J.D. Moyer

sci-fi writer, beat maker, self-experimenter

Death Will Eat Itself (The Enormous Benefits of Autophagy, or Why You Should Stop Eating Once in Awhile)

Martin Berkhan destroys body fat for a living.

About a year ago I became interested in the benefits of intermittent fasting after reading a number of articles on Martin Berkhan’s Leangains site. Martin is a Swedish nutritional consultant/personal trainer/writer. His recommendations run contrary to conventional wisdom among personal trainers, but his ideas are well-researched and accompanied by numerous examples (pictures) of his own physique and the physiques of his clients, who are all very muscular and impressively lean. Martin’s writing style is bombastic, confrontational, and entertaining, but also thorough, persuasive, and rich in citations.

Martin’s main idea is that intermittent fasting can assist with fat loss and muscle growth simultaneously. Most weight-lifters would tell you that both “growth phases” (where muscle and fat are added simultaneously) and “cutting phases” (where calories are restricted and fat is lost) are required. Martin calls B.S. on that idea, and provides ample evidence that restricting eating to an 8-hour daily “window” (only eating between 2pm and 10pm, for example), combined with simple, consistent workouts can allow a person to get leaner and stronger at the same time.

My Own Experience

At this point in my life I’m not looking for a radical change in my physique, but Martin’s posts piqued my curiosity enough to give intermittent fasting a try. I decided I would “dip a toe in” and try not eating until 2pm, one day a week.

I found it to be easier than expected. On my partial fast days, I only drink water and black coffee until 2pm. I rarely experience any hunger pangs (though I do look forward to my first meal more than I would otherwise). Here are a few other subjective observations:

  • I feel a bit colder, during the winter I usually wear an extra layer on fasting days.
  • I feel mentally clear; fasting days are great writing and/or music composition days.
  • I usually double my productivity on fasting days. I think this is a combination of having better concentration and being less vulnerable to distractions, and the extra time from not having to prepare food or clean up after meals.
  • I usually eat two meals on partial fast days, one around 2pm, and dinner around 6 or 7. These meals tend to be larger than normal. I don’t count calories, but I suspect my caloric intake is less than on normal eating days, even though I eat until I’m full.

What Is Autophagy, and Why Is It Good For You?

Autophagy — it sounds like some kind of disease from the Star Trek universe. In fact, autophagy is a normal biological process. During autophagy, organelles called lysosomes break down waste products inside the cells. What’s an organelle? An organelle is a tiny part of your cell, usually with its own membrane, that serves a specific function (like a cellular organ). Lysosomes break down other worn-out organelles, digest food particles, and destroy viruses and bacteria (using hydrolase enzymes). You could think of them as the stomach of the cell, and/or part of the cellular immune system.

Artistic depiction of a lysosome during autophagy.

Autophagy can even extend to include the destruction of the cell itself, a process called autolysis. For this reason, lysosomes are sometimes dubbed “suicide bags.”

Without autophagy, damaged organelles survive, and cells become less efficient. Autophagy may protect against neurodegeneration, viral and bacterial infections, and cancer.

Short-term fasting can induce autophagy. I can’t find any clinical studies in humans showing precisely when autophagy ramps up in response to fasting. Liver glycogen stores are depleted 12-16 hours into a fast, and it follows that autophagy would ramp up soon after (Berkhan recommends a 14-16 hour daily fast as part of the Leangains protocol). If I have my last food of the day around 8pm, then don’t eat until 2pm the next day, that’s an 18 hour fast. So my one-day-a-week half-day fast is probably enough to upregulate this powerful physiological process for at least a couple hours.

My own crude way of thinking about autophagy is that this process “cleans out the gunk.” By inducing autophagy, I allow my body to break down old mitochondria (the “energy producers” of the cell), destroy viruses and bacteria, and suppress chronic infections.

What was that last bit? Chronic infections? How bad is it, J.D.?

