Fasting is the quickest, easiest, cheapest way our family has found to heal leaky gut. Without solid foods, holes in the gut membrane can heal faster and more completely. The lack of sugars and carbs make it easier to shift the balance of bacteria and yeast in the gut. Another benefit is resetting cravings for sugars and carbs, leaving the faster to easily re-invent their diet after fasting.
Weight loss, detox, improved immune function, parasite kills, allergy elimination, and better energy are other potential benefits of fasting. This article specifically focuses on fasting with the goal of healing leaky gut.
As for our experience with fasting, I have done two 3-4 week fasts to heal leaky gut. Both of these fasts were done with my 5-6 year old child. We were really healing leaky gut to get our immune system to start working. It turns out we needed the immune system to fight chronic infections, but we didn’t know which ones at the time. We just knew that seemingly radical changes in our diet were helping our symptoms. Now those ‘radical’ changes are our new normal. This article is based on what we learned while fasting to heal leaky gut.
For those who like to skip around, here is an outline of the content:
Benefits of Fasting
Benefits of Fasting
Fasting is the quickest, easiest, and cheapest way we’ve found to heal leaky gut. Additional benefits include improved detoxification, increased immune function, better energy, elimination of sugar cravings, resetting food allergies and jump-starting lifestyle changes.
Fasting was worth it for us. We experienced better mental clarity, increased productivity, no more cravings or allergies, and tons of energy. Our oldest child got a positive Lyme antibody test, which was previously negative. Not exactly a gift wrapped present, but think about it… Her body had finally started to fight the Lyme! Yeah!!!
In vogue at the moment is something called ‘intermittent fasting.’ I don’t think these fasts are long enough to heal leaky gut. Proponents argue benefits including increased longevity to improved mental clarity.
How Long To Fast
Interestingly, there is very little information out there about how long of a fast is needed to heal leaky gut. One of the better articles available from Mark Sisson “Long Fasts: Worth the Risk?” fails to even mention healing leaky gut or resetting sugar cravings.
I think to heal leaky gut, one needs to fast for at least two weeks. Three to four weeks is even better. Why? Shifting the balance of bacteria and yeast in the gut only takes about 3-4 days. However, healing the holes in the gut takes a lot longer, typically 2-4 weeks. Elimination of sugar cravings takes about 3 days.
Preparation for Fasting
Preparation for fasting includes cleaning out foods that are not supportive of healing leaky gut, purchasing supplies, and getting in the mental frame of mind.
First, a quick rant: There is no point in fasting to heal leaky gut if one is going back to old ways of eating after the fast. Before fasting, cabinets should be cleaned out of sugars, carbs, and other items that one is eliminating from the diet. The fast is great way to jump start any lifestyle and diet changes that one has planned. It’s not worth fasting if one isn’t committed to these lifestyle changes. More information about food conducive to a maintaining a healthy gut can be found in the Diet section.
Below is a list of items to prepare for fasting to heal leaky gut. They are in order from most important to least important.
- Clean out cabinets. Get rid of all sugars, carbs, processed foods, and sugar products, including honey, stevia, sweetners and carbs.
- Take time off work. Day #2-5 are the most difficult in terms of energy and focus. It’s possible to continue working weeks 2-4, but I would still count on reduced hours.
- Purchase a good source of salt. Our favorites are Selina’s Naturally Light Grey Celtic Sea Salt, Fine Ground Celtic Sea Salt, and Premier Lab’s Pink Salt.
- Organic lemons – lemon water with salt is always great during a fast.
- Grassfed beef bones & organic chicken bones– The bones are great for making bone broth. We like to have both beef and chicken bones for variety during the fast.
- Order supplements that you might need for detox and drainage. If one already has some favorites, awesome. Here is our list of favorites: Georgia Pine Gum Spirits of Turpentine, Activated Charcoal, Diatamaceous Earth.
- Do a Microbiology & Yeast stool test. Great Plains Laboratory allows you to order the kit and take the form to a physician for signature. The test cultures the dysbiotic bacteria against natural and prescription agents. Results will give a sense of any supplements or medications that could be taken during fasting to help shift the gut balance. See the section about ‘Clearing the Stool Test.’
- Order enema supplies & try an enema if you haven’t already. Enemas are one of the best ways to help with brain fog and bacteria die-off reactions during a fast. See the article on “How to Give a Child an Enema” for more details.
What to Drink While Fasting
Fasting for leaky gut consists of mostly drinks. Here is a list of our favorite drinks while fasting:
- Plain Filtered Water
- Bone broth with Salt (we like Celtic Sea Salt)
- Filtered Water with a bit of lemon and salt
- Gerolsteiner Mineral Water
- Organic Tea – any variety desired. Generally I don’t recommend a lot of caffeinated teas, but an occasional green or black tea won’t hurt.
Starting after week 1, we add the following to the list of drinks:
- 1 soup bowl of bone broth with 1 Tablespoon pureed grassfed or organic organ meat, typically liver, heart or kidney. One bowl per day.
Why? The organ meats are nourishing and help keep up energy during the fast. We found that this does not interfere with healing the gut, or the bacteria shift, if introduced at the start of week 2.
Starting at week 4, and to start to break the fast, we add the following:
- 1 additional soup bowl of bone broth with 1 Tablespoon pureed grassfed muscle meat. This makes a total of 2 bowls of soup per day.
The First Few Days of Fasting
The first few days of the fast will be the most difficult. The sugar cravings will be overwhelming. Exhaustion will be debilitating. Energy will disappear, and then come back for spurts at a time. The bowel will slow down. Brain fog and other symptoms of detox may appear.
This is the time to dig deep with resolve, take naps, and be patient with the shift in the body. Enjoy the slowing down of life. Remember that breaking a sugar addiction can be more difficult than breaking a cocaine addiction . The article “How to Break a Sugar Addiction” might be a helpful read for this point in the fast.
