Numerous doctors treating long COVID and COVID vaccine injuries now suggest fasting as a potential therapy for overall symptom improvement. However, this therapeutic approach may also benefit individuals without these specific ailments.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, fasting was primarily associated with metabolic diseases, with several doctors recommending it for weight loss and diabetes management.
But recent studies have revealed that fasting offers a multitude of advantages beyond weight loss, including reducing inflammation and boosting immunity, enhancing cognitive function, and potentially lowering the risk of cancer.
The Ancient Wisdom of Fasting
Fasting, an ancient practice of abstaining from food consumption, has a rich history spanning thousands of years. The word “breakfast” itself signifies breaking the overnight fast.
Throughout history, fasting has been widely observed across various religions and cultures. For instance, Chinese Buddhists traditionally fast after their noon meal until the following morning, while Muslims observe fasting from dawn to dusk during the month of Ramadan (pdf).
Medical applications of fasting date back to at least the 5th century B.C. Hippocrates, a revered figure in modern medicine, advocated against eating while ill, stating that “to eat when you are sick, is to feed your illness.”
Although there is no concrete evidence supporting the notion of “starving a cold,” Dr. Jason Fung, a nephrologist and fasting expert, suggests that fasting may tap into the body’s innate wisdom, depriving viruses and bacteria of nutrients to aid in fighting off a cold.
While the effectiveness of fasting to treat colds remains unproven, it offers numerous immune-related benefits beyond its potential impact on illness recovery.
Can Fasting Reset the Immune System?
Fasting encompasses two main forms: prolonged fasting, lasting for at least 36 hours, and intermittent fasting, a popular lifestyle intervention involving shorter fasting periods of 12 to 24 hours. Prolonged fasting tends to be more effective than intermittent fasting at activating the reset and renewal of cells and tissues.
The body experiences two primary states during the day: the fed state and the post-fed state, also known as the fasting state. These states coexist and have opposing effects, much like yin and yang.
Consuming food generally triggers inflammation, while fasting promotes an anti-inflammatory response. Individuals are not isolated entities but interact with various pathogens, bacteria, and fungi in their environment. Eating introduces both nutrients and pathogens into the body, triggering the immune system.
Studies have shown that after each meal, there is a temporary period of inflammation as the immune system eliminates pathogens. This inflammation is beneficial as it helps prevent infection and supports the body’s defense mechanisms.
However, frequent snacking and constantly being in a fed state can lead to chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation has negative health effects, including increased stress on the body, elevated blood pressure, reduced insulin sensitivity, cell and tissue damage, and impaired healing. That’s why chronic inflammation is often associated with conditions like Type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and more.
Does Fasting Help People With Long COVID and Vaccine Injuries?
Fasting is suggested as a potential first-line treatment for long COVID and postvaccine symptoms, according to the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care (FLCCC) Alliance, a prominent medical group focusing on these conditions.
The purpose of fasting in these cases is to stimulate autophagy, a process that breaks down and recycles proteins, including COVID-19 spike proteins.
FLCCC doctors believe that spike proteins, whether from the infection or the vaccine, play a significant role in patients’ symptoms. These spike proteins can lead to inflammation, microclotting, mitochondrial dysfunction, autoimmunity, neurological issues, and other complications.
Chaperone-mediated autophagy, which specializes in protein degradation, typically activates after 24 hours of fasting. Therefore, the FLCCC recommends prolonged fasting of 72 hours or more if tolerated.
Scott Marsland, a nurse practitioner treating long COVID and vaccine injury said that patients often see an improvement in their brain fog in the later hours of their 72-hour fast, further adding that fasting has likely helped alleviate all known symptoms of long COVID and vaccine injury.
Board-certified internist Dr. Syed Haider, on the other hand, said that he has had patients who experienced a complete reversal of symptoms during prolonged fasts.
Although there is no definitive test for spike protein reduction, diligent adherence to a fasting schedule, particularly with prolonged fasting, has shown decreased spike protein levels, according to Marsland’s observations.
Anti-spike antibodies, which are immune proteins that target and combat foreign invaders, such as spike proteins, can provide insights into symptom alleviation.
Dr. Jordan Vaughn, a board-certified internist who has analyzed data from over 800 patients, noted that as patients’ symptoms improve, their anti-spike antibody levels tend to decrease.
