The benefits of fasting for health are numerous. In this episode, I give the the background for why I’m so committed to extended fasting for autophagy and health. Basically the short version is I have so much cancer in my family and my own previous history with multiple surgeries for tumors (you can read more about that here if you’re interested). This is why I’m so committed to this health protocol in an effort to stay as disease free as possible. Extended fasting is a very powerful practice that has multiple benefits.
After I tell you more about my history and background with fasting, I read my in depth article about fasting. It goes into more detail about the benefits of fasting for health. It’s a longer one so I figured it might be more convenient for you to be able to listen to it in audio form. The intro for this episode is below.
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Well, hello everyone, welcome back to the Heal Nourish Grow podcast. I’m your host, Cheryl McColgan. And if you haven’t been around my content before, this will be a new topic for you, but if you have been around for a while, this is something that you’ve heard me talk about many, many times in the past, and that is the topic of fasting. So before we get into the rest of the show today, I just wanna share with you some of my personal reasons why for fasting, so that you know where I’m coming from, and that you know why I’m so passionate about it, because it’s a topic that I quite often speak about at keto summits and in other education. So I just wanna share with you my background. Why it’s so important to me.
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Benefits of Fasting for Health
So about six, seven years ago or probably seven years ago now, my dad was diagnosed with blood cancer, and actually prior to that he had had thyroid cancer, and my whole family has a whole bunch of cancer. Both sides of the family. Breast cancer, colon cancer all kinds of things. Probably some of this is due to living in the South and maybe not having the best health habits, but it certainly, there is a genetic component to cancer, and so I started digging around and doing some research, and this is kind of a lot how I got to come to the whole keto and low carb space as well. But while I was digging around, I ended up finding some information, I was probably typing into Google cancer and cancer prevention, and I ended up finding an article about the 2016 Nobel Prize for autophagy, and I pulled this up so that I could say his name properly because I could never quite get it, but it’s Yoshinori Ohsumi.
And so in 2016, he won the Nobel Prize for autophagy. Well, what autophagy is, what they discovered is it’s your body’s cellular clean up process, and basically you can think of autophagy on a continuum, it’s kind of happening all the time in your body, but when it’s happening most strongly is when you’re not consuming any food, so aka fasting. And that’s really how I was introduced to the idea of autophagy. Meanwhile, when I ran across something saying that fasting was good, I was actually pretty happy because being in the yoga community for so many years, I have practiced yoga over 25 years, and I’ve been an instructor for the last 11, and so in that community, fasting is pretty common and it’s also common in a lot of religions, so for example, Ramadan, they don’t eat from sunrise to sunset, I believe it’s for 40 days in a row.
Fasting for Ramadan and Religious Purposes
So fasting has been a part of our culture and part of religion for a very, very long time, but in recent history, all we’ve been taught is you have to eat every few hours to keep your metabolism going, and if you fast, you’re gonna lose muscle and all of these myths that have been perpetuated, and it makes people nervous to try fasting or to think that it might be actually unhealthy in some way, when in fact, exactly the opposite is true. So once I learned about this and fasting was not a foreign concept to me, I had done it multiple times, like I said with yoga, but I decided at that point, I’m like, “If this is something that can possibly prevent cancer in my future, it’s simple enough to do, this is something I’m gonna take on as a serious practice.”
Benefits of Fasting for Health: Intermittent Fasting and Extended Fasting
And so what I began doing at that time was I would do intermittent fasting on a daily basis for the most part, and then I also started doing some more extended fasting and what my initial plan was based on what I had read and in different things at the time, I was doing a five-day fast quarterly, and that was just water and black coffee, and electrolytes at that point, and if you’re gonna do any kind of fasting beyond 24 hours, electrolytes are very key to still feeling well, while you are fasting. But so I would do those five-day for quarterly fast. I actually have another video about it here on my YouTube channel that I just kind of did a wrap-up how I was feeling throughout it, anything that I noticed just to share that with people, and what I found was obviously a five-day fast is gonna be more of a challenge, for sure.