We’re All Infected

Well, I have some bad news for you. We all have chronic infections. I’ve been reading The Perfect Health Diet by Paul Jaminet and Shou-Ching Shih Jaminet (thanks Dan Pardi for sending it to me, and thanks Tyler Simmons for recommending it — I’m planning on writing a review post soon). There’s a great section towards the end of the book about chronic infections. Unless you’ve lived in a bubble your whole life, you’ve probably got at least one of the following infections:

  • Cytomegalovirus (CMV) — infection rate among adults in the U.S. is between 50-80%
  • HSV-1 — the virus that causes cold sores is found in about 60% of people in the U.S.
  • Toxoplasmosis — you can pick up this protozoan parasite from handling cat poop or eating undercooked meat. In the U.S. only 10% of the population carries antibodies, but infection rates in other parts of the world are up to 60%

All three of these infections are generally considered “harmless” in the non-immunocompromised, but even people showing no symptoms may suffer long-term effects from these infections. Toxoplasmosis infection may slow reflexes and is associated with a sharply higher rate of car accidents. Long-term HSV-1 infection may be a cause of Alzheimer’s disease. Other extremely common chronic infections include C. pneumoniae (also associated with Alzheimer’s, as well as atherosclerosis, stroke, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, and rosacea) and H. pylori (which causes stomach ulcers). The adenovirus AD-36 is present in about 20% of the population and may contribute to obesity (as well as causing respiratory and eye infections).

The Perfect Health Diet (includes ice cream)

In most cases we’re not even aware of all of our viral and bacterial infections, as many of them start off giving us vague symptoms when we’re first infected, then become asymptomatic in their latent phase. I only became aware that I had picked up CMV after giving blood and losing my CMV-negative status (before, they could give my blood to newborn babies, now they can’t). With hindsight, I realized that I probably got CMV around the time my daughter started preschool. For a couple months around that time I had a slightly swollen submandibular salivary gland. My doctor examined me, shrugged, and said “doesn’t feel like cancer … probably a virus … check back with me in six months if it hasn’t gone away.” Well, the swelling went down, but I later learned that the salivary glands are a common site for CMV infection.

So, we’re all infected. Should we be freaking out, driving to Vegas, and blowing our life savings on one last wild weekend?

Relax, it’s not that bad.

First of all, some chronic infections actually have protective or even positive side effects. H. pylori can cause stomach ulcers, but it is also be protective against GERD (acid reflux), thus protecting against oesophageal cancer. Hookworm infection may protect against symptoms of celiac disease. In some cases parasites have evolved ways to “tamp down” immune responses, thus preventing autoimmune diseases. The basic idea behind the “hygiene hypothesis” is that when our immune systems are underutilized fighting external pathogens (viruses, bacteria, parasites, etc.), the immune system is more likely to malfunction and turn against our own tissues (resulting in more allergies, asthma, and other autoimmune problems).

Still, these infections often prove to be our undoing in the long-run, either by robbing our bodies of resources, causing chronic low-grade inflammation, or slowing invading and damaging internal organs. It’s in our best interest to keep these chronic infections in check.

The Perfect Health Diet recommends eleven ways to enhance immunity and fight chronic infections, but I think that list is too long. Who’s going to do eleven things? I’ve shortened the list to the four most important/effective/doable, IMO:

  1. Get vitamin D levels to within an optimal range (to boost intracellular immunity and increase production of antimicrobial peptides)
  2. Reduce food toxin load (from grains [esp. wheat and other gluten grains], processed vegetable oils, sugar/fructose, bean lectins, etc.)
  3. Get enough sleep (one way to do this is to reduce artificial light in the evening)
  4. Practice intermittent fasting (weekly 16+ hour fasts, optional monthly 36+ hour fasts) to induce autophagy

Other Benefits of Intermittent Fasting (Motivation, Pleasure, Strength)

Short-term moderate food restriction has significant psychological effects. In this study, mice brains were found to remodel in response to food restriction, creating more dopamine (D2) receptors. Adequate dopamine receptors are necessary to allow us to anticipate and respond to rewards, and reduced numbers of dopamine receptors are associated with both aging and obesity. Moderate food restriction may resensitize us, allowing us to experience the same mental rewards from less food, and less palatable food (and other experiences).

This finding syncs with my own experience of intermittent fasting. After not eating for 18 hours, basically any food seems delicious to me — even a bowl of plain oatmeal or a plate of plain raw vegetables.

In addition, if life is feeling a little flat or dull, a short fast somehow alters my perception. Everything seems more colorful, clearer, more vivid, and more exciting.

