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FAST Track to Health

on Nov 16, 2018 in General Wellness, Weight Loss, Wellness Blog

Articles with references download here: Fast Track to Health Web 2018 

Your body is amazingly resilient and is programmed to heal when given the right environment. Obtaining your optimum health may require you taking a major timeout from current unhealthy lifestyle habits and then working to create new habits that keep you healthy through your entire lifespan.

Long hours on the freeway, sedentary jobs, time pressures, stress, lack of sleep, pollution, too much TV, high fat, high sugar diets, too few fruits and vegetables… These habits add up to a great assault on your health and can lead to modern day illnesses like obesity, asthma, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, fatty liver, etc. Although there are medications to manage these illnesses, it is vastly more beneficial for you to alter your lifestyle in ways that keep you healthy and prevent the need for medications.

Your body is amazingly resilient and is programmed to heal when given the right environment. Obtaining your optimum health may require you taking a major timeout from current unhealthy lifestyle habits and then working to create new habits that keep you healthy through your entire lifespan.


One healing modality that provides a timeout from your usual lifestyle is fasting. Many people are afraid to fast because they are afraid of being uncontrollably hungry. The fear of hunger is
unfortunate and unfounded. There are many benefits from giving your digestive tract a timeout from calories, and when fasting is done correctly, it can curb appetite.

Mark Mattson at John Hopkins University has published some interesting research on fasting. His research team found small intermittent fasts help with weight loss, bolster your immune system, lower blood sugars, lower inflammation, and generate healing in your intestinal tract. Two types of intermittent fasting were tested. The 5/2 method and the 8/16 method.1

The 5/2 method refers to days. Using this method, you lower your daily calories to 500 on two non-consecutive days of the week. The other five days, Mattson recommends eating normal portions of healthy foods. The 8/16 method refers to hours. You eat your normal daily amount of food within eight hours of a 24-hour cycle, and then fast for the remaining 16 hours of the day.

The key to these methods is to eat healthy, normal amounts of food during your non-fasting times. If you are gorging on large amounts or unhealthy foods after a period of not eating, you negate the positive health benefits of fasting.  If these methods seems too difficult, a less difficult plan is to make your nighttime fast last between 12 to 13 hours. An example would be to eat dinner by 6 p.m. and then no food until 7 to 8 a.m.

Intermittent fasting isn’t a good fit for everyone. If you are doing serious physical training like long-distance running or heavy weight lifting, if you suffer from fatigue, are under a lot of stress, or have a history of eating disorders you should not try these methods. You may be on medications or have pre-existing conditions where your doctor doesn’t want you restricting calories, so ask your physician’s advice before doing an intermittent fast.


Greater health benefits can be achieved with medically supervised fasts. These types of fasts allow you to eat a lower calorie level for longer periods of time. On a medically supervised fast you fast from all or most food and get your nutrition from meal replacements that control caloric intake from 500 to 800 calories a day. The meal replacements, which come in the form of a shake, soup, or bars provide needed protein for muscle repair and an adequate supply of vitamins, minerals, and essential fats.


It is hard to believe, but people are not hungry on medically supervised fasts. On a medical fast you burn your fat stores as fuel instead of getting your calories from food. You are not calorie deprived on a fast because you get enough calories to fuel your day. You have simply changed the source of your calories. Additionally, there are changes in your body chemistry during a fast that curb appetite. Your body burns two types of fuel for energy. Blood glucose and ketones. Body fat is made up of long chains of fatty acids, when you need fuel, these long chains are broken into small two-carbon units called ketones. On a supervised fast, blood ketones increase and blood insulin levels decrease. These changes in blood chemistry act like a natural appetite suppressant.

When you combine these appetite suppressing effects with a supportive program that helps you navigate the mental and emotional cravings for food, you can comfortably fast for several weeks or even months, as long as you have enough body fat to burn.


Small intermittent fasts like the 5/2, 8/16, or 12-hour fasts can be helpful for losing small amounts of weight. However, they don’t appear to be more effective than traditional weight loss methods and they aren’t the best choice if you have a lot of weight to lose.2

If you are looking to lose more than 30 pounds, a medically supervised fast is safe and effective. Because body fat is used as the main source of calories on a supervised fast, weight loss is
accelerated. Pounds lost vary from person-to-person, but can average two to six pounds a week.3


Studies show that fasting improves gut health by strengthening the epithelial layer of cells that line the GI tract and tightening the junctions between the villi in your intestines.6 This improves absorption and the utilization of nutrients. Tightened junctions protect you from absorbing harmful substances like pollutants, pesticide residues, or incompletely digested food particles which can lead to food allergies.


High-fat, high-sugar foods promote the growth of unhealthy bacteria in your gut. Because you are not eating these types of food on a fast, the number of unhealthy bacteria in the gut decreases. Introducing a variety of healthy fibers, either during a supervised fast and/or by eating a high-fiber diet following a fast stimulates the growth of healthy gut bacteria. Overall, fasting helps balance your gut bacteria in favor of healthy gut bacteria.These healthy bacteria help protect from weight regain by sending chemical signals to the cells lining your GI tract. This stimulates your pituitary gland to release hormones like leptin and ghrelin, hormones that help regulate hunger, metabolic rate, and even mood. While you can’t “see” the benefits that a fast offers your GI tract, you can often feel the difference. Increased energy, elevated mood, and the need for less sleep are common. Relief from symptoms aggravated by food sensitivities occurs as well. It is not uncommon for people to get relief from migraines, arthritis, and irritable bowel.