It’s also a big commitment to do that quarterly, and it can definitely interrupt your social life a little bit, but for me it was so important because it was just making sure that I did that on a consistent basis. Some of the benefits of fasting for health, based on everything I’ve read, all the research that I’ve read, convinced that it will hopefully help me possibly avoid cancer in the future, or at the very least stave off many other kinds of diseases or metabolic processes that might go wrong when you’re not eating properly and you’re not allowing your body this process of cellular clean up. So that got to be a little bit more of a challenge than I wanted to, and I finally ran across more assisted fast. And so what I’ve been doing for the last two years in a row is a 60-hour fast every single month. So rather than doing it quarterly, I do that assisted fast, and what has happened through doing that process, it’s made me far more consistent because before when I was doing the quarterly and I knew a five day was coming up, it was pretty easy to think of some excuse or some reason why I didn’t necessarily wanna do that.
And so I wasn’t as consistent as I would have liked, but doing this monthly, a 60-hour fast instead has allowed me to be so much more consistent, I will be doing my 31st one here coming up shortly. Right the weekend before Thanksgiving. And so anyway, all of that is to say, this is why I’m so passionate about fasting, and one of the articles that I wrote pretty early on on Heal Nourish Grow was about the benefits of fasting, listing some of the research studies and just really wanting to share with people why, I’m so passionate about it, how easily it can be incorporated into your life, and this is a health practice that you can use no matter what style of eating that you choose. So fasting is so powerful, so amazing and the beauty of it is, it’s not starving yourself, you’re choosing this as a health protocol, and you can also choose to quit the fast at any time you want. So if you’re really not feeling well for some reason, then you just stop. It’s that simple.
Who Should Practice Fasting?
So there’s really no reason, there are a few contraindications. So let’s just go over that, because as always, there’s gonna be this disclaimer in the podcast about, I’m not a medical professional, this is for educational and entertainment purposes only, and that you should always talk to your doctor about any new health protocol that you want to try. All that being said, the things that might be the most contraindication for fasting or not fasting are, obviously, if you’re pregnant, you’re not gonna wanna be fasting, if you have a history of eating disorders, this is something that you’d want to work extremely closely with a professional on, it isn’t to say that you could never do fasting if you have some kind of eating disorder, but for some eating disorders, it could actually be beneficial, and if you have a history with this of control issues and all that stuff around eating disorder.
Again, you gotta work with a professional on it, but if you’re interested in the benefits of fasting for health and if there’s some health reason that you need to do it, say that you have a lot of cancer in your family, you have cancer personally, you have some other health issues where fasting might be appropriate, then maybe you could still try it again with the help of a professional.
The older you get, so I’m approaching 50 and pretty soon I need to probably revamp my fasting protocols again, because one of the things that happens as we get older is that your body loses muscle mass, and while everything I’ve read for the length of fast that I’m doing, I don’t believe that it indicates that there’s gonna be any kind of muscle loss, but also as you get older, your body doesn’t deal with protein as effectively, so if there’s a small chance that you might be losing a little bit of muscle mass every time you fast, then you might wanna consider as you get older, because it’s harder to build back because we are losing it continually anyway. You might want to back off on it that a little bit.
So these are really the things that you wanna consider if you’re doing fasting or not. Again, I think an intermittent fast every single day is very, very safe and just about anyone can do that. All you’re doing is restraining yourself from eating for a minimum of 14 hours a day, most people can pretty easily get to 12 because say you stop eating at 8 o’clock at night, and then you don’t eat again until 8 cock the next morning, you’re sleeping through most of that, but where you start to get more benefits is if you go more 14, 16, 18 hours without food.
What Really Breaks a Fast?
