Why does fasting help some people?
Because there’s a big problem with eating during poor gut health: The microbiome poisons the body after meals.
Even healthy microbiomes do this to a small extent. But an unhealthy gut overloads the entire system with endotoxin after every meal — causing lethargy, brain fog, bloating, and discomfort in the body. In response, inflammation rises, nutrients are depleted, and we feel cold and tired.
It’s the opposite of how we should feel after eating: warm and energized.
Eating food will feed the microbes that reside in the gut — whichever types are present.
In dysbiosis, the GI tract is dominated by lots of bad microbes, which means an increasing number of foods eaten will overwhelmingly feed bad bugs.
In the dysbiotic gut, even healthy food can feed bad microbes.
Can Fasting Be Improved?
Fasting gives the gut a break, and therein, gives the body a respite from the onslaught of endotoxin it receives after each meal.
The body can even activate its autophagy, cleaning up the bloodstream and cells.
This relief from endotoxin is a major component of why many feel better during temporary fasts or restrictive diets.
Fasting Is A Somewhat Temporary Solution
However, simple fasting — or, eating nothing for a few days — may lack the firepower to cause a more permanent shift in one’s digestive health.
“Bad microbes” can be incredibly hardy; they can survive in the gut (or outside it) without food easily for a couple of days. Most are able to hibernate, ready to activate once food reappears.
Therefore, besides the temporary relief and a brief uptick in immune function, the results of a traditional fast may be short-lived, leading folks to fast repeatedly… or indefinitely.
There are also some long-term risks to frequent fasting: a slowing of the metabolism or, sometimes, worsened sleep due to insufficient caloric intake.
Make The Benefits Last
Can the concept of fasting be improved? Yes, it can.
A fast is an opportunity to directly tackle the health of our gut microbiome.
By augmenting a fast with gut-restorative supplements and foods, it can represent a chance to truly “reset” the gut’s microbiome.
In more severe situations, it may also beneficial to “prime the pump” by clearing out the gut via a short liquid fast (2-3 days) of raw, pressed fruit & vegetable juices. Including lemon and herbs (such as garlic and ginger) in the fresh juices is an excellent step.
In the big picture, an augmented fast (which includes gut-healing supplements and foods) represents a last resort before considering antibiotics & antifungals to address pathogens in the gut.
The Improved Fasting Process
To Clear Out An Unhealthy Gut
When the microbiome is dominated by unhealthy flora, it may be best to clear out the gut. This allows gut-restorative foods and supplements to work more directly inside the gut.
Show Liquid Fast
Drink fresh, raw juices (carrot + cucumber + apple) with fresh ginger juice and lemon juice for 1-3 days, or longer.
- Drink 1/2 gallon to one whole gallon per day.
- Add tolerable protein powder for protein, if desired, 1-2 scoops per day.
- Other raw foods are acceptable if you are confident they are safe. Drink whenever you like, this is only for a few days.
- Green powders are optional.
- Frequent trips to the restroom will be likely.
Clear out the gut prior to using gut-healing foods & supplements.
The fast may be stopped any time, but especially when the gut feels fairly empty. Do not continue indefinitely. Discontinue if problems develop.
Warning: It is possible to “strip” the gut with too much “colon cleansing.” This should — at most — be done rarely, with caution, as a last resort, and with consult of your doctor.
The Gut-Healing Fast
Follow parts 1 & 2 simultaneously.
Eat Exclusively “Gut Healing” Foods
Some foods are so healing that they directly improve gut health when eaten. These are the foods that should be eaten during this period.
Three qualities make a food “healing for the gut.”
Healing Foods List:
- Raw or Manuka Honey
- Coconut Water
- Coconut Oil
- Olive Oil (high quality, extra virgin)
- Celery (whole or juiced) or Carrots (whole)
- Any “Bee” Product (Royal Jelly, Bee Pollen, etc)
For the most part, these foods will be raw and unheated to preserve enzymes. However, not all raw foods are equally helpful to the gut. Furthermore, a “raw diet” is not a magical solution to heal the gut. Stick to only the best foods best results.
A small amount of meat may be tolerable in some people.
