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Is Intermittent Fasting Good For You?

Is Intermittent Fasting Good For You?

Intermittent Fasting is All About Marketing

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 marketing-driven diet trends like intermittent fasting?

Don’t Believe the Hype on Intermittent Fasting!

Contrary to what social media influencers, bloggers, self-proclaimed health gurus, and celebrities may claim, intermittent fasting isn’t always good for you. There can be some benefits; however, intermittent fasting can potentially be harmful to your health. The so-called success of intermittent fasting is very much dependent upon what is measured and how it is interpreted.

The Origins of Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent 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, intermittent fasting has become synonymous with health retreats or self-imposed cycles of abstinence where people forgo their bad habits - smoking, drinking and eating the foods of commerce - for a period of time. This is often done in an attempt to break a cycle of bad health or provide temporary respite and ‘detox’ from the effects of such behaviours.



Intermittent Fasting Became Popular After the Work of a Nobel Prize-Winning Scientist on Autophagy

Intermittent fasting transcended its religious origins and became a permanent part of public discourse in 2016, though, as 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, has been heralded as the secret to promoting healing and cleansing in the body. The terms frequently pop up in association with ketogenic, low-carb and ancestral diets and are widely promoted by the broader health community.

What is Autophagy?

Quite simply, autophagy is a process of self-eating, which is a natural detox process where the body cleans out damaged cells and regenerates new healthy ones. The connection between autophagy and intermittent fasting lies in the fact that fasting triggers and enhances this process. Specifically, fasting activates and increases the efficiency of the cytochrome P450 system, which is crucial for transforming fat-soluble toxins into water-soluble forms, making them easier to eliminate from the body.

The Problems With Intermittent Fasting

Whilst autophagy is a natural and healthy process in the body, for people of poor health, following blindly a diet that promotes intermittent fasting could be potentially harmful. Here’s why.

Intermittent Fasting and Malnutrition

Intermittent fasting can create either temporary or long-term malnutrition. This is because, during fasting, the body receives no nutrients, minerals or vitamins. People with chronic disease typically suffer from nutritional deficiencies including essential fatty acids, essential amino acids, magnesium, zinc and vitamins A, D and C, to name a few.

During intermittent fasting, these people are abstaining from essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Thus, the benefits they may experience from fasting (if any), are likely to be transitory. The reality is that they are further depriving their body of essential food components.

Intermittent Fasting For People Suffering Diseases Like Anaemia, Diabetes and Cancer

Such deprivations are particularly dangerous for people with preexisting conditions. Let’s take type 1 diabetics or people who are anaemic, for example. In type 1 diabetics, health is contingent upon stable blood sugar levels. When blood sugar levels drop too low, they risk going into a coma and dying. Anaemia, on the other hand, is fuelled by iron and protein deficiencies - resulting in a low red blood cell (haemoglobin) count, which inhibits the body's ability to carry oxygen to the tissues. This will only be exacerbated by intermittent fasting.

Similarly, people who suffer from Crohn's disease and undertake intermittent fasting will not have the requisite nutrients to repair their mucosal lining, which further perpetuates the problem. The same can also be true for those suffering from cancer - especially if they are low in iron and protein - whereby intermittent fasting can further perpetuate their condition. This is especially true of those who have a heavy metal burden - like mercury or lead - as protein and iron bind to heavy metals and prevent them from causing more oxidative stress.

Intermittent Fasting for Those on a High Carbohydrate Diet

Even for people in good health, intermittent fasting can present risks. This is particularly true for individuals whose regular diet is low in fat and high in carbohydrates because their bodies adapt (due to the lower fat content) to have fewer mitochondria in fat cells. This is because a carbohydrate-rich diet primarily utilises glycolysis (breaking down glucose/sugar) for energy, which doesn't require mitochondria as much as fat metabolism does.

During intermittent fasting, when dietary sources of energy are not available, the body needs to mobilize stored fats as an energy source. This is dependent on sufficient mitochondria in the fat cells. So, for individuals who follow a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet, who cannot access fat stores due to lower mitochondrial numbers, the body may compensate by breaking down muscle protein to produce energy.

Thus, it is common for people who follow a high carbohydrate diet to feel the following side effects while undertaking intermittent fasting:

  • Fatigue
  • Drowsiness
  • Extreme hunger
  • Headache
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Concentration problems
  • Visual disturbances

Intermittent Fasting Without Sufficient Protein and Iron Can Cause Connective Tissue Breakdown

This cannibalisation of muscle during intermittent fasting also occurs in people who do not have sufficient iron and protein levels, whereby the body is incapable of making repairs (as it attempts to do in the autophagy process). This is the process of connective tissue breakdown, which is one of the six subclinical defects that underpins all diseases. This ultimately results in reduced immune function, metabolic function and an increased susceptibility to toxins, systemic health risks and disease.

