lørdag 19. mai 2012

Fasting: another piece of the primal puzzle

I have been eating and moving according to primal/paleo principles since November 2009, though did not get the full benefit until I stopped taking olanzapine, a so-called atypical antipsychotic. I had been taking this drug for eleven years, as it was prescribed by my GP as a mood stabilizer. I had allowed myself to be convinced by Eli Lilly that I was bipolar and that Zyprexa (the trade name) was a safe and effective prophylaxis against recurrence of bipolar mania and that I would have to take olanzapine and suffer the not inconsiderable side effects for the rest of my life. But I then found out why people tended to gain weight while taking it. The abstract does not mince words:

We conclude that olanzapine impairs glycogen synthesis via inhibition of the classical insulin-signaling cascade and that this inhibitory effect may lead to the induction of insulin resistance in olanzapine-treated patients.

In layman's terms, that means diabetes. It also means that any glucose that you don’t need to burn right away gets turned into fat. I took my last tablet some time towards the end of May 2010. It took nearly a year for my metabolism to heal. I experienced withdrawal symptoms for about three months afterward (head sweats at night, insomnia, paresthesias) and I still experience paresthesias if my stress levels are elevated.

The reason I mention the olanzapine angle is that stopping it and allowing my metabolism to repair itself has allowed me to fast on a regular basis, an essential yet often downplayed part of primal/paleo, and the centerpiece of two strength-training regimens, Leangains and Eat-Stop-Eat. I have been following the Leangains protocol for a month now, and have noticed strength gains, as well as a noticeable shrinkage of what its designer, Martin Berkhan, calls “stubborn fat”, which for me has been a macaroni-fueled companion around my middle since I was nine. I even went on a 16-mile hike in a fasted state yesterday, and I plan to do the same thing tomorrow.

I am convinced that fasting is as essential to recreating what Dr. Kurt Harris calls the “evolutionary metabolic milieu”, or EM2, as avoiding what he terms the “Neolithic agents of disease”, primarily gluten grains, industrial seed oils, legumes and some kinds of dairy. Oh, and refined sugar in all its forms and guises, including fruit juices. But another very important difference between hunter-gatherers (and other animals in the wild) on the one hand, and all agricultural and to some extent pastoral peoples on the other, is that, with our pantries, larders and fridges we can satisfy hunger immediately, whereas a hungry paleolithic hunter or a wolf needs to go out and hunt for dinner. That is why that it may be that for humans, being hungry on a regular basis is as essential to our health as evolved mammals as sub-freezing temperatures are for some plants (lupines, for example). But as we live in a zoo of our own devising, it is awfully difficult to resist the temptation to toss oneself a marshmallow…