My first job after medical school was an internship at TrueNorth Health Center – a clinic that specializes in water-only fasting. I became interested in fasting after attending a lecture by its founder. I was struck by the notion that deep healing could occur by literally doing nothing – put a person in a room with no food and unlimited water and watch them heal. While at TrueNorth, I witnessed high blood pressure return to normal levels. I saw people with chronic pain due to autoimmune conditions experience that pain going away, and people with type II diabetes having their blood sugars returning to normal.
Ever since that experience, I am a firm believer in fasting, and recommend it to many of my patients. Other benefits of fasting are the following:
Gut rest – Since no food is being consumed, your GI tract can take a mini-vacation
Autophagy – means “self-devouring.” When no calories are being eaten, the body breaks down and recycles old and unneeded cells and tissues.
Kick start a new diet – Going to try a new diet? Fasting is like a “reset” button that makes dietary changes easier.
Longevity – Regular fasting is associated with lower rates of heart failure and a longer lifespan.
Weight loss – Most people lose weight while fasting, especially during longer fasts – Some of this weight loss can be maintained as long as they don’t return to their old eating habits when not fasting.
Not everyone has to do a long water-only fast to experience the benefits of fasting. In the past few years, there have been studies done on the benefits of shorter fasts. Here are some examples of what is out there:
Time restricted feeding (TRF) – Sometimes called “intermittent fasting.” Consuming all of your calories for the day, within a certain window of time. Common strategies are 16:8 and 20:4 (ex: 16 hours of fasting, and a 4-hour eating window. There is also a circadian rhythm fast – basically a 13hr overnight fast. For someone new to fasting, this is the place to start
Hypocaloric fast – One example is the 5:2 diet, popular in the UK: eat regularly for 5 days, and consume reduced calories for 2 days. The UK version is not a complete fast, as you are allowed to eat 500 calories or less on your fasting days.
Multiple day fasting – These can range from 3 consecutive days to 40 days or more, and are fantastic for getting deep into autophagy. At True North, we routinely fasted people for 14 to 21 days While most people can handle a 3-5 day fast on their own, anything longer should be medically supervised.
Fasting Mimicking Diet (FMD): This is a product called ProLon. It is a packaged 5-day fast, not an actual diet. This is for people who want some of the benefits of a longer fast, but with the option of eating some calories during the day.
As much as I love fasting, there are people who should NOT fast – the short-list includes people who are underweight, anyone with an eating disorder, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, and children and teenagers.
There are plenty of resources on the internet about fasting. If you prefer one-on-one direction, you can check in with your doctor, or call and schedule an appointment with Dr. Mel to discuss fasting options. We look forward to hearing from you!