Can the brain remodel so quickly? Maybe my subjective observations are related to another mechanism, something other than an increase in D2 receptors. Still, something is happening. The mind and body go into a different mode when food scarcity is perceived. Hunting mode, maybe (or gathering, take your pick).

Another benefit of short-term fasting is an increase in growth hormone (which helps to burn fat and build muscle). No wonder Martin Berkhan and his clients are so lean and strong.

Is Intermittent Fasting a Good Idea for Everyone?

I wouldn’t recommend intermittent fasting for everyone, at least right away. If you eat wheat and/or drink milk every day, you might experience exorphin withdrawal soon after skipping a meal. Wheat and milk both contain proteins that mimic endorphins (the pleasure-inducing, pain-relieving chemicals of the brain), and when you cut off the external supply of the chemical mimic, it takes a few days for the brain to ramp up internal endorphin production. In the meantime, you might experience aches, chills, and general grumpiness from cutting out these foods.

Similarly, if your blood sugar regulation is out of whack, intermittent fasting might be less comfortable. If you drink soda or other sweet drinks, eat candy, white bread, etc., then cut these foods out for awhile before you try intermittent fasting. Some supplements and foods may be helpful in regulating blood sugar and restoring insulin sensitivity, including chromium and cinnamon.

Your genetic makeup may also affect your response to intermittent fasting. Many people of Asian and European ancestry (myself included) have a mutation in the SNP rs2291725 that is associated with higher fasting blood glucose. This mutation probably became widespread in some populations thousands of years ago as a response to the inevitable “lean times” that came with a switch to agricultural food production. Women with this mutation were more likely to maintain their pregnancies during times of food scarcity. These days, the same mutation is associated with a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and/or gestational diabetes. I wonder if having this mutation also makes intermittent fasting more comfortable (due to higher fasting blood glucose levels)?

Berkhan has noted that his female clients generally experience negative symptoms of fasting (low blood sugar, poor mood) after a shorter period, and recommends a 14-hour daily fast instead of 16 hours.

Pregnant women probably shouldn’t fast at all, as fasting during pregnancy has been associated with reduced academic performance in the children.

Some fears about shorts fasts are entirely unfounded, like the idea that short fasts will slow down your metabolism, increase cortisol, and force your body to burn muscle for fuel. Berkhan does a good job of debunking these metabolic myths in this post.

If, for whatever reason, you decide that intermittent fasting isn’t for you, fortunately there are other ways to induce autophagy, including exercise (thanks Dan Pardi for the PubMed research).

A Final Thought

I can’t think of a more effective, easier, cheaper anti-aging protocol than my weekly partial fast. The benefits (immunity enhancement, cellular “housecleaning”, growth hormone release, mental clarity, productivity boost) far outweigh the costs (slightly cooler body temperature on fasting days).

There’s also a satisfying kind of mental freedom in knowing you can miss a meal or two and still function normally.

Additional Resources:


How To Get a 1000% Return on Your Investment


Disruptive Distribution – a Shareable.net Interview with Michel Bauwens and Neal Gorenflo


  1. Thanks for another fascinating and informative post, JD. The PHD brings a lot of disparate information together. We seem to have covered the same ground, using this “paleo” paradigm (though some times I hate that term) to connect the dots between food, lifestyle, stress, and health.

    2 meals a day, or a very light, late breakfast works for me. Eating a PHD style diet, I just don’t have the same hunger patterns. I recently tried a little “bodyhacking”, starting each day with a coconut/banana/protein shake smoothie. Result? Weight gain, lethargy, morning snacking… I think I’ll quit that experiment.

    • Thanks Richard. I hear you … sometimes it’s good to quit the experiment early. Like the time I tried to give up coffee — that didn’t last.

