Becca's Digestion Tip Number Six: Fast for twelve-hours daily.
It's 6:30 PM (or 1800L ;)) and I just finished my dinner (and cookie dessert). Ideally, when should I eat next? Well, the answer is not a minute earlier than 6:30 AM. That's right, no bed time snack tonight. Why? Because it is important for our digestive health to fast for at least twelve-hours every day. Now, a twelve-hour fast seems pretty dramatic, but it won't be if it is done when sleeping, away from snacks, the fridge, and regular mealtimes. The body needs twelve-hours between food to rest the digestive system, to detoxify, and to allow the migrating motor complex (MMC) to do its magic (the MMC is a way of literally sweeping the gut clean of any undigested food or microbes; it is only activated in between meals and plays an important role in our immune system). When digestion is not occurring, the body can focus its energy on detoxifying (i.e. removing and eliminating any recently ingested as well as any stored toxins).
Detoxing mainly occurs during the fasting state and thus during sleep. The only way to stop detoxing is to start digesting again. Also, it is a good idea to detoxify while sleeping because you won't feel the best when all of your toxins are being pulled out of the body's nooks and crannies. A case in point: have you ever woken up really early (say for a 5 AM flight or something) and felt kind nausea, well that's because you're still in detox mode. Ever take a 30 minute nap and wake up feeling a bit groggy? That's because you entered sleep mode and thus detox mode (and the short nap wasn't enough time to pull out the toxins and get rid of them). Have you woken up feeling abnormally hungry? It may be because you're still in detox mode and the body doesn't want to complete morning tasks in this detox state, hence the need for food to stop the detox (remember: food stops a detox). Have you ever woken up and felt pretty crappy but instantly better with breakfast? Well it is the same as the situation I just described.
Now, what about getting hungry late at night, can I still eat? Absolutely. If you feel legitimate hunger, then feed the body as soon as possible and forget about detoxing times. True hunger means a lack of calories and energy for the body to metabolize and function optimally. However, for optimal digestion, late night snacking just for the heck of it should be minimized. Just try to remember the twelve-hour rule at least a couple of nights a week; your digestion system will thank you for it!