Contributor: Nikko Miyatake
When people think of the word fasting, perhaps their stomach begins to churn and they think "you've got to be crazy to go without food for x amount of days, why would anyone starve themselves?" I think that for a lot of people, fasting is something that is so far out of their sphere that they do not bother with it at all. Perhaps they reserve it for the spiritual people or crazy health fanatics, but the truth is that any one can fast and you can take baby steps too. Intermittent fasting (IF) has become quite popular recently. To get your foot in the door of the fasting world, all you have to do is skip breakfast. Just have coffee or tea instead. Fasting is natures purest and most simple way to heal. Are you sick? give not eating a try. It's amazing how the body knows exactly what to do with itself when you put nothing in it. You give your body a rest from processing food all the time (which takes up about 20-30% of the bodies energy) and then it starts to restore and heal it self from the inside out, doing all the things it would normally not be able to do because it's busy digesting food all the time. It's always an inside job, ins't it?
In this post my aim is to share with you my experiences while fasting, what it has done for me, and some of my own opinions about it, having some experience fasting. I have completed an 11 day distilled water fast, I've practiced (IF) for a total of 6 months, and I'm on day 2 of 7 of another distilled water fast that is less strict than the 11 day distilled water fast in the sense that I'm experimenting more with different cleansing protocols, whereas the 11 day fast was strictly water. I think that when people decide to fast, it's a statement to yourself that says "I'm ready for more" and in that, you can create change for yourself. Fasting has many benefits across the board.
here is a list of just a few benefits
- induces a state of ketosis which is an adapted metabolic state where your body begins to mobilize fat and break it down into ketones for energy juxtaposed with glycolysis, the bodies innate way of creating energy through the breakdown of sugar.
- stimulates the production of neurotrophic factors such as BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor) and FGF (fibroblast growth factor) which promote the growth of; axons and dendrites, the formation and strengthening of synapses, and the production of new neurons.
- improves energy metabolism in neurons
- enhances ability of neurons to cope with stress
- helps repair DNA
- helps prevent certain diseases
Here's what I noticed after my first ever 11 day fast
- my nervous system felt "different". I was able to change my body composition at a faster and easier rate then before. I became more sensitive/aware of certain stimuli, i.e. sound, smell, and my own thoughts.
- my relationship with food changed drastically. Every time I eat now, I have a lurking voice in the back of my head that says "are you hungry or are they hungry?" "They" being the bacteria that live in our guts! (another topic I'll touch on later)
- raised the bar of the quality of food that I was eating. It became difficult to eat bad food and feel good.
- expansion of awareness. It made me more conscious of myself and my actions.
- a sense of empowerment. If I can not only survive, but function to some extent while ingesting nothing but water, what else is possible?
- awareness of how different foods effect my body and feeling of well being.
- I naturally stopped eating meat (I occasionally eat fish, a food that I grew up eating, about once a month)
- I began to ponder thoughts like; what if less is more? Is it possible to solve problems by subtracting things, therefore creating more space . . . for. . . more of who you are and what you really want. Which would ultimately make things more simple.
- I craved different foods and foods that I used to think tasted good no longer did.
I am currently on day 2 of a 7 day distilled water fast. Having completed an 11 day fast, I know that I experience the most turbulence on days 2-4 and days 9-11. As of right now, I feel great. There are definite ups and downs throughout the day. Upon waking, I feel rather stiff and weak and I find that with a bit of stretching and very light exercise, I can bring my body out of this state quite easily. Do I crave food? not yet. I may as time passes, but I actually enjoy knowing that I don't have to buy or make food for the next 5 days, however, when my mind does daydream about eating, I quickly direct my focus away from food as to not crave it, which works the majority of the time.
Another important thing to know about fasting is to know how it affects our G.I. system. We are mostly bacteria. Our bacterial cells outnumber our human cells 10:1. These friendly bacteria (some are not so friendly) are called our normal flora. In a perfect world, we would have a symbiotic relationship with all bacteria within us, however, I believe that it is not so in todays world. It's not uncommon to suffer from some type of gut issue. Whether it be someone eating to much or too little, parasitic infections, candida and yeast overgrowth, sugar cravings, irritable bowel syndrome and so on. Fasting can help with a lot of these ailments, if not all. I've done some traveling and during a 6 month stay in Guatemala I contracted what I believed to be amebas, an unfriendly bacteria that kept me from eating for 3 days and had my rear end spouting like a fire hydrant. This leads me to the next topic of terrain modification.
I like to imagine my gut as a living, thriving eco system full of different bacteria. Nerdy, I know. It's like the microcosm of the macrocosm. The bacteria are the microcosm of humans, the humans are the microcosm of Earth. And it is up to us to take care of it. Now there seems to be a general phenomena where there is a delicate balance of good and bad, and within that, if the good outnumber the bad, it is likely that the good will grow and prosper even more so as to make the bad very, very small and vice versa. Now in applying this same idea to our guts and the bacteria that live within them, we can observe what kind of bacteria lie within (friendly or unfriendly) by paying attention to what kind of foods we eat, how we go about eating our food, what our cravings are and so forth. Here's the tricky part. Our mind and gut are super interconnected so it's hard to tell if we are actually hungry and needing food, or if those guys in our gut just want some sugar..... the G.I. system has roughly the same amount of nerve endings as does our brain which is why the gut has been called the second brain. So when we fast, we starve the bacteria that live inside our stomach and we begin to dissassociate with food. We can then change the food we crave, shift our taste buds, and terrain modify the walls of the stomach based on the food that we eat after the fast. Probiotic, live, raw foods are ideal post fast, but you also don't want to rush back into eating. Take your time. Have juices or smoothies for a couple days, then light soups, then solid foods. And really, this is just one rabbit whole of fasting. You can fast to become more spiritual, or to simply get out of reality for a bit and come back to your center, or to gain a new perspective on, well, anything. Fasting is potent medicine. It's not all that hard. You won't be lying around in a bed all day long daydreaming about big macs and ice cream, unless your into torturing yourself. Fasting for me is a fun experiment to find out what works and what doesn't. I also believe that doing an extended fast is the ultimate culminating experience of body, mind, and spirit.
Hmmm, crazy right. What would you do with those bits of extra time and money if you didn't have to eat three meals a day? There's only one way to find out!