Why does fasting help some people?
Because there’s a big problem with eating during poor gut health: Your microbiome poisons you after meals.
Even healthy microbiomes do this to a small extent. But an unhealthy gut overloads your entire system with endotoxin after every meal — causing you to feel lethargic, unfocused, and uncomfortable in your body. In response, inflammation rises, nutrients are depleted, and you feel worse: cold and tired.
It’s the opposite of how you should feel after eating: warm and energized.
Eating food feeds and nourishes the microbes in your gut. If you’ve got dysbiosis, your GI tract is dominated by lots of bad microbes. In dysbiosis, more and more foods eaten will overwhelmingly feed bad bugs — even healthy foods.
Can Fasting Be Improved?
Fasting gives your gut a break, and therein, gives your body a break from the onslaught of endotoxin it receives after each meal. The body can even activate its autophagy, cleaning up the bloodstream and cells.
Fasting Is A Somewhat Temporary Solution
However, simple fasts — or, eating nothing — 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 without food easily for a couple of days.
Therefore, besides 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.
Make The Benefits Last
Can we improve on the concept of fasting? Yes, we 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 is also beneficial to “prime the pump” by clearing out the gut with a short liquid fast (2-3 days) of raw, pressed fruit & vegetable juices. Be sure to include lemon and herbs (such as garlic and ginger) with your fresh juices.
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.
To Clear Out An Unhealthy Gut
When the microbiome is dominated by unhealthy flora, it may be best to clear out the gut. This will allow gut-restorative foods and supplements to work more directly inside the gut.
Show Liquid Fast
Drink fresh, raw juices (apple, orange, vegetables) 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.
Clear out the gut prior to using gut-healing foods & supplements.
Warning: It is possible to “strip” the gut with too much “colon cleansing.” This should — at most — be done rarely, with caution, and with consult of your doctor.
The Gut-Healing Fast
Follow steps 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.
Other options: Peppermint, ginger, garlic, clove, etc.
Colostrum has multiple benefits for the gut: it kills pathogens, boosts immunity, and feeds good microbes.
Prebiotics — (Pectin, FOS, etc)
Prebiotics feed beneficial microbes in the gut. Not all prebiotics are equal.
Probiotics populate the gut with healthy microbes. The Garden of Life probiotic is the gold standard, in my opinion. You may need to work up, start with one pill (or even half that).
Enzymes are a main factor in the gut’s immune system, attacking and killing pathogens by “eating” through their cell walls. Enzymes also digest your food for better nutrient absorption.
How Many Calories Per Day?
Eating gut-restorative foods provides much-needed fuel for the body during a fast while also improving gut function.
Just as I’ve found that eating “gut supportive” foods is superior to a true fast, I’ve found that eating more calories (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.
That said, it’s common for sleep to improve — even during a true fast. However, this is rare, and not sustainable. You’re better off eating foods that improve gut health 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.
Frequency Of Fasting
How often should we fast like this?
You don’t need to be doing this process frequently. You may be able to incorporate an abbreviated version of this fast once per month (for 1-2 days).
A more intense version of this fast should only be done a few times per year.
Of course, after the fast you should continue a wise gut routine while returning to eating normal, healthy types and amounts of food.
Fasts + Fiber
Fiber Soaks Up Liver Toxins
The liver constantly filters and purifies the blood, removing metabolic waste, endotoxin, and other harmful substances.
However, once the liver removes toxins from the bloodstream, a long trek awaits toxins before they can leave the body — they must transit through the entire intestines before they’re excreted with a bowel movement.
For this detoxification to work, toxins, upon entering the intestines, need to be soaked up by fiber.
Without fiber, liver toxins (in your bile) will not stay in the gut — they’ll be reabsorbed into the bloodstream. This reabsorption of toxins can wear out the liver over time.
Trap your liver’s bile toxins with fiber, and keep harmful substances inside your gut where they belong until they can be eliminated.
Fasting Fiber — Choose A Prebiotic
Fiber can be difficult to digest, therefore it’s wise to take a gentle fiber that won’t be fermented by “bad” flora — hence, a great prebiotic.
Modified citrus pectin and apple pectin are by far my favorite prebiotics (with FOS being a close second). Pectins have an ability to trap toxins (so much 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 are also quite gentle on the gut.
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.
You do need fiber during this “fast.” Fiber will soak up toxins excreted by the liver, which will help you feel a lot better.
Fiber will also encourage your stool to keep moving through your gut — which is essential for recovery of your gut health.
Should I Eat Meat?
(or other proteins)?
Protein can be good during a fast — it facilitates liver detox, healthy metabolism, hormone production, sleep, and more. It can also keep your energy level up throughout the day — so you don’t have to become a hermit while you fast.
However, if you don’t digest meat (or other proteins) well, you should probably skip it.
If you digest meat well (or feel pretty good on a low-carb, high-meat diet), eating some meat during your “fast” could be beneficial. Be sure to make it high-quality meat: fresh, organic, grass-fed, cage-free.
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.
The Following Topics Will Optimize Your Fasting
Get to know the following areas of health. Chances are, if you don’t understand them, a fast will not be as effective.
Why? Because gut health is a symptom of your lifestyle. Your circadian rhythm, light exposure, and nutrient status greatly affect it. Without that foundation, the results of a fast will likely be short-lived, or worse, a failure.
The principles outlined in these topics can save you much headache, help you sleep while eating less food, and help you come out of the fast ready to capitalize on the progress.
This does not mean you need complete expertise in these areas before you should 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 can absolutely derail any attempts to restore digestive wellness.
EMF (from wireless technology) is becoming a big problem in the developed world, too. It can directly disturb blood sugar levels, sleep quality, and the microbiome of your gut. If you’re quite ill, you’ll likely benefit from mitigating your exposure to it, as well.