Fasting – An Experiment

The first thing I want to say is if you are thinking about doing this fast, PLEASE SEE YOUR DOCTOR FIRST. This is a personal experiment, and I am completely responsible for the choices I make here. I do not want people doing this fast because of what they read here. As you will see, it doesn’t go well and there are risks involved.  If you have an undiagnosed condition, fasting could be a step too far for your body.

My partner and I have been getting a bit squishy around the middle.  We have a pretty good diet, but when we over indulge it has immediate effects; this is due to an inactive lifestyle.

I recently started running again, and even though I am running every day, my weight has stayed the same.  Apparently this is quite normal, and it will take a few weeks before my body starts reacting to the increased activity.

So, drastic measures are required… well not really, but we fancied doing something a little extreme and controversial – no, not LIPO!! This isn’t just about weight loss.  I have various aches and pains due to an auto immune disease, and I’ve read that fasting can not only help with these pains, but can also bring wider health benefits.

So, what is fasting?

…the willing abstinence or reduction from some or all food, drink, or both, for a period of time.

Ask anyone about fasting and you tend to get extreme opinions; people who think it’s dangerous and unhealthy, and the people who think it’s really good for us.  You don’t tend to find anyone in the middle!

We are designed for this

We haven’t evolved much from Palaeolithic man.  Back then, we could go days and sometimes weeks without eating because we relied on hunting and gathering.  So our bodies have adapted to this, it’s designed for this.  We store energy as fat when we have too much glucose in our bloodstream, and then our body breaks down that fat when we run out of glucose in our bloodstream.

So, why do people think it’s wrong or dangerous?

Well, there are a couple of concerns. After a couple of days of fasting the body starts to produce ketones when it starts using your fat stores to produce energy; this can be life threatening and even toxic to some people, as ketones can cause a sharp decrease in blood pH, particularly in people with diabetes. So if you are considering fasting, please check with your doctor first.

In addition, if you don’t have an excess supply of fat on your body, your body will start breaking down muscle to maintain supply of energy your brain and heart – this is NOT what you want! This is what people are referring to when they say your body goes into ‘starvation mode’.  The cut off point is 4% body fat as a man or 8% as a woman – at this level, fasting should not be attempted.

Women and fasting

Reading up about the effects of IF (Intermittent Fasting) on women, it appears that I should keep an eye on how my body is reacting.  This article points to women experiencing problems with hormones and glucose tolerance when practicing IF on a regular basis. There is very little research into IF effects on women specifically, so proceed with caution.

Fasting vs fast mimicking diets

Do a search on the internet, and you will see quite a few articles on fasting and fasting mimicking diets;  the latter is encouraged over complete fasting because of the possible dangers of total fasting if people are not careful.  Here are a couple of mainstream media articles;

Five day fasting diet slows down ageing and may add years to life  (The Telegraph, 2015)

Fasting could slow the onset of brain diseases such Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease (The Guardian, 2017)

Anyway, lets get on with it

So, here we are.  We are going to do 5 days of proper fasting.  We are allowing ourselves coffee, water and tea.  I’m going to write up how it goes and I can only apologise if I seem a little grumpy – I’m one of the ‘hangry’ types!

The Diary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Fasting Day Four

Our weights this morning:

  • Terry: 77kg
  • Jolene: 59.5kg

I’m not doing a regular update today as I am now on fast mimicking which doesn’t have the ups and downs of fasting, and I have no idea what Terry is doing as he’s at work! He contacted me to say he wants to eat tonight, and I’m glad he’s saying that as I am a little worried; he can be a bit obsessive about things and not know when to stop!

He felt very weak this morning but otherwise fine.   I’m fine as I had two small 300kCal meals yesterday.

My weight will go back up now as my body starts to process food again, and that’s fine.  This was about experimenting and seeing what it was like to fast for so long.  I really don’t know how other people manage to go for 5 days or more – I’m too in love with food; the process of making it and enjoying it! I haven’t missed clearing up afterwards though!

Flavours and smells seem stronger to me at the moment.  I could smell a red grapefruit when I was in the supermarket so I had to buy it and find something to do with it; a salad of that and avocado was my lunch today and it was delicious!  Here’s the recipe, but I’d say go easy on the lemon juice.

Anyway, I think this will be the lat post, unless we have some unexpected late reaction!

