We at Modern Chiropractic recently did a talk at the Newington Wood N Tap about the principles of the ketogenic diet. Many of our patients and guests who attended have already begun to implement these principles and are doing extremely well! Several patients have already lost significant amounts of weight in the couple of weeks since the talk. While a lot of them are psyched about losing some extra pounds, most of them are amazed at how easy it is to maintain and how much their energy levels have improved.
One aspect of the ketogenic diet discussed during the talk was intermittent fasting – the practice of refraining from eating or ingesting anything that will result in the release of liver enzymes for digestion for a period of time. Fasting is a part of many cultures and religions but is fast becoming a tool people are using to improve their overall health and well-being. Not only is this one of the fastest ways to get in to a state of ketosis – where ketone bodies are present in the blood at significant levels – but also has a whole host of other health benefits.
Fasting allows the body to perform “house cleaning” duties. In other words, there is no need to process newly ingested food or drink (except water) which allows the body time to take care of other physiological processes. This is the primary idea behind the large spike in autophagy. Autophagy is the clearing away of dead or damaged cells through a process of apoptosis – programmed cell death. This is a normal phenomena within our biology and it occurs millions of times per day. Cancer cells are actually mutated cells that refuse to go through this normal cell-cycle.
Fasting has also been shown to increase insulin sensitivity in those who have become insulin resistant. When someone becomes insulin resistant, they have spiked their insulin so frequently with high carbohydrate meals that the mechanism to release insulin becomes dysfunctional. Insulin is the hormone that removes sugar (carbohydrates) from the blood stream and moves it in to the cells. Type 2 diabetes is a diagnosis given when insulin resistance reaches a point where blood sugar becomes elevated to dangerous levels due to the mechanism to release insulin becoming dysfunctional. By eating a ketogenic diet, or even fasting regularly, type 2 diabetics can literally reverse their disease and ditch their diagnosis by fixing this mechanism. However, certain complications may arise for some diabetics and you should always consult with your doctor before beginning a lifestyle change such as this.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all of the various health benefits associated with fasting! It makes sense that our bodies are primed to be in a state without food because our ancestors would go hours, sometimes days without eating. With minimal, if any, ways to preserve food as we do in modern times with refrigerators and freezers, peoples of our past ate food as they came across plants, or successfully hunted for game. The old adage of “eat 3 meals a day” or even the more recent suggestion of eating 6 or more small meals a day are quickly becoming disproven. The impact of fasting, when done correctly, can greatly improve health and wellness in many ways. There are many different ways to fast, but a daily “intermittent fast” is one that is easy to do and holds a lot of the same health benefits of more strict, long-term fasts. With this type of fast, you’ll want to keep the window that you allow yourself to eat to 8-10 hours per day, allowing the body to fast for 14-16 hours (the majority of which is during sleep).