THE NEW SCIENCE OF FASTING AS NATURAL MEDICINE
FASTING…hmmmm. That sounds like deprivation, hunger and muscle wasting, not a powerful, natural and holistic medicine approach. But, of all the wonderful music, art, science, and other contributions to our world which have come from Italy, I never expected to be fascinated by the work of a scientist and researcher (bio gerontologist and cell biologist) “known for his studies on the role of starvation and nutrient response genes on cellular protection, aging and diseases, and for proposing that longevity is regulated by similar genes and mechanisms” – Wikipedia
Born in Genoa, Italian-American and PhD Valter Longo has been studying the effects of various levels of starvation and deprivation on the human body for the past 25 years. He has worked in the Blue Zones (where the most Centenarians live) and third world nations, but mostly at University of Southern California. His ideas on fasting– and so many others’–are being tossed into the public domain these days by prominent workout health coaches, the BBC with a new documentary, and M.D.’s turned “natural” (e.g. Dr. Mercola). The subject of all this energy and discussion is both solid science and mysterious-if-not-scary. My curiosity was piqued, and I determined to unmask this thing called Fasting.
HAS NATURAL MEDICINE FOUND THE FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH?
When a modality such as fasting, which costs little or no money (and saves you time AND money), boasts science-backed results such as these, it is intriguing. I think you will want to take a second look too once you read this list:
• For Cardiovascular & Brain Health: Seriously improved cholesterol and insulin profiles
• For Cancer: Increased effectiveness of chemo by 50%, plus significant reduction in side-effects
• Rejuvenation and reboot for the Immune System (for diseases from cancer to psoriasis)
• Rejuvenation/repair for multiple organs in the body (brain, liver, pancreas, etc.). Drum roll please: This is Reverse-aging humans at the cellular level!
• For Diabetes: Banishing Diabetes and related illnesses of Obesity and Cardiovascular Disease
Could it be true that not eating for a while—or eating less calories for a time–allows our physical bodies to rest and repair? Well, it does make sense. Our livers and bladders rarely get to rest. Our hearts are always working on some level—and that’s a good thing! But our pancreas, adrenals, parts of our brain and our digestive and eliminations systems can and should rest more than is typical in American culture. The new science shows when there is rest, there can be repair.
WHAT ABOUT WATER FASTING?
Dr. Mercola has been quite enamored with the results of his 5-day Water Fasting (includes sea salt). His results include more energy, glowing skin and a more resilient, focused brain. However, after interviewing Valter Longo and learning more about his research, Dr. Mercola says he will reduce the frequency of his water fasts. You don’t have to do it so often if you are healthy. However, one of the concerns with pure water fasting is about muscle-mass loss that occurs in 4-5 day (or longer) fasting periods. You will need certain herbs and supplements to really do the longer water fast most effectively. And water fasting (or severe calorie restriction) can backfire. In one study a group of men on a long-term restricted calorie diet got hungry and angry…and they lost muscle mass.
REST AND REPAIR THE NATURAL WAY
Your body is programmed to repair, when given the chance. In fact, with Valter Longo’s protocol, a 5-day “fast” consisting of 800-1100 calories, most calories come from plants and natural oils, and only about 1/3 of the protein commonly consumed by Americans. This 5-day low-calorie fast is followed by a return to a healthy diet. Someone who is sick may want to do this once a month until they are better. Very healthy-lifestyle people may want to do it twice yearly to de-age their bodies. The bottom line here is that, doing this type of fasting on a regular basis produces the same beneficial results as going on a water-only fast! And this method is one more people will actually be able to do. Valter Longo calls it the Fasting Mimicking Diet (FMD).
THE MAGIC IN THE FASTING MIMICKING DIET
Let’s talk about the magic in terms of cancer treatment for a moment. Valter Longo has been working to integrate fasting into the Western “standard of care” (especially with chemotherapy). He argues that, with his research results showing chemo to be 50% more effective when combined with fasting, it is especially hopeful for late-stage, and severe cancers. And he’s making inroads. Read more about this in his new book, The Longevity Diet: Discover the New Science Behind Stem Cell Activation and Regeneration to Slow Aging, Fight Disease and Optimize Weight.
