Two years ago, a Cell article made it into the headlines. It popped back up just a couple of days ago on social media. Its findings can be summarized with:
If you endure a prolonged fasting period, your bodies metabolic system will switch into hunger-state causing a lot of cells to die off quickly. Among them white blood cells. At the same time however, stem cells in the bone marrow increase in count. And if you start eating again after a certain period those cells will become your new set of white blood cells.
Now those white blood cells are the pillars of your immune system. So killing and replacing them should cause an immunological reboot. Sounds like a good thing to do.
Fasting has been a part of human history and religion. Yesterday the Ramadan started. While the main reason in religious fasting seems to be spiritual, the sacrifice comes in all forms and colors. Some religions prohibit only certain desires like alcohol and sex. Others warrant total abstinence from food and even water for certain periods of the day. Maybe the original meaning was also its benefits on health, but it was softened or altered over time until it found its way into religious behavior as we see it today.
Whatever the cause, I thought, if there is scientific evidence for benefit why not try it. So, challenge accepted. But it turns out this needs a bit careful planning. First, the author of the article explained that while for mice 3 days are enough to go from glucose-dependent metabolism to ketosis, humans need a little longer. He advises 4-5 days at least. 4-5 days without food. Just water, tea and maybe coffee. That’s going to be tough. Second, if you have a partner that doesn’t want to participate it is going to be even harder! Third, somebody tried this experiment 2 years ago and found his productivity and concentration can go down the road. Also I can imagine you might find yourself flipping easily and being short-tempered. So you will be a pain to have around, for example at your job ;-). People say it changes your sleeping rhythm as well with a lot of napping during the day but shorter sleeping time during the night. I’m quite excited to see what’s going to happen.
Luckily, I am going to be alone for 5 days now as my partner is off to Montreal participating in a conference. And my new job will only start in July. So lets queue some nostalgic music and get started. I will measure my weight 5 times a day wearing nothing but my smartphone for the time-stamp picture, my waist line, the distance I walked as determined by the “health” app per day and general mood and productivity.
————— Day One —————–
This is day one. I had 2 cups of coffee for breakfast. So far everything is fine. See if I can make it through until Wednesday!
First day is over. So far my mood was better than I thought and I only had to fight an acute hunger feeling twice. Took about 15-20 minutes to let it pass. Most annoying is that I was constantly thinking about food and got bombarded with it everywhere. As a first counter measure, maybe I should cancel my “Tasty” abo on Facebook.
I was moderately productive. Especially given the amount of time I had. Not eating leaves a hell lot of free time during the day,…
Key words for day one: avoiding food
————— Day Two —————–
Day two was way easier than day one. Less thinking about food, much more productivity. Energy levels dropped towards the evening banning me to the sofa and Netflix. I’m drinking a lot, so I add a bit of Himalayan Salt into my Tee and Coffee, just to avoid losing to much minerals. I had two events of intense hunger and one low blood sugar feeling that needed some 20 minutes to overcome. My mind is a bit cloudy and I have troubles focusing on my work. No bad mood at all, the thing I feared most but that might be because of lack of human interactions. I rather shrug at everything unpleasant, anger needs a lot of energy it seems :-).
Key words for day two: up in the clouds
————— Day Three —————–
I woke up weak at 5 am. Had to sleep another 3 hours to be able to lave the bed. After a strong coffee and shower I was able to properly interact with my surroundings. I had two important jobs today that required leaving the house. Afterwards my phone showed me that walked about 11 km through Toronto in the blazing heat. Probably not a good idea. I returned home around 3pm and was not able to do anything anymore. I felt my blood rush through my body and felt nauseous, just like after a sunstroke. Had to go to bed around 9pm because I was feeling like sh*t.
Key words for day three: too much sunshine
————— Day Four —————–
Waking up and feeling worse than yesterday. I have a strong headache, feeling really feverish and sick. I tried to push through but couldn’t, it was only getting worse. On the scale I saw that I lost almost 6kg of weight during those four days. So at about 10am on day 4 I had to stop. I ate one small cup of Musli to get my blood sugar up and feeling better already. Will have a look at my data later today and maybe post some graphs. I don’t know if I will do this again – maybe you really need to prepare your body for prolonged fasting. During the days I was wondering if the on-off fasting done during Ramadan has the same effect as prolonged fasting. Would be an interesting experiment.
Key words for day four: the end is musli
The Picture shows a dead tree trunk from which a new stem emerged in the jungle of Doi Ithanon, the highest peak in Thailand. Climbing upwards rewards you with a total change in climate. From humid 25-30°C (if you are lucky) to moderate 15-20°C and fog. Let’s see if not eating for 4-5 days will be equally rewarding.