 

 

 

 

Fasting Day Three

Our weights this morning:

  • Terry: 77.7kg
  • Jolene: 59.3kg

Terry lost 1.3kg and I lost 1kg since yesterday morning. That will still be some water weight.

Overnight: I got to sleep OK and woke at 2.45am feeling terrible – my heart was racing and I felt very uncomfortable and strange.  At 3.15am I got up and went to the bathroom – I immediately started feeling worse.  My heart seemed to slow down and I thought I was going to die! I called Terry for help and asked him to get me some orange juice.  I didn’t want it but thought this might be blood sugar related.  As he went I started vomiting. He came back and I was hot and perspiring.  As a first aider he said it was shock.

8am (61 hours): Woke up and felt better but very weak.  Decide that I am definitely not fasting on water any more.  I’m going to introduce food as Fast Mimicking until Friday. Basically it’s very low calorie but is nutritious. Terry is feeling ok but weak. It’s clear that some people can deal with this type of fasting and others can’t.  After running downstairs last night to get me juice, he felt pretty bad and had to lie on the floor. He’s not able to move around quickly. He’s going to start on coffee today.

Jolene 11.00am: I made some oats with coconut milk and walnuts in the morning.  Couldn’t finish it even though I only made half the portion recommended for fast mimicking.  Ate it later though!

Terry 12pm: Bought some dehydration sachets as he was worried about electrolyte balance – that could have been my issue last night.  I think I scared him a little bit.  He said he feels really clear headed although weak.  He also said he still doesn’t feel hungry!

Jolene 3pm: I had a late lunch break and so prepared vegetables for my dinner later.  It’s a stir fry of sorts – the dressing is amazing!  Asked Terry if he wanted me to eat before he comes home but he’s not bothered! LOL!

Jolene 4.30pm: Couldn’t wait to eat any longer and didn’t want to be eating when Terry got home, so made my stirfry and it was AMAZING!! He came home while I was eating but was very good and didn’t seem to be bothered by it.  I would be seriously grumpy if it was the other way around.

10pm: Went to bed.  Terry really misses the flavour and sensation of food.

 

Fasting Day Two

Summary: I’ve just realised that this is the longest I’ve ever gone without eating.  It’s really weird going for this long and feeling fine. I feel better if I’m preoccupied and moving around. Today was hard at times but hopefully it will get easier. 

Our weights this morning:

  • Terry: 79kg
  • Jolene: 60.3kg

Terry lost 1.9kg and I lost 1.7kg since yesterday morning! Of course that will be mostly water; as the body uses up the glycogen stored in the liver and muscles, it also releases the water retained by the glycogen.

Glycogen is energy stored in our liver and muscles when we have too much glucose (energy) in our bloodstream.  Once those glycogen stores are full, the body stores the rest of that excess energy (glucose) as fat. This is why you shouldn’t take in too many more calories than you need to function and this is why sugar, not fat, is your flabby enemy!

Overnight: I had a pretty crap night’s sleep.  I definitely slept as I had weird dreams where I was freaking out because I ate pizza and cake! I sometimes struggle to get to sleep anyway so no big deal.  Hopefully tonight will be better.

8am (37 hours): Feeling slightly snappy, but nothing major.  Woke up with gut ache but that passed once I got up. Had a warm cup of lemon and water and that made me feel loads better.

10am (39 hours): I’ve been thinking about food a lot. But when I really think about it, I am always thinking about food.  Food is no longer something to sustain our bodies; it has become a form of entertainment.  I think my snappy-ness is due to being annoyed that I’m not having food, even though I’m not hungry! This makes no sense!

2pm (43 hours): Terry said his tummy feels empty and he’s never felt that before.  I find that odd – I get hunger pangs every day, even when not fasting! I read something about the feeling of True Hunger today, which apparently is felt in your mouth and throat, not your stomach, and that is a sign that you need to eat. Apparently the hunger you feel in your tum (and head) is a “toxic hunger’, not true hunger and is a result of…

“…detoxification and withdrawal from an unhealthy diet, lacking in crucial micronutrients.”

Linda Carney, MD, 2013

3pm (44 hours): I felt a little bloated earlier today – not sure why as I haven’t eaten.  Maybe it’s the gut bacteria demonstrating!  Focus has been really good this afternoon but the hunger pangs have come back. I want to stay busy and doing stuff because otherwise it means thinking about food, but I am flagging a little and feel I need to go lie down.