      • Hi J.D. Moyer
        I have issues with insomnia. I used to sleep fine but after having children my sleep habits started to get progressively worse. After the birth of my second child, I was sleeping VERY little (like once a week for a few hours)! The more I didn’t sleep the worse my anxiety and ability to sleep would get. I was like a totally different person – I remember spilling milk on the counter and bursting into tears. I couldn’t cope with anything. Finally my husband convinced me to seek help and I learned that I have all three types/symptoms of insomnia – I have a hard time falling asleep (this is probably the worse of the three), wake often during the night and wake up early without being able to fall asleep again. It was so bad that I was prescribed trazodone to help me sleep. I know a lot of people are against taking meds but I wanted to say that sometimes they are needed and that it’s ok. I seriously could not cope with life because I was sleeping so very little. It has been such a relief to take the meds! My anxiety around sleep is completely gone. While I occasionally have nights when I still can’t sleep, I am sleeping soundly (with dreams/REM sleep) most every night. This has impacted my ability to function and be a good mom/wife in so many ways. If someone reading this is having similar issues and trying the tips Lisa wrote about is not helping, I would encourage you to seek medical help.

        Can you give me some advice??

  2. Boo

    There’s an interesting study that found intermittent fasting/calorie restriction can increase dopamine receptor levels.

    Personally, I do well on weekdays sleeping as late as possible (so no time for breakfast), and taking lunch around 2:30.

    • Yes, same one I linked to above! I wonder how exactly quickly D2 receptors modulate in response to food restriction (in humans).

      • Boo

        Oops, my face is red! But I would love to see a controlled study of intermittent fasting and correlation with recidivism rates for recovering drug addicts. That would indicate if the results seen in mice are meaningful.

  3. an excellent post with lots to think about. i think i already do this fairly often without really thinking about it. coffee and water and internet…..oh shit where did the time go it’s 2 PM and i haven;t eaten anything.
    one thing your post got me wondering about. lately my breakfast favorite has been oatmeal, coupled with whatever fruit is in the yard (usually bananas or papayas) and some yogurt. what’s your take on oatmeal?

  4. Stephanie

    The nytimes article totally had me thinking about this http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/01/exercise-as-housecleaning-for-the-body/ and then you blogged about it. sounds like one of those things that seem obvious, evolution-wise, ie not having access to that prime meal all the time, so the body makes use of the ‘downtime’. awesome post

  5. Becky

    I have been doing daily IF for 3 months, and it has made an incredible difference in how I feel. I tried it originally to decrease the severity of my annual seasonal affective disorder (depression). IF has been shown to increase BDNF and alleviate depression. IF did improve my seasonal depression to the point that I feel like a different person, but all the other unintended effects combined were miraculous for me. I have gotten rid of most of my routine aches and pains that I had previously accepted as the natural consequence of aging. I sleep much better, have lost about 9 pounds of fat (not muscle), have much more energy, improved mental focus and memory. Now, I know this sounds like the crazy woman has gotten crazier, but it’s all true.
    I began by having a daily window of eating only 5 hours/day per the Fast 5 diet. Over time, I have moderated this recently to a daily 16-18 hour fast. For about the first 3 weeks, I had an incredible high of energy and mood. While this has decreased over the last 6 weeks, it is still much improved from previous levels. Fasting was minimally difficult for the first few days, but the immediate benefits made it worth continuing. After 7-10 days, I rarely thought about food until it time to break my fast. As you stated, food tastes wonderful when you do! I am not unreasonable in my fasting habits. If I am really hungry (now I know what that feels like!), I eat. I try to listen to my body. On heavy exercise days, I break my fast early if I am hungry. And, yes, I exercise while fasting, and I find my fasting exercise more pleasurable than my non-fasting exercise.
    I am a 61 year old female, so I would certainly recommend this to anyone who has seen the changes that aging brings. What a wonderful surprise to find that some of what I felt I had to accept as physical decline can be moderated simply by reducing my calorie consumption and increasing the hours of normal overnight fasting!

  6. Vivek

    Hi JD, I came across your blog a month ago and have been following it ever since. I would like to commend the effort you’ve put into each article. All of them are well researched with links. Thank you for writing them.
    My reason for writing is with regard to this article on fasting. I am an Indian presently living in India. There is a common practice among Hindus wherein they fast (for religious reasons) for certain days of the week. This would usually be a Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday. The concept of fast varies – some eat a meal only after 6PM, some completely avoid meat on these days (again for religious reasons), some only drink juices, etc.
    Although, for most parts, it may be religious, this practice has scientific roots. (I did not check in detail.)
    So, another suggestion would be – instead of doing a fasts in such a drastic fashion you could try doing them selectively on a regular basis (perhaps consuming juices without artificial sugars on any particular day of the week.)

