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Fasting: the good, the bad and the extreme

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Anshu Bahanda: Welcome to Wellness Curated. This is your host, Anshu Bahanda and as you know, the aim of this podcast is to help you lead a healthier, happier, more hopeful life by bringing you all kinds of tools, tips and techniques. So today I have Dr. Sepp Fegerl talk to us about fasting. He’s a GP of Holistic Health in Salzburg, Austria. He’s trained in FX Mayr medicine or Modern Mayr medicine. He’s associated with VIVAMAYR in Austria and he’s introduced many, many international clients to the concept of Modern Mayr medicine. I mean, there’d be lots of names you would have heard of. Some of the names are people like Rebel Wilson, Liz Hurley, Deepika Padukone, Karan Johar. A lot of these people go to the likes of VIVAMAYR. Thank you Sepp, for taking the time out to join us today. 

Dr. Sepp Fegerl: Thank you Anshu and your team for the opportunity today, to talk a little bit about fasting and for the very kind invitation.

AB: Thank you. Now, I first want to ask you for those who are new to the Mayr methodology, will you explain it? Modern Mayr methodology and what is it best known for?

Dr. SF: The Modern Mayr medicine is a further development of a very basic complementary form of medicine, diagnostic and therapy. The method was founded by an Austrian physician, Dr. FX Mayr at the beginning of the last century. And he was trying to identify little changes in the opposite person that are promising inflammation, that are promising changes away from the ideal state of individual health. And accordingly, he then focused and identified the intestine to be the main source. And so the Modern Mayr technique was further developed by his followers. And this includes the rinsing, it includes the training, it includes resting and also substitution and the physical activity some need to improve their state of health or to reach back a good state of health and wellbeing.

AB:  So the first thing you said is that it includes rinsing?

Dr. SF: It includes rinsing of the intestinal surface. The intestinal surface is the biggest organ surface to the outside world. And when it comes to contact with the outside world, we also automatically implicate a possible conflict. And conflict is something that makes us look older than we are, for example, we age in advance, or it is limiting our possibilities, our functionability. So the rinsing of the intestinal surface using healing brines is one of the key aspects that are part of the Modern Mayr medicine that is now successfully used in many medical centers in the world, and in the wellness world, to treat and support people.

AB:  Thank you. Now, as you know, I’m a big fan of the Mayr methodology, but I want to ask you, how is the sort of fasting you do different from other fasting techniques?

Dr. SF: I think the biggest difference is that we try to value what we are working on— not with a machine or just with an idea. We are working with human people and each human being is coming from a certain past and history, and is holding some genetically connected, genetically determined possibilities in the metabolism, etcetera, and is also holding a certain amount of physiological and emotional capacities that can be used for the process of fasting and cleansing. In Mayr, we try to prepare the people before they start their fasting. There’s this week or two weeks of preparation where you try to avoid the consumption of challenging, either foods for example or challenging life habits. In this week, you also try to improve your chewing habits so that you are becoming more efficient in your digestion. You start to improve your hydration state. Most of us are just hydrating too little across the day and that is leading to a latent dehydration. And dehydration is something that will always make it more difficult for my body to turn from a spongy, swampy, state of sub-optimum health into a very river or lake or ocean-like state of balance and well-being. And number two is many people that are listening, maybe also to us, are connecting fasting or understanding fasting to be the same like starvation, when the opposite is the case. Fast just means you reduce the caloric intake below a certain point, below the point that you need for survival. But you are offering the body the necessary amount and quantity of nutrients that the body doesn’t need in a state like that and that can be varied individually. Someone needs, just for example, a slice of bread and a little bit of tea or a healing broth or vegetarian broth. Some may need a really good amount of vegetable soup and this is where Modern Mayr medicine comes. I think bringing in its key quality, as it is treating the individual and not offering the golden pill and the golden solution for everyone because not everyone is the same.

AB:  So you’re saying that the main difference is the personalization— one; and secondly the fact that it comes with a lot of other things like you’re talking about rinsing the intestine, preparing the body so it comes with other things. It’s not just that you’re thrown straight into a fast, is that right?

Dr. SF: Thank you very much for this summary. And this is for each of us who have already tried fasting in the past, for example, without the whole friendly support of either supplementation, if this is necessary; or preparation or mental peace, or physical rest, they have already experienced that fasting is hard work for the body, a difficult state where it tries to tidy up in the best possible way to lead us to a state of better health and a better metabolic state. But it can also turn bad.

AB: What do you mean turn bad?