5pm (46 hours): Feel tired and hungry and just want to go to bed.  I think this is probably the last of the glycogen stores being used up. I really don’t think a run will be happening tonight.  I feel like having a coffee to perk me up but at this time of night it will affect my sleep later.

6pm (47 hours): I’ve realised how much time I spend preparing meals and cleaning up the kitchen – I literally don’t know what to do with all the spare time I have! I’m really up and down this evening.  Feeling a bit spaced, hungry, then feel ok and weirdly energetic in my mind but also tired.  Using the focus to get some stuff done – ALL OVER my life admin!!!

I read this article earlier and it made me giggle – when finishing a fast you need to be careful that you don’t overload your system and end up with refeeding syndrome (apparently experienced by David Blaine when he did his 44 day fast)… anyway, the guy who wrote the article had reached day 5 and he was taking it carefully the evening of breaking the fast. He said….

“I ate nuts since they’re very low glycemic and they’re fat, which won’t spike my insulin and won’t be hard on my kidneys or gut. They’re also a good source of Magnesium, which is one of the mineral deficiencies that leads to refeeding syndrome. I threw in some Potassium and Phosphate supplements as well.

I did that at 6pm…

Then at 8pm I said screw it, ordered Taiwanese food, drank a beer, then had some wine while writing this article.”

Made me chuckle…. I’m already planning Friday evening’s meal (and wine)!

10pm (51 hours): Off to bed. I feel I could sleep for a week but wouldn’t be surprised if I don’t sleep at all. 

 

Fasting Day One

Our starting weight on Monday morning:

  • Terry: 80.9kg
  • Jolene: 62kg

I’ve also got some measurements but I’m not sharing, I’ll just give the end results.  62kg is the most I’ve ever weighed.  I’ve been running every day for the last two weeks and it seems to be doing bugger all!

Summary: This was a day of ups and downs.  I was looking forward to the challenge and the hunger wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be – the early afternoon was the worst part. I just realise I like the sensation of eating.

11am (16 hours):  Some days I don’t have anything to eat until around now, so tummy is starting to remind me it wants feeding.  Better get some water down me!

1pm (18 hours): Now I want something to eat and feeling a bit grouchy. Phoning the bank to sort out their incompetance has been …rather trying!! I struggle to keep my temper when I experience crap customer service even when I’m not hungry!

2pm (19 hours): Terry reported acetone flavour (like smell of nail varnish remover) in his mouth for a brief moment.  In theory, that’s the start of ketosis, where the body starts to use fat for energy, but seems a little early for that!

3pm (20 hours): Fasting and studying do not work together.  I feel distracted and my mind is wandering from one thing to another. I don’t actually feel that hungry.  I thought I’d have another coffee but now I have a weird fuzzy headache and starting to feel a bit crap, so going for a lie down (lucky I don’t work Mondays and Tuesdays).

4pm (21 hours): How weird; I feel fine again.  I’m thinking the caffeine does not agree with an empty tummy, so best avoid it.  Getting on with my Mendelian Inheritance assignment!

6pm (23 hours): Thinking about food and getting the empty belly feeling again.  I’m SOOOO over water right now!

8.30pm (25.5 hours): Just back from evening exercise.  Feeling a bit spaced and thinking I might make up a fasting diet allowing wine. I think it would be popular, albeit wrong!

10pm (27 hours): Off to bed. It’s good to be at a time of day that doesn’t involve food! Night all!

See Day Two

 

 

Date and Pecan Muffins

  • No Grain or Gluten
  • No ‘Free Sugar’

These muffins have an amazing taste and texture!

I don’t like the phrase ‘sugar free’ when recipes still contain natural sugar ingredients. It’s important to know what sugar we need to limit in our diet to only 25g a day – free sugar.

Free sugar is defined by the World Health Organisation as follows;

‘Free sugars include monosaccharides and disaccharides added to foods and beverages by the manufacturer, cook or consumer, and sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates’

So, the sugar in these muffins is NOT free sugar (this is good!), and will be easily digested by people with compromised digestive systems. Also, it’s important to recognise the nutrition content of ingredients in food; bananas and dates in these muffins will provide important vitamins and minerals that you won’t get from free sugars.

Make sure your bananas have black spots – this means they are ripe and the starch has turned to sugar.  My bananas were so ripe they were black (and fermenting, judging by the slightly alcoholic smell of the mix).