    • Hi Vivek! Fasting seems to be a part of almost every religious tradition (I recently fasted for Yom Kippur). Different types of fasting have different benefits. I prefer short water-only fasts because they are comfortable and convey most of the benefits of longer fasts.

      According to the authors of The Perfect Health diet, consuming small amounts of fat or oil during a fast will not disrupt autophagy (if I’m remembering that correctly). Juice fasts, on the other hand, while they might have other benefits, would provide fuel and prevent autophagy.

      I’m not an expert on this topic — I would recommend posts on leansgains.com and marksdailyapple.com for more detail.

  7. Neil P.

    Great article! I’m looking to try Intermittent Fasting, and had a question…
    I saw several research study results on the Internet regarding the benefits of the 5:2 diet (2 days a week of consuming 600 calories only).
    I would like to try the 5:2 diet (which usually allows for 3 low-calorie meals including dinner too on fasting days, but I understand that for autophagy to occur, one needs a 16+ hour fast time).

    So my strategy is on 2 non-consecutive days a week to have breakfast in the morning, and then lunch around 2 PM (keeping the total of breakfast & lunch to 600 calories) and then skip dinner. Then have breakfast the following day in the morning around 8 AM, resulting in a 16 hour fast.
    What do you think of this strategy? Is there any scientific benefit to having most of the fast period during the day rather than at night (e.g. is it better to have dinner, then skip breakfast and have lunch as you do instead?)

    Also, I heard somewhere that one has increased risk of stomach acidity and peptic ulcers if one fasts regularly. Have you seen any evidence for this, and are there any tips for preventing stomach ulcers while fasting (while still inducing autophagy by not eating)?

    Neil P.

    • Thanks Neil — glad you enjoyed the post. My guess is it probably doesn’t matter if you do a partial fast by skipping dinner or skipping breakfast and having a late lunch … but I’m not aware of any research that compares the two approaches. Try it out and report back!

  8. Neil P.

    Thanks, will do!

  9. daryl lister

    Does fasting work? Of course it does it,s also known as Ramadan

  10. i am doing a fast/cleanse today and tomorrow. I love the results of the program i follow.

  11. Interesting post on fasting, dopamine, ghrelin, and feelings of curiosity and mental focus:


    • Hey J.D,
      This is a great article you’ve put together — and a great site you’ve got.

      And thanks for linking to my article in it! 🙂

      IF (and longer periods of fasting) really changed my life in terms of health, well-being, productivity, and of course getting ripped.

      I was suffering from a rather severe case of candida albicans, but I cured it in a year by cutting out all carbs, fasting, drinking a lot of water and L-glutamine, and coconut fat.

  12. Paul

    Hey JD,

    I stumbled upon your post searching for links between IF and some issues I’ve been having since they started shortly after IF.

    I had some symptoms you described and am wondering now if I have CMV. Have had swollen submandibular salivary gland swollen for months, lymph node swollen now for few weeks, and some eustachian tube issues.

    Doctor checked me out and said not to worry about it, but I’m not the type that can let it go without finding a reason. Just wondering how long these symptoms lasted for you before subsiding?


    • Hi Paul. It was a few months at least. Sometimes if you get the OK from a doctor and the symptoms are very minor the trick is to just ignore them until they subside entirely. As long as whatever you are experiencing is decreasing in intensity you should probably not worry. Healing can take a long time. On the other hand if you’re uncomfortable or in pain then get a second opinion. Hope you feel better soon.

      • Paul

        Did you have any other symptoms or just the salivary gland swelling? Most stuff I see says it goes away in month. None of the stuff is getting worse, just the Eustachian Tube issues are really annoying and worried I even have symptoms.

        • For me it was just minor swelling. Also I never was able to confirm it was linked to CMV — that’s just a hunch.

  13. I accidentally discovered the benefits (or so they seem) of IF. My life became tumultuous, quite suddenly and in many different aspects. So much has changed in just 5 years.

