The Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

With the popularity of the 5:2 Diet in the mainstream media, Intermittent fasting is all the rage!

But what exactly is it and is it good for you. In this article I aim to review it and give you my thoughts on my own personal experience with it.

Fasting has been part of all of the major religions in the World today and as a practice probably pre dates all of those religions by quite a long way.

Early humans probably had periods where they went without food. Tesco and refrigerators weren’t around back then! So our DNA is probably hard wired to adapt to periods of not eating.

The practice today stems from a detoxification benefit whereby the digestive system is given a break from the constant processing of food. It also takes quite a load off of the liver.

It is generally accepted that intermittent fasting can be split into 2 different types: whole day fasting and time restricted feeding. Whole day fasting really involves what it says on the tin – you go the whole day without eating any food. Alternate day fasting just means you do this one day and then eat normally the next. You keep alternating between thse two for as long as you require. The 5:2 Diet is a variation of this and is a gentler way to do intermittent fasting. This rationale involves fasting for two days a week (usually not consecutive days) and eating normally for the other 5 days – hence the title 5:2.

Time adjusted feeding doesn’t necessarily mean you eat less calories per day it just reduces the eating window. For example, people may fast for 16 hours each day and then eat all their calories in the remaining 8 hours. Both types of intermittent fasting have shown health benefits which certainly include weight loss.

There are studies that suggest that calorie restriction leads to an organism living longer (although the studies aren’t based on humans) so in theory fasting can help you live longer, although no one knows conclusively how or why? There are also studies that show fasting can help reduce the risk of both cancer and cardiovascular disease. I think a lot more research needs to be done before we can say with 100% accuracy that intermittent fasting will in fact do any of these things and certainly for every person who embarks upon it.

I have been doing the 5:2 protocol for the last few weeks. While I am not really trying to lose weight I am more interested in the health benefits such as lowering blood sugar levels and ultimately living longer, I can say that going two days on fewer calories is very doable. I tend to skip breakfast on my fast days and have a soup or bone broth for lunch. Throughout the day I have lots of water and herbal tea and then I eat a small evening meal, giving me around 600 calories for the day. I try to do this on a Wednesday and a Sunday as this works best with my current schedule.

intermittent fastingMy stomach rumbles for much of the afternoon, but as long as I’m busy or distracted the day goes quite fast. I haven’t tried exercising in a fasted state but I know people who have and they say you quickly become adjusted. I feel that 5:2 is certainly a protocol I can stick to in the long run and I may adjust it to 6:1 as my schedule dictates. I would suggest you give it a go, particularly if you want to lose weight, but also if you want to improve your health as studies suggest it will.


Tips on Solving Skin Problems

Many people suffer from one type of skin disorder or another. The two most common types are eczema and psoriasis (acne is most prevalent in teenagers). I have suffered from psoriasis for over 30 years and have managed to keep it at bay with some of the tips I’m going to discuss in this article.

In skin conditions, adequate hydration is very important. Hydration is needed to aid digestion and to allow your body to sweat (one of the main pathways of detoxification). Water is also needed to help you pass stools and prevent a toxic build up in the colon. The usual recommendations of 6-8 glasses of clean water every day is a good place to start.

Food allergies are common among people who suffer from both psoriasis and eczema. The two most common ones are wheat and dairy. The protein in wheat (gluten) and the protein in milk (casein) are hard to break down and can cause intolerance to some people. These proteins can lead to skin disorders, particularly if the individual concerned has compromised digestion. So removing these types of food from the diet can often bring about an improvement in peoples skin.

Two types of herbal tea that help heal the digestive tract and therefore improve the symptoms of both of these skin conditions are slippery elm tea and American Saffron tea. These herbs are anti-inflammatory and sooth the gastro-intestinal tract which heals a leaky gut – one of the contributors to both psoriasis and also eczema. For more information about the benefits of these herbal teas visit Dr Pagano’s website.

skin disordersVitamin D is vitally important for the health of the skin and most psoriatics (myself included) will tell you that their skin improves in the Summer. Vitamin D can control the rate of skin turnover that is particularly affected in the condition of psoriasis. Along with getting safe natural amounts of sunlight I recommend taking a supplement of around 5000 IU per day all year round.

