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- Intermittent fasting offers benefits for cleansing, detoxification, metabolic health, cognitive function, and overall healing from Lyme and other chronic illnesses.
- When fasting, our bodies enter into a state of cleansing, repair, and detoxification. When we eat frequently, we don’t give our bodies enough time to really get into this cleansing state and help us heal.
- An easy way to implement an intermittent fasting routine is to extend the overnight period we all spend fasting anyways by eating dinner earlier and/or foregoing the morning meal.
- Giving our bodies time to concentrate on repairing damaged cells and detoxifying is essential for healing.
- We have two phases: the building phase which takes place when we’re eating, and the cleansing phase which takes place when we’re fasting.
- During an extended cleansing phase, autophagy (“self-eating”) kicks in, and our bodies eat and recycle old, dead, and damaged cells, and help us to build new ones.
- When we’re fasting for long enough, we start to burn fat for fuel instead of sugar. We do this by creating ketones, which are a cleaner and more efficient energy source for our bodies.
- Intermittent fasting allows us to dedicate more energy to healing, repair, and tissue regeneration, as we are not using as much energy for digestion.
- Intermittent fasting allows the immune system to become more efficient, and reduces levels of systemic inflammation.
- Intermittent fasting helps to improve many neurological symptoms associated with Lyme disease.
- There are many different options and schedules for intermittent fasting. Beginners can start with a 12 hour overnight fast, and work up to a 16 hour fasting routine 2-3 times per week.
- It’s important to drink lots of water when fasting, and ensure adequate mineral intake.
- Make sure to eat quality foods both on and off fasting days to support the body through the healing process.
- Listen to your body when beginning a fasting protocol, and don’t push yourself too hard all at once.
- For more in depth guidance on Lyme recovery, sign up for my at-home Lyme disease program or apply for one-on-one coaching.
INTERMITTENT FASTING FOR LYME DISEASE: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW
Intermittent fasting has been a hot topic in health and wellness lately as well as the focus of lots of research, and with good reason 1 2. Although it may seem like a new trend, fasting is far from being a new concept for our species (it actually mirrors the way our ancestors used to eat), and intentional, intermittent fasting has a number of benefits when it comes to cleansing, detoxification, metabolic health, neuroprotection, and healing from Lyme.
Some people may shy away from the idea of fasting at first, as the thought of foregoing food can be daunting, but it’s actually relatively easy to incorporate a regular, sustainable fasting routine into your healing protocol and lifestyle.
Our bodies are constantly working. But when we’re fasting, our bodies behave differently and have different jobs than they do when we’re eating (or have recently eaten). When we’re fasting, our bodies enter into a state of cleansing and repair that is essential for health and healing. The trouble is that these days, many of us are eating around the clock, and we aren’t giving our systems enough time to really get into that cleansing state. We can think of it as the difference between tidying up in a hurry before guests come to visit, sweeping dirt under the rug, making everything look relatively presentable on the surface, and a true, deep clean.
A popular method of fasting, and one that is likely to be achievable and sustainable for most people, involves extending the period of fasting that we already undergo when we’re sleeping. This may be done by eating an earlier dinner (and not eating anything else before bed), or eating the first meal later in the day. Ideally, with this type of protocol, we are fasting for at least 16 hours, and doing all of our eating within an 8 hour window. For example, we might have a meal at 12 PM and then another at 8 PM, and then consume nothing but water until 12 PM the next day. This type of schedule is easy enough to get used to, and if you do this a few times a week, you are likely to see major benefits!
When it comes to Lyme, the importance of cleansing, repairing, and detoxifying cannot be stressed enough. And if you’re already taking a number of steps to achieve this, implementing a fasting routine is a great way to enhance your healing.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Many experts and researchers believe that our societal habits of eating freely at all hours of the day are a major contributing factor to chronic illness 3 4. It’s important to remember when considering intermittent fasting that the approach is not centered around eating less but around eating less often. It’s about when we eat more than what we eat, although the quality of food that we consume during our eating window does, of course, make a huge difference as well.
Intermittent fasting gives our bodies the time to concentrate on repairing damaged cells and reducing oxidative stress, a huge driver of chronic disease and a hindrance to Lyme recovery.
We essentially have two phases: the building phase, when we’re eating (and making use of nutrients), and the cleansing phase, when we’re fasting. One of the most amazing processes that we undergo during the cleansing phase is autophagy, which literally means “self-eating” 5. The body searches itself for old, dead, and damaged cells, and clears them out by eating and recycling them. This leads to a reduction in toxins, pathogens, and inflammation, and an increase in energy and tissue protection, as well as an overall internal environment that is more conducive to healing. The process of autophagy really kicks in with a longer (ideally 16 hour) fast. It really is extraordinary to think about the ways that the body can heal itself with a little bit of support from us.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?
One of the most important benefits of intermittent fasting is that it enhances the body’s natural ability to cope, adapt, and keep us strong. Fasting allows us to use our energy in more efficient ways, which is especially crucial when we are battling or recovering from illness.
