For the few weeks leading up to our Hawaiian vacation this past November, I was cautiously working on adding more foods back into my diet. Common sense was telling me that with my kidneys functioning at lower than what they should be (most likely due to IgA Nephropathy) and hovering in stage 3 of chronic kidney disease, I should eat more than just meat. So, goodbye carnivore/zero carb diet. Slow and steady, I was trying a wider variety of foods to see if I could tolerate them without causing a flare up of my Crohn’s Disease. (Now, remember, it was just a few months prior, during the summer, that I failed in my attempts to add food back into my diet–bringing on a mini flare in early August). So, I’m not exactly sure why, but when we got to Hawaii, I decided to throw caution to the wind and ate ALL the food.
Seriously, I ate everything.
Vegetables; sauces; bread; vegan poke bowls with cucumbers, mushrooms, tomatoes, rice and seeds; chicken wraps with chili-mango coleslaw; and cookies with macadamia nuts and chocolate. I ate it all. The only things I did try to avoid were lettuce (still my number one arch-enemy) and green cruciferous vegetables like Brussels sprouts. I thought I should draw the line somewhere!
So what changed? I’ve gone down this road before.
This time, I had three months of alternate day fasting under my belt. The only explanation I can come up with is that the amount of autophagy (cellular cleaning and repair) that happened during those months strengthened both my gut lining and immune system.
Now, I’ll admit, if you’re unfamiliar with fasting, it does sound extreme. Sixteen hours without eating, 20 hours, 30 hours, 36 hours without eating! It sounds crazy and difficult. Interestingly enough, I stumbled across the benefits of fasting years ago, sometime around 2014, but there weren’t many people talking about it and I jumped in head first. I started with a 24 hours fast right out of the gate, couldn’t do it, and gave up right then and there. But, fasting has gained a lot of traction over the past few years.
More and more people are talking about intermittent fasting, the Warrior Diet, one meal a day (OMAD), and autophagy. So, once again, I was drawn to fasting for it’s immune boosting and anti-inflammatory benefits (not to mention mental clarity; overall simplicity; and its reported beneficial effects on blood pressure, cholesterol, and insulin). This time, however, I had more than just one Internet article to inspire me. I listened to podcasts; read books including The Complete Guide to Fasting by Jimmy Moore and Dr. Jason Fung, Eat Stop Eat by Brad Pilon, Delay Don’t Deny: Living an Intermittent Fasting Lifestyle by Gin Stephens; devoured countless articles found all over the Internet (from research to personal stories); watched YouTube videos on the Warrior Diet, tips by Thomas DeLauer, and presentations by Dr. Jason Fung; and joined a couple of Facebook fasting communities.
So it was in early 2018 that I buckled down and began practicing intermittent fasting with a 16:8 schedule (16 hours fasting and eight hours eating). I won’t lie. It was hard at first and I would start to panic on the days I pushed my fasts and went 24 hours without eating and started to feel lightheaded or dizzy. The practice was new to me and I was still learning. But I took it slow and remembered the words “practice not perfection.” So if I didn’t feel good, if I got dizzy, or just started to panic, I ate a hard-boiled egg with salt or a can of tuna with mayo and I took electrolyte supplements when needed. My body adapted and my metabolism began to easily switch into fat burning mode, looking inward for nutrients and energy rather than relying on outward sources of immediate fuel, like carbohydrates. I started pushing the length of time I went without eating. Things got easier. Things became enjoyable. My body craved better quality foods when I ate and I enjoyed a calm, peaceful mental state when fasting. I also noticed better mental clarity, better energy, and more time in my day because I wasn’t cooking and food prepping all the time!
While I had been practicing intermittent fasting since 2018, it wasn’t until August 2019 that I finally embraced clean fasting (i.e. only black coffee (no more ghee blended into it), plain tea (not flavored), and water during the fast). It’s also when I pushed my fasting window from doing daily 16-hour fasts and an occasional 24 hour fast during the week to doing three 36-hour fasts each week.
Adopting the longer fasts (and doing a clean fast) allowed me to break out of the mini flare up I was experiencing in early August. So, when we were on vacation, I felt like I had a powerful tool in my back pocket if I started to not feel well or had any Crohn’s symptoms start to appear. Day to day, fasting gave me so much energy and kept me feeling so good that once we got to Hawaii, I couldn’t resist not stealing a few bites from my husband’s dessert. After that first bite of chocolate, I decided right then and there that I would give myself a chance to indulge in food and follow an OMAD approach for the rest of the vacation. I ate for about two hours each night (sometimes three) and fasted for the remaining 22 hours.
For the first week and a half, I felt great. No pain, no cramping, no mucus. But, by day 10, I did start to feel like I was walking a very fine line and pushing the limits of my digestive system. So that night, after a day of wine tasting and eating crackers and cheese, malasadas, a chicken wrap with spicy mango coleslaw, and a martini that tasted like gasoline…I decided to do a 38-hour fast. For the few remaining days, I went back to OMAD and did one more long fast during our flight home.
In all honesty, 10 days of unrestricted eating was a lot for my system. There was a small amount of mucus in my bowel movements when I returned home, but I went back on my alternate day fasting schedule (which was a modified version where I ate dinner, breakfast the next day, and then fasted for 36 hours until dinner the next day) and I stuck to safe foods that I tolerate well. Within two days, the mucus was gone. It took about another week for some mild bloating and my “talking” intestines to disappear and for my system to return to homeostasis. While I pushed things to the limit on this trip, I got to fully indulge while on vacation and I didn’t go into a flare. Thank you, fasting.
In addition to fasting, I stuck to my current supplement regimen on vacation, which includes a multivitamin by Ancient Nutrition; CBD capsules by Lazarus Naturals; Beta-TCP by Biotics Research; and the probiotic, gut-lining repair, and anti-inflammatory products by Intestinal Fortitude.
By the time we got back to Texas, it was early December and the holiday season was in full swing. Feeling empowered by the successful fasting and feasting schedule while on vacation, I thought I would go ahead and make this the first holiday in a long time that I actually enjoyed many of the foods I had previously sworn off. I welcomed back chocolate, toffee, sweet treats, and more vegetables….and, once again, dove head first into another round of indulgences. I’ll pick this post up next week with what happened next and whether I went too far…