Eating fads and trends come and go. Eat this, don't eat that, eat several small meals a day, carbs are bad, fat will kill you, eat a high fat paleo diet, you're eating too much protein… the list goes on and on. You know what I'm talking about, right? It's all so confusing, and the more confused we are about what and how to eat, the less in tune we are to our body, what it needs and the subtle messages it's sending us.
Considering the legitimacy of any dietary theory can be a lot less confusing if we first ask: how does this fit into the natural order of things? Natural as in as nature intended; does this align? And, then, does this work for me and honor my unique nutritional needs?
With that said, intermittent fasting (IF), at its very basic premise of fasting between meals is in complete alignment with the natural order of how our body is designed to work; consume food, allow for complete digestion and then the absorption and assimilation of nutrients. In this respect, IF is much less a trend than it is a return to the natural order of things.
Understand and honor the fact that your nutritional needs are as unique as you are. Trying to fit into some dogmatic blueprint of how and what to eat, rather than what actually feels right to you and works with your lifestyle and nutritional needs, bypasses listening to your body's intuitive messaging.
Although intermittent fasting is the current hottest trend, it actually has solid roots, biologically, culturally and ancestrally. It holds a place to this day in religious practices and treatment of many disease states, and was the natural order of survival prior to the agricultural revolution — in other words, we evolved to survive and thrive through periods of fasting, through necessity: when food was scarce or unavailable.
We've gone from searching for food and experiencing natural periods of hunger, to eating nonstop throughout the day, often unrelated to hunger – which I believe breaks the biological foundation of digestion and assimilation. This is where my biggest interest in IF lies, because I believe (and preach regularly) that not allowing for ample rest and digest, is the catalyst of so many current digestive issues.
Rest and digest is that sacred time between meals when the migrating motor complex (MMC) occurs in the stomach and small intestine. The MMC are rhythmic, progressive cleansing waves that occur in 4 phases starting roughly 90 minutes after a meal, if uninterrupted by food. They sweep through the intestines in a regular cycle during fasting and facilitate the transportation of indigestible waste products from the stomach, into the small intestine and onto the colon for elimination. An important MMC function is moving excess bacteria out of the small intestine, and into the colon for elimination. Disruption of MMC function contributes to the proliferation of bacteria and its migration back into the small intestine contributing to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).
Intermittent fasting is a broad, umbrella term that includes many schools of thought around the timing and extremes of fasting periods. Periods include everything from multi-day fasts, to skipping meals on a regular basis, to eating only within specific windows of time. Much of my research turned up resources that gave little consideration to what foods were consumed during non-fasting periods.
A foundational approach that encourages reflection of your daily routines (your own life), tuning into your body's messaging and pairing those foundations with not just when you're eating, but also with the equal importance of what you're eating. Eating a whole foods diet that does not include processed food while allowing ample time for rest and digest have a profound impact on your health and metabolism. Current research points to improvements in metabolic health, insulin sensitivity, protection against memory loss and in the reduction in risk for cardiovascular disease.
New for this year's Spring Cleanse (starts on April 29th) I'm adding an optional IF structured to allow for ample rest and digest between meals and a 13 hour overnight fast.
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