Our bodies usually use sugar for energy. But when we’ve been fasting for long enough that we run out of sugar stores, we start to burn fat for energy instead, using a byproduct of fat called ketones. Ketones are actually a much more efficient and cleaner source of energy, and entering into this state is one of the biggest benefits of fasting. When we use ketones instead of glucose, we produce significantly more cellular energy, and less inflammation.
Fasting offers benefits when it comes to not only how we produce energy but also how we use it. Everything we do requires energy. This is true in our lives and in our bodies. Digestion is a process that demands a lot of energy, and taking a break from eating gives us the chance to conserve that energy or use it in different ways (for tissue regeneration and immune system function, for example). Taking a break from digestion also lessens the overall burden on our immune system, whose workload in protecting us from viruses, pathogens, allergens, toxins, and disease is pretty heavy!
Intermittent fasting can help make your immune system overall more efficient and effective, which is critical for recovery from Lyme. Not only is it allowing the body to dedicate more time and energy to immune regulation, fasting helps to regenerate the immune system, clearing away unhelpful cells and replacing them with better ones.
A key component to healing from Lyme, or any chronic illness, is reducing inflammation in the body. Fasting helps to reduce inflammation in a number of ways 6. Allowing our bodies the time and energy to focus on detoxification and repair on a cellular level is one way, and we’re also limiting the inflammation caused by eating! Digestion itself actually creates inflammation. A healthier diet made up of fresh, whole foods certainly creates less inflammation than a diet higher in sugary, fried, and/or processed foods, but the process of digestion always stimulates some.
Fasting enhances our ability to detoxify, which is SO important when we consider the volume of toxins we are all exposed to on a daily basis, especially when we’re trying to eradicate Lyme. Regular fasting offers sustainable benefits in this area, meaning that our ability to detoxify even during our eating phase is likely to improve.
Intermittent fasting leads to an increase in Human Growth Hormone (HGH) 7, which stimulates tissue repair, combats inflammation, and encourages efficient energy use. Higher levels of HGH also help to counterbalance insulin levels, and improve insulin sensitivity.
Intermittent fasting may improve many neurological symptoms associated with Lyme, including brain fog and forgetfulness, as it stimulates and promotes the growth of new brain cells and helps to protect existing neurons.
Studies have also shown that fasting improves cognitive function 8, and may reduce the risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia later in life.
Intermittent fasting is also becoming more and more popular for autoimmune diseases, many of which can be drastically improved with a regular fasting protocol, as it helps to regulate immune function and reduce inflammation 9 10.
If all of that isn’t enough, intermittent fasting also helps to regulate cholesterol, stabilize blood sugar, reduce risk of heart disease and cancer, aid in weight loss, and can even help us live longer.
Many people find that when fasting, they feel better not only physically but also emotionally and mentally. When our bodies are able to cleanse, repair, rejuvenate, and achieve balance, we are often able to achieve emotional balance, too.
INTERMITTENT FASTING FOR LYME DISEASE
There’s actually a reason why we often lose our appetite when we get sick: our bodies realize that they need to dedicate extra energy and resources to helping us heal, and that they can’t be bogged down by digestion for a little while. This is a key rationale behind fasting for Lyme and chronic illness: when we fast, we free up energy that can then be dedicated to healing and recovery (instead of digestion), and we give ourselves the time to fully cleanse and repair.
There are so many avenues when it comes to Lyme treatment, and it can be overwhelming. You probably know how important it is to detoxify and cleanse, but if the body is in a state of overwhelm or exhaustion, it’s harder for detoxifying and cleansing treatments to take effect. This is where intermittent fasting can come in, as it enhances our internal ability to detoxify, cleanse, and repair, and affords us the time and energy to do so. When added to a protocol, it may help to make other detoxifying treatments even more effective by priming the body to respond better. This can lead to a faster and more complete recovery.
Inflammation is behind many Lyme symptoms, and hinders our ability to fight and recover from illness. This is one of the biggest reasons why fasting is recommended for those suffering from chronic illnesses in general, and why it can be so helpful for those with Lyme, as it reduces systemic inflammation 11 12.
Fasting helps us to regenerate stem cells, repair and replace damaged tissue, and restore overall health and vitality.
As fasting works to clear toxins from the body, improvements may be seen in many Lyme symptoms including migraines, brain fog, and chronic pain.
CREATING YOUR OWN FASTING ROUTINE
There are a number of different fasting schedules and options out there, and the strategy that works best for one person may not work for another. At the end of the day, you know your body best, and need to listen to it to see what’s working for you and what isn’t. That said, it can take a few tries to really adjust to a fasting routine and feel comfortable with it, so try not to give up after the first day!
Intermittent fasting may refer to periods of 12, 16, 24, or even 36 hours without eating. Some people also opt for longer, several day water or juice fasts. When you’re new to fasting, it’s a good idea to start small, and work your way up to a routine that you feel comfortable with.
Most of the healing benefits of fasting can be achieved with a regular 16 hour fast, and there is no need to push yourself too far past that if you don’t want to. However, if you do start to get really comfortable with this duration and want to explore longer fasting options, you can!