    Prior to this I ate what would be considered a normal amount of food with normal frequency. I am 6 feet 2 inches and at my maximum, about 5 or 6 years ago, I weighed about 205, maybe 210. I wasn’t fat. I did work out so I had muscle and had bulk/size. Not a huge fella, but I had some presence in the room. There was a layer of fat under the skin, and though not a large belly, it wasn’t exactly flat.

    Then the life altering misfortunes set in. I wont go into detail, but they included divorce, loss of seeing my kids everyday, only on a fixed schedule, lost my well paying job and can’t find comparable work so lost my career too and self-confidence in the process, lost my dog, really is mans best friend, lost my childhood home, a reprieve as my loving parents were still there and they again became my family until my mother rapidly deteriorated to Alzheimer disease forcing them to sell that house that was still a home to me and move far away, losing both parents at once and the daily emotional support and love they offered.

    Major depression set in.

    Some cope with depression by eating more. Not me. Depression causes a near complete loss of appetite. A cup of coffee in the morning. No breakfast. No lunch, which made drowsy anyway, even during my happier years. Come dinner I would eat some and have a beer. I do not drink excessively but I enjoy washing down my dinner with a beer or glass of wine.

    I do not eat particularly healthy and do not recommend my dietary habits to anyone. I do try to get the fruit, vegetables and proteins from meat during dinner, once per day, sometimes less.

    So yes, I stumbled upon the IF diet, and from what I have read I certainly fell into the autophagy zone.

    My waist was once 36+. I now have a 32 waist and my jeans even after wash shrinkage are a bit loose. I weigh 165 lbs. I work out with some regularity. No gym. I do so at home. Push ups, pull ups, dips and shoulder presses. I walk vigorously at least several times a week, 1 to 2 miles.

    My complexion is improved. I am still depressed but it isn’t a general depression. I recognize it is circumstantial. I find my mind clearer. I am 52 and look younger.

    Autophagy or genetics I do not know, but I am trim, have good muscle tone, still have my hair (maybe totally unrelated and only a few grays, again maybe unrelated.)

    I have no idea if my immune system is stronger. I do not get sick often but then again maybe at this age our immune systems have been exposed to many pathogens and we simply have better immunity.

    In conclusion life circumstances drove me to eat less and I stumbled upon IF. I do it almost every day of the week. Fasting lasts about 18 hours. A 6 hour window on most days when I do eat.

    I lost 40 lbs but still have good muscle tone and strength. I do not crave food and simply can not eat the portions I once did. Some of the benefits obviously worked for me. Others I do not know.

    But if you stick with IF I promise cravings for eating will diminish over time. You will feel more energetic, exercise becomes easier and it need not be hours at the gym to see the muscle tone that was always there but not visible with the sub layer of fat. A moderate amount of weight training at home will sculpt your lean body. And the pounds will melt away.

    • Thanks for sharing those observations Mark. Sorry they had to come under such difficult circumstances.

  14. thelibertarianvegan

    I did a watermelon, lime, cayenne cleanse for 24 days last year and felt the best of my life. Strong, skin glowing. Then I went directly into a 20 day water fast, unplanned, I originally aimed for 20, but the first 3 days were quite difficult as I used up bodies primarily preferred fuel source, but the following days were better regarding energy and hunger so after the planned 7 day mark, I just kept going until stopping at 20, mostly due to social pressures and boredom, but almost every single day on the water fast I had a small bowel movement of black slime. wtf? lol.

  15. I have been doing this every day for the past 2 weeks (8 hour eating window). This is a good recent review: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25404320
    I really can’t find a downside yet– it saves time and money. I plan to continue this for a long time. I do consume coffee in the morning, although I am not sure if that reduces the benefits in regards to autophagy.

    • I don’t think it’s dangerous, but there are few reasons I haven’t gone “full leangains.” Breakfast and lunch are often social meals for me (family or friends) — enjoyable and important for well-being. Also my partial fast day is a low-calorie day … if I ate this way every day I would either need to eat a really large evening meal (not my preference) or lose too much weight.

      But it sounds like it’s working for you! Feel free to check in here after a couple months with additional feedback/experience.

