It’s been an interesting week of physiological changes after my 36 hour fast. Since many of the benefits of fasting manifest after the period of the fast, I thought that another report would be a good idea. I don’t want anyone to go away with the idea that I dropped 6.5 lbs in 3 days and merrily went away and on with life. Nope…
So here’s what really happened:
Weight: As soon as I resumed eating, my GI tract started to fill up again with food and food residue, so the scale started inching upwards. Although I resumed a very low carb diet, I also likely restored at least partial muscle and liver glycogen stores, and that starchy energy is stored with water, so there’s an additional weight there too. Neither of these things makes one iota of difference to my body fat stores, but they do push up the scale weight. My weight went back up 4.5 lbs before starting to come down again. More on that in the next paragraph… Today, I am sitting at a point that is 3 lbs down from my fast starting weight, 5 lbs down from the beginning of April, and 3.5 lbs up from the lowest weight that I hit during the fast.
Elimination: The large bowel works on a need-to-know basis, or maybe a need-to-go… The signal to evacuate your bowels happens because of pressure sensors in your rectum, the pouchy last bit of the large bowel, where contents pile up until enough are present to fire off the “I’m full up” sensors. They send a signal to the brain which then sends a signal back down to the body to start the muscular contractions that make you evacuate.
When the large intestine has been effectively empty for a while, it can take several days of eating to restore enough volume of bowel contents to make the system work. That’s what happened to me. For 3 days, nothing moved. Usually, I just trust my body to sort things out and that plan usually works, but I learned the hard way during chemo that sometimes, I need to intervene. So I made a batch of my Magic Keto Flax Bread (recipe here). I added some hemp hearts for additional protein and a nice texture boost. A couple of pieces of that every day have got things moving nicely again.
Of course, for every day that I didn’t go, the number on the scale crept higher. Frustrating, but understandable.
Healing crisis: The day after the fast was over, I woke up with a sore lower back. I chalked it up to having slept more deeply than usual, but it didn’t resolve. In fact it got much worse, to the point that I was in debilitating pain by the next day. It was centered at a point on each flank where there’s a major muscular insertion point (where the muscle and connective tissue attach to the bone). Then it was gone, and the pain moved up to between my shoulder blades for one day. Next day was back of my neck and headachy, then it resolved. At first, I was wracking my brains to figure out what I had done to create this level of damage to my back, but I suddenly realized that I was probably having a healing crisis. As woo-woo as that sounds, it’s a recognized phenomenon and relates to detoxing or healing and can be precipitated by fasting as a major detoxing modality. Each of these areas has been a problem for me in the recent or distant past. How cool is that!
Labs: I continued to check on my blood sugar and ketone levels a couple of times per day. The blood sugars recovered to more normal levels of 4.5-5.2 almost immediately upon resuming eating, no longer sitting in the hypoglycemic range. The ketones dropped from crazy high 4.8-5.2 range to a more reasonable 0.8-1.8 range. But I had one very interesting episode on day 2 after resuming eating.
We had our son out for supper (our only bubble during this stay-at-home order) and had pork side ribs in the instant pot. There was a small amount of BBQ sauce on the ribs (maybe a tbsp in total) contributing a few carbs. Alongside, we had coleslaw. For dessert, my son had made his first ever attempt at oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and proudly brought over a few to contribute to dinner. When your adult developmentally-challenged kid makes something and proudly shares it, you eat it – no questions and no regret. It was a large and totally awesome cookie.
About an hour after supper, I checked my blood sugars. HOLY CRAP!!! It was 11.0! Eleven!!! Way up in diabetic territory! How the heck did that happen??? I monitored it hourly all evening and got the following values. At 1 hour later, it was 10.5, at 2 hours later it was 9.5, at 3 hours later it had dropped to 6.5. Fasting the next morning had returned to 4.7, and I was in ketosis at 0.8. So what happened? The only thing that I can figure is that my circulating insulin was so low from the fast and two almost carb-free days following, that the carbs from the cookie (probably in the neighbourhood of 30 g) hit my bloodstream like a freight train and the body wasn’t immediately prepared to respond. Since that day, I’ve been back to normal, staying in moderate ketosis of 0.8-1.6 and blood sugars are back to my usual 4.7-5.3.
What a wild ride! Fasting is a powerful intervention and watching how my body responds has been an interesting n=1 experiment. I can’t wait to try it again in a few months. I think a quarterly practice of 72 hour fasting may be a part of my overall wellness plan going forward. I feel stronger for knowing that I can do this, even without the incentive and appetitive-suppressing addition of chemotherapy. It won’t be my last time!