Years ago, a friend and I drove to Banff to attend a level 4 Spring Forest Qigong™ retreat. I was ready for a weekend deep-dive into meditation and healing practices.
One of the days included a 24-hour fast and silence to further our retreat. We received a gorgeous organic apple at breakfast, lunch and dinner, preparing us for a 3-hour evening meditation.
I savoured my breakfast apple while sitting in the woods on the mountainside. I enjoyed my lunch apple on the grass in the sun. At dinner, I perched on the stone seating of the amphitheatre, feeling less than my best self. A raven flew in front of me, almost mockingly low. He had something in his beak. What’s that… an apple!
That was it. I got up from the stone seat and grabbed my car keys. My friend stood leaning against the wall of the conference centre (poor thing probably didn’t have the energy to hold herself up.) 😉 I gave her one look and she perked up and followed me. No words needed.
We drove into town and gorged ourselves on paninis.
I enjoyed an evening meditation in the conference room with a full belly as my friend napped next to me.
So, what about lichen sclerosus and intermittent fasting?
I’ve learned a lot about myself through my attempts at fasting. I’m not talking today about going days without food. The intermittent fasting I mention here is more manageable (though if you want to explore the gamut of fasting, go for it).
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is an eating plan that switches between fasting and eating on a regular schedule. Research shows that intermittent fasting is a way to manage your weight and prevent — or even reverse — some forms of disease. But how do you do it? And is it safe? 1Johns Hopkins Medicine
The article goes on to say:
There are several different ways to do intermittent fasting, but they are all based on choosing regular time periods to eat and fast. For instance, you might try eating only during an eight-hour period each day and fast for the remainder. Or you might choose to eat only one meal a day two days a week. There are many different intermittent fasting schedules. 2
I find that it’s less about following a program and more about discovering your ideal eating routine. I use IF as a way to balance my blood sugar levels throughout the day. Some people choose to eat 2 large meals a day. I don’t find that works for me. Too many calories in one sitting create stress on my system.
I’ve noticed that I do well eating about every 3-4 hours during my window. So, that’s what I do.
In my book Nourish: Ayurveda-inspired 21-day Detox, one of the practices is to not snack after dinner. This brought my clients significant benefits like better sleep, weight loss (if indicated), improved digestion and even mood (once you get past the evening munchies addiction).
I slide my dinner time a bit later, finishing by 7, so I’m not hungry by bedtime (10:30pm). And I like to eat breakfast between 9:30 and 10am. That gives me a fasting window of 14-15 hours and an eating window of 9-10 hours. This works for me. It’s best to find what works for you.
Can intermittent fasting heal the gut?
We’ve done studies looking at the effects of doing a single fast by looking at changes in the gut microbiome (the collection of microscopic organisms—including bacteria, fungi and viruses—that lives in our bodies) and markers of inflammation in the gut in mice. We also studied healthy humans to look at the gut microbiome to see how it changes with 2 fasts per week. At the 12-16 hour mark, we saw a dramatic shift in the gut microbiome population after fasting for that period. Certain bacteria are super responsive to fasting, and those tend to be beneficial bacteria. The concept is that with intermittent fasting, you could permanently grow those bacteria and experience the associated benefits. 3Cedars-Sinai blog
How long before I know if intermittent fasting works for me?
Mattson’s research shows that it can take two to four weeks before the body becomes accustomed to intermittent fasting. You might feel hungry or cranky while you’re getting used to the new routine. But, he observes, research subjects who make it through the adjustment period tend to stick with the plan, because they notice they feel better. 4
That’s the biggie. “They notice they feel better.” This is what I read in the LS online communities for those who have tried IF. When you start to feel better, you want to continue feeling better, so you are motivated to continue with your nourishing IF ritual.
Who shouldn’t try intermittent fasting?
The Johns Hopkins article advises:
Williams stresses that before you try intermittent fasting (or any diet), you should check in with your primary care practitioner first. Some people should steer clear of trying intermittent fasting:
- Children and teens under age 18.
- Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
- People with diabetes or blood sugar problems.
- Those with a history of eating disorders. 5
Talk with your health care practitioner to see if IF is a good fit for you. If you’re not sure where to start, often eliminating your evening snacking is enough to feel better in your body.
You’re welcome to try the apple fast, though I hear it can result in panini-binging.
Read the next post in the series: Lichen sclerosus and stress
Or pick up your copy of the award-winning book Lichen Sclerosus: Body, Mind & Spirit Practices to Heal the Stress of LS
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**This blog is meant to inform, not diagnose or treat specific health conditions. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis and treatment. Always consult your doctor or health care practitioner.