Owen Davis | 2 Mar '20
You wouldn’t get your car serviced by a lawyer. You wouldn’t visit your accountant to tailor a suit for you. Nor would you visit a nurse to do your tax return. So why is it that we are taking health advice from those without any qualifications who are jumping on the proverbial bandwagon and following these market-driven diet trends?
Contrary to what social media influencers, bloggers, health gurus and celebrities may claim, intermittent fasting isn’t always good for you. There can be some benefits, however, it is very much dependent upon what is measured and how it is interpreted.
Fasting is synonymous with abstinence, and thus, its origins are very much rooted in religion and spirituality. So deep is this connection, that fasting is enshrined in the scripture of almost all religions. In more recent times, fasting has become synonymous with health retreats or self imposed cycles of abstinence where people forgo their bad habits - smoking, drinking and processed foods. This is often done in an attempt to break a cycle of bad health or provide temporary respite, ‘detox’ from the effects of such behaviours.
Fasting transcended its religious origins and became a permanent part of public discourse. In 2016, scientist, Yoshinori Ohsumi, won a
Nobel Prize in Physiology for his work on the mechanisms underpinning ‘autophagy’. Since then, intermittent fasting, and more specifically,
the process of autophagy have been heralded as the secret to promoting healing and cleansing in the body. The terms frequently crop
up in association with ketogenic and low-carb diets.
Quite simply, autophagy is a process of self eating, a natural detox, where the body cleans out damaged cells and regenerates new ones. Its
relationship with fasting is due to the fact that it activates this process and upregulates the cytochrome P 450 system for
biotransformation. Biotransformation allows the body to convert fat soluble toxins like alcohol to water-soluble form. Fasting (12 hours or
longer) produces small molecular weight compounds that upregulate cytochromes 2E, while depressing the availability of glutathione.
Glutathione is pivotal in protecting us from mercury and other heavy metals, viruses and a wide range of environmental toxins.
Whilst autophagy is a natural and healthy process in the body, for people of poor health, intermittent fasting could be potentially harmful.
Because many of us don't have the requisite protein, nutrient and iron stores to allow the body to make sufficient repairs (as it attempts to do in the autophagy process), so by fasting, we end up cannibalising our own muscle. This is the process of connective tissue breakdown, which is one of the six subclinical defects that underpins all disease. When our body doesn't have the tools to make the required repairs, we are left at a heightened risk of exposure to toxins. Best analogy to describe this, is when a tiger is let out of its cage without a tiger tamer. Somebody or thing is going to be mauled alive.
A person suffering from a chronic disease usually also suffers from multiple nutritional deficiencies. Too much of too little; known as 'overconsumption undernutrition'.
People with chronic disease, frequently also suffer from nutritional deficiencies including essential fatty acids, essential amino acids,
magnesium, vitamin A and D, vitamin C, and zinc, to name a few. But if you fast, you might also be excluding food components that are
essential. Therefore, the benefits of fasting are likely to be transitory - leading to the search for the next answer to solve your
problems. We have found that pre-existing nutritional deficiencies get aggravated. This is, obviously, not healthy.
One example would be a client with Crohn's disease. If they fast and provide inadequate nutrition to repair the mucosal lining, malabsorption perpetuates.
The same might also be true for a cancer client with iron deficiency anaemia, who also presents with a poor protein state. In these cases, fasting may fuel their pre-existing conditions.
The danger of intermittent fasting is that it creates either temporary or long term malnutrition. Despite the considerable amount of energy stored in fat tissue, during fasting a shortage of energy arises. This is because mobilization of fat from fat stores is delayed due to the low number of mitochondria. In this initial period, the body forces glycolysis by using the glycolytic amino acids that would be needed for other processes of the body. This could be viewed as a qualitative type of starvation that causes more harm than good.
If your normal diet is based on carbohydrates - the Standard Australian Diet (SAD diet) - then fasting might result in significant side effects including fatigue, drowsiness, extreme hunger, headache, sweating, dizziness, muscle cramps, concentration problems and visual disturbances. These symptoms arise because of low number of mitochondria and minerals of oxidation, which are needed to produce energy within the cell. All due to a poorly formulated carbohydrate-based diet.