Choose Any Gut Supplements
Oregano is a powerful antimicrobial. OregaRESP combines oregano with other potent herbs like cinnamon and cumin.
Other herbal antimicrobials to combine:
Colostrum has multiple benefits for the gut: it kills pathogens, boosts immunity, and feeds good microbes.
Colostrum also helps regulate blood sugar and gut motility — both excellent qualities during a fast.
Prebiotics — (Pectin, FOS, etc)
Prebiotics feed beneficial microbes in the gut. Not all prebiotics are equal. Apple pectin is particularly gentle, regulates blood sugar, binds to toxins, and promotes the growth of beneficial microbes.
Probiotics populate the gut with healthy microbes. The Garden of Life probiotic is the gold standard, in my opinion. Start with one pill (or even half that, if necessary, by opening up the capsule and mixing in water).
These probiotics are refrigerated, meaning they may be best purchased from a local store. Not all delivery methods will ensure that they arrive cold. If the product is delivered warm, it likely will not retain its potency beyond a couple of weeks.
Enzymes are a huge factor in the gut’s immune system, attacking and killing pathogens by “eating” through their cell walls. Supplemented enzymes also help break down food for better nutrient absorption.
Total Calories Per Day
Eating gut-restorative foods provides much-needed fuel for the body during a fast while also improving gut function.
Just as “gut supportive” foods are superior to a strict fast, eating more calories — when from gut-healing foods — is usually better than severely undereating.
Eating enough calories will enable better sleep, provide needed nutrients, and keep the metabolism higher. This is superior to having insomnia due to hunger pangs and insufficient fuel. It also is better than lacking nutrients, which are necessary for recovery.
That said, it’s common for sleep to improve even during a true fast. However, this is not sustainable for long. A few good nights of sleep during fasting is probably the most one can hope for.
It’s better to eat adequate calories from gut-improving foods and provide fuel to the body.
After all, your body needs ample energy to recover and fend off illness.
Minimum: Half The Calories
Do not go below 50% of your normal caloric needs.
Ideal: Eat 75+% Of Caloric Needs
If you can eat 75-80% of your caloric needs — you can extend the fast longer, even to several weeks.
The main goal here is to eat enough to enable good sleep. A secondary goal is to give you enough energy to be active during the day, keep the metabolism up, and have energy to improve, heal, and recover.
You might be surprised by how well-nourished you feel, even at only 80% of your caloric intake, when the gut is digesting foods well. (This might especially shock people coming from a pro-thyroid background). I’ve seen many hypothyroid people sleep great when undereating — particularly while doing an “augmented gut fast.”
Obviously, as the fast comes to a close, we transition to more normal foods and higher, proper caloric intake.
Find Your Caloric Needs
You don’t need to be precise with calories. There is no correct amount of calories during this time. Remember, we are trying to fix the gut, here, because its dysfunction is holding you back more than anything else. Whatever supports gut restoration is best, so listen to your body and your gut. If you feel more (restorative) food is a good thing — go for it.
How Long Should I Fast?
Eating less than 50% of your daily caloric needs?
1-2 Days, Max
One or two days might be the longest you should fast when eating very little.
Eating 75+% of your daily caloric needs?
If you get enough fuel — with exclusively or mostly gut-healing foods — you can extend the “fast” for quite a bit longer.
During this time, we seek to shift the gut microbiome’s population as much as possible — away from dominance by pathogens and toward healthy, diverse populations of beneficial microbes.
Anytime we eat below our caloric requirements there’s a risk of malnutrition and slowing the metabolism. Therefore, the more calories you can eat during this time, from gut-supporting foods, the better.
How often should we fast like this?
This doesn’t need to be done too frequently.
It’s common in fasting groups for folks to fall in love with (or, rather, become dependent on) fasting. It’s common to see folks who repeatedly fast for weeks, ceaselessly “detoxing.” Perhaps this never-ending fasting is a signal that the approach isn’t working.
As always, caloric intake will determine how long the fast can last — and how frequently it can be executed.
Short Fast (1-2 Days), Once Per month
It may be sustainable to do a short gut fast once per month — for 1-2 days per month.
