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By Elizabeth Rowan, DSOM, LAc


Conventional wisdom has encouraged us to eat regular meals with breakfast placed on a particularly high pedestal. However, periodic fasting is one of the easiest ways to reprogram your metabolism and dramatically improve overall health.

If you typically eat soon after waking, and continue to eat at regular intervals throughout the day, perhaps even enjoying a snack at bedtime, your body remains in a fed (anabolic) state. Insulin and other digestive hormones will be constantly produced telling your body to store any excess as fat. If this goes on year after year, you will gradually gain weight regardless of the content or your food. Chronic high insulin levels contribute to high blood pressure, fluid retention, arthritis, inflammation, diabetes, and other types of degeneration.

When you don’t eat for 12 hours, your body has to work harder to find nourishment because most starches have been utilized or converted to fat for storage. Once your body hits this mark, your metabolism begins to shift toward catabolism, the breakdown of complex molecules into simpler ones, thus releasing usable energy. Some people that aren’t well adapted to catabolism may start to notice signs of low blood sugar including weakness, shakiness, and irritability.

After about 15 hours blood flow increases to your heart, brain, and muscles. This makes you feel more alert and focused. The catabolic state reduces inflammation, cellular debris, and stored toxins.

Fasting for 16 to 18 hours produces the most benefit because it triggers an important mechanism known as autophagy. During autophagy, the immune system disassembles unnecessary and dysfunctional components of cells and clears cellular debris. It’s like turbocharging the immune system and increases the body’s ability to recognize, capture, and destroy intracellular pathogens and infections that would otherwise lurk in inaccessible locations. Dysfunctions in autophagy lead to cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, infections, and early aging. This process helps restore circulation and frees up energy and raw material for cellular repair.

As with any change, a gradual transition can ease the body into fasting without feeling uncomfortably hungry. Intermittent fasting is not about deprivation!

My preferred method:

  • Finish your evening meal a few hours before you go to sleep. Hypothetically, we’ll say that you finish dinner by 7:30 and go to bed around 10:30.

  • In the morning, drink water, tea, coffee, or bone broth. Consuming pure fat is allowed because it does not engage the metabolism in the same way as proteins and carbohydrates. Incorporating 1-3 teaspoons of grass-fed butter/ghee, coconut oil or MCT oil will provide sustained energy.

  • Go about your morning as usual.

  • You may begin feeling listless and unwell without a ready supply of carbohydrates to meet your energy needs. This is a sign that your metabolism isn’t accustomed to using fat as fuel. It will adapt after a week or two at which point fasting becomes much easier.

  • In the meantime, be kind to yourself. If you’re hungry, EAT!

  • The best snacks are high in fat and low in carbohydrates such as eggs, avocados, and smoked salmon. Keeping these on hand will make this transition easier.

  • Eat the first meal of the day 15 to 18 hours after you finished your evening meal.

  • Continue eating as needed throughout the afternoon.

  • Repeat one to six times each week and you have a powerful strategy for creating more robust health.

Fasting is my default, but I’m not rigid about it. I look forward to my morning cup of coffee blended with butter and MCT oil. I eat breakfast occasionally if I feel hungry. 

*One caveat: To ensure optimal nutrition, intermittent fasting is best coupled with a commitment to a diet consisting of nutrient dense whole foods. 

The effects of intermittent fasting are amplified by working with the body’s circadian rhythm. Emphasize fats and proteins during the first half of the 8-hour window and enjoy a higher ratio of carbohydrates later in the day. Fruit desserts are a wonderful way to bring this into practice. This has been shown to improve quality of sleep. Even if you’re not fasting, some of the benefits can be had by making this simple change.


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