Another reason for these symptoms could be because of the upsurge of ketone bodies in the blood. An increase of ketones results in a pH shift that is difficult to counterbalance with magnesium, potassium, salt and bicarbonate. The neurological symptoms could be because the brain needs a longer time to adapt to the cessation of glucose supply. This can easily be recognized in a chemistry.
If the body does not get adequate fuel, it will seek sugar or sacrifice a bodily process and cannibalise itself. If we do not succumb to sugar, then we desperately crave another 'bulletproof' drug called coffee. Coffee, specifically caffeine, is the most common substitute for sugar cravings. For instance, if you abstain from breakfast as part of your fast and instead opt for a coffee, you should know that caffeine adversely effects body chemistry. Coffee is so disruptive in body chemistry, that it lowers zinc, magnesium, manganese, phosphates and then amplifies glucose and uric acid - leading to acid stress. Those who fast do not recognise this. A further problem occurs now where you cannot take supplements on an empty stomach to counteract the deficiency due to not having timed stomach acid production. Taking supplements on an empty stomach will create nausea.
When your phosphate drops, you will push free calcium up (another one of the six subclinical defects). Free calcium excess leads to plaque and scale on your teeth, kidney stones, gallstones and hardening of the arteries. While a low vitamin D3, as measured in a blood test, is considered bad for health, in reality, the free calcium excess has caused the body to create a hormonal negative feedback loop. The body deliberately suppresses the hormone Vitamin D3 in an attempt to prevent free calcium from depositing into joints, soft tissue and arteries. These adverse effects to body chemistry are certainly not the hallmarks of health, and highlight the fact that fasting oftentimes comes at a compromise.
Such compromises to health are particularly dangerous for people with preexisting conditions. Let’s take people who are anaemic. Anaemia,
for the most part is fuelled by low iron and protein intake - resulting in a low red blood cell count or haemoglobin level. Without
adequate red blood cells, the body cannot carry oxygen to tissues. Poor oxygen carrying capacity drives two of the six subclinical defects -
anaerobic metabolism and pH imbalance towards acid stress. The effects of fasting have also been seen in prisoners of war, who are rendered
malnourished as a result of the continual deprivation of sufficient food to fuel the body.
Some fast with the ambition of achieving or enhancing mental clarity. It is true that fasting achieves clarity of thought - it does so through the elimination of inflammatory foods and by the brain utilising ketone bodies. Ketones provide a clean fuel for brain function. If one fasts and feels better, this is likely due to the fact that fasting might exclude or reduce the food components that are causing symptoms. These may include pasteurised milk and other dairy products, sugar, gluten, lectins, oxalates, protease inhibitors and a variety of other compounds found in plants and food additives and preservatives.
Clarity of thought can also be achieved by the brain cannibalizing precious muscle tissue to provide a direct stream of amino acids into
the bloodstream. The brain when it is hungry seems to target your shoulders, biceps, quadriceps and the gluteus maximus muscle.
The beauty of consulting clients through chemistry, as we do at Nutrition Diagnostics is that you can test health concepts before they start to trend. When we analyse body chemistry via blood, the signs of intermittent fasting are easily identifiable. The first thing we notice is a drop in white blood cell and lymphocyte count. White blood cells and lymphocytes are designed to fight viruses, cancer and toxins like mercury, so when they’re in low supply, your immune system takes a hit.
Next, we identify a poor iron and protein status - meaning the body struggles to generate energy and build connective tissue and make repairs. When the body is exposed to toxins and microbes in this weak state, we run the risk of developing a chronic disease or a disease you never had before. If you are considering intermittent fasting prior, during or after mercury amalgam removal or decide to expose yourself to a toxin, do not - you are headed for big trouble!
The lack of iron and other minerals of oxidation is particularly pertinent to discussions on intermittent fasting, as without iron - specifically haeme iron - it is impossible for the body to produce mitochondrial energy. Both mitochondria and autophagy are homeostatic controls concerned within the cells in the body, and it is acknowledged that mitochondrial function plays a role in the autophagy process. Therefore, the efficacy of autophagy is at least somewhat dependent upon the body having a sufficient mitochondrial energy production.