  16. I just make it an 8-hour window, so it can shift around as needed (could be breakfast if need be, but more difficult to be social with that for me), but it typically is lunch and dinner. I also eat roughly the same amount, maybe just slightly less, so it is more sustainable. I hear a lot of people start for health reasons, then stay for the convenience. It is also nice to have constraints that limit snacking, otherwise I would be perpetually eating from 7am to 11 at night.

  17. did you get retested for CMV?

  18. Carol Dunstan

    Hi, I have chronic cmv of which I new nothing about. For three years I’ve had pain in my chest, oesophagus, trouble swallowing and shallow breathing. I’ve had scans, x-rays and was checked for pneumonia. I felt as though doctors thought of me as a hypercrondiac so I stopped going. I felt so bad that I eventually went to see another doctor and explained my symptoms again. This guy performed every blood test imaginable (no one had thought to do this!! ) and discovered my white blood cell count was extremely low and that I had a very active cmv going on. I’ve now developed fibromyalgia, my eyes are affected, I am extremely lethargic and I’m walking around as if I have flu as it gives you brain fog. I think the virus is active in my oesophagus too. There doesn’t seem to be anything they can do for this dreadful disease. I have researched it myself and am doing the best I can eating healthy and taking the necessary vitamins and minerals. But to get my immune system built up again is extremely difficult. When I first started with the chest pains I did a three day fasting and felt great and the pain disappeared. I naturally have low blood pressure so I had to be careful and by the third day found I had to sit or lie down a lot. I’ve written this post to alert people on cmv as most doctors don’t look or check for it, you’d be surprised to learn that most of us have it and don’t even know. An illness, stress or shock can activate it. I am 60 and have always been fit and active teaching fitness to others. I’m now unable to do any of it although I try each day to do a stretch routine and to walk. I decided last week to start a one day fasting to see if this will help. If there is anything you can suggest I try I’d be so appreciative. I just want my life back. I have never posted on a site before but found yours very interesting. I thought too that others might be helped or educated and that I’m willing to keep you posted on my progress. Many thanks.

    • Sorry to hear that Carol. I hope you continue to work with medical professionals to determine the reason your immune system is suppressed, which is likely allowing the otherwise latent CMV to cause problems. Since you had a positive reaction it seems like a once a week 1 day fast or partial fast might be a good part of your healing protocol.

  19. Muslims (known also as Mohammedans) have this system of programmed fasting (called :Ramadan fasting) as part of rituals of their religion, Islam.

    • Judaism also had traditional fast days. Since my wife is Jewish I observe many (but not all) of those traditional fast days along with her.

  20. Great post, love all the supporting links. I became acquainted with fasting in ’09 from Fuhrman’s Fasting and Eating for Health and have studied other peer reviewed material over the years since. As I understand it from the literature fasting means zero calorie intake i.e. nothing or water. Black coffee on the other hand has complex, calorgenic molecules, proteins, phenols etc. which would maintain glucose metabolism and inhibit the ketosis of true fasting. However, I’m not sure if there is any gradation in this scheme.

    • Thanks for the comment Tashi. Interesting thought, that black coffee might inhibit ketosis. I couldn’t find any studies that support that idea — do you know of any?

      For me it may not matter, since I doubt I am going into full ketosis in the first place with only a 16-20 hour fast. I think of it as more of giving my digestive system a break, burning off glycogen stores, and maybe burning a little fat.

  21. Wow! I am blown away how articulately you have outlined what I have been discovering over the past two years. Thanks you! I have been struggling to get the full suite of fasting tools and pitfalls clearly articulated. This is great information.

  22. Ahmed

    Muslims have been fasting from dawn to dusk simultaneously for a whole month of Ramadan every year since the last 1400 plus years.

    Allaah revealed in the Qur’aan: “O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint, (Fasting) for a fixed number of days; … Ramadhan is the (month) in which was sent down the Qur’aan, as a guide to mankind, also (with) clear (Signs) for guidance and judgment (Between right and wrong). So every one of you who is present (at his home) during that month should spend it in fasting, but if any one is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed period (Should be made up) by days later. Allaah intends every facility for you; He does not want to put you in difficulties. (He wants you) to complete the prescribed period, and to glorify Him in that He has guided you; and perchance ye shall be grateful.” (Al-Qur’aan: Chapter 2, Verses 183-185)

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