The previous tips in this article have all been internal resolutions to these skin conditions. There are topical applications that you can use to ease the symptoms of each ailment. I particularly like Virgin Coconut Oil to be rubbed onto my skin but Vitamin D lotion is also good. In terms of eczema oats are supposed to be very soothing on the skin and can be placed in a bath where the person soaks in the water for a period of time.

The tips I have shared in this article should help give you some relief (as they have me) to the two chronic skin ailments – psoriasis and eczema. They often require patience and persistence in order to pay off but are very worth it in the end.



What Are Natural Killer Cells?

Natural Killer (NK) cells are part of your immune arsenal and help protect you from bacteria, viruses and cancer! NK cells are a type of lymphocyte which are a type of white blood cell. They are unique amongst our many white blood cells and work in tandem with T cells to attack and destroy pathogenic invaders and cancer cells.

NK cells roam the body looking for the bad guys and when they find them they have two very potent weapons. The first is a substance called interferon, which actually prevents viruses from replicating. The second type of weapon at their disposal are poisonous chemicals such as nitric oxide which destroys the internal machinery of any invading cells or organisms.

NK cells also produce cytokines which are an immune system communicator which allow NK cells to help regulate other cells of the immune system. It is an incredibly clever and fine tuned system that helps us recover from illnesses of all types.

NK cell activity declines with age and also when you are subjected to stress but the good news is you can boost NK cell, and therefore your immune response, through some very simple and inexpensive ways which we will explore in detail in this article.

The first way is through the hormone melatonin, which is discussed in detail in one of ourĀ previous blog posts. It appears that as we age and our melatonin levels decline so does our NK cell activity. This is believed to be because the thymus gland shrinks as we age and a great number of NK cells are produced, along with other types of T cells, in the thymus. Melatonin appears to maintain the size of the thymus which means more NK cells are produced in order to fight off disease and infections. The key takeaway is to get more quality deep sleep (which improves melatonin production naturally) or take an oral melatonin supplement to augment the amounts produced naturally in your body.

Exercise is a great way to boost NK cell activity along with boosting the whole immune system in general. While too much exercise, like that done by marathon runners, can suppress the immune system, the correct type and intensity of exercise can stimulate NK cell production. Exercise helps the immune system in a number of ways. The first one being the contraction of muscles aid in moving lymph around the body. Unlike the circulatory system which has the heart in order to move blood around the body the lymphatic system doesn’t have an equivalent to the heart.

Cortico-steroid hormones, often produced by stress, can lead to shrinking of the thymus gland which is a power house of the immune system. Vigorous exercise helps burn off these cortico-steroids helping maintain the strength of your immune army. According to Dr Michael Colgan:

“Trained athletes in good health have a higher number of NK cells, and a higher level of NK cell activity then sedentary folk.”

Exercise that is vigorous but not exhausting, performed 3-4 times a week will ensure that your NK cell army stay in peak condition.

Meditation has been shown to significantly increase the levels on NK cells in the blood. This deep form of relaxation has also been shown to raise melatonin levels which helps you sleep more easily.

Certain vitamins and minerals along with various herbs are all associated with boosting the NK cells and therefore your bodies ability to fight disease. Echinacea, which is a herb, has been shown to increase NK cell activity, which is probably why it is used as a common cold remedy along with Vitamin C and zinc. Garlic has also been shown in studies to improve NK cell response.

What It’s Like Living in “The Zone”

The Zone is a popular diet designed by Doctor Barry Sears. It was originally produced to reduce heart disease through its effect on inflammation but also showed great weight loss results in the patients put on the diet that it became popular in wider circles and is now considered a weight loss diet.

The basic premise of the Zone Diet is to consume 40% of you daily calories in the form of carbohydrates, 30% as protein and 30% as fat. Generally, people are encouraged to eat 3 meals and 2 snacks on the Zone Diet eating plan.

The author claims that the calorie distribution helps control the amount of insulin produced in the pancreas, which he asserts is the major cause of obesity and weight gain in modern Western society. By controlling the amount of carbohydrates in the diet and there limiting insulin production the Zone Diet helps with weight loss.

The reason the Zone diet is controversial is people argue that it is high protein, which it really isn’t, and that it is high fat, which it certainly is compared to either protocols. The benefits of the Zone come from the encouragement of eating healthy fats on a regular basis and limiting high glycaemic carbohydrates.

I really like the Zone template as a good starting point for eating ratios. For some people, particularly if you’re very over weight, the 40% carbs is too much but all in all it is a solid model.