Insufficient mitochondrial energy leads to improper methylation and genetic sequencing - ultimately manifesting in fatigue and sugar
cravings. Zinc, Vitamin B6 or a methylated B Vitamin supplement, are not enough to correct body chemistry. Methylated B Vitamins are also
dangerous for the people low in iron and protein, and who are also mercury toxic. Methylated B Vitamins group to make methylated mercury.
Methylated mercury has a high affinity for the brain and nervous tissue.
If we look at what we’re actually trying to achieve by intermittent fasting, the typical objective is to lose weight. You might lose weight
by fasting, but where will you lose that weight from? By starving the body of the nutrients it needs, intermittent fasting often changes the
body's composition - instead of losing fat, you may be cannibalising your own muscle mass or bone density. You also reset your metabolic
rate which makes it difficult to keep weight off in the future. The point is; the perceived success of intermittent fasting is often
measured via a simple metric measurement - your weight - which really tells you nothing about your health. What’s more, this perceived
success of fasting can often be attributed to the removal of foods of commerce from the diet, not due to the fasting itself. A dexa scan to
reveal lean muscle mass or skinfold measurements are going to be a better predictor than weight.
So before even considering arguments about various interventions, we often fail to define what outcome is actually being sought, and in what population of people we are referring to?
Talking about protection of lean tissue atrophy during fasting, super-slow resistance training has been recommended to prevent sarcopenia, boost insulin sensitivity plus other “health benefits”. There is no recognition of the fact all of these ill-defined ‘benefits’ depend on the relative starting point of the individual client.
For example after discussion with a close friend who is a strength athlete of 27 years; National titles and internationally recognised, he stated to me "the net effect of fasting on myself is always considerable, measurable lean mass loss. If I were to change to super-slow, lightweight training, I would similarly lose muscle and suffer dramatic lean tissue loss. However, fasting and super-slow lightweight exercise would cause my BMI to plummet, which is clinically considered a health benefit. ”
"So if I were to employ intermittent fasting with super slow training, I would become rapidly weaker, slower, frailer, more susceptible to injury, dramatically less physically capable, psychologically miserable, but clinically ‘healthier’. Is that what he means by ‘optimal health'? I presume not, based on his statements.
Once again with respect to intermittent fasting or even low calorie modified fasts, we see significant adverse effects if you look at all the numbers in the chemistry and not just a few select parameters.
The biggest problem we see is a drop in a client's lymphocyte count less than 2 and the other protein markers - which has significant immune problems with time. Also, if protein intake is inadequate, the gentle erosion of bone density occurs not to mention obvious muscle loss occurs and thus strength. So we become skinny fat - flabby on the backs of the arms and legs. If your goal is to have a strong immune system that has the ability to fight off pathogens and shut down inflammation, you will need adequate protein at any given time.
I always suggest keeping an eye on protein.
Finding the right 'diet' in the modern world has largely centered on eliminating certain foods for weight reduction. But what if finding the right 'diet' for your individual needs focused on nutrient intake and uptake and thus automatically lead to weight loss? More importantly, what if the foods in this 'diet' helped correct and prevent conditions including ADHD, asthma, allergies, cancer, depression, heart disease, dementia, diabetes and a range of auto-immune diseases?
Depending on gender, age, lifestyle, origin, climate, genes, health status and unique toxic load, our nutritional
requirements vary. Foods have an amazing ability to support digestion, heal the 'gut', strengthen immunity, fight infection, reduce
inflammation, enhance mood, calm the nervous system, build muscle, boost IQ, and much more.
The prism through which we view intermittent fasting is very important. Fasting shouldn’t be viewed as a ‘cure’ to chronic illness or the
secret to weight loss. Instead, fasting must be analysed with respect to the balance of body chemistry, with the mentality of shifting
‘weight loss’ to that of ‘changing body composition’. If your chemistry is not balancing in the presence of a toxin, intermittent
fasting may increase your risk for an autoimmune disease or cancer.
As always, the secret to long-term health lies not in radical trending diets, but in the analysis of your body chemistry…