Serve with your favourite nut butter or a big dollop of natural yogurt.

Ingredients:

Makes 12 muffins

  • 2 cups ground almonds
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup pecans (you can use walnuts), chopped/crushed
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 1 cup chopped dates
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees (160 fan oven).
  2. In a large bowl, combine ground almonds, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and pecans.
  3. In a food processor, combine dates, bananas, eggs and oil.
  4. Combine the dry and wet mixtures
  5. Spoon mixture into muffin tins lined with paper cases – fill to the top (I didn’t).
  6. Top with banana slices and chia seeds (exclude for SCD).
  7. Bake for  25 minutes – toothpick should come out clean.

A New Chapter

Last November I was asked to become an admin on the UK Specific Carbohydrate Diet group that I had joined.  It is a great privilege to use my knowledge of SCD to help people, who are desperately ill, regain good health once more.

I realised how much I not only enjoy helping people, but how much I enjoyed researching functions such as how our body processes lactose; I spent hours researching so that I could provide a simple answer to a question.

So, back in January I decided I needed to do something with this passion; I decided to start studying biology, chemistry and physics (again), so I can enrol on (another) science degree, but this time in nutrition science, instead of geology!

I started off thinking that the link between chronic disease and nutrition is where I wanted to focus, however, I am developing a new interest in the link between nutrition, and neurological and behavioural issues; either directly caused by bad nutrition, or made worse by bad nutrition. Depression, autism, Aspergers, ADHD, ODD, and old age issues such as Alzheimers could be impacted by what we eat (or what we don’t eat)!

Now, I don’t think that all disorders, such as autism and aspergers, are caused by bad nutrition but diet can have a huge impact on symptoms.  There is an undisputed link between our gut and our brain – what we eat, impacts our gut flora, which affects brain activity,  so it follows…

…what we eat impacts how we feel and how we think.

Children on the autism spectrum often suffer from gastrointestinal issues. I spoke with a mother of a girl who has aspergers, and she told me how her daughter struggled to read, but after 6 months on SCD she is now ‘devouring’ books.  This isn’t coincidence; many parents of children on the autism spectrum use SCD or other diets to alleviate some of the behavioural and intestinal symptoms experienced by their children.

Links between depression and food have been researched to death, and there is clear evidence that mood and outlook can be altered by introducing certain foods.

There are countless studies that have looked at effects of increased nutrition on the behaviour of children and adults; Health Benefits of DHA and Effects of nutritional supplements on ADHD for example.

The problems are obvious…

…the diet of the general population is terrible.

Public Health England’s survey (2014) into National Diet and Nutrition indicates;

  • Children under 18 are consuming more than 3 times the recommended allowance of free sugars (sugar added to food and drinks), and adults are consuming twice the amount.
  • On average, under 24% of adults and only 8% of children manage ‘5 a day’ of fruit and vegetables.
  • Oily fish consumption is pathetic; of the 170g single portion we should be having as a minimum each week, children are eating maximum of 29g  which basically equates to one portion every couple of months, and adults are eating 87g a week.

So what can we do?

It’s not a surprise we are seeing increasing rates of Alzheimers, depression and behaviour disorders when our diet is so poor.  Whilst we wait for a mass awakening of the general population, all we can do is read the labels, think about what we are buying, be conscious about what we are eating and try to feed our families good nutritious food.

Educate yourselves about nutrition and teach your kids how to cook; you will be giving your whole family the best chance for a long and happy life.

If you want to read a little more on this subject, please read this paper on the links between diet and behaviour.

SCD Lifestyle

About a month ago I realised I was waking up nearly every morning feeling terrible again – pain in my abdomen mostly.  So I decided to start on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) AGAIN!  It has been a feature in my life for the last 14 years.

I joined a Facebook group for the diet, one run from the USA (SCD Group).  However, I found the USA group focussed a lot on whether or not they could eat certain packaged foods, which for us in the UK was a non-issue.  In the UK we have strict labelling laws where the producer must list everything that has gone into making the product, whereas in the US things are added and not labelled.  A huge number of the members hadn’t even heard about the Breaking the Vicious Cycle book which I found quite frustrating – I know it’s my issue but I don’t understand how someone can plan to go on a diet and not have done their research! In addition, I noticed that a lot of the posts in the US group were just about finding ‘legal’ ways to recreate the bad food that probably contributed to them having IBD in the first place; pizza, cakes and breads, and identifying supplements that could help them.  For me, this is so far away from the point of SCD.  The diet is trying to bring people back to eating proper wholesome foods and getting nourishment from that food, and some people seem to miss that point.

