Fasting and Gut function
I'd like to share my experiences with Fasting and Gut function, discussion of which seems surprisingly negligible from a simple search given that GI impairment is a near universal symptom of ME/CFS
For some historical background, I was raised Seventh Day Adventist and thereby have been a healthy eating vegetarian most of my life so impaired gut function was always a mystery.
It was in my late 30's that CFS symptoms started to set in which included a stark decline in gut function. In particular, I could no longer digest sucrose, white flour or other simple di/polysacarides. It took 10 years for that realisation to click that it wasn't just bad gut flora but impaired absorption.
Di/polysacarides require enzymatic breakdown into glucose and fructose before they can be absorbed through the intestinal wall. Those enzymes are on the surface of the cells lining the intestines. If those cells are damaged or impaired the sugars don't get digested. Undigested sugar simply gets fermented in the gut promoting Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) and Inflamatory Bowel, Leaky Gut and all it's knock-on effect.
Taking sugar was not just bad for my gut but would trigger violent and severe CFS crashes within 3 or 4 days together with serious mental health disorders which I simply had to suffer through until my gut cleared out again.
For this reason my only sweetener and significant caloric intake is honey, which is glucose and fructose and easily absorbed. This has made the gut more manageable but for a long time the question was how to heal the gut lining itself.
The second realisation of note is that the gut, being a long tube of very strong muscle, nerves and specialist tissues, is also subject to serious fatigue crashes and that it also needs absolute rest in order to recover. So it is by this reckoning that for the past few years I practice Intermittant Fasting - no breakfast, late lunch and early dinner with occasional prolonged multi-day fasts of 2 or more days.
It's effectiveness is such that, given a week's notice, I can pull myself out of a serious prolonged crash in order to be functional enough to attend some important appointment. The lead in is a day or two of more vigilant rest followed by a two day fast to empty my gut and let it rest. Sometimes I'll dry fast for 24 or more hours. It takes about 4 days to evacuate properly. This shifts the body into a ketogenic and autophagic state in which it's burning fat, damaged cellular material and foreign biota (particularly when dry fasting). It a very effective way of 'clearing out the old' and promoting full body healing.
By the end of the week, my body is fully rested, detoxed and generally functioning at 80-90% and I can go about the day's necessities with physical and cognitive confidence. If that involves significant excursion, I'll typically crash again on day 3 following leading to cyclic crashes if I have weekly appointments any distance away.
In early experimenting, my longest fast was 10 days which included 3 day dry fast. I believe this was very effective at crack out a lot of 'old junk' though I did suffer a lot more fatigue and dizziness throughout which I attribute much to poor metabolic function of CFS itself and lesser to low blood sugar. It was a very interesting experiment to go through and gave me a far greater awareness and experience of the various modes of metabolism and differing physical and cognitive qualities arising from those modes.
Having this practice and experience, together with breath-work and 'fostering' the release of disautonomic energy, I'm happy to say that my gut function has mostly restored to health. I can take sugar again in small quantities without to triggering a crash...but not too much.
Over the years I've used on vary rare occasion, a 'chocolate bar' test (Bounty or Chokito ) if I feel there's been any improvement. After learning some trauma release techniques before Easter this year which I felt healed gut function somewhat, I ate a Bounty and had no adverse effects. I enthusiastically reported this to my mum and we had a Cadbury Creme Egg each..... which completely crashed me days latter. Oh well. But I've gained ground!
Gut neurology (the Enteric Nervous System ENS) and endocrinology is one of the systems suffering a sinful neglect of enlightened research (called Gastopsychology). Given that it has half as many neurons as our brain and that it's neuro-topolgy is similar to that of a mollusc, I don't just think of it as a gut-brain but our Mollusc Brain in the similar sense as our Reptilian Brain (as they say). It's much less integrated, in the same sense an octopus' brain is distributed out into its arms, but has its own intelligence and communication channels with out brain and ANS. I tend to regard it as something of a creature in its own right. It's the primary source of our emotional dynamic, good, bad and disordered according to its health and function. Thinking in this way has greatly affirmed my relationship with gut health itself. It's like my own internal pet that loves me and needs proper care and attention. And if it's happy, so am I.
From the Moderators: While we're always glad to hear of people experiencing improvement, please take care when investigating fasting. While some people with ME/CFS have reported benefits from fasting, others have reported that it didn't help and triggered difficulties of its own. We recommend exercising caution when investigating fasting, and only undertaking it in consultation with appropriate medical support (eg, a GP or dietician).