Fasting decreases blood levels of an enzyme called PKA and a hormone called IGF-1. This drop triggers a “cleansing” of your immune cells. Weak and old T-cells are destroyed and the production of new lymphocyte immune cells increases. These changes strengthen your immune system.10 This immune boosting effect is illustrated by studies of people who fast for three to four days before undergoing chemo for cancer treatment. Those who fast do not experience the immune-suppressing effects that normally occur with chemotherapy. Their immune systems are strengthened by fasting enough to withstand chemotherapy.


The type of fat that is utilized first during a medically supervised fast is the fat is that stored in the major organs, i.e. pancreas, heart, and liver. Within weeks on a medically supervised fast the fat content in the liver and pancreas decreases enough to help restore normal organ function.8


Just a few days of fasting can have an impact on blood sugar and A1C levels.5 Longer fasts yield more dramatic and longer lasting results. Eighty percent of type-2 diabetics are able to discontinue diabetes medications and achieve remission from diabetes within the first few weeks of being on a medically supervised fast. As the fat content stored in the pancreas decreases, insulin sensitivity increases and glucose is better utilized.3 Diabetes remission continues after a supervised fast, even for some who struggle to keep off the weight they have lost.


Blood cholesterol levels decrease with short-term fasts like the 5/2 or 8/16 method, however, not
usually enough to discontinue medication. If you are on lipid medications, a medically supervised fast is a better choice. After several weeks on a supervised fast, blood cholesterol and triglycerides lower significantly. The average drop in cholesterol is 60 points, which allows many people to decrease or discontinue medications.3


Fasting stimulates the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor. This hormone stimulates neural connections and new neuron development in a part of your brain called the hippocampus. This improves brain health and protects against depression. It also protects against accumulation of the amyloid plaques typically found in the brains of those who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.4


You may participate in a medically supervised fast at Kaiser Permanente’s Positive Choice Integrative Wellness Center. Several food plans are available, a full fast (all meal replacements) or combining meal replacements with food (Modified or Partial Fast). All the fasts include a comprehensive medical evaluation, and then routine blood testing and medical supervision while the fast continues.

While fasting, you participate in a supportive program that provides a safe environment to learn and practice important life skills. These skills include: learning to say “no”, enhancing
communication styles, expressing emotions in healthy ways, coping with life’s difficulties—rather than coping with an unhealthy habit like eating or drinking too much—learning to set boundaries, learning to be present in the moment, making priorities your personal rest, renewal, relaxation, and recreation. The camaraderie of the group helps keep you motivated, and the accountability of the program keeps you going until you achieve your long-term goals.


After the medically supervised fast you participate in an eight-week Maintenance Program designed to help you build nutrition, fitness, and behavior skills. This program is taught by exercise physiologists and dietitians. The Maintenance Program is followed by unlimited Booster classes that provide continued education and group support for a healthy lifestyle. Topics include dealing with the psycho-emotional aspects of eating, mindfulness, nutrition, and fitness. As long as you maintain an active status of attending once a month, you have a lifetime of support available at no additional cost.


Fasting is a great tool to lose weight and/or take a timeout from a lifestyle full of bad habits, but it is not a long-term solution. If you fast and then go right back to your old unhealthy lifestyle, you will not sustain the health benefits you worked so hard to achieve. Positive Choice is committed to long-term support because we know the greater number of contacts we have with you, the greater your chance of long-term success. Every ten group meetings you attend, increases your chance for long-term success by 3%.


The views expressed in this article do not necessarily express the views of the greater Kaiser Permanente organization.
All rights reserved SCPMG Positive Choice Integrative Wellness Center, San Diego, Copyright 2018.

  1. Nutr. Biochem 2005:16 (3):129-37, Beneficial effects of intermittent fasting and caloric restriction on the cardiovascular and cerebrovascular systems, Mattson M., Wan R.
  2. Dose Response 2014, Oct 20; 12(4):600-18 doj: 10.2203 dose-response 14-028 Mattson. Challenging oneself intermittently to improve health
  3. Positive Choice Integrative Wellness Center program data 2014
  4. Johns Hopkins Health Review, Are There Any Proven Benefits to Fasting?, 2016 Voulme 3 Issue 1, Joe SugarmanAnnu. Review of Nutrition 2017:37:371-393 Metabolic Effects of Intermittent Fasting Patterson R.E., Sears, D.
  5. Int. Journal Obesity (Lond), 2011 May; 35 (5): 714-727, The effects of intermittent or continuous energy restriction on weight loss and metabolic disease risk markers: a randomised trial in young overweight women,  Harvie M., Pegington M., Mattson M.P. et. Al
  6. Positive Choice Integrative Wellness Center Program Data 2014
  7. Cell Metab. 2014, 20:991-1005 Time restricted feeding as a preventive and therapeutic intervention against diverse nutrtional challenges. Chaix A., Zarringar A., Miu P., Panda S.
  8. Obesity 21:1370-79 Alternate day fasting and endurance exercise combine to reduce body weight and favorably alter plasma lipids in obese humans Bhutani S., Klempel MC, Kroeger CM, Trepanowski JF
  9. American Journal of Medicine, July 1983 Volume 75, Issue 1, Pages 91–96 Fasting-enhanced immune effector mechanisms in obese subjects, Edward J. Wing