LONGER FAST (3-10 Days), A Few Times Per Year
A more intense version of this fast should only be done a few times per year, at most.
Of course, after the fast, continue a wise gut routine, and return to eating normal, healthy food in proper amounts.
Fasts + Fiber
The liver constantly filters and purifies the blood, removing metabolic waste, endotoxin, and other harmful substances.
Fiber Soaks Up Liver Toxins
Once the liver removes toxins from the bloodstream, these toxins must make a long journey before they leave the body.
Toxins must transit through the entire intestines before they’re excreted in a bowel movement.
For this detoxification process to work, toxins need to be soaked up by fiber upon entering the intestines.
Without fiber, liver toxins (frome bile) will not stay in the gut — they’ll be reabsorbed into the bloodstream. This continual reabsorption of toxins back into the bloodstream can wear out the liver over time — and lead to chronic inflammation, impacting nutritional status, energy levels, sleep, and further damage the liver.
For long-term recovery of health, it’s important to trap the liver’s bile toxins with fiber, thereby keeping harmful substances inside the gut where they belong until elimination.
Fasting Fiber — Choose A Prebiotic
Fiber can be difficult to digest in poor gut health.
Therefore, it’s wise to take a gentle fiber that won’t be fermented by “bad” flora — such as: a great prebiotic.
Apple pectin is an incredibly effective and gentle prebiotic. FOS is a close second.
Pectins have an ability to trap toxins (they’re called “binders” in the detox and mold communities for their ability to “bind” to toxins in the gut), yet they also behave as prebiotic fibers to feed “good” microbes in the gut. Pectins can improve blood sugar control in diabetics.
Charcoal is an average-at-best option, in small doses. It can be constipating, though, and generally does very little to improve the long-term health of the microbiome, but may soak up toxins and slow motility in the gut during a liquid fast.
Fiber is needed during this “fast.” Fiber’s inherent function — to soak up toxins excreted by the liver — is a critical component of restoring and improving health.
Should I Eat Meat?
(or other proteins)?
Protein can be good during a fast.
It facilitates liver detox, a healthy metabolism, hormone production, sleep, and more.
Protein can also keep your energy levels up throughout the day — so you don’t have to become a hermit while you fast.
If meat is well tolerated (or you tend to do well on a low-carb, high-meat diet), eating some meat during your “fast” could be beneficial. Be sure to make it high-quality meat: lean toward fresh, organic, grass-fed, cage-free.
However, if meat doesn’t digest well, you should almost certainly skip it during a fast.
Protein powder could be an option. However, the only protein powder I feel comfortable recommending is a whey (cow or goat’s milk) such as:
Plant proteins (and some whey) are being found to have high levels of heavy metals. Use protein powders sparingly.
These Topics Will Optimize Your Fasting
Chances are, if you don’t understand these topics, a fast will not be as effective.
Why? Because gut health is a symptom of the lifestyle. The circadian rhythm, light exposure, and nutrient status greatly affect gut health.
Without that foundation, the results of a fast will likely be short-lived, or worse, a failure.
The principles outlined in these topics can prevent years of headaches, deepen sleep while eating less food — and help you come out of the fast ready to capitalize on the new progress.
Complete expertise in these areas is not required before you fast. However, when you feel somewhat comfortable with these topics, you’ll have a better chance of success with a gut health fast. There’s no silver bullet when it comes to fixing your health, and this holds true for your gut.
Your Environment Controls Your Gut
A last thought. If you’re struggling with gut health, there could be something wrong with your environment — either currently or in the past.
Long-term mold exposure is a direct recipe for disastrous gut health and, if ongoing, can absolutely derail any attempts to restore digestive wellness.
EMF (from wireless technology) is rapidly becoming a big problem in the developed world, too. It can directly disturb blood sugar levels, sleep quality, and the microbiome of the gut. If you’re quite ill, you’ll likely benefit from mitigating your exposure to it, as well. Getting to know your environment doesn’t have to be an overwhelming obstacle.
As a supporting member, you’ll enjoy access to all resources — as well as ongoing support in our no-drama discussion group. — Travis