Here’s a high-level overview of how this works (for cancer and in general): A 5-day, low-calorie “starvation” period of 800-1100 calories/day as employed in the Fasting Mimicking Diet triggers old and damaged cell cleanup (in the brain and everywhere). That lower-calorie period also turns on stem cells which are ready and willing to create new, healthy cells. When the person goes back to regular eating, a period Mr. Longo calls “feeding”, the stem cells get busy. The body goes into regeneration and rejuvenation. Results of this research actually have recorded de-aging markers at the cellular level. The mice—and people– got physiologically younger!
Meanwhile in Japan, helping us deepen our understanding of the underlying physiological processes that heal and de-age at the cellular level, Dr. Yoshinori Ohsumi won a Nobel Prize in 2016 for his work in cell recycling. This process is called “autophagy” and it involves the disassembling and recycling of aged and mutated cells, including damaged, mutated DNA. THIS is why it works with cancer, for example. And how do we access this process to activate it? You guessed it. One method to do this—a natural and holistic medicine–is to use the practice of fasting.
CAREFUL: FASTING CAN BE BOTH EFFECTIVE AND DANGEROUS
Food and sleep and proper clothes to protect from the elements: These were deeply revered shrines in my childhood home. I am certain my mother is turning over in her grave. I can hear it now: “What?” she is saying. “You want to skip meals? You aren’t eating enough protein! You’ll get sick!!” That’s a strong belief system, and I’ll bet many of you share it. With today’s science and rather miraculous disease-reversing and reverse-aging results, we should keep an open and curious mind to the data emerging about the science of fasting.
Dr. Jason Fung is a Canadian Nephrologist (kidney specialist) who worked for several years at a large hospital, and continues to work in private practice overseeing diabetics for medically-supervised fasts. His program, described in his book The Complete Guide to Fasting, has completely reversed the insulin resistance in many of his patients. These are people on some serious drugs upon which they rely to keep themselves alive. And yet, his program of Intermittent Fasting (eat some days, don’t eat other days) has had huge success.
Fasting, it seems to me, is dangerous territory for people with serious health conditions and should not be done “on your own”. Indeed there are categories of people and diseases (and stages of life), where fasting may be harmful, or even fatal. The medical and research community says “No fasting” to people with these conditions:
• Pregnant women
• People with kidney or liver disease
• Low body weight/fragile
• Over 70 years old (unless the person is in great health)
AND: Anyone—especially someone with a disease– should consult a doctor before fasting.
SO MANY WAYS TO FAST
The buzz words such as “ketosis”, when the body switches over from using glucose (sugar) for fuel and begins burning fat, and the different fasting methods abound. There are many good ways, and some not-so-good-ways for each of us. Covered in this article were just a few:
• Intermittent Fasting (Dr. Fung’s work).
• The Pure Water Fast which includes sea salt (Dr. Mercola’s favorite).
• Fasting Mimicking. The results of 25 years of research by Valter Longo.
And of course there are many more ways to fast. Which is right for you? We encourage you to do some research on your own.
FASTING AS PART OF A HOLISTIC, NATURAL LIFESTYLE
In my life, I have done the Pure Water Fast and a version of that with broth for 4 days when I was 20 years old and determined to fit into my mother’s wedding dress, which I did. (It was ivory satin-with-an-8’-dragging train). As for me today in my 60’s, I now am very interested in fasting as a part of a natural and holistic lifestyle, not for losing weight or any disease but for general health and aging well.
We plan to use Valter Longo’s method of periodic (every 3 to 6 months) 5-day caloric restriction. The science is there in both human and mice studies. We like that. And, this should be easier for us foodies because we actually get to chew something. I’m sure there will be a fair amount of good-quality water involved too. Here’s to more of us reversing our biological clocks and ridding ourselves of diseases using the new science of fasting!
The Science of Fasting (BBC): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sNdWCZWpjxU
Complete Guide to Fasting, Interview with Dr. Jason Fung https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2016/10/16/complete-guide-fasting.aspx
Dr. Mercola Interviews Valter Longo, PhD: “The Longevity Diet: Discover the New Science Behind Stem Cell Activation & Regeneration to Slow Aging, Fight Disease, and Optimize Weight
2016 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine: Autophagy (Self-Eating Cells)
Deb Martin & Dr. David Martin
And all the Providers at Lotus Blossom Clinic
Serving the Greater Fort Myers area with Natural and Holistic Medicine: Chinese Medicine, Acupuncture, Massage, Science-backed Food as Medicine, Energy Medicine.