For now, we will focus on fasting routines that are more achievable and manageable for those who are just starting out. With any fasting routine, it’s best to do it at least 2-3 times per week to really retrain the body to adapt and heal, and for benefits to be long lasting and sustainable. This is another reason why it’s important to choose a schedule or routine that is manageable for you.
A good beginner’s option for fasting is to extend the overnight fasting period so that you’re not eating for 12 hours. So, finish dinner by 7 or 8 PM, and don’t eat again until breakfast at 7 or 8 AM. The only real change here for most people is eliminating any snacking after dinner. This is a good way to begin to build up a fasting habit, and will allow for proper digestion and better detoxification, but a 12 hour fast will not produce all of the benefits that a longer fast will, such as autophagy and using ketones as fuel.
A popular fasting option and probably the best for most people is the “16/8” fast (fasting for 16 hours, with an 8 hour eating window). 16 hours is long enough to get the major restorative benefits of fasting, but not so long that it becomes too burdensome to sustain. Just like with the 12 hour fast, the best way to do this is to extend the overnight fasting period. Many people find it easiest to achieve this by skipping the early morning meal and eating the first food of the day around 12 PM. A second meal can be finished by 8 PM, and then just water until noon the following day. If you can follow this routine 3 times a week, you are likely to experience all kinds of benefits and enhanced healing!
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
There are a number of different things to consider when beginning a fasting routine, and it’s important to be as knowledgeable and prepared as possible. Here are our answers to some of the most common questions about fasting:
HOW CAN I BEST PREPARE FOR FASTING?
Before implementing a fasting protocol, it’s important to take a good look at your diet and make sure that your food choices are conducive to a healthy and successful fast. Reducing intake of sugar, grains, and starches– and, if you haven’t already, eliminating processed foods– will help to ensure that your blood sugar is stable enough to withstand fasting. In addition to reducing intake of sugar, grains, and starches, it’s wise to increase your intake of healthy fats (avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, etc) and clean protein. Take as much time as you need to make and get comfortable with these dietary changes before jumping into fasting.
WHAT SHOULD I EAT WHEN I’M NOT FASTING?
Food choices are crucial when fasting! Your eating window during a fast shouldn’t be seen as a free-for-all where you’re consuming anything and everything for 8 hours. Center your diet around healthy fats, clean and organic sources of protein, and vegetables (ideally organic), and make sure that you are breaking your fast with a nutritious, well-balanced meal. Eating processed foods, sugar, or pesticide-sprayed foods and non-organic meats can undo a lot of the positive work that your body has been doing while fasting.
To achieve all of the benefits of fasting, it’s also a good idea to stick to two meals during your eating window, and avoid snacking.
It’s also important to ensure adequate mineral intake during periods of fasting, particularly magnesium. You may want to speak with your practitioner or health coach about supplementation as needed.
WHAT ABOUT WATER?
Make sure to drink lots of water while fasting! It’s crucial to drink at least a glass or two of water when you first wake up in order to enhance cleansing. This will also help to reduce hunger if you are foregoing or delaying breakfast as part of your routine. Continue drinking lots of water during your fasting period, either by itself or with lemon, apple cider vinegar, or as herbal tea.
WHAT ARE THE OPTIONS FOR LONGER FASTS?
There are options out there for longer fasts that allow green juices and other liquids, and may last fast for up to 3 days, or sometimes even longer. These options offer many benefits and therapeutic effects, and may be explored once you’ve become comfortable with intermittent fasting. Fasting routines that involve consuming only water and bone broth for several days are also increasing in popularity, and can be incredible for detoxification, healing, and energy production, however, bone broth fasts do not offer the autophagy benefits of other fasting protocols.
ARE THERE SIDE EFFECTS?
Intermittent fasting may take a bit of getting used to in the beginning, but doesn’t tend to cause side effects. If you do find yourself feeling weak, dizzy, irritable, or getting headaches, you may need to do some work on stabilizing your blood sugar, which can often be achieved by improving the quality of your diet as described above. As always, listen to your body, and don’t push yourself too hard if you’re not feeling well with your fasting routine. You may just need to start smaller and work your way up more slowly.
IS THERE ANYONE WHO SHOULDN’T FAST?
Intermittent fasting is not recommended for breastfeeding or pregnant women. Fasting may also not be the best option for people with certain illnesses or who take certain medications, and should be discussed with a practitioner. Those who have diabetes or hypoglycemia in particular should speak with a doctor before attempting a fasting protocol.
Remember that the fasting protocol that works best for you, and the speed at which you begin to notice it helping you, depend on a number of factors including your individual body chemistry, lifestyle, and where you are in your recovery process.
Fasting can accelerate healing by enhancing cleansing, detoxification, brain function, and energy efficiency, and reducing inflammation. Intermittent fasting is best viewed as a sustainable, long-term lifestyle change, and as such it should be approached slowly and carefully, while listening to your body. This is the best way to allow yourself to find balance, restoration, and healing through fasting!
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