By: Kelly Gilthorpe Burkenstock, M.D.
Religions have long maintained that fasting is good for the soul, but its health benefits were not widely recognized until doctors began using various fasting diets to treat many issues such as diabetes, obesity and epilepsy. Interestingly, fasting as a treatment for epilepsy dates back to the Roman Era where people with epilepsy were caged and starved to rid them of their demons.
Whether an individual practices fasting for spiritual, health or medical reasons, most people will fast at some point in life.
Intermittent Fasting is a regimen that cycles between periods of fasting, with either no food or significant calorie reduction, followed by periods of unrestricted eating. It changes the body’s composition through loss of fat and weight, while also improving many health parameters associated with disease such as: blood pressure, cholesterol, inflammation, obesity, brain health, heart health, aging, andropause and menopause and possibly cancer. Intermittent Fasting drains the body of one’s glucose (sugar) reserves – the main energy source from the foods we eat. Without this glucose reserve, an individual’s body switches to burning fat as fuel – known as ketosis. There are many different versions of Intermittent Fasting; some notable examples include:
5:2 Fast, consisting of eating normally for five days every week and fasting for two days. On the two fasting days the client restricts their calorie intake to 500-600 calories per day. The other five days the client eats normally and unrestricted.
16:8 Fast, clients eat normally and unrestricted for eight hours and fast for the remaining 16 hours- drinking only water and calorie free drinks.
18:6 Fast, clients eat normally and unrestricted for six hours and fast for the remaining 18 hours – drinking only water and calorie-free drinks.
2:5 Juice Cleanse Fast, a quality juice cleanse is used for 48-72 hours, (two or three days), and then clients eats nutritious meals after the cleanse is complete. A low sugar, low salt, all natural juice cleanse, enriched with vitamins, minerals, fiber and PREBIOTICS is best. Clients eat normally (but nutritiously) for four or five days, then fast with a quality juice cleanse for two to three days.
When an individual switches to an Intermittent Fasting diet plan, they upgrade their body’s performance in a number of ways. Their body initiates a number of important hormonal changes which make fat more accessible to burn. There are diverse and powerful benefits thought to occur due to intermittent fasting such as: weight loss, disease prevention, improved memory, brain restoration, heart health, mood improvement, decrease in insulin resistance, increase in lifespan (Anti-Aging), enhancement in stress tolerance and an upgrade to the immune system. Several trials have shown significant weight loss, without an overall increase in appetite. Though these benefits are proven in animal trials, we await final confirmation from ongoing human trials.
Part 4 Improving Leaky Gut
Gut Health and Inflammation with Intermittent Fasting
Leaky gut occurs when the gut gets irritated and inflamed. It is as if tiny perforations occur allowing unwanted toxins easy admittance to an individual’s body. When this occurs, the healthy bacteria in the intestines are less capable of protecting and stabilizing the gut environment, and abnormal bacteria and bad yeast overgrow in the gastrointestinal tract. What ensues is poor absorption of vitamins, minerals, and proteins which may lead to poor nutrition, bloating, gas, increased cortisol, inflammation, insulin resistance and weight gain.
Leaky gut and inflammation is caused by a myriad of issues found in a poor diet consisting of foods with preservatives, sugar and high fructose corn syrup, pesticides, fried and fast foods, hormones, trans fats and gluten. Stress, medication and alcohol can also induce a leaky gut.
On to better Gut Health: Intermittent Fasting and a number of fermented and cultured foods can support the growth and proliferation of the “good” bacteria in the gut. Among them include: fermented and cultured foods such as Greek yogurt or kefir, fermented vegetables, sauerkraut and kimchi, as well as kombucha or kefir. Live Probiotics and Prebiotics also promote gut health, but it is a necessity to ensure that they are manufactured by a company with high quality ingredients whose bottles also contain the GMP seal.
When an individual fasts for 16-hour periods, they optimize their gut motility – which means more efficient bowel regularity & evacuation of wastes. Improved gut action through intermittent fasting decreases feelings of heaviness, gas and bloating.
The gut functions best on a 12 to 18 hour fasting cycle benefiting the gut’s microorganisms and the body’s immune system. In doing this practice, the body is benefited in many ways. Metabolism becomes less stressful, and the body is much more receptive to insulin due to it not being subjected to wide swings in blood sugar, known as insulin resistance. In addition, when an individual consumes a heavy dinner or late night snack, the following may occur: the food is digested less efficiently, sleep is impaired, and gut motility slows down hampering the bowel movement process.