However, the antibody test is not foolproof, according to Marsland. Some patients may not show positive antibody results despite the presence of spike protein remnants in their bodies. Factors like immune dysregulation, immunosuppression, or immune deficiencies may limit the production of antibodies. Furthermore, initial negative results on the anti-spike antibody test can occur in obese and overweight individuals, Marsland added. Spike proteins tend to sequester in fat, evading immediate detection.
Is Fasting a Good Idea for Weight Loss?
Fasting is known for its potential to improve conditions like diabetes and support weight loss. During fasting, insulin levels decrease, allowing the body to use stored fat for energy.
Fasting interventions are often compared to the ketogenic diet, which is high in fat and low in carbohydrates. This dietary approach maintains low insulin levels and promotes the breakdown of fat, including potentially harmful visceral fat associated with inflammation.
Low insulin levels facilitate fat breakdown and weight loss. When insulin is high, energy storage is prioritized over fat breakdown, leading to limited fat use.
To maintain weight loss, Fung said that it is important not to overeat when breaking a fast. Consuming excess calories can result in weight gain as the body stores the surplus as fat.
Is Fasting a Good Idea If You Have Diabetes?
Fasting has shown promise in achieving Type 2 diabetes remission for at least a year. Both intermittent and prolonged fasting reduce meal frequency, leading to decreased insulin release and improved management of blood sugar levels. Fasting also promotes the breakdown of visceral fat, linked to inflammation and insulin resistance.
While fasting has been implemented in diabetes treatment protocols, it is important for patients to consult with their doctors before starting a fasting regimen. In addition, children, pregnant and breastfeeding women are advised to avoid fasting.
While there’s limited human evidence, several studies have suggested ketogenic diets—which, similar to fasting, force the body to use fat and ketones as the primary energy source rather than glucose—improve cognition. Alzheimer’s disease takes decades to develop, so it is difficult to show that short-term interventions like fasting help, Fung said.
Fung pointed to Dr. Dale Bredesen, the author of “The End of Alzheimer’s” and the chief science officer of Apollo Health.
According to Bredesen, some of his patients reversed their symptoms after following his protocol, which included fasting. Patients followed a 12- to 14-hour daily fast, along with other interventions like getting sufficient sleep, eating a diet rich in whole foods, pasture-raised meats, and low-grain and low-glycemic foods, and exercising.
It is unclear whether the patients’ improvement resulted from fasting or other interventions. But since diabetes and insulin resistance put people at risk of Alzheimer’s disease, reversing diabetes through fasting may help prevent such diseases, Fung said.
Fasting and Cancer Treatment
As diabetes increases the risk of Alzheimer’s, improving or reversing it could enhance patients’ survival. The same concept applies to obesity-associated cancers, as fasting may help reduce their occurrence.
“There’s a lot of obesity-associated cancers,” Fung said. “There’s about 13 cancers that are well accepted that they are associated with obesity; fasting might help decrease that.”
Fasting can potentially starve cancer cells. When fasting, the body uses fats and produces ketones for energy. Cancer cells rely heavily on glucose, making them less efficient at using ketones.
Additionally, fasting reduces insulin levels. Elevated insulin levels are linked to an increased risk of breast, prostate, and colorectal cancers.
“Not proven,” Fung said in response to this theory, “but certainly an interesting hypothesis.”
Things to Consider Before Fasting
Fasting can have certain side effects, including mood swings and, notably, hunger. In today’s culture, where snacking and constant indulgence in food are common, fasting can be seen as equivalent to starvation.
Fung, however, would argue that fasting is a purposeful way of managing one’s day by allocating specific times for eating.
The benefits of fasting can vary among individuals, and the preferred type of fasting can also differ. Intermittent fasting is generally safe, but not everyone responds well to prolonged fasting.
During prolonged fasts, the body primarily breaks down fat for energy rather than muscle. However, the extent to which fat or muscle is targeted can vary based on an individual’s body composition. Those who have more fat to lose may lose more fat and less muscle, while those with higher muscle mass may experience a greater breakdown of protein stores.
Studies have shown that lean muscle mass loss occurs within the first day of prolonged fasting, regardless of an individual’s fat and muscle proportions. Therefore, individuals with significant muscle mass may experience more muscle loss and less fat loss during prolonged fasting.
There are different approaches to incorporating fasting into one’s lifestyle, such as intermittent fasting or longer fasting periods every few months. Social norms, like having dinner together, can discourage extended fasting, so it’s important to choose a fasting style that suits one’s lifestyle and preferences.