Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Fasting debunked

Just to finish the fasting story. It ended yesterday after 10 days. I found it too boring to continue. There was little discomfort apart from moderate weakness and lower blood pressure, which was a bit of pain while getting up from bed (orthostatic hypotension). The tongue was coated, but there was no unpleasant feeling in the mouth. I lost 5.5kg and 5cm waistline. As before the fast when I did not follow the doctrine and had fish the day before, I broke the fast on avocado, egg yolk and juice from one grapefruit. Today I am having fish soup. No salt, of course. And no bird feed (grains). But I do not feel elated. I was still in ketosis and it I occurred to me that the feeling of extreme health and energy typically reported comes from the surge of glucose from fruit juices, carrot/beet juice and fruits. If “whole” grains, pastas, bread etc were to follow, the body would be overwhelmed with sugar. Naturally, this sugar would immediately get converted to fat. At this point people start vigorous exercise to beat the weight gain, but this is the beginning of the vicious circle. Furthermore, products of breakdown of gluten would stimulate opiate receptors in the brain. People are convinced the fast was the best thing they did in their live. Interestingly, when you read books by fasting experts, they often recommend sequential fasting, perhaps a shorter one (7-10 days) once a quarter or a longer one (21-40 days) once a year. I guess this should be the way of life if you chose to live mostly on carbohydrates. Clearly, this is not what nature designed us for.

But it makes sense that nature did design us for fasting as scarcity of food must have been common. This is where the concepts of intermittent fasting make sense: one day on, one day off. Occasional few days on empty, perhaps followed by a feast. Also, the “warrior diet” makes sense: you skip breakfast, have a salad for lung and a quarter of a wild boar for supper . What does not make sense is 5 meals a day at regular times. If your body knows how to burn fat, it will use ketones, and even before that there is glycogen in the liver. On a high carb diet, you better eat five times a day to feed your habit and have the drive to plough the fields.

As for the benefits of fasting, I do not dispute that they are real, but I claim that most of them, if not all, can be achieved by following natural Paleo diet instead. I already discussed weight loss. Another thing is gluten withdrawal, another is cutting off carbohydrates in general. Typical food is proinflammatory (omega 6), so fasting would obviously make visible sites of inflammation disappear. But eating more omega-3 would likely have the same effect, though perhaps less immediate. The thinking is clear possibly because of ketones. Ketogenic diet has been used in treating epilepsy since ancient times. It appears that it may also be beneficial in Alzheimers. ADHD is also benefited from reduction in carbohydrates and gluten.

As for the symptoms of “healing” during the fasting “crisis”. It gets worse because of increasing ketosis to which body is not used to. Then it gets better because the body (muscles, brain, heart) finally start using ketones. This is also when muscle aches go away. I already addressed the symptoms during the first few days. They are likely to appear only in people who had eaten high carbs, salt, drank coffee and had little exercise. I used to run in the morning without breakfast for years, thus inducing ketogenesis and training muscles to use ketones. Two weeks of Paleo diet before fasting made the experience fairly asymptomatic.

My theory is that I will not be putting on weight after the fast. Time will show.

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