Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Benefits Of Intermittent Fasting Part Four - A Personal Reflection Upon Brain Injury

Had my three month scan at the chiropractor's last night and was happy to see little indications of spinal inflamation. The only exception was around C6-C7 where I was experiencing some stiffness probably due to the repetitive strain associated with recent data entry project work on my "trouble" area - the legacy of a bike crash in 2005. It was an excellent result and continues to show marked improvement in my neck/back subluxations despite my exercise regimen and an accident last October. Dr. J was very impressed with my progress since the Thanksgiving weekend crash and continued to stress how remarkable my recovery has been.

Prior to March 2010 my neck and back issues had progressed to the point that sheer willpower, determination and painkillers were unable to compensate for the discomfort and it was affecting my sporting activities and employment. So last night I reflected upon the fact that 24 months later I am (generally) inflamation free and able to participate (at a high level) in the athletics of my choice; cycling, hiking, archery, ball hockey and sprinting. My body has become leaner, stronger and adaptable despite approaching fifty years of age.

I know there are many naysayers who dispute the benefits of chiropratic but it has been effective for me. You need to stay the course as it does take time to "retrain" your body,make it stronger and able to self compensate for daily stresses. Diet is the other key to overall wellness. You are what you eat and too keep the body strong you need to nourish it properly. I am a firm believer that diet is individualistic and that each person needs to invest the time and effort to determine what foods work for them and what foods do not. Once you discover the foods that are optimal for you then improved health and wellness will be the end result.

My dietary journey began with the discovery of paleo nutrition at about the same time I began consulting chiropractic on a regular basis. I have no doubt the two regimens kickstarted my path to health. Through experimentation I have adjusted my way of eating from strict paleo to a primal based diet utilizing fermented dairy and tubers. I alternate between low to moderate carbohydrate consumption based upon the season and athletic demands. It was, however, the discovery of intermittent fasting that evolved my way of eating to the next level.

What began as an experiment of intermittent fasting one day a week for 14 hours soon transpired into a regular tool in my WOE toolbox completing twenty hour fasts four days a week and shorter fasts on the remaining three days.I keep the shorter three day fasts flexible based primarily upon food availablity(opportunity) and athletics(scheduled sports). I continue to bike commute and strength train while fasting so also benefit from fasted training in the attempt to improve my metabolic flexiblilty.

I sometimes can`t help but think there is a grand design to ordinary things in our lives - a kind of karma or coincidence that validates what we are and what we do. Those moments that occur where you stop for a moment and reflect on how "strange", "timely" or " weird" they were. Well I had one of those this morning over coffee while getting caught up on Facebook when I read this post from Mark's Daily Apple.....

"Research indicates that fasting is also effective against physical trauma to the brain. It’s not that fasting somehow physically repels impending trauma by generating a magical ketone-powered force field; it’s that fasting reduces the oxidative stress, mitochondrial dysfunction, and cognitive decline that normally result from brain trauma.........."

 I have often contemplated how I lucked out after my crash last October and how I avoided more serious injury. I won`t rehash it again since I have it documented here.....

.....but needless to say both my body and brain survived the crash trauma surprisingly well considering the impact sustained in the bicycle/car collision. Having my forehead slammed off the pavement after being flipped from my bike at around 30KPH I was surprised that I remained conscious and lucid. Here`s the thing. I was cycling that day in a fasted state having taken nothing that morning other than coffee and some heavy cream. Did ketones save my brain from further damage?

Further to that was the fact I suffered no neck/upper back spinal/skeletal issues(breaks/fractures) other than some whiplash effects. I had a neck brace applied and was placed upon a body board as a precaution but sustained no structural injury. In fact despite bouts of vertigo and stiffness I was able to walk out of the emergency ward later that day.

"Despite extensive trauma, fasted rats improved gait pattern, vertical exploration, and forelimb function (all heavily dependent on brain function). Neuronal integrity was preserved, cortical lesion volume was reduced, and corticospinal axon (nerve fiber) sprouting increased...."

I can`t help but wonder if my fasted state contributed to avoiding a more serious spine/head injury in conjunction with my helmet which undoubtedly did it's job?

Conicidentally it was during the following weeks of recovery that I focused upon intermittent fasting as I was reluctant or unable to remain active due to my periodic vertigo post concussive symptoms. In an attempt to compensate for a lack of exercise I purposely escalated my intermittent fasting regimen hoping to avoid weight gain and to maintain some level of fitness. Did I, in fact, unknowingly help facilitate the healing process by continuing to fast post crash? Did I experience some level of  glucose metabolic impairment which was mitigated by a brain already flooded with and familiar to powering itself off fasting ketones?

Supporting Snippets......

"Studies suggest that during times of acute brain injury, cerebral uptake of ketones increases significantly......"

"Cerebral metabolism of glucose has been shown to be altered after head injury and increasing cerebral metabolism of alternative substrates (ketones) has been shown to be neuroprotective in several models of traumatic brain injury..."

"The evidence presented supports the following findings: (1) there is an inverse relationship between age and the brain's capacity for ketone metabolism that continues well after weaning; (2) neuroprotective potentials of ketone administration have been shown for neurodegenerative conditions, epilepsy, hypoxia/ischemia, and traumatic brain injury; and (3) there is an age-related therapeutic potential for ketone as an alternative substrate. "

"There are indications that ketones may provide an alternative and readily usable energy source for the brain that might reduce its dependence on glucose metabolism, which may be impaired immediately following TBI. There is an absence of information on which forms of TBI – mild/concussion, moderate, severe, and penetrating – might benefit from such therapy...."

Food for thought indeed!

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