Current research reveals that the immune system & stem cells function best with extended fasting periods. Intermittent fasting allows the body to stop focusing on digesting food, and instead focuses on digesting damaged cells and regenerating healthy new cells.
Intermittent Fasting allows the gut’s “good” bacteria to fully ferment and breakdown ingested food, produce healthy byproducts (vitamins and antioxidants), feed “good” gut bacteria, transport waste and maintain a healthy gastrointestinal tract.
When it comes to the gut, Intermittent Fasting does wonders for motility, cell rest and recovery and promoting the growth and development of healthy gut bacteria.
These healthy bacteria modulate inflammation, heal leaky gut, decrease the bad bacteria and play a central role in happiness & mood.
One’s diet has the most influence on the health of their friendly gut microbes.
Leaky gut can be reversed in as little as just a week simply due to the beneficial effect food has on our gut bacteria.
While inflammation is a good and normal response to injury or trauma, chronic inflammation can lead to lifelong disease and perforations of the gut lining. Some scientific research has found relationships between chronic inflammation and heart disease, diabetes, obesity and cancer. As noted in nutrition research, people following Ramadan fasting for religious or cultural obligations have decreased inflammation markers during their Ramadan fasting. This concurs with other scientific research that found longer duration nighttime fasting was associated with decreased inflammation and oxidative stress. Lower levels of both chronic inflammation and oxidative stress may prove to improve gut health, fight off many diseases and offer the body Anti-aging, vitality and longevity.
As opposed to Intermittent Fasting, severe long term fasting results in a reduction in size in most organs, except the brain. The human body goes to great lengths to preserve the most important organ, the brain. Severe long-term fasting is harmful and not recommended.
Foolproof? Unfortunately not. The main reason for success with intermittent fasting is that there is less caloric intake overall, so if an individual binges on massive amounts of food, eats before bed or indulges in high fat, junk carbs and/or processed foods or consistently eats against their personal DNA macronutrient profile, they may not lose any weight at all. They may also not experience many of the other health benefits of Intermittent Fasting.
Some animal studies have shown that food is processed differently at different times of the day. This could be due to fluctuations in body temperature, biochemical reactions, hormone levels, physical activity and/or absorption and digestion of food. In addition, a person’s unique DNA macronutrient profile determines what percent of each macronutrient (proteins, fats, and carbohydrates) they are personally built to metabolize most efficiently due to their genetic makeup. This explains why an individual may begin a certain diet plan with a friend (Atkins, Keto-Diet, South Beach Diet, etc.), but the weight lost by each individual may differ.
In essence, I recommend that everyone incorporate a juice cleanse detox into their life with a quality grade juice cleanse product plus raw greens, or one salad per day for several days. This acts as a method of Intermittent Fasting to slow aging and prolong lifespan as an easier alternative to water fasting. Water fasting has a rapidly decreasing effect at removing toxins, as nutrients necessary for the removal also decrease as the water fast progresses. Electrolyte imbalances can also appear.
Juice cleanse fasting with a quality product enables clients to continue to work, and is safer than water fasting. Juice cleanse fasting prevents dehydration, loss of electrolytes and fainting.
A few days of juice cleansing can be a great way to reset an individual’s taste buds, and jump start a new, healthful diet. However, there is no health benefit of trying to use a juice cleanse as a temporary detox. This will inevitably lead the individual to return to their unhealthy diet practices. This Intermittent Fasting magic only works if you stick with a nutritious diet long-term; such as one that is congruent with your DNA macronutrients, and also incorporates some juice cleansing and occasional caloric restriction.
As always, please consult a physician before starting any diet plan if you have any medical conditions, especially if you are a diabetic, pregnant or nursing.
Stay tuned to part 5 – High Blood Sugar, Insulin Resistance, and Intermittent Fasting
– Dr. Burkenstock’s articles can also be found on www.healthfitnessmag.com.
– Dr. Kelly Gilthorpe Burkenstock is an internal medicine physician, and has studied abroad with several of the world’s foremost international luminaries. She has locations in Metairie and Mandeville. For more information, please call 985-869-8400 or 504-502-7600.
Current Biology 2018
Short-Term, Intermittent Fasting Induces Long-Lasting Gut Health and TOR-Independent Lifespan Extension
Documentary Eat Fast and Live Longer
Dr. Krista Varady, University of Illinois
Dr. Sandrine Thuret, Neuroscientist
Dr. Mark Mattson, National Institute on Aging
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine’s Center for Weight and Eating Disorders.