where you don’t eat for 24 hours and then go back to eating normally again. This worked well for me with regards to weight management and I can’t remember why I even stopped. But the articles and blogs I’ve read recently have been for 3 days fasts with reports of great improvements on clarity of thought, energy and immune repair alongside healing leaky gut, hormone balance and fat loss. Also if you’re going through chemotherapy it’s a fantastic way to improve how you feel. My friend Emily has been testing it out.
I thought it was worth a go.
There are lots of articles on the health impact of long fasting so I won’t replicate here, you can find it on the web. What I thought I’d do is describe the process and how I felt through it.
Some articles spoke about drinking coffee with oil, fruit juices and broths during the fast. As I understand it, that’s not a fast. When you’re fasting you allow your body to rest and repair. That’s where the magic happens. Eating and drinking anything but water stops that.
This is a water fast. No food, only water for 72 hours.
I had my last meal on Monday evening at about 18.30. I had a beef mince and veggie concoction followed by some rather moreish grain-free granola I’d made. It’s made with walnuts, pecans, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, figs and prunes. Drizzled with honey and coconut oil and baked. I had that with some almond milk and blueberries. I felt quite full…
Tuesday morning, up as normal, didn’t walk today but headed out to the chiropractor bright and early after having my meds and water. Not hungry at this point and wouldn’t normally eat first thing anyway.
I spent most of the rest of the day preparing for or attending a launch event of a local network meeting. I was giving a little talk so had that to distract me. It was easy enough to sit with others who were eating and I realised that I hadn’t yet felt any hunger since getting up. At about 13.30 ( I made a note) I was vaguely aware of a possible hungry feeling, but it really passed rather quickly.
When I got in about 3pm, the house still smelled of whatever Mr S had cooked for his lunch and that was quite a challenge as my nose and belly went into operation-prepare-for-food. I made a hot water and left the kitchen!
My first real hunger of the day was 24 hours in. By about 6pm on Tuesday I had graunchy noises from my belly and I felt hungry. I did feel a bit tired too, but I slept poorly the previous night and that’s not going to help.
Got through the rest of the day really quite fine. Felt cold and quiet but that’s all. Hunger really wasn’t an issue and hot water kept me going.
One of the things that I haven’t suffered with, which I think several other bloggers have noted, is head and body aches. Many have noted a nasty low level head ache that kept them thinking that it wasn’t worth continuing. My reduced caffeine and pretty clean diet has probably kept that at bay which I am grateful for. No one wants a bad head and to be hungry!
Wednesday morning I woke after a slight broken night’s sleep. My first thought was, ‘oh half way through‘. I wasn’t hungry but maybe a little empty. I had some hot water to go to teach Fit Camp on and felt quite OK.
I spent the day doing office based work and going to another lunchtime meeting where I watched them eat some rather lovely food. It wasn’t tough, but I did think that today there were meals there I’d have enjoyed whereas yesterday I wasn’t too bothered about what they’d had.
I’ve had more bouts of hunger today, but it’s really very brief. Maybe 5 minutes or so and then it goes. Maybe some graunchy noises but not much. I’ve also noticed a strange taste in my mouth at times, a bit metallic.
All the other blogs I’ve read have talked about improved thinking and energy. I can’t say I’ve had either of these. I’ve been quite the same or lower energy, had a nap on both days so far and brain is as fuddled as normal. Maybe tomorrow I’ll wake up and be zingy?
Have there been times when I’ve considered quitting early? No, not really. That I am doing this is certainly front of mind, and I find myself calculating how many hours I’ve done and how many left. But it’s really been very do-able as I approach my forty-eighth hour.
I know that when I do break the fast it needs to be small, preferably easily digestible and not too carb loaded (otherwise you get a carb crash). I am still deciding what it will be! It keeps me forward thinking and focusing on finishing not quitting.
I was very cold going to bed on Wednesday and even though I warmed up in the night I was awake really early, about 3am and didn’t go back to sleep again. By 4.30am I’d decided to get up and walk, so not really waking up zingy! It was much colder than I realised and despite mittens and layers I was fairly chilly all the way around. I am walking the Jurassic Coast Challenge in June and so am working on getting miles on my legs where I can. So I spent 3 hours looping around Winnersh and Wokingham when everyone else was in bed! It’s a very quiet time of the day but I was glad that it was a normal feeling kind of a walk given that 1) I’d not eaten since Monday evening 2) not slept well 3) done it on water only (it’s recommended that you drink your water with a pinch of sea salt whilst your fasting to replace electrolytes. I didn’t do this, but would do so next time).
When I got in however I was so cold. The fog had come down whilst I was out and it was bitter, but, mmm a lovely cup of hot water did the trick!
As you’d expect I was pooped by midday and had 45 minutes nap before carrying on with my day.
There is no permanent hunger. There is no rumbling and loud noisy belly. There are no head aches and nausea and feeling spacey. It’s all been quite easy really.
Breaking a fast, anything over 16 hours, is not something to play around with. The body is in a state of repair and we don’t want to suddenly overburden it again with a big meal or the wrong combination of nutrients.
The first meal should be no more than 500 calories and something very simple like bone or fish broth, free of veggies if you don’t want your guts to bloat and get all gassy. Definitely avoid dairy, gluten and sugars in this refeeding phase.
I’ve also read that it’s a good idea to drink something first that helps to balance the pH levels, kill off unfriendly bacteria and promote digestion. What fits the bill? Apple cider vinegar, so a glass of warm water with 1/2 lemon juiced, 2 tbls spoons unpasteurised ACV, a pinch of sea salt and a pinch of cinnamon will do the job.
Then my plan is to have some beef bone broth and then an avocado about an hour later. I’ll then have my breakfast as normal tomorrow focusing on smaller portions of protein and vegetables.
With an hour or so to go until 18.00, I can smell the soup gently cooking…there had been a part of me that wondered about continuing until the morning, but I know what I am like. I have an addictive streak that can lead to no good. So I will finish at 72 hours, ease back into the world of food gently and see how I feel tomorrow. Knowing that I only have 45 minutes left and now I am feeling hungry. My brain is ready, my stomach is getting ready!
I had the apple cider vinegar combination which was interesting enough, not the most tasty start back to eating after 3 days off. Then about 20 minutes later I had a mug of the beef bone broth. I chose the broth only, no meat and the event was pretty unspectacular! I then went out to Fit Camp to teach, had one of our campers, Pam’s cacoa nut bites which was very lovely, and when I got in I had an avocado with a sprinkle of salt.
In summary, I understand from the research that this type of fasting (occasionally) can benefit the immune system. That’s what I need. So I am happy to do it again and know now that it’s very doable. I expect I’ll do it every 4 months or so.
With regards to intermittent fasting you can start by moving your meals so that you get 12-14 hours overnight between dinner and breakfast to get some fasting benefits. From there you can move to a 24 hour fast say from dinner one night until dinner the next. Before building up to longer stretches.
The BIG proviso here though is making sure that food post fast is small, easily digestible and not used as an excuse for over-feeding. Any fat loss results, bloat reduction, weight loss and health benefits are lost in that mindset. If you’re not sure you can do that, start with the night time fasting for now and I am sure you’ll see results from those efforts.
And there we have it. A mini experiment done and delivered. Until next time…