Intermittent Fasting and a Better Immune System

During an all-too-frequent 3am urine liquidation, a lifestyle outcome of trying to stay hydrated for better health, I noticed a slight sniffle from a semi-clogged sinus and a discomfort in the bowel area. As my stomach churned and gurgled, I wondered how I might have come down with an illness that resembled food poisoning. Urine flowed as my mind skimmed back over my day…back to my last snack…a couple of bananas and an orange…back to buying said bananas…My muscles tensed and the urine stopped as I recalled the fruit vendor chopping up a chicken for another customer before handling and weighing my bananas …CROSS CONTAMINATION!!! Welcome back to China. I imagined that by my 8pm snack that night, the salmonella covered the bananas. The germs clung for dear life to my hands as I peeled the various fruits. They found a temporary home on my orange slices, and then a permanent home in my intestines…until death do us part. The vernacular expletive for “feces” spewed from my mouth as the urine started to stream again.

One cannot eliminate food contamination from one’s life. It seems the human condition requires it. As a matter of fact, the more we over-medicate with antibiotics the more susceptible to super-bacteria we become. (That is a story for another post.) Given the circumstances and direct entrance to my system the salmonella received, I mentally prepared myself for a painful and runny next week or so. Upon returning to my nice warm bed, I placed the hot water bottle on my stomach to sooth the storm within. I force myself to see the silver lining: I could afford a week in bed, and it would be nice being waited on by my Chinese family. Recalling devastation and pain of past episodes of food poisoning, it did not seem like much of a silver lining.

The attack occurred in the middle of a four day eating spree. It would still be two days until I fasted. The hot water bottle warmed my torso, and I thought about the foods that would be best for a bout of food poisoning. My percolating bowels sucked the heat out of the hot water bottle. It hit the mattress when I rolled over to drift off to sleep to the sounds of a boiling, festering, burbling midsection.anatomy-160524_1280

The following morning, whilst daylight pried my eyelids open, I felt noticeably uncomfortable but not incapacitated. Compared to what I thought I would experience, food-borne salmonella square dancing in my colon, I felt pretty darn good. How could this be?

Nine months of intermittent fasting (IF) has had a miraculous effect on my body, especially my digestive system, which is one of the main reasons I decided to take on this lifestyle. IF improves digestion in many ways that may help to alleviate the bugs that cause food poisoning. According to Medical Daily, “[Intermittent fasting] can help speed up the metabolism and improve bowel movements by giving your digestive system a rest. Periods without food boost the metabolism to burn through calories more efficiently — in a way reminding the body how healthy digestion is done.” Resting the digestive system and speeding up the metabolism means healthier bowels that fight off infection better.

Intermittent fasting improves conditions such as autoimmune diseases of the intestines, like my ulcerative colitis (it’s not gone but improving slowly); reduces inflammation in the body, which would help the immune system to be freer and better able to identify invading bacteria and viruses; through autophagy cleanses the body of weak, dying, and dead cells so as to improve the functioning of the immune system; bolsters, conditions, and strengthens the white blood cells to better fight invaders. Over nine months of IF has prepared me for this game of chicken.bacteria-106583_1280

The moment a germ hits our stomach, we start to fight it. According to LiveStrong, “Stomach acids can inactivate bacteria.” And IF can help in the stomach acid area. “intermittent fasting allows your GI tract to rest and can help balance out stomach acid,” says the Gut Health Project. In other words, IF can raise stomach acid if it is too low and lower stomach acid if it is too high. My more-in-balance stomach acid started killing those little buggers as soon as the orange slices hit my stomach.

We all want perfect gut flora in just the right amounts, right? Well, IF helps in this area, too. “Another phenomenal benefit that occurs [with intermittent fasting] is that you will radically improve the beneficial bacteria in your gut, as occurs with calorie restriction…[a]long with improving your immune system,” claims Dr. Joseph Mercola. The good gut bacteria crowds out and starves the bad bacteria like E. coli and salmonella.

The dangers of food poisoning cannot be discarded. HealthyCanadians warns, “Food poisoning sometimes causes serious complications, including death. This is the case for people who are more at risk for both food poisoning and related health complications, like those with a weakened immune system.” I hypothesize that all 3-meal-a-day eaters have a weakened immune system due to the onslaught of sugar, salt, and oil, bad fats, and processed-low-nutrition foods.

Intermittent fasting improves one’s overall health. No wonder after two days of mild discomfort, my fight with salmonella infused orange slices, from my unwitting meat/fruit vendor, ended with me victorious and as healthy as ever. This anecdotal narrative proves nothing, but I feel like my improved health and healthy lifestyle have benefited me in this particular struggle. By the way, no matter how healthy I become, my wife and I will no longer be patronizing that particular unhygienic vendor.