Fasting can deplete minerals. The problem is that how quickly and which minerals deplete varies a lot. The particular mineral supplement needed is also dependent upon the person. The only way I know to figure this out is to muscle test.
Check out the overview video first to understand our muscle testing techniques.
This example shows how to test and dose various supplements. When mineral deficient, we test with all the mineral supplements and salt that we have around.
If mineral deficiencies are found, consider adding more celtic sea salt to the bone broth or soup. For us, mineral supplementation was necessary in addition to added salt. There are lots of great mineral supplements on the market, so go with an old favorite if you have one. Our favorite mineral supplements are Celtic Sea Salt, Multi-Mins, Citramins, Biomins II, or Fulvic-Humic. Fulvic humic can be rubbed on the legs and arms to be absorbed through the skin.
Brain fog. Sweats. Shivers. Moody. Cranky. Swelling. Symptoms of detox / herx/ whatever-you-want-to-call-them reactions from fasting can be difficult and debilitating. What can be done? Here are a few ideas:
- The most important thing is to be patient and celebrate that things are shifting!
- Enema! Especially for brain fog, moods, and cognitive issues, enemas can be the fastest path to resolution. For even more effective results, muscle test some supplements like Activated Charcoal, Diatamaceous Earth, or Drainage remedies to put in the enema.
- Supplements like Activated Charcoal, Diatamaceous Earth, Zeolites, Grapefruit Seed Extract, Caprylic Acid, and drainage remedies can be useful. These will depend on the specific case. Check out the videos above to see how we figure this out.
- Skin brushing can help move things through the body. Especially if one has swelling or water retention, this can be a good one.
- Sauna – at the gym or at home, sauna can be great for detox reactions. The problem in a fast, however, is that sweating also causes your body to excrete minerals. I would only go in the sauna if one isn’t already mineral deficient from the fast.
Breaking the Fast
Towards the end of the fast, one is eating broth with a little pureed meat. Slowly introduce foods back into the diet. Here’s a list in order of what to slowly add:
- Cooked non-sweet vegetables-like broccoli or cabbage – add these first to the soup.
- Fibrous cooked veggies – like celery and kale – add these to the soup.
- Raw foods – like a small green salad. I would start with adding one raw meal for a few days, slowly working up to more raw foods like salad and celery.
- Sweet veggies – like carrots, onions, tomatoes and squash. I would add these back to the diet in moderation. And. Stay. In. Moderation.
I am of the view that grains, dairy, fruit and sugars are not something we should be eating at all, let alone regularly. More info can be found in the Best Diet for Health section.
After the Fast
Congratulations! After the fast is a great time to make permanent changes in the diet to keep the gut healed. So one never, ever, ever has to fast again. Doing a repeat microbiology & yeast stool test might be interesting, but hopefully one is feeling much better – and that’s all that counts!
How Often To Fast
The idea with this fast is to do it once to heal leaky gut, change the diet and lifestyle to support that gut, and then never fast again. Fasting to heal leaky gut isn’t something I would do often or take lightly. Don’t start unless one is determined to shift the gut bacteria and is ready to support that change through a permanent change in diet. I generally wouldn’t fast a child more than once per year. I wouldn’t fast as an adult more than twice per year. Generally, if one needs to fast more than twice, I would re-think the post-fast diet and strategy for maintaining gut health.
As part of a gallbladder liver flush, I do think a 2-3 day fast can be beneficial. I typically do this a few times a year to keep my liver and gallbladder healthy. For more info, see the gallbladder section.
Fasting with Children
Fasting with children isn’t easy. They will feel the same sugar cravings, loss of energy, detox reactions, mineral deficiencies, moodiness and frustration that adults experience. The good news is that children typically bounce back pretty quickly after the first few days. Young children may not even remember the fast, and may not remember the previous way they ate before the fast.
Here are some tips for getting through a fast with children.
- Think of this as an adventure. What will come next in our journey?
- Let them pick which drink to enjoy next – bone broth? Water with a squeeze of lemon? Bubbly water?
- Play board games, slow down, and give the child lots of extra attention.
- Encourage them to take a nap with you.
- Try something new – like singing, playing an instrument, or coloring books. Doing new things can help distract the mind.
Q: Why would you fast with a child? Won’t they lose weight?
A: Our oldest child fasted when she was around age 5 and 2% on the growth chart. Believe it or not, she didn’t lose weight. When kids have leaky gut, they aren’t properly digesting their food, which means they aren’t getting the minerals, nutrients, fats and proteins that their bodies need to grow. Fasting is the easiest and quickest way I know to shift the balance of bacteria in the gut, heal the holes in the gut, and get the child back to growing and gaining weight!
Q: In your opinion do you think this fast can kill viruses /assist in killing parasites entirely?
A: I think it can shift the balance of bacteria/ viruses. I do not think it can kill parasites. We had done several fasts before we ever saw the first parasite come out. My theory is that while one is fasting, the parasites will feed off of the gut lining, the broth, and the mineral supplements. Dr. Simon Yu wrote an interesting article about a guy who balanced his acupuncture meridians with a 40 day fast. Note that I do not believe balanced meridians necessarily means parasites are gone… See the parasite section for more detail.
Q: Why do I need to get rid of stevia and other sugar substitutes?
A: Stevia and sugar substitutes will encourage the brain to crave sugar and sweet tastes. One of the main benefits of fasting is eliminating sugar cravings.
Q: What about drinking coffee?
A: I would use the fast as a great opportunity to get over coffee and caffeine addiction.
 WBUR with James DiNicolantonio, “Is Sugar More Addictive than Cocaine?” January 7, 2015.
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