Interviewing Dr. Valter Longo, director of the University of Southern California’s Longevity Institute, has been one of the highlights of writing this blog. Read the full interview here. Our discussion centred on his findings that a diet that mimics the effects of water fasting, without the extreme mental anguish, muscle wastage, mega loss of nutrients, and intense discomfort of water fasting (take it from someone who has done quite a bit of it). But most importantly, how it regenerates up to forty percent of the immune system. As histamine containing mast cells are a a part of this system I was naturally intrigued to speak with him directly about it.
References always at the bottom of post.
This new fasting approach, dubbed the Fasting Mimicking Diet (FMD), was created by Dr. Longo. Research on this diet shows that it can increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy in cancer treatment, regenerate not only stem cells, but up to forty percent of immune system cells. This would include mast cells, which contain within them inflammatory agents like histamine, leukotrienes, prostaglandins, interleukins, and others involved in healing and allergy.
The idea that a fourty percent regeneration is possible excited me beyond measure. I remember a conversation with a mast cell specialist who told me that avoiding mast cell triggers is necessary so that faulty ones die off. But what if we can encourage nearly half of them, especially the faulty ones (because the body is pretty great at getting rid of stuff that serves little purpose) to regenerate in just a few days rather than by avoiding all that we love forever. How insanely exciting is that!
Ok, so I don’t actually suggest restriction is the way forward. Nutrition is the key to healing, not elimination. Click here to learn how to work out what’s bothering you and make your own histamine-balanced diet and healing plan without dealing with recipes.
And I’m not the only one who thinks so. Dr. Longo’s research on the weight loss, insulin regulating, CRP lowering, stem cell regeneration, anti-ageing and anti-inflammatory effects of the fasting mimicking diet has been covered every step of the way by the Times, the Washington Post, Newsweek, Time, CNN, the BBC and 60 Minutes Australia, among others.
I’ve been following his research and other fasting news for some time now. It was interesting to read reports that fasting can prevent mast cell degranulation (the process that releases histamine into the blood stream from mast cells) in animal studies. Water fasting has certainly been a big help to me in the past. I used it when my system was totally overloaded and in distress. What I eventually came to realise is that this kind of fasting is very stressful on the body and mind. Vitamin B in particular is used up in times of stress and that’s something we can ill afford given that so many of us react to supplements.
So recreating the effects of water fasting while still eating, still being able to function well enough to drive, write, think, and even do moderate exercise was something I was definitely interested in.
In a nutshell, the FMD is essentially one which recreates the anti-inflammatory, cardiac, cancer and neurodegenerative protective effects of water fasting in a less extreme way, by allowing the consumption of 750-1100 calories for a five day period. The effects of which last for months, even though subjects went back to eating a normal diet afterwards. USC created a projected called ProLon, the five day program (the one I’ve just used), to make all this easier. The research and development, pre-clinical and clinical trials were conduced at USC’s aforementioned Longevity Institute and the Diabetes and Obesity Research Institute, and sponsored by the National Cancer Institutes, National Institute on Aging, and the National Institute of Health (NIH). You can check find more info on all this on ProLon’s website.
A recent study by Dr. Longo and his team at USC revealed that the fasting mimicking diet may reduce symptoms of multiple sclerosis. According to Dr. Longo the release of cortisone during the FMD triggers the killing of autoimmune cells. Cortisone is of course a medication many of us with mast cell disorders have been treated with at some time or another (perhaps before we were diagnosed even). The study, published in the journal Cell Reports, included mice and human patients with multiple sclerosis.
Other recent research by Dr. Longo found that the fasting mimicking diet, when paired with cancer treatment, protects normal cells while weakening cancerous ones. Plus, that it can cut belly fat (more on that in a minute) and reduce ageing markers in mice and humans.
In the autoimmune study, mice with autoimmune disease were placed on a fasting mimicking diet. The FMD reduced symptoms in all the mice and “caused a complete recovery in 20 percent of the animals”. A reduction in inflammatory cytokines (like those that mast cells contain) was also found. The study found that the fasting mimicking diet also promoted regeneration of the myelin, the sheet of proteins and fats that “insulate nerve fibres in the spine and brain” whose destruction is one of the hallmarks of multiple sclerosis.
So, enough of the science for a moment. I know most are wondering how this works. So, this diet is really freaking complicated. It’s not easy to convince the body it’s not eating anything and the FMD is very different to ketogenic diets and even intermittent fasting. Neither have the same effect on the immune system. So Dr. Longo came up with a five day plan to package the right breakdown of macro and micronutrients needed to convince the body we’re starving. It’s called ProLon and it’s available for sale now through their website. You’ll need a doctor’s approval but, just in case your doctor scratches his head when you ask him to approve it, thankfully the company has promised to connect us with doctors who are schooled in the benefits of this type of fasting.
FYI – I paid for my own pack and this is not a sponsored post.