Dr. SF: If you start fasting and you are suffering already from a deficiency in, for example, trace elements that are key elements in the enzymatic performance of your liver, such as, for example, selenium or zinc, but also copper, for example. If a person like that starts to fast—his bodies and especially the mitochondria suddenly work on alternative metabolic strategies. They try to compensate for the fact that it can increase, for example, the risk to develop a myocardial infarction, or stroke that is increasing, also the risk for the aggravation of a mental disease or an illness.

AB:  And tell me, who have you found in the past to benefit from this kind of the Mayr methodology and fasting? I mean, is there a particular age group or is it people with certain conditions where you say oh gosh, they will benefit immediately?

Dr. SF: Who needs fasting or who benefits from fasting… If you are in a state where you experience or you start to doubt your metabolism and that your functionality is limited— either you think or you name it to be age as the reason, for example, some would say it’s stressful, some would say I have no idea. But my memory is just not as good as it has been. For example, some people say look for my age and for my sex, I would expect to be or everyone would expect me to be super fertile. But it seems to be problematic for me and my wife or my husband, for example, to conceive a child. If you are in a state where that is reflecting your body’s metabolism, your body’s function, ability to be not as good as you would expect it to be, this is then a moment when fasting would beautifully help you and support you.

AB: So if a normal person came, no issues and healthy. Talk to me about the benefits.

Dr. SF: From a medical point of view, fasting medicine is an anti-inflammatory treatment, an anti-inflammatory therapy. And inflammation is non-infectious. Diseases that are related to inflammation are seen worldwide and are still responsible for more than 74% of all death cases. For example, with fasting there is no maldigestion, there is no fermentation or decay issue happening inside of the intestine. With that, the breathing is getting better, the cognitive possibilities are getting better. Overall, it is an interesting and in many cases a very positive, life changing experience because it’s so simple, you can practice that and do that wherever you are, whatever part of culture you are in.

AB: And now talk to me about the risks and the drawbacks and also tell us if there is any way of mitigating them?

Dr. SF: The best thing that you can do is first, inform yourself and prepare yourself. That would be ideal. Second, if you are able to involve into this preparation a person with a lot of experience, that would be ideal because he or she will ask you or will support you in identifying problematic or potential risk factors such as deficiencies and the trace elements that I mentioned. For example, it is important that you are not over exhausting yourself or exhausting yourself undergoing a fast— exhausting yourself through physical activity. Many of us are starting a fast with the ambition to now turn everything from bad to good. So they are motivated not only to positively affect their lifestyle and diet but also positively affect their state of physical health by starting sports. A fast is the wrong moment to start a sport. The fast is the perfect time to be physically active— but physical activity does not mean exhaustive sports. Physical activity is perfect oxygenation, perfect metabolization by physical activity. So if someone is doing spinning, for example, during the fasting, it is in 99 out of 100 clients that something is increasing the risk, and everything turns into the wrong direction. The fast is leading to a starvation state and with that towards a massive exhaustion, which you need to recover from afterwards. Dehydration is a massive problem. So really use the preparation to hydrate first. A well hydrated body is able to not only deliver the nutrients easily, that the body is seeking and looking for, but also is able to beautifully and quickly remove toxins or to help us detox in that state, something we wish to experience while we are undergoing a fast. An underlying other disease or infection, for example, that is becoming acute in a state of fasting such as, an acute psychosis attack or psychotic experiences like schizophrenia; or if someone is suffering or taking medication, for example; if someone is suffering from type one diabetes, for example— this person needs to be guided into a fast in a very careful and very tightly overseen and overlooked situation, state and setting. And then it turns into something beneficial. Someone who is pregnant must not starve. This person is giving all her energy, all her nutrients to a child to guarantee the fetus, to guarantee its beautiful development. If in this situation you make the mother starve, you are starving not only the mother, but also the unborn child.

AB: So Harvard Health Publishing did an article which said that intermittent fasting has many beneficial effects on diet psychology. But skipping meals and limiting calories is dangerous when there are certain conditions like diabetes or someone’s taking medicine for blood pressure or heart disease and so on. But on the other hand, there’s been numerous studies which have said that fasting actually lower the insulin dose and helps diabetics. So can you clarify what people should follow?

