Fasting–Friend or Foe?

Nature’s Probiotic; Fermented Vegetables

From WebMD to Susun Weed, clinical herbalist for over half a century, many of my respected resources say extensive fasting has many concerns–even dangers.  Since the recent trend is to use fasting and “cleanses” as a weight-loss tool, let’s address that first. Is it really a helpful ‘jumpstart’ to rebalancing your weight–and keeping those extra pounds off permanently?

No, according to the experts I trust. The ones not trying to make money by selling you something to make fasting easier or supposedly, safer.  Many years ago, I tried fasting a few times; my personal experience was consistent with what WebMD and others say; it was not an effective weight-loss tool.  I quickly regained the weight plus a couple extra pounds. I also did a “liver cleanse” at the advice of a holistic physician; equally unfun, equally ineffective. And in general, cleanses/fasts are very hard on the liver; it shuts down within 24-48 hours of not eating and then takes up to 72 hours to get itself going again (both phases of liver function) after beginning to ingest food again. 

You heart doesn’t need a ‘rest’ (good luck resting it for 24 hours); hour lungs don’t need a ‘rest’ (same); why does your GI tract need a ‘rest’? In my opinion, it doesn’t.  About the only time I recommend not eating is when you’re not hungry–usually due to fighting off a bacteria or virus.  That takes energy, and so does digesting your food. So…if you’re coming down with something, listen to your body and only ingest bone broths (preferably homemade) with a touch of cayenne and a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar added (to pull more calcium from the broth).

“The appeal is that [fasting] is quick, but it is quick fluid loss, not substantial weight loss,” says Madelyn Fernstrom, PhD, CNS, founder and director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Weight Loss Management Center. “If it’s easy off, it will come back quickly” — as soon as you start eating normally again, she says.

Our raised veggie beds–thanks to my wonderful husband!

Not to mention that a fast doesn’t help you actually change your dietary habits for a lifetime of healthy eating, which is what will not only keep your weight balanced but provide the nutrients needed for a healthy human being.  However, I’m confused by the newly coined “intermittent fasting”. If that means not eating after dark until the sun comes up and/or enjoying two meals per day with a small snack in between, that makes sense. Christiane Northrup, M.D. seems to define it as going 12 hours (generally overnight) without food or beverage other than water.  Great idea. Very helpful for reducing elevated glucose (associated with pre-diabetes and diabetes). dande

But day after day (7-10 days is common, and a colleague went 23 days without eating last year–water only). If the purpose is a spirutual journey,  that I understand and respect.  But for health? For weight loss?  Think again!

And if anyone recommends senna as part of a “cleansing” protocol, walk away quickly. Dandelion root or leaf or both is a much more effective and gentle way to “detoxify” and using either dandelion tincture or tea won’t strip your healthy gut microflora, much like an antibiotic or even ‘antibacterial’ herbs (rather than antiseptic). But check out what Susun Weed says on toxins:  “Chemicals, however, do not build up in the liver, despite what you may have read. The liver sends unneeded water-soluble chemicals, such as ammonia, to the kidneys to be excreted. (To get a sense of how quickly this happens, eat some asparagus, which contains a harmful natural chemical, and notice the smell of your urine, and how quickly you have to “go.”) The liver incarcerates oil-soluble chemicals by locking them up in fat cells, or sending them to be excreted in breast milk, ejaculations, ovulations, and tears. (Chemicals are not excreted by sweating.)”

We are grateful to know our farmers and ranchers, to some degree, and enjoy grass fed prok, beef and poultry.

If you want to fast, fast from all fast food, chemicals in your diet, processed foods, sugar and most especially, vegetable oils. Deep Nutrition and Food Rules (the super-short condensed version without the science) by Catherine M.D. is my current favorite for advice on nutrition (but not supplements).

The photos I have included in this blog are some of what I eat, whenever possible. Keep it simple, eat local and organic, grow your own garden and cook at home. Blessed Be.