CHRISTINE MACHADO | NT BUZZ
Over the last few years, Luke Coutinho’s approach to healing and wellness has earned him quite a following. The holistic lifestyle coach in the field of integrative medicine, who is of Goan origin, focuses on four pillars – balanced nutrition, adequate exercise, quality sleep, and emotional detox.
Having co-founded RESET – Holistic Living Concepts, a facility for individuals who are voyaging towards holistic well-being, he is also an adviser and head of integrative lifestyle and nutrition at Pure Nutrition.
Apart from this he has authored books on wellness like ‘The Great Indian Diet’ with Shilpa Shetty, and ‘The Magic Weight Loss Pill’ with Anuskha Shetty. And now, together with Sheikh Abdulaziz Bin Ali Bin Rashed Al Nuaimi, member of the ruling family of Ajman and affectionately known globally as ‘The Green Sheikh’, he has released a new book ‘The Dry Fasting Miracle: From Deprive to Thrive’. Published by Penguin Random House, the book looks at the dry fasting diet ie the practice of eating the last meal of the day as close to sunset as possible followed by fasting through the night (can have water) and breaking the fast after or with sunrise. This allows a person to fast for 12 hours easily in the most natural way because it is in sync with nature, digestion, metabolism and how the body functions during the day and night.
“Dry fasting as a concept has always existed. Almost every religion talks about its importance and today science is unearthing its significance and importance in relation to human health. I take my inspiration from our nature, our roots and traditions, because there is certainly something that our ancestors did right. They were certainly at a better place when it comes to human health, in spite of us having so much more in terms of health facilities,” says Coutinho. Pointing out to how a sick animal refrains from eating or drinking till it starts to feel better, Coutinho states that human beings too experience the same thing, “but somewhere we have gotten disconnected between what our body truly needs versus what we actually give it”.
“Fasting helps revive the intelligence in our body we are born with and this intelligence is something no man has ever understood,” he says, adding that while there is ample information, videos and blogs that have been done on this concept, the idea of the book was to put it all together.
“The book serves as a complete guide that helps one understand what fasting is, how it works, how it can be applied in various health conditions, how to not make it a fad, dos and don’ts, powerful experiences shared by individuals who have embraced fasting, benefits of fasting on various dimensions of human health, etc,” he says.
While this book had been published earlier by Coutinho as the lone author, the new revised and updated version, he says, is more scientific and research-based. It speaks about deeper subjects and benefits of dry fasting in relation to cancer, autophagy, chemotherapy side effects and hormonal health, and is backed with more science, research and evidence.
“It was pretty interesting to come across powerful case studies and scientific papers in relation to fasting and immunity, cancer, cardiac health, muscle health, fertility, human growth hormone and how can it be incorporated in athletes and body builders, how it makes chemotherapy more effective with lesser side effects, etc,” he says.
The book helps debunk most common myths, breaks the whole fad of fasting to attain quick results and addresses the mistakes the people often make and what could prevent them from experiencing maximum benefits.
“We have introduced concepts like integrated fasting, circadian rhythm fasting and aspects like fasting for athletes and body builders,” says Coutinho. ‘The Green Sheikh’ also writes about the beauty of dry fasting that he has experienced and learned through the years.
Speaking about the collaboration Coutinho states: “I first met His Highness when I was treating his mother who had cancer. We got interacting about health and dry fasting, and its relevance from a spiritual point of view. All of us used to practice fasting including his mother. We then got involved in many projects and talks together with regards to health, fasting, spirituality, planet, environment, youth and lifestyle. This is how we decided to put together a book.”
Personally, Coutinho himself has been practicing fasting for a long time. “Most days of the week I like to fast till the time I am comfortable and my body is supporting me,” he says.
One of the realisations from this practice, he says, was how natural and amazing he felt with a 12-hour fasting routine and that less is more when it comes to fasting, provided it’s done the right way. “I have been working out in a fasted state and I realise that I have super energy levels and a much better focus. Mental and brain energy is sky rocketing. I am super focused and energetic all through the day. Sometimes on a Sunday, my last meal will be at 2:30 pm and I’ll try to hit 22- 24 hours of fasting at least once or twice a month,” he says. “When you fast the right way, you can be liberal with your favourite foods in balance.”
The beauty of the circadian rhythm fast, he says, is the fact that your appetite decreases and sugar cravings disappear.
“In this 12-hour fasting pattern, one needs to keep maximum intake of calories during the day (ie breakfast and lunch) and keep dinner the lightest and leanest meal of the day. Our bodies aren’t designed to digest late night meals and eating late can be detrimental to our health, digestion, acidity, blood sugar levels, sleep quality, skin and hair quality, weight, bloating and how we wake up feeling the next day,” he says.
And while there is a tendency for a lot of people to eat small meals at regular intervals, Coutinho states that one needs to be sure whether the need to eat regularly is coming out of habit or true physical hunger. “If one has a wholesome and well-balanced meal, there is really no requirement of smaller meals in between. In fact, this way, we end of sending our digestive systems for an over-drive as it is constantly working in digesting, breaking down food, churning out acids, etc, and never gets to rest. Our digestive system takes up almost 80 per cent of our body’s energy. Imagine it using so much energy all the time!” he says.
However, he states there are some individuals who genuinely need a snack to bridge gaps between two meals and that is fine. “But eating every one hour is mindless snacking and is something we need to cut down on,” he says. The same goes for midnight snacking “In a lot of cases, our body is not even hungry but thirsty and we confuse between the two and end up eating a mid-meal snack,” he says, adding that people also tend to snack at midnight simply out of boredom and emotional reasons. It is also best that if one is having an early dinner, one should also sleep earlier in order to wake up with sunrise, he says. “A person is going to feel hungry if they are awake late at night. The body needs energy to keep itself running, especially if it is true physical hunger,” he says.
If one really does need to eat or drink something, or their health condition needs them to eat something before bedtime (like frequently fluctuating blood sugar levels), then Coutinho recommends that they keep healthy and clean options with them like soaked nuts/seeds or laddus made out of nuts and seeds or simply a warm beverage like a herbal tea that has no caffeine, example, chamomile tea or lemongrass tea.
He also cautions that fasting may not suit everyone, especially diabetics, and should be adopted only under expert guidance to keep tabs on their sugar levels regularly and break the fast as soon as they find the levels falling. “While we have multiple cases of individuals who have managed their diabetes through a 360-degree lifestyle change including fasting, it may not suit every diabetic. It all depends on how often your sugar levels fluctuate, how advanced the stage of your diabetes is and various other factors,” he says, adding that people with medical conditions should always keep their healthcare professional in the loop. He further states that fasting is a no-no for pregnant women, extremely sick, weak and underweight individuals, extremely plummeting sugar levels and lactating mothers.
Apart from the physical aspect, the fast also has spiritual benefits, he states. “When we fast, it’s easier for us to connect our physical bodies to our spiritual self. Unfortunately, most people think that fasting is all about religion. It is not. While almost all religions encourage fasting, you can be a non-religious person and fast too,” he says.
According to Coutinho, it’s common for fasters to experience a deeper spiritual connection and a prolonged meditation practice without getting restless. “Prayers become more effective and come from the heart. We become more grounded and are humbled. Since thoughts during the fast aren’t so consumed by what we are going to eat next, we have more energy to devote to spirituality,” he says. “Dry fasting also cleanses our chakras and more creativity happens with heightened awareness and brain activity.”