Dr. SF: I think when we are talking about that topic, it is important to be non-dogmatic. First of all, there is a lifestyle that is making my body ill, it is making my body develop over time, for example, a non infectious health disease such as a myocardial circulation issue, or an insulin resistance that is then leading to type 2 diabetes, for example, or a high level of cholesterol. But it’s normally the result of a lifestyle and only a limited amount of it is related directly to the experience, to the appearance of a certain genetic or hereditary genetic state or combination. It’s normally the lifestyle that is causing those illnesses. If you expect a lifestyle caused by illness or disease to disappear with one fasting, you are expecting too much. That is not possible, that is not happening. But if fasting is leading to a new understanding and new self experience, it is very often the starting shot for a new lifestyle and a new career that allows you to emancipate— again from a disease that was caused by this lifestyle. So a simple example is if someone is starting a fast and suffering from type 2 diabetes, it is worth it to stop most of the medication. If you have questions, please contact your nearby physician. But normally you can stop all the medication like this [snaps finger]. You are starting the fast… You are either continuing the fast, but you never should start. Initially, your ketone bodies in the blood will increase. Ketones and ketoacidosis are a very fierce side effect and complication of a diabetic metabolism. But the beautiful thing is that if someone is undergoing fasting, and is suffering from type 2 diabetes— after an initial increase of the ketogenic bodies inside of the body and with that also an experience of ketoacidosis, it is starting to drop because the cells in the mitochondria are starting to understand ketones to be a beautiful source for energy. And the metabolism is changing to a fat metabolism. Which is good, because we are able to transform fats into sugars like these ketones, and that’s leading to a better metabolic state after the fasting. The client will experience, okay, look, I have survived. My blood sugar levels were not crazy, but are now better. If I’m going back to my old lifestyle, it will of course again lead to a change that is pointing indirectly toward type 2 diabetes. But in most cases, you initially need just a very limited amount of medication. With this limited amount of medication and a better lifestyle, you can beautifully and with time emancipate. Or in other cases, like with someone who is suffering from high blood pressure, many people who are suffering from high blood pressure and at the same time are experiencing a low level of magnesium and potassium, if you are in this situation starting a fast, you are causing a crisis inside of the system. If you prepare in this situation for one weekend you supplement with magnesium and potassium so that this person with the higher performer, higher blood pressure is now starting well prepared with magnesium and potassium into the fasting period, and you will experience such beautiful and positive effects.

AB: So what I’m hearing from you, Dr. Fegerl, is that if you have any condition, don’t try this on your own at all. Is that right?

Dr. SF: Yes, I would agree with that. Again, inform yourself.

AB: Okay. And we find people fasting all over the world. There’s religious ways of fasting for people to gain clarity. Some people fast for health benefits. But a lot of people, as you probably know, fast to lose weight. Now tell me how effective it is. Is it to try and lose weight through fasting? And is it sustainable? Or do you just lose water weight and then it comes back?

Dr. SF: Fasting to reduce weight is good treatment and a good first step. But as we all know, energy cannot disappear once it is existing. You can turn it from a moving energy into a potential energy, or from the potential energy again into the moving energy. And as I was mentioning— it is fasting with physical activity. That’s a golden combination experience, that is finding its way into a beautiful lifestyle that is then sustainably allowing you to change your metabolism in a positive way. But when you are starting a fast, you are missing one substance normally the most. Your body is suddenly missing one substance the most, one origin of energy the most— and that is sugar or carbohydrates. After the first 24 hours of fasting, and again, fasting is not starvation… After the first 24 hours of fasting, your metabolism is more and more transforming fat into sugar to satisfy the brain, the neural system and the red blood cells. If the neural system is suddenly receiving more and more non-sugar and non-food related and non-metal related amounts of energy,  the human being suddenly experiences a certain amount of calmness. Let’s relax. If you are in this situation, then introduce the physical activity at a low intensity that is mainly leading the muscles to metabolize fat instead of the muscles wrestling with the brain and wrestling with the neural system and the reptiles for their little sugar that is available. Your body and your body’s metabolism is continuously improving and [so is] your well being. And for those people who are suffering from massive inflammation, no matter if it is a rheumatic inflammation— related to rheumatism, for example, or an inflammation that is related to a chronic state of depression, as depression, in most cases— more than 80% are related to a state of inflammation inside of body. If this inflammation is reduced by undergoing the fast and while you are fasting, you certainly feel and experience yourself to be released from this burden.

AB: Okay, so we’ve talked a lot about preparing the body for fasting. Talk to us a little bit about what happens during the fast. So how do you make sure that you get proper nutrition during the fast and after the fast? And also you were talking about supplementation. So do you always recommend people have vitamins or electrolyte replenishing drinks?

