We are all individuals and come with our own set of health circumstances. I will describe how I progressed as best I could for me, in my circumstances. I have spinal cerebellar ataxia or more simply brain degeneration. The last time I checked with my neurologist he told me “I was lucky”. Further he said that “If I’d had a stroke and then done this to my brain I wouldn’t be able to walk”… My silver lining I guess…
I was also told at the time that western medicine could do nothing for me. I had to stop working so l started experimenting with diet and quickly found I could improve things! Depending on what I ate I could have more energy and my balance could be better. So I spent the next few years improving my diet and lifestyle.
Most things have got better. I get sick less. But some things are pretty much unchanged. Driving and movement are still limited. l can’t play physically with my son and he still needs to be aware he could knock me over. Energy is often a problem.
I continued down the path which I hoped would eventually lead to “being better”.
And so I started fasting.
Daily intermittent fasting is something I’ve been doing as part of my take on a “healthy lifestyle” for some time now. Depending on my day/how I’m feeling I generally have a overnight break from eating for about 15 hours, if I make and eat breakfast with my son or if my body’s hungry it’s less or if I’m busy and haven’t got time to eat maybe it’s more. Unfortunately, intermittent fasting didn’t seem to be moving me personally towards my goals of balance and energy. And I’d heard of the wonders of “autophagy” or “self eating” which is described by Dr Jason Fung as the body’s mechanism of getting rid of all the broken down, old cell machinery (organelles, proteins and cell membranes) when there’s no longer enough energy to sustain it. It is a regulated, orderly process to degrade and recycle cellular components.1
I figured that couldn’t hurt. There was another question for me. In a fast, when does autophagy start? Some people say 18 hours, others 24-48. But as with everything the truth seems to be autophagy is occurring at different rates in different tissues for different people.2
I’d tried the fasting mimicking diet (FMD) previously and I was pretty clear on what I liked and did not. My version of the FMD was 400 calories good fats, 400 calories vegetables, multivitamin and fish oil supplements and less than 4 herbal teas. I took unlimited salt and water and supplemented otherwise as my symptoms required.
It made it a lot easier that my husband is supportive of my trials of these strategies! Ideally if I was sticking to the classic FMD as designed by Valter Longo I’d need to be eating food from ProLon to fulfill the calorie requirements. This I did not do but ate a vegan, lower carb diet for 5 days.
Things that came evident from this exercise. I could never be a vegan. Alas I miss butter and eggs too much. I hate weighing food! Who knew? And some of my metrics improved in the short term to numbers I’d previously thought impossible for me! (On day 2, my Heart Rate Variability (a measure of the bodies ability to be in a relaxed state and long term health) went up to an average of 60 overnight showing me it could happen. For someone who used to often average 17 overnight this is was brilliant!)
The natural extension of FMD was moving towards a longer more traditional fast. Initially I started with 1 day and the night before and after. This appeals to me as I’m quite lazy. Some may call it efficient but we all know the appeal of doing no food prep for a day! As I said I have a supportive husband who will feed himself and my child. I tried a 1 day fast a few times and I’ve recently moved up to 2 and I’m stuck there for the moment. When I can do 2 days symptom free I’ll consider more. Things I love though:
- I’ve already talked about my laziness, it’s simple and easy to do.
- I find my metrics can improve incredibly. But my sleep can be rubbish on the 2nd night too.
- And of course I lose weight. Whilst it is always nicer to look better in your clothes, the loss of the toxins which goes with fat loss provides a much greater benefit I think.
So is fasting the magic bullet to cure all ills? No I don’t think so. But I think it does help and is worth trying and persevering with.