Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Rest & reset

Feet up in the lounge room

I've come to the final piece of the puzzle, to amend a compromised immune system. I've discussed food, mood and movement already. It all connects to the gut microbiota, to the brain and finally to the immune system response. It's a very basic overview. The ecosystem of our body, has a lot more layers of complexity. Yet it's enough to grasp the interaction, required for the most efficient biological systems. And how we can play our part developing them. Now all there is left to address, is rest.

Why is rest important to your healing process? Effectively, it's hitting the reset button on your biological network. The neural, endocrine, immune and humoral networks in the body, require repair and cell regeneration, to be able to do their best defending the body. When you don't rest however, it doesn't allow vital cell repair and regeneration to take place. All those communication networks suffer as a result.

Understanding how this reset button works, begins with the circadian rhythm. Or the internal process of our sleep-wake cycles, every 24 hour period. Many living organisms possess an endogenous oscillator, which just means it's internal and cycles. But it's effected by various external cues from the environment, in the form of light, temperature and redox cycles. That last one is extremely interesting, in these modern times. I won't delve into it now, but basically external cues (either natural or man-made) can trigger, or hinder the reset button in our biology.

Drawing energy

There is an associated field of study, into the biological effects of solar and lunar cycles, called Chronobiology. The way a plant sequesters energy from sunlight and C02, called photosynthesis, is an example. As plants store C02 during the day, and expels it at night. Triggered by an endogenous oscillator, because of light and lunar cycles. It's actually harmful for a plant to take in C02, at night. Which is why it performs photosynthesis, during the day.

Did you know, the human gut can respond in a similar way to feeding, as a plant? Have you ever heard of the health benefits of intermittent fasting?

It's all in the timing

Intermittent fasting, is one area which is starting to get more medical research done. This link, is a study on the effects of intermittent fasting, with health, aging and disease. A paid subscription is required. Or you can sign up for a limited number of free articles, per month. I did that, and it's a critical read. Here's an exert from the article:

"Cells respond to intermittent fasting by engaging in a coordinated adaptive stress response that leads to increased expression of antioxidant defenses, DNA repair, protein quality control, mitochondrial biogenesis and autophagy, and down-regulation of inflammation"

This research, lists the benefits of intermittent fasting as metabolic switching and cellular stress resistance. Both critical for that cellular repair, in our body's natural defenses. Have you ever considered the power of your gut, was hidden in avoiding digestion? There are different kinds of Intermittent fasting routines, and I'll explain mine soon.

First, a link for those who may not want to supply their email, to access the study above.  The Metabolic Effects of Intermittent Fasting, is an extensive evaluation on medical research conducted in this field too, and even covers some religious fasting observations. It's free and utilises peer-reviewed research.

The fridge as a trigger

I've only introduced intermittent fasting, in the past few months. So it's still new to me. Opting for the easiest fasting schedule (Time-Restricted Feeding) I only eat between 9am and 5pm, every day. Leaving a 16 hour window, for my body to conduct nocturnal renewal of cellular repair. I've read that women should take the easy approach first - as the two other methods, involve longer periods of fasting. Which may be more challenging for our hormonal fluctuations.

The first week, was the hardest. Not because of hunger, as I eat well during the day. Rather it was breaking the habit of visiting the fridge, and feeling the absence of my hand to my mouth. I didn't realise how addictive the motion of eating was. Or how ingrained. Whenever I went to the fridge at night (food prep related) I would have a minor panic attack - wondering if I habitually ate something without realising, As my subconscious was still plugged into the message - fridge, eat, hand to mouth.

I've never made a routine of habitually avoiding food altogether. Now I have adapted though, it actually feels more normal to switch off my digestive process, at night. Although it would be even more beneficial, if I didn't stay up with artificial light, at night. I'll keep that in mind for future improvements.

Each piece, makes a picture

I'm not recommending intermittent fasting to anyone, as it's one of those things you have to come to, on your own terms. By supplying research, explaining how our biology responds to an internal circadian clock, and external cycles, however, it highlights the triggers to health we may not be aware exists.

Rest was that final piece in the puzzle for me though. Food, discovered solutions in additional microbiota. Mood and movement, found solutions engaging my digestive process, with a balanced release of hormones. The solutions found in rest, was deactivating my digestive process, for cellular repair at night. All these solutions, work to connect my internal ecosystem better. The way nature had always intended for our biology to function. In cycles.

Through all these combined solutions however, I always observe the 80/20 rule. By fully committing to these strategies for 80% of the time, I don't stress about the 20% I may divert away from them. In the long term, the numbers are still working in my favour. This concludes my series on how I amended a compromised immune system. I hope you're all finding your way through these challenging times, in good spirits.

What is an area in your health, or food, you would like to learn more about?


  1. Haven't read this post yet, Chris (tonight in bed!) but thought you might be interested in this article as it mentions a compound found in mulberries and you mentioned them in a recent post. Also in nettles, which I have, but not mulberries. I have one planted but it's only a couple of feet high. Anyway have a read and eat those mulberries!

    1. That's a great read, Bev. Thanks for sharing it. I have plans to buy more dwarf mulberries, but will have to see if they haven't been sold out!

  2. A couple of years ago I tried the 5:2 diet. That's where you fast for 2 days and eat normally for 5 days. You choose your fast days....I think I chose Tuesdays and Thursdays....can't remember if there was a reason. On the fast days you can eat a small number of calories....I can't remember how many. It was so hard.....I would wake up in the night just longing for a piece of cheese! Needless to say I didn't last long on it! I find it easy to do the intermittent fasting. I eat normally through the day and generally have an early evening meal, then eat nothing until the next morning. It helps that now I'm on my own, I go to bed early and have no desire to eat supper as I used to do when I was younger. I have a fairly early breakfast, but still getting in a 14 hour window without food. I think I could even exist on just 2 good nourishing meals a day, but haven't tried it yet.

    I think we eat far too much nowadays......more than is good for our systems. Having cupboards and fridges full of food doesn't help. By continually engaging our digestive systems, we don't allow our bodies the time to complete all the other important processes that we need for complete health.

    Thanks for an interesting series of posts.

    1. Completely agree that food is easily attainable nowadays, which makes it easy to over-indulge. My grandparents were hard workers and grew a lot of their own food (had cattle, etc) but still practiced limitation at their meal times. Breakfast, lunch and dinner, were the only times in the day,they would stop working to eat! There was always pudding, which counted as supper I guess - but after that, you went to bed and didn't eat again, till the morning.

      No-one kept raiding the fridge at night. And if I complained about being hungry, I was told to wait until the designated meal times. So no snacks, unless you were out working, picking berries or beans. Then you could snack on a few. Funny how times change, and I forgot the lessons of my grandparents! You could only snack, if you were working, bringing in the food.

      Thanks for sharing your experience with fasting too. I think it's better for women to do that long fast overnight, rather than fasting over consecutive days. I've been able to stick to that regime too (like you).

  3. A really interesting set of posts, Chris. I think your three posts really emphasise, for me, that wellness comes about through a combination and balance of factors. Food, and its role in health, is one of the factors that I like to read and learn about and where I think there's so much scope for change given the prevalence of highly processed foods in our lives today.


    1. You're on the money about balancing a combination of factors. Wherever we can learn and make a difference to our health, is a step in the right direction. Less chance of us becoming more susceptible as we age, too. Thanks for reading along and joining in.


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