Another topic that I should just touch on quickly because I don’t think I’ll be covering that later in the article, and I probably should go back and talk about that there if I don’t didn’t already. But people always have this question to me. The big question is, what breaks the fast? And my answer is, much like all of the health mama stuff that I talk about and share with you is that it depends on your goal. So if your goal is maximum autophagy, you’re just gonna wanna drink water and electrolytes for your fast, that will give you the maximum autophagy, but again, you also have to consider what will make you more consistent in doing it, if the only way that you can be consistent in doing it is to do an assisted fast or maybe have something like a little bone broth, or ketones or a little cream in your coffee, whatever it is, if it’s gonna make you more consistent and allow you to do it, then having that is totally fine, you just don’t wanna go over 50 calories on anything that you’re consuming, and then for the whole day, you don’t wanna be consuming more than 100 calories for the whole day.
Benefits of Fasting for Health: Autophagy
One of the benefits of fasting for health is autophagy. Consuming nothing will give you a high, a very high amount of autophagy, not the maximum, again, it’s a continuum, but you’re getting so high autophagy and again, if it’s the only way that you’re gonna do it, or it’s the way that you can get through a fast, then I’m all for that. And everybody has a little bit different opinion on that, but ultimately you just need to decide this for yourself. If on the other hand, your goal is more using fasting for weight loss, then small amounts of fat during your fasting window. So for example, if you get up in the morning and have a little bit of cream in your coffee, or if you use a product like I use every morning that’s got… It’s called keto cream, and it’s got protein and some… Not like protein powder but collagen power, so that’s really good for your skin, hair and nails. So it’s got a little bit of collagen, it’s got some MCT fat in it, it’s a total of 120 calories. So I quite often consume that in my fasting window when I’m doing intermittent fast, and so if your goal is weight loss, that amount of calories and if it’s all fat calories, it’s not raising your insulin, so it’s not promoting the fat storing signalling in your body, and so that would be considered an okay thing to do if your goal is weight loss.
Fasting for Weight Loss
Again, if you want the very maximal effect for weight loss or for autophagy, you’re ideally just consuming electrolytes and water. So hopefully that clears up that question once and for all. Again, I’m sure other people have other opinions, but I’m all about using the tools that will make you more consistent and allow you to have some ease in these practices, because if you had to think of a 60 hour fast every single month where you’re drinking absolutely nothing but water and salt, it can get to be quite drudgerous. Drudgery is definitely a word. I don’t know if drudgerous is a word, but in any case, you get my point. Benefits of fasting for health do include weight loss but if that’s not a goal you should be careful to consume maintenance calories in your eating window.
So I think that I covered everything I wanted to cover to set this up, and so now what I wanted to do is because that benefits of fasting article at healnourishgrow.com is quite long. What I thought I’d do is just treat it like an audiobook and read it to you, because I know sometimes people don’t have the time to necessarily sit down and read a whole long article, but if it’s a topic that you’re interested in and you wanna hear more about it, you could easily listen to this on your walk or on your… Whatever you’re doing for your movement for the day, have your headphones on or on your way to work in the car or something like that, and so I just hope that it’ll make this article a little bit more accessible to people having an audio as well, because as I said, it is something I am very, very passionate about, it is something that is a very powerful health practice. I should also mention that it is very indicated in diabetes, and if you’ve never heard of Jason Fung before, he’s kind of basically the world authority on fasting and diabetes at this point, and so for very resistant cases of diabetes or even just normal diabetes, people are using it as part of the protocol to reverse their diabetes and get their blood sugar under control.
So with all that set up, now I will go ahead and go to audio only and pop over and read the article from Heal Nourish Grow. And if you have any follow-up questions, please definitely let me know. Again, this is a topic that I’m very passionate about, so I’d love to hear your commentary or, hear you ask your questions. I mean, at this point, I have so much experience doing it personally, so if you’re wondering about how it feels or any issues you might have as you’re going along, it’s probably something that I have experienced myself or dealt with before. So without further ado, let’s go to the article.