I think I’ve adequately explained why I was willing to submit to five days of eating not so much, even if some of the ingredients are higher histamine than I would normally indulge in. When discussing with a hista-sista why I would ingest said products, my argument was simple:
- 1. Even with all the nutritional information of the foods laid out in front of me, there’s no way I can recreate this on my own. Believe me I tried. Dr. Longo and his team have spent years fine tuning this program, so messing around with it is not something I feel is prudent.
- 2. I’m looking at this as medicine. The day may come where I have no choice but to take some really nasty medicine. So why not a few higher histamine foods now to try and stop that day from coming? It’s only five days after all.
3. The ingredients have been very carefully personally chosen by Dr. Longo – who is very concerned with nutrition (I would say a bit of a health food freak like us really). Everything in the packs has been sourced incredibly well. I’ve always been willing to consume higher histamine foods as long as the quality was excellent. Having spoken with Dr. Longo at length about this, I’m satisfied that he’s on the same page nutritionally and has the best of intentions to produce the highest quality product possible.
How did it turn out?
I must say, this was the hardest day, which was surprising because it’s the one with the most food. There was just so very much of it that I had a hard time dealing with it all. So many teas, snacks, meals. Fine, they were small, lilliputian servings, but I’m not used to eating so frequently. I tend to eat two meals a day with a small snack. That doesn’t mean I under eat, just that I limit my meals in order not to trigger histamine release and inflammation throughout the day. But I’m sure ProLon’s approach makes sense in terms of preventing blood sugar crashes while fasting and this is of course a really good thing.
What on earth possessed me to think I could hike for forty five minutes at steep incline? Ah, the copious energy I felt at around 2pm. So up we went. There was no dizziness, no blood sugar crashes, just a bit of struggling to find the right word at times. That may have been more to do with the sun beating down on me and the exercise though. I have so much energy that I don’t want to sleep. Not in a manic histamine overload kind of way but rather that I have more energy than usual and want to enjoy it. So I mellow out with a cup of hibiscus tea and read a book till falling asleep.
I finally weigh myself. Living in the south of France and sitting on my butt for 16 hours a day writing a 45,000 page book “helped” me gain 10 lbs that I’ve been meaning to attend to. I’ve lost nearly three pounds. I’m delighted to note that nearly all the weight appears to have disappeared from my belly. While I no longer have a basketball tummy nowadays (the result of leaky gut/SIBO/oxalates/whatever) I do seem to have a genetic tendency (like my mom) to easily gain fat in that area.
I’m literally bouncing around and feeling very well and happy. I am however noticing that I’m drooling every time I see a piece of fruit. It’s weird, I’m not craving food, just fruit. Wait, no that’s not right. I would sell my soul for a fried plantain right now. Maybe because it’s a fruit and a lovely fried food (though how we cook our food can cause mast cells to become activated and trigger intestinal permeability/leaky gut – read about that here.)
Any weirdness that I felt after eating the foods on day one and two (tired/foggy) has now passed. My system is quiet, energised, and giving me a big thumbs up. I’ve been meditating a lot on the idea of the meals being medicine….
Yikes. Today was pretty tough. The problem is I have so much time on my hands! So much of my time is spent acquiring food and cooking it normally that I don’t quite know what to do with myself. I keep making the mistake of eating too little in the daytime and then leaving it all till evening. Eating late has always kept me up at night. I spend the saved time meditating. Feeling balanced, happy, but like the hike the other day might have used up too many calories and now I’m feeling it.
I’ve just realised that I’ve been absolutely taking for granted the fact that I have managed to stay with it enough throughout this time to continue writing, drawing and generally behaving like a human being with a brain these last few days. I go to the supermarket in preparation of breaking the fast and find myself not terribly excited by the foods there but certainly resisting the urge to wrestle a banana from a toddler’s chubby fist. Mmmmm, banana (yes, another technically high histamine food that I eat).
I didn’t stop taking my Neuroprotek mast cell stabilising supplement throughout this – I should have asked if that was ok. I really wanted to have blood tests before and after so I could share some concrete statistics with you. I will do it next time. I just couldn’t believe how much they wanted for them. Really astonishing. It’s so sad how so many of us have been bankrupted (myself included) just trying to stay alive.
What I can tell is that something profound has been happening in my body. I’ve noticed it before during water fasting, but that became too much of a stress and I know it robbed me of nutrients I desperately needed to heal. The ProLon fasting pack addresses both issues well, and I have no doubt that it’s a powerful healing tool, if you can deal with some of the ingredients you may not have eaten in a while.
I’m now five days post fast and I’m still bouncing around, super happy, incredibly productive, my skin looks better than ever. I’ve managed to keep off the five pound weight loss so far and I’m generally just excited with how my body and mind feel. At peace and running smoothly.REFERENCES
“Diet That Mimics Fasting May Also Reduce Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms.” USC News. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Sept. 2016.
“Fasting Mimicking Diet.” ProLonFMD. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Sept. 2016.