Intermittent fasting can have some remarkable benefits for those of us with multiple sclerosis. Offset the effects of ageing, rebuild the immune system and generally improve your well-being.
An article in The Telegraph that I stumbled upon via Pinterest rekindled my interest in this subject. It is a topic I had found fascinating when it was discussed by Michael Mosley in the BBC documentary “Eat, Fast and Live Longer“.
The idea that fasting can stimulate the production of new white blood cells from your existing stem cells, thereby building a new immune system, just had to appeal to me.
I have multiple sclerosis which was diagnosed in 1994 at the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary after an MRI scan and a lumbar puncture under the guidance of a Dr Coleman.
As I often do, I check out what Wikipedia has to say on any given subject, to check the basics of the subject.
Fasting to rebuild Immune System
Now, I have tried intermittent fasting before and I managed two fasting periods of three consecutive days. Not surprisingly, just after the Michael Mosley documentary was first broadcast, Then I stopped!
The fasting had made no difference. Did fasting not work for me? Was it to difficult to maintain? No, I just forgot all about it. MS can badly affect your memory and concentration, and that is exactly what had happened to me.
I had completely forgotten that I was supposed to be following a fasting diet. It is likely that I had been distracted by some other catastrophe in my life like a failed computer or a lost book. But, having revisited my earlier posts on the subject, I was delighted to unearth the Neurological Benefits of Fasting.
The Telegraph article makes the point that fasting for two or four day periods can give real benefits after six months. I had completed two, three days fasts over two or three weeks. Not nearly long enough to show any health benefits.
So, it was time t try again and somehow maintain it for at least six months. Those of us in the multiple sclerosis community like to refer to ourselves as MS Warriors. I am up for the fight!
Intermittent Fasting a serious undertaking
The trick, I imagine, is to incorporate the fasting into your daily life in a way that it becomes normal and regular, so that you are not constantly having to remind yourself when you get up in the morning that “This is a fasting day, and I cannot eat.”
Being actively involved in managing your multiple sclerosis is important. I feel that thinking you are doing good is often the key element in achieving good results.
Yes, its the placebo effect, which can be very powerful. But, if the mind can heal, if you can think yourself well, then the end justifies the means.
Many nutritionists advise against fasting as it can lead you to be deficient in essential minerals and vitamins. I maintain a good diet and as long as I am confident I get the right balance of nutrition on my eating days, there should be no problem.
I eat my five portions of fruit and vegetables every day, without fail. But, clearly, on fasting days, this will slip. I still intend to consume at least a token piece of fruit.
It has been suggested by Michael Mosley and Valter Longo that the fast day does not need to be a starvation day. It is still possible to have 300-500 calories and still achieve the benefits of calorie restriction.
Now, I take no medication specifically for multiple sclerosis, preferring to steer clear of pharmaceuticals where possible. But I do take a tamsulosin capsule, for an enlarged prostate gland, every morning, after breakfast. I can have a small bowl of granola with a piece of fruit and stay well within the calorie limits. Allowing me to take the tamsulosin, which should not be taken on an empty stomach.
Thinking your way to better health
By following this fasting regime, I hope to stimulate the production of new white blood cells, replacing the faulty multiple sclerosis causing cells that I have developed.
Believing that this will work may, in itself, cause health improvement. It will be difficult to assess whether this placebo effect is working better than the fasting, if, indeed, it works at all.
Take your body in for a service
To use Valter Longo’s motoring analogy, the fasting is like taking your car in for a service and an oil change. You can’t drive your car flat-out all the time without any maintenance just as you can’t run your body constantly without allowing it time to heal.
Whilst you are eating regularly, you are keeping your metabolism running high – in “go go” mode. By fasting, you are allowing your body to rest in a repair mode. This can reduce your IGF-1 (Insulin-like growth factor) shown to reduce the risk of cancers and diabetes.
While the body is in “go go” mode, cell production is high and can become uncontrolled; risking cancer and accelerating ageing. So, fasting can have many benefits for your health.
- Reduce risk of cancers
- Slow the ageing process
- Improve Cardiovascular function
- Rebuild the immune system
Should you be fasting on a regular basis? If so, how often is it considered necessary? Michael Mosley concluded that, for him, the right balance was the 5/2 diet. 5 days of normal eating followed by 2 days of fasting, every week.
This may fit in well with my personal situation. I had been considering a 3 day fast every fortnight, but the 5/2 approach may be easier to both accomplish and manage.
As I intimated earlier, I am up for the fight. I shall fast for 2 or 3 days every week for the next 6 months and report back with MY findings.
Remembering the good old days
Looking back over old photographs really brings home how quickly we age. Even 10 or 15 years ago, I was still relatively youthful. Not any longer. Multiple sclerosis doesn’t help; the aches and pains, the fatigue and the brain fog all conspire to make you feel older than you actually are.
OK, I am old anyway, but my father still looks and acts younger than I do. He doesn’t have multiple sclerosis and he is in his eighties.
Now, producing new white blood cells to rebuild the immune system is wonderful if you have developed multiple sclerosis as a result of a viral infection in earlier life. But if the MS is hereditary and it is in your genes, then your immune system is inherently faulty and rebuilding this immune system will only rebuild a new dysfunctional immune system.
That, of course, would be something of a fly-in-the-ointment. We shall only know by trying it out. Of course, as I don’t know where my multiple sclerosis came from, my mother is a possibility, I don’t know if fasting has the chance of succeeding.
But, think positive, believe you can and your half way there.
If you have had positive results from fasting to improve your chronic illness, I would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment after this post. Even if you haven’t, I would still love to hear from you.