Ten days without food. According to news feeds, the 12 boys and their soccer coach, trapped in a flooded cave in Thailand, have had nothing to eat. Any pad Thai they might have packed was surely all consumed by the first night of their ordeal. Nonetheless, on Tuesday, a Navy Seal doctor scuba dived to their location and reported no ill consequences to their forced fast. In the video of the children’s initial discovery, they seem active and talkative (“We haven’t eaten. We have to eat, eat, eat.”)
No one is dead, dying or delirious. Other than some scrapes, they say: “I am healthy.” All 13 of them. And they were fasting in far from ideal conditions with only muddy water for bathing and drinking (unless, of course, they started recycling their own urine.) Also, keep in mind, these are active Asian kids, living off rice and vegetables, who were probably already thin to begin with.
I thought this was a noteworthy example for people with type-1 diabetes – as we see more and more evidence that fasting may be a key component to healing this life-threatening disease. When I bring up the subject of fasting, however, many respond as if the suggestion was made to cut one’s arm with using a dull pair of nail clippers and then run it through a paper shredder. Parents of children with T1D have even stronger reactions, as if fasting their child 2-3 days would warrant child abuse.
Now as long as you don’t fast the child the weekend they are competing in the school triathlon, I really can’t see it being a considerable risk. If left to rest and drink distilled water what’s the worse that would likely happen? They lose a pound or two that they’ll gain back in a week of eating? And as long as their insulin regimen is fine-tuned I don’t see their risk of hypoglycemia being any worse than when they are eating. I also suspect children would heal more easily than adults, as their metabolism is faster and their bodies’ less congested with toxins and infections.
When our son has a virus (usually only two or three times a year) we just stop feeding him (something I’ve been doing since I was 16). He immediately goes into “rest mode” and sleeps most of the time. He says he doesn’t even feel hungry. In a day or two he’s often fully recovered. In fact, last time he fell ill, he told us he didn’t want to eat dinner that night because he felt the initial signs of a cold. He went to bed early and woke up fully recovered. Hardly what I’d call child abuse. What’s worse: Two days of rest and fasting or two weeks of diarrhea and vomiting?
These children in the Tham Luang Nang Non cave have demonstrated that the risks of water fasting even for 10 days are small. For adults there’s probably even less to be concerned about. My wife, Nicole, didn’t see any problems with her last long fast until she reached day 36. A friend with T1D in Germany only had a mild and short-lived breathing problem on day 20. Neither experienced problems within the first two weeks.
I think it’s safe to say that the risks of fasting 2-5 days are few and small; while the risks of type-1 diabetes are big and numerous. Even if fasting doesn’t cure T1D it would still prove invaluable for fending off all the complications that come along with it. It’s also great for fine-tuning long-acting insulin needs and reducing insulin resistance.
As odd as fasting may seem, it seems far more natural than the the treatments most endure with T1D: A $3k pump attached to one side of their belly and an $1k CGM on the other, finger-pricking lancets, synthetic insulin injetions, and an array of meds ranging from thyroid to blood pressure. And, sadly, blood sugars are still far from normal. But don’t be depressed about it, there’s always Prozac. And for those who live long enough they may get a dialysis fistula grafted into their arm, a prosthetic foot or a seeing eye dog. In comparison, does fasting really sound so extreme?
I hope the example of these 12 boys and their coach will inspire more people to experiment with this ancient method of self-healing.
The Miracle of Fasting: For more information an how fasting even 48-hours once a month can increase stem-cell growth you can read Fasting for Stem Cells: A Promising Cure for Type-1 Diabetes. For guidance on fasting you may wish to order a copy of Paul Bragg’s classic book, The Miracle of Fasting: Proven Throughout History for Physical, Mental, & Spiritual Rejuvenation. It’s available from amazon.com, amazon.ca and amazon.co.uk.