There is currently a lot of attention being directed towards the practice of Intermittent Fasting. Both medical/scientific investigation, and the health and longevity community are finding many positive outcomes from this lifestyle choice.
A recent review article in the “New England Journal of Medicine”, titled “Effects of Intermittent Fasting on Health, Aging and Disease”1 reviews the scientific research currently available on intermittent fasting, and comes to some very positive conclusions about the practice. It states that, ‘preclinical studies and clinical trials have shown that intermittent fasting has broad-spectrum benefits for many health conditions, such as obesity, diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease, cancers and neurological disorders.” It explains how this is achieved as follows; “intermittent fasting elicits evolutionarily conserved, adaptive cellular responses that are integrated between and within organs in a manner that improves glucose regulation, increases stress resistance, and suppresses inflammation. During fasting, cells activate pathways that enhance intrinsic defences against oxidative and metabolic stress and those that remove or repair damaged molecules.”
Fasting has been a part of our human tradition for all of our evolution, and to this day fasting is still a ritualised practice in several of the World’s major religions. For most of Human history we have evolved as a species enduring either ‘feast or famine’ like eating habits. Generally, food was never abundant, and we have biologically evolved to eat as much as we can when food was available, and to be able to function and endure during times when food was not readily available. To do this, we have developed the biological processors of being able to store excessive calories as fat tissue in our bodies. We are able to then slowly draw on this energy source if we endure a period of insufficient caloric intake, or fasting.
This process has enabled us to endure and survive as a species, but it has also led to the modern epidemic of obesity and all of its associated health issues. Generally we all consume more calories than we actually utilise, and therefore are potentially constantly storing calories for that famine that will never come.
Considering this evolutionary reality, our digestive function was never built to be processing food constantly. This is what our modern, abundant lifestyles are demanding of our gut. In Chinese medical understanding, it is the energy of the Spleen and Stomach that is the powerhouse of the digestive function. This constant burden on the Spleen and Stomach to be digesting food during most of a 24 hour period creates deficiencies and imbalances in the system that negatively effects many area of our health and wellbeing.
We are therefore burning up excessive amounts of our body’s resources in constantly digesting food. This then limits the amount of resources our body has at its disposal for repair and rejuvenation. It is believed that this is a contributing factor in many chronic disease states, including inflammatory conditions, auto-immune issues and cancers.
Intermittent fasting is something I have been personally practicing for the past 1.5 years and have gained fantastic results from it. My weight has been extremely stable and within my healthy range, my energy levels (Qi in Chinese medicine) have been amazingly clear and consistent throughout every day, I have felt any inflammation from physical activity (martial arts) has been reduced, and I have enjoyed consistently high mental energy and clarity.
For the sake of this blog let me clarify what I mean by intermittent fasting, and how I have undertaken this practice. In this instance, I would be more specific to refer to what I have been doing as “time-restricted eating”, although intermittent fasting is starting to become a blanket term used in the media to describe several “fasting” protocols.
I’ve been practising time-restricted eating roughly in the 16/8 range. This means that I consume all the food for the day within an 8 hour window (12pm-8pm), and I’m in a fasting mode (not eating for 16 hours (8pm-12pm). In fact, I’ve moved more towards a 17/7 scenario, as I mostly now eat my lunch at 1pm.
To achieve this, I don’t eat breakfast, and only consume 1-2 black coffees and drinking water from the time I wake until lunch at 12.30-1pm.
I slowly transitioned away from breakfast and had to train my blood sugar levels to become accustomed to this. In the beginning I started holding off from eating ‘breakfast’ until about 10am. I would literally feel my blood sugar start to plummet at about 9.30 and was desperate to eat by 10am. This slowly normalised and I started pushing it until 11am. After a period of time acclimatising to this, I started holding off until lunchtime at 12pm. As I mentioned, Lunch time now is closer to 1pm, and I do not ever feel like eating until then.
It took a month or two, but I reached a stage where I wake up now with great energy levels, and they maintain all through the morning until I eat at 12.30-1pm. I often don’t even really feel hungry at this time, and I certainly don’t experience any blood sugar crashes at all.
Based upon my experience with time restricted eating and the growing evidence of its vast benefits upon our health, vitality and longevity, I foresee this as something that I will continue to do into the future. I am starting to now look at implementing a period twice per year where I undergo a longer period of fasting (starting with 1-2 days) which will give my system the ‘space’ to undergo a healthy reset. This will be a topic for a future blog post.
If you are intrigued about fasting and feel it may be of benefit to you generally, or more specifically to assist you in resolving health issues, there is plenty of information available to explore on the internet. If you would like to implement a Chinese medicine-based wellness protocol utilising this powerful technique, or understand how intermittent fasting can aid in resolving a current health issue, please enquire with me at Mornington Chinese Medicine to see how we can assist.
1– de Cabo, R + Mattison, M 2019, ‘Effects of Intermittent Fasting on Health, Aging and Disease’, New England Journal of Medicine, 381, pp. 2541-2551.
Travis Clarke works Monday and Thursday from 9am-2pm & Tuesday and Wednesday from 2pm-8pm.
138 Tanti Avenue, Mornington, VIC
03 5973 6886