After about a week, a notice went up from one of the members to say he was starting a UK group – this was great news!

The UK group (UKSCD) started up and I joined immediately. The atmosphere is totally different to the US group – more like a family.  We don’t have the issue with labelling, so most of the time is spent providing support and encouragement to those starting out, or going through a bad patch, figuring out whether a mystery ingredient is legal or not, and swapping recipes for what I consider normal wholesome food.

A month on, and I’m still feeling motivated to continue with this diet.  I think being part of a group of people that help each other, motivates me.  I can’t help and advise people if I am not walking the talk, so I need to be strong.

I will admit that I am not 100% strict.  If I’m out with friends then I’m happy to go with the flow if there isn’t a good alternative.  I make the conscious decision to deal with the consequences, and until recently that worked out fine.  However, last weekend consisted of three nights pushing the boundaries and now I’m paying the price.  The interesting thing is that I am feeling the effects in a much more intense way than I did before.  It seems my body has decided it really doesn’t want this bad food and is really letting me know.

Insane in the membrane…

‘Breaking the Vicious Cycle’ is an amazing book.  My all time favourite. It’s the only thing that helped me recover from IBD, and I still refer back to it to this day.  Reading it again this week, I’m reminded of the link made between food and our mental health.

LET ME EXPLAIN…

In simplistic terms, the book suggests that Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) such as Crohns and Ulcerative Colitis, is caused by an overgrowth of bacteria in the colon.  This bacteria feeds on carbohydrate that the body can’t absorb, mainly because the high levels of bacteria damage the gut and cause malabsorption issues – causing a vicious cycle of more carbohydrate ,and thus bacteria, building in the gut.  Ergo, the title of the book ‘breaking the VICIOUS CYCLE‘.

The solution?  Limit carbohydrate intake; if you starve the overgrowth of bacteria, balance is restored.  Read this article – it’s more than just theory.  For some people, damage to the gut is so severe that recovery is sadly not possible.

OK, GET TO THE POINT….

Whilst the book is mainly concerned with eradicating inflammation in the colon, it touches on mental health disorders impacted by, and in some cases possibly caused by, intestinal issues resulting from high carbohydrate diets.

For the record, all carbohydrates are not bad.  Carbohydrate is necessary for our health, and is contained in various quantities in most of our food, including fruit and vegetables.  However, high intake of carbohydrates, typically the type found in processed foods, can cause bacterial overgrowth and it’s thought that the resulting toxicity from the bacterial overgrowth may cause or contribute to mental health disorders such as depression and schizophrenia.

A three part paper on the topic can be found here if you want to read and understand more.

CONSPIRACY!

There are scholarly articles all over the internet, but I haven’t seen anything in mainstream media about this.  Call me paranoid, but I imagine a lot of money is made by pharmaceutical companies on drugs for depression, and if it was possible for people to treat debilitating depression with a diet, well… it doesn’t take a genius to do the math!

 

Sugar Coated Lies

Some of you may have read my previous ‘rants’ about sugar and fat.  Well, an article in yesterday’s New York Times has ‘outed’ the conspiracy that has made generations believe that saturated fat in food makes you overweight (and obese) and causes heart disease.

In summary, the article indicates that during the 1960s scientists were paid to play down the link between sugar and heart disease, and instead point their chubby finger at saturated fat.  This happened in a time when it wasn’t necessary to disclose sources of financial funding – if anyone had looked into it, they would have been surprised (SURPRISE!!) that the studies were financed by The Sugar Research Foundation (now called the Sugar Association).

The article in the New York Times also refers to a 2015 article where more recently Coca Cola are accused of providing millions dollars in funding to those research scientists who play down links between sugar and obesity!  (Clearly, it’s the business to be in!)

So, where does this leave us?  I refer you back to my previous blog ‘ Big Fat Lies!’ and the huge amount of well researched, scholarly articles out there on the internet.

One area that I find very interesting, and I don’t see/hear much about it, is the link between sugar and mental health.  It’s quite a complex relationship, as it’s related to intestinal issues, but it’s something I want to try to tackle here at some point.