Intermittent Fasting For Weight Loss

Many who practice intermittent fasting do so with the objective of losing weight. It’s true that people may lose weight by intermittent fasting, but consideration must be paid to where they are losing that weight. As outlined above, that weight may be lost by the body cannabilising muscle as opposed to burning fat. It is also possible that weight loss as a result of intermittent fasting be attributed to a loss of bone density (as can happen during the process of connective tissue breakdown). Intermittent fasting can also reset the metabolic rate, which makes it difficult to keep weight off in the future.

The point is that the perceived success of intermittent fasting is often measured via a simple metric: weight. Measuring weight alone tells you nothing about your health. What’s more, the perceived success of intermittent fasting can often be attributed to the removal of foods of commerce (junk foods) from the diet, not due to the intermittent fasting itself. To accurately assess the efficacy of intermittent fasting, a Dexa scan that shows lean muscle mass or skinfold measurements are far better option than measuring weight alone.




Intermittent Fasting and Lean Tissue Atrophy

The effects of intermittent fasting on lean muscle mass are well summarised by a friend of mine - a strength athlete of over 27 years who has won national titles. He said, “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”.

He then went on to say “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 and psychologically miserable”.




Intermittent Fasting Effects on the Brain

Many people undertake intermittent fasting with the objective of achieving or enhancing mental clarity. It is true that intermittent fasting can help achieve clarity of thought - it does so through the elimination of inflammatory foods and by the brain utilising ketones which are its preferred fuel for brain function.

If one intermittently fasts and feels better, it is likely due to the fact that fasting excludes or reduces the food components responsible for mental malaise and fatigue. These foods 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 and improved brain function can also be achieved by the brain cannibalizing precious muscle mass to provide a direct stream of amino acids into the bloodstream. The brain, when it is hungry for energy, seems to target your shoulders, biceps, quadriceps and the gluteus maximus muscle.

Intermittent Fasting and Coffee

Many people who undertake intermittent fasting will drink coffee while fasting. And while there is much debate as to whether or not drinking coffee will break the fast, one thing is for certain. Caffeine (found in coffee) adversely affects body chemistry in such a manner that it lowers zinc, magnesium, manganese and phosphates and amplifies glucose and uric acid - leading to acid stress, which is one of the six subclinical defects that underpins all disease.

When phosphate drops, free calcium (the amount of unbound calcium in the blood) will rise. Free calcium excess is one of the six subclinical defects that underpins all diseases, and specifically, it contributes to plaque and scale on the teeth, kidney stones, gallstones and hardening of the arteries - all of which contribute to systemic health problems.

The Effects of Intermittent Fasting Measured Through Blood Chemistry

When we analyse blood chemistry (via a blood test), the signs of intermittent fasting are easily identifiable. The first thing we see is a drop in white blood cells and lymphocytes. White blood cells and lymphocytes are designed to fight viruses, cancer and toxins like mercury, so when they’re in low supply, the immune system takes a hit. This is especially true for people with mercury amalgam fillings, or who are having their amalagms removed while intermittent fasting, as they may frequently experience mouth ulcers, shingles and herpes.

Next, we identify a poor iron and protein status - indicating the body is struggling to generate energy and build connective tissue. When the body is exposed to toxins and germs in this weak state, the risk of developing chronic disease is significantly heightened.

Intermittent Fasting and the Mitochondria

The lack of iron is particularly pertinent to discussions on intermittent fasting, as without iron - specifically heme iron - it is impossible for the body to produce mitochondrial energy. Both mitochondria and autophagy are homeostatic controls concerned with 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 iron status. Additionally, insufficient mitochondrial energy leads to improper methylation and genetic sequencing - ultimately manifesting in fatigue and sugar cravings.

Intermittent Fasting and Mercury Toxicity

Many who undertake intermittent fasting try to boost their mitochondrial function as a means of combatting fatigue and sugar cravings by supplementing with zinc, vitamin B6 or a methylated B vitamin supplement. However, more than simply supplementing alone is needed to balance body chemistry. Moreover, methylated B vitamins are dangerous for people low in iron and protein, and are mercury toxic. This is because methylated B vitamins group to make methylated mercury, which has a high affinity for the brain and nervous tissue. You can read more about the dangers of mercury toxicity here.

This is particularly troublesome because, when methylated mercury crosses the blood brain barrier (choroid plexus), Serum B2 Microglobulin is elevated. In our experience, people with elevated Serum B2 Microglobulin suffer mood, mind and memory challenges. In older age, this can increase the risk for amyloid plaque, which is linked with Dementia and Alzheimer's disease. So, you can see how intermittent fasting can be potentially harmful to health and isn’t the silver bullet many proclaim.


A Better Approach to Intermittent Fasting

The prism through which we view intermittent fasting is very important. Intermittent fasting shouldn’t be viewed as a ‘cure’ to chronic illness or the secret to weight loss success. Instead, it must be analysed with respect to the balancing of body chemistry and the mentality of ‘weight loss’ must shift to that of improving body composition. If your blood chemistry is not balanced in the presence of a toxin, intermittent fasting may increase your risk for autoimmune disease or cancer.

As always, the secret to long-term health lies not in radical trending diets like intermittent fasting but in the analysis of body chemistry…

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