In 2019 I got sick. Twice. Like, had to take a week off work and couldn’t move sick. After a few doctor visits, a specialist, a somatic movement educator, and some time I started to recover. This was life with Polycystic Kidney Disease. Previously I’d had very few symptoms, but they’d all come at once and hit me like a truck. I was quite literally K.O’d. While I was recovering I became aware of patterns of behavior I’d been oblivious too. Notably my lack of appetite. I realized, that for quite a while, I’d been eating because it was “time” rather than hunger. Due to nausea in the morning I began skipping breakfast. Had my body been telling me to change my dietary habits? Was intermittent fasting going to help? Here’s what I learned from 6 months of intermittent fasting.
Why Intermittent fasting for PKD?
I’m not going to go in depth as to what PKD is, the PKD foundation is an amazing resource for that. In summary, it’s a genetic disease where cysts grow in and on the kidneys. As the cysts grow, the kidney function decreases. And the kidneys get larger. So far there is no cure. As kidney function declines the options are dialysis then transplant.
While there is no cure for PKD I’m diligent about being proactive with my health and while sick in July, I began reading some of the new research. I happened upon a paper about PKD and intermittent fasting. In studies, intermittent fasting, combined with a slight calorie reduction, had been shown to help PKD. As I’m always down to test things myself. And as my appetite in the morning was already non existent, now seemed like a good time to try this out. I started officially intermittent fasting September 1st.
What is Intermittent Fasting? & Struggles.
Nowadays most people have an idea what intermittent fasting is. Largely due to our crazy schedules, and technology. No longer do we have 3 meals a day, instead we snack all day. Those who follow IF typically follow the 16/8 method. Fasting for 12 hours, then eating within an 8 hour window. Whether that’s 8am-4pm or like me 12pm-8pm. Skipping breakfast came naturally for me as I wasn’t hungry at all in the mornings anymore. This would be a breeze!
If you’d asked me 5 years ago to skip breakfast I may not have been so eager to try IF. But not eating breakfast was way easier than I thought it was going to be. What was more of an issue was managing the expectations of others. Want to go for breakfast/brunch? I can’t. I fast till 12. While there is a little wiggle room, I try and stick to 12 noon being the end of my fasting window. Through the last 6 months I was on vacation (twice), changed time zones, and had Thanksgiving, a birthday, Christmas and New Years. None of those broke my intermittent fasting.
How I related intermittent fasting to yoga!
One of the yamas in the 8-limb yoga path is Aparigraha. Roughly translated as non-greed or non-attachment. Oh boy, did intermittent fasting lead me down a path of non-attachment and non-greed. As I mentioned I was dealing with nausea and not eating breakfast. In EVERY nutrition manual and training I’d been told breakfast was the most important meal of the day. Letting go of this belief was a huge stepping stone (and continues to be) on a path of non-attachment of knowledge. What’s right for one person isn’t right for everyone. The very name implies to break a fast, it’s just my fast lasts till lunch.
Aparigraha is also non-greed. As I dealt with kidneys that were growing and expanding I found I could only eat small meals. Learning to eat when I was hungry, and eating smaller meals, was essential to avoid nausea. Do you leave food on your plate after meals? Maybe consider practicing Aparigraha and serving smaller portions? As a nation America is over fed and undernourished. We need to eat more real food, at a table, with company. Rather than fast food, in your car, or at a desk. This whole experiment was a big game changer for me. Letting go of existing beliefs and beginning to question what my body needed. And recognizing what it was trying to lead me towards.
What I learned…
It’s been 6 months, what have I learned? For me this is a very sustainable and natural way of eating. Honestly it’s been super easy to keep my fasting window, and some days I do a longer fasting window than others. However, I always maintain at least a 16 hour intermittent fasting schedule. Not eating after 8pm can occasionally be a challenge if I work late, but it’s absolutely fine with some planning. What I learned from intermittent fasting is that it’s something that is very easy for me to do, and I feel great doing it. I’d highly recommend trying it.
In December 2019, I became aware of a study showing the benefits of the Keto Diet and PKD (Keto is usually paired with IF). I spent much of December researching recipes, and on January 1st I became my own test subject for Vegan Keto, combinedwith intermittent fasting. I’ll be sharing more on this in the near future.
- Have you tried intermittent fasting?
- Do you snack during the day?
- If you have PKD have you seen the latest dietary research?