A ‘Fast’ Cure!

Dr. Danesh D. Chinoy is a leading Health and Wellness Coach, Sports Physiotherapist and Psychologist. He is dedicated to helping all to heal holistically and remain fighting fit for life. Providing eye-opening and ground-breaking insights into Wellness, Dr. Chinoy’s two-decades’ rich expertise has won him innumerable awards, nationally and globally. His mission is to empower you to reach your highest levels of wellness/fitness. You can connect with Dr. Chinoy at: daneshchinoy@gmail.com . 

Modern medicine’s greatest challenges are metabolic diseases: Obesity, type2 Diabetes, High Blood Pressure, High Blood Cholesterol, and Fatty Liver – collectively known as the Metabolic Syndrome. The roots of Metabolic Syndrome lie in our modern eating-habits – abundance of sugar, dairy and meat, artificial colours and flavors, artificial sweeteners and overdependence on refined and processed foods. Cultures that have kept their traditional whole-food, plant-based patterns of eating, are less afflicted with these metabolic disorders.

Years of abuse via unhealthy lifestyle and eating habits create Metabolic Hormonal Imbalances, such as Insulin Resistance. Thus, an increasing number of community members complain of Metabolic Syndrome, in the form of obesity, diabetes, blood pressure and high cholesterol levels. Regularly lowering insulin levels leads to improved insulin sensitivity – your body becomes more responsive to insulin. The opposite of insulin sensitivity, high insulin resistance, is the main villain. 

The cure is to increase insulin sensitivity and decrease the insulin resistance. To achieve this, we need to lower insulin levels in the body, instead of raising it. Lowering insulin rids the body of excess salt and water (as insulin causes salt and water retention in the kidneys). This is beneficial in reducing bloating and helping you feel lighter. 

A decreased insulin level is one of the most consistent hormonal effects of Fasting. Longer-duration fasts reduce insulin more dramatically. Fasting means a water-based fast, not dry-fasting, so ensure to keep yourselves well-hydrated by drinking adequate amounts of water during fasting. Though studies on water-based fasting have found no evidence of electrolyte imbalances, you can consume unsweetened lemon water with a pinch of rock salt during fasting.

Most people feel energized and revitalized with fasting, as it increases the adrenaline and speeds up metabolism speeds up. Fasting activates Autophagy – a process where cells recycle and renew their content – which helps slow down the aging process and has a positive impact on cell renewal. During autophagy, cells destroy viruses/bacteria and get rid of damaged structures. It’s a critical process for cell health, renewal and survival. This is why our pets instinctively give up on food, when sick.

When we eat, we ingest more food energy than we can immediately use. Insulin is the key hormone involved in both – storage and use of food energy. Insulin levels rise during meals. Insulin has two major functions – First: it enables the body to immediately start using food energy. Carbohydrates are absorbed and converted into glucose, raising blood sugar levels. Insulin allows glucose to enter cells, which use it for energy. Second: Insulin enables storing excess energy. There are two ways to store the energy – Glucose molecules can be linked into long chains called glycogen, and then stored in the muscles and the liver. There is, however, a limit to the amount of glycogen that can be stored away. Once this limit is reached, the body starts to turn glucose into fat. This newly created fat can be stored as fat deposits in the body.  While turning glucose into fat is a more complicated process than storing it as glycogen, there is no limit on the fat that can be created.

The process of using and storing food energy that occurs when we eat, goes in reverse when we fast. Insulin levels drop, signaling the body to start burning stored energy. Glycogen is the most easily accessible energy source, and the liver stores enough to provide energy for a day or two, after which the body will start to break down the stored fat for energy. Our body exists in two states – the fed (high-insulin) state and the fasted (low-insulin) state. Either we are storing food energy or burning food energy. If, however, we spend all of the time storing food energy (because we’re in the fed state), then we will simply keep gaining weight. If eating and fasting are balanced, then we maintain weight.

To help our PT readers understand the concept better, let me explain the physiology of fasting in the following five stages:

Stage I – The Feeding Phase: Blood sugar levels rise as we absorb the incoming food, and insulin levels rise in response to move glucose into cells, which use it for energy. Excess glucose is stored as glycogen in the muscles and the liver, after which it is converted to fat.

Stage II – The Post-Absorptive Phase (6 – 24 hours after beginning a fast): At this point, blood sugar and insulin levels begin to fall. To supply energy, the liver starts to break down glycogen, releasing glucose. Glycogen stores last for 24 to 36 hours.

Stage III – The Gluconeogenesis Phase (24 – 48 hours after beginning a fast): At this point, glycogen stores have run out. The liver manufactures new glucose from amino acids in a process called ‘gluconeogenesis’, meaning ‘making new glucose’. In a non-diabetic person, glucose levels fall, but stay in a normal range.

Stage IV – Ketosis (2 – 3 days after beginning a fast): Low insulin levels stimulate lipolysis or the breakdown of fat for energy. Triglycerides, the form of fat used for storage, are broken into the glycerol backbone and three fatty acid chains. The glycerol is used for gluconeogenesis, so the amino acids formerly used can be reserved for protein synthesis. The fatty acids are used directly for energy by most tissues of the body, but the brain. The body uses fatty acids to produce ketone bodies which can cross the blood-brain barrier and are used by the brain for energy. After four days of fasting, approximately 75% of the energy used by the brain, is provided by ketones.

Stage V – The Protein Conservation Phase (5 days after beginning a fast): High levels of growth hormone maintain muscle mass and lean tissues. The energy for basic metabolism is almost entirely supplied by fatty acids and ketones. Blood glucose is maintained by gluconeogenesis using glycerol. Increased adrenaline levels prevent any decrease in metabolic rate. There is a normal amount of protein turnover, but it is not used for energy.       

Fat is simply the body’s stored food energy. In times of low food availability, stored food is naturally released to fill the void. The body does not ‘burn muscle’ in an effort to feed itself until all the fat stores are used up. 

[IMPORTANT: Start your fasting only under proper medical supervision and in consultation with your physician to evaluate your specific health conditions.]

And remember, for optimal health, it is not enough to simply add fasting to your life. You must continuously focus on healthy eating patterns.                                                                                                                                                                

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