Fasting to Fix COVID-19September 13, 2020
Now, that's a wild claim if I ever heard one! But when a client came into my office and stated that she had been diagnosed with a COVID test, was feeling awful with multi-system symptoms, and fasted for a few days and her COVID cleared right up, I was intrigued. When my dog gets sick, she doesn't eat. What's going on?
There is more than just a bit of evidence to support this.
First of all, the average person with a BMI of 25 has between 80 and 100 days of reserve fat stores, so we aren't talking about depriving you of critical calories. We are talking about an immune reboot. So, let's look to see if there is any evidence.
There hasn't been a lot until recently. From Yale, in 2018, comes a very interesting examination of just what is going on. Opposing effects in viral versus bacterial infections! All based on glucose. In a mouse model, glucose was necessary for adaptation to and survival from the stress of viral infection but it prevented adaptation to the stress of bacterial inflammation by inhibiting ketogenesis, which was necessary for limiting reactive oxygen species (ROS) induced by anti-bacterial inflammation. Hmmm. That's a mouse model, not human, but there were such dramatic differences that glucose alone determined whether mice lived or died in viral versus bacterial infections.
How about humans? Well, if you have HIV and are a Muslim during Ramadan, it has been studied. Subjects in that study showed they could cut their dose of anti-virals in half and have no change in their CD-4 cell count. And humans naturally have the same "sickness behavior" when we get ill as do animals. We don't eat and we lay down and withdraw. So, does fasting help us?
A recent "MasterMind" conference of doctors treating COVID-19 with Peptides came to the conclusion that giving ketone-esters was worthy of making the cut as efficacious. Ketone esters are a salt of ketones that gets into your blood very effectively without the fasting. When you fast, you burn up your glucose in about 12 hours and starting switching to ketones. By 48 hours, the switch is pretty much complete and you are now running on chopped up fats from your fat stores. The most common ketone you make is beta-hydroxybutyrate and you can monitor its level with a ketone meter you can buy. (Keto-Mojo is one good brand.) If you want to do a deep dive into the topic, there is quite a list of benefits of ketones on your immune system. This is serious stuff. You modulate a vast array of immune responses to the better when you fast. COVID appears to take over your mitochondria in your cells and robs you of energy. The cell is meant to turn into a factory to make new viruses and then burst, releasing the viruses to infect other cells. A reasonable hypothesis of ketones is that you bypass the COVID-19 bypass, tricking it by keeping the cell alive until your immune system can come along and gobble up that cell.
That's the race we have in infections. Can you ramp up your immune response faster than the virus can ramp up its invasion? Everything that slows it down gives you some added time. Being obese means you have pre-existing inflammation and higher glucose: gives the virus a leg up. Being old means you have a slower immune response. Gives the virus a leg up. Fasting turns off glucose, boosts up your immune system......makes a credible response.
WWW. What will work for me. I'm an older person so I have risk with COVID. To modulate that, I can do a regular 5-day fast mimicking diet and boost stem cells. There is good evidence for that. So, that I do. My ketones regularly get up to about 3.5 or 4 on day 4-5 of the 800 calorie fast mimicking diet. I haven't seen any research on fasting with COVID itself. We can't advise doing it until that happens. But I have seen it work in one person and I'm fascinated. More to come. Stay tuned.
References: Cell, Yale News, Inter J Prev Med, Med (N.Y.),
1. When you fast, what happens to your internal fuel sources? Answer: You switch over a few days from running off glucose to chopping up fat molecules to make ketones. (Beta-hydroxybutyrate is 4 carbons long - a piece of the 18 carbon long fat molecule you have in your fat cell.)
2. What do ketones do? Answer: A whole raft of benefits on your immune system. It gives it a nudge upwards. And the COVID-19 appears to prefer people with high blood sugars: the overweight and the elderly. If COVID likes sugar, let's take it away.
3. Do we have credible evidence that some sort of fasting is useful in COVID? Answer: No. Our current culture is that you need to have a randomized, placebo-controlled trial. I haven't seen how we can pull off a placebo meal.
4. Is there another way to get ketones? Answer: Yes. You can eat them straight up. Ketone-esters are a nifty way of getting your blood level up quickly without waiting to burn off your fat. There are proponents for that strategy. (Search for KE4 brand that appears to be the best on the market. The dose is 1/6th bottle three times a day)
5. Should you fast if you get COVID? Answer: Do what feels right. We intuitively don't feel like eating. It may not be so bad for you. We just don't have proof to advise one way or another. But liquids you can't do without. If you get a fever, you lose a lot of fluids. Drink.