Leave me a comment below, follow my blog to keep updated on IF, and until next time, stay fast and fit!

Fasting and Travelling

The fake looking, runny, scrambled eggs supported structurally by a bit of cheese clung to the foil cover as I peeled it back to reveal the ridiculously child-like portions for my breakfast aboard my Turkish Airlines flight back to China. At this point, I began to regret my decision not to fast during travel. The fake looking, runny, mashed potatoes that accompanied the dry chicken fillets from the dinner eight hours earlier had clearly caused a certain amount of bloating, gas, and discomfort in my bowels. I expected no less from the eggs at which I stared in disbelief for this “morning” meal and which sat beside perhaps the smallest turkey sandwich I have ever seen. I only knew that the sandwich contained turkey from the menu handed out at the beginning of the flight, apparently so one has an easier time identifying which dishes one consumes.

Experts suggest abstaining from fasting while travelling. Since I have started fasting, I have followed this advice. However, since I have started fasting, I have begun to notice the effects of airline food on my system. Before I started fasting the only thing I noticed about airline food was its less-than-desirable taste. Now the pain and discomfort that I derive, along with the less-than-desirable taste, lasts for days afterwards. They serve fairly Western fare with lots of sugar, salt, and oil: sugary blueberry yogurt, jam and bread, pudding, a smidgen of vegetables and a few fruits, and meat. They tell us to eat this stuff as we travel.

The salad, on this flight, reserves special mention. The cook had placed one single piece of a yellowish colored lettuce (if one can call it such), an extremely small slice of cucumber, and a thin slice of tomato in a bowl appropriately sized to make the mini collection of vegetables look larger-than-life. A sugar-packet sized package of oil (I dared not check what kind of oil, cheap I’m sure), lemon juice, and sugar took the role of flavoring the pitiful salad. It did not work. I ate as fast as I could to avoid tasting too much.

Problems with Fasting and Travel

I have read much about travelling and fasting and I have experienced travelling during the time I have been intermittent fasting. Several problems present themselves if one chooses to travel and fast at the same time.

To hydrate oneself becomes a priority while fasting: water, tea, coffee must be consumed in high enough quantities to keep one’s urine flowing a nice clear, transparent white-ish color. Keeping hydrated relieves any hunger and allows the cells to cleanse themselves and eliminate wastes and toxins and poisons. Carrying enough liquids while travelling gets very difficult. We receive quite a bit of liquid from the foods we eat, so in order to maintain an ideal hydrated state, one should eat during travel and save fasting for another time.

The airline staff makes your tea and coffee onboard the flight with onboard water. So if your only liquid intake comes from the water on the plane, I would think twice. Airline insiders recommend avoiding the water (it’s worse than in Tijuana). Given a choice between the airline food and the airline water, I will choose the food every time. I never drink coffee or tea on a flight.

Especially with intermittent fasting, you could fast while everyone else eats; and if you decide to break the fast, you could want to eat while everyone else fasts. It could prove very difficult to obtain food, and the kind of food, one needs to break a fast. This could cause a person to break the fast in the wrong manner or wait too long or eat too much. The “food” handed to me on the first leg of my flight resembled a cheese and tomato sandwich, not a good choice for breaking a fast. I doubt that they had some good organic fruit for me to choose from in order to break a fast correctly (had I been fasting). If everything goes perfectly, no problems; however, big problems, if the situation takes a turn for the worse. I have never taken a trip that went perfectly. So again, I choose to eat airline feed, instead of fasting while voyaging.

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A view from Sharr Mountain in Kosovo.

Fasting can have complications, most easily solved when at home or in our daily lifestyle; however, with nowhere to lie down or no one to take care of us, these dilemmas could get out of control. With no good water, tea, or coffee, one’s headache could spiral into a migraine. Perhaps, you get up to go to use the toilet and you get light headed. A full flight would give you nowhere to sit and get your head cleared. You might faint due to a lack of options. Now, we have a medical emergency on our hands. How would you explain that one? Will anyone understand?

This blog post does not afford me the space to enumerate every possible bad scenario. Let’s just suffice to say the unsavory food on a flight beats the aggravation of a bad development brought on by fasting in most ways. Even with disagreeable fodder, infantile portions, a suspect water source, and the eventual troublesome feelings that will plague the intestines, I choose to partake during my wanderings.

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A pub in Ireland.

My marathon flight from Eastern Europe to China fades into memory, but the food shall never be forgotten! Do you have experience fasting and travelling? Let me know, good and bad, in the comments below. Feel free to follow my blog. And good luck to you in your expeditions. Until next time, keep fast and fit.