Dr. SF: A little bit of supplementation— right now in our civilization, with all its civilization diseases, is normally a must, normally definitely necessary. Many would expect me to mention vitamin C or some [other] vitamins first, but I have to say it is normally the electrolytes that are missed the most. Electrolytes and hydration are the two elements that you should either test— prior to the fasting, in your blood, for example, to understand and identify deficiencies or with a certain amount of experience you can also see it, you can sense it. So as a number one trick, as a substance for supplementation while someone is fasting, could and should be from my point of view a vegetable broth. If you just take a few, for example, root vegetables, like a little bit of potato, parsnip, carrots, celery or something like that— you boil it up with water for 20 minutes; you let it simmer for another ten minutes; you remove the vegetables and then you are just consuming the broth that was produced like that. The unsalted broth contains a lot of electrolytes, it contains some of the water soluble fiber, so it’s a good prebiotic as well. Things that you should definitely also think of are maybe iron deficiencies. If someone is suffering from a massive iron deficiency prior to fasting, it might be a good idea to either fill up the iron storages prior to the fast or at least to support them using either an intravenous drip or maybe one or the other vegetarian sources of iron as a supplement. Is it necessary to always have some sugar inside of your body to please and to save the brain and the neural system? No, it is not. Not even for the type 2 diabetics. Again, be eager that you just reduce the medication a little bit according to the necessities and you will be surprised by how well the metabolism is normally working and running by itself.

AB: Wonderful. Now can you do this long term?  Like can you incorporate fasting into your long term life?

Dr. SF: There is the short time fasting that you can introduce into your daily routine, like skipping a meal for example. But with that, avoid overeating, challenging your intestine too much, consuming too many calories, disturbing your recovery time or your sleeping time, for example. Then it’s good some days a week or maybe all the days of the week to just skip dinner. Some people say look, why can’t I skip breakfast? You can also skip breakfast, but the clinical studies are showing us and proving [to us] that you are more beneficially affecting your blood set levels or your blood sugar levels or also your hormonal state if you are skipping dinner than skipping, for example, the breakfast. Number two is a weekly fast. For example, one day or maybe even two days is something that at least, in clinical trials with other mammals, are proving a massive improvement in metabolic health and also well being and behavioral health. But animal fasting, social fasting, and religious fasting, like almost all cultures worldwide, are used by the population. If it is not a Ramadan, it is, for example, the land in Europe or in the Christian culture or those initiation, rites and rituals prior to the change from girl to woman, boy to man— where they are fasting. For normally a full moon phase, this is something that is beneficial and tradition is normally setting things like that and habits like that, not without reason and not without a positive and beneficial reason into the annual calendar. It would be good once a year. Yeah. I can guarantee that you will not regret it.

AB: So for people who are doing this on their own for the first time, what advice do you have?

Dr. SF: Don’t be afraid. I mentioned a lot of risks, et cetera, but don’t be afraid. Try to start fasting first thing tomorrow. From today and across tomorrow you’re [going to be] drinking a good amount of water. Try to reach your three and a half, maybe four liters of water. Enjoy a little bit less of the coffee or if possible, skip the coffee completely because you might experience a coffee withdrawal. And start right away. Tomorrow in the evening, decide against dinner and go for, let’s say, a gentle walk outside and then go to bed. See how you feel and experience yourself and how you feel the next day in the morning. Say look, I’m still not hungry. Please continue with drinking water. Maybe prepare yourself a beautiful vegetable broth that you can then use and consume across the day and see how the next few hours, where the next few hours are leading you to. Maybe you will continue and enter a longer time. You just decide to enter fast with a beautiful breakfast already in the morning. So you think, listen to your body, listen to your body. Your body is highly interested and your instincts are highly guiding you in a very positive way because your body is interested in you to survive. So the instinctive feelings will always try to keep you safe.

AB: Okay. So Dr. Fegerl, we always do a rapid fire round at the end to summarize everything very quickly. So one mistake people make while fasting.

Dr. SF: I’m prepared to be too ambitious and starve instead of fasting.

AB: One tip to those who are new to fasting.

Dr. SF: Take your time, grab information as much as possible, start with hydration, identify deficiencies as much as possible and trust your body’s response and feedback. Trust your instinct.

AB: That’s lovely. Thank you so much for your time, Dr. Fegerl. That was such an informative chat and to everyone listening, we hope you learned something new, we hope you enjoyed it and we hope we brought you a little closer to leading a healthier, happier, and a more hopeful life. If you enjoyed it, please press like and please get your friends to subscribe to my channel. And most importantly, I would love to hear from you. So any questions, suggestions, topic suggestions— please email me at anshu@wellnesscuratedlife. Thank you so much for listening and see you next week.