Studies have shown that fasting brings the body a variety of health benefits. Whether fasting for a period of two to four days, or engaging in intermittent fasting, both have been shown to boost immune function as well as brain functioning.
BENEFITS OF INTERMITTENT FASTING
In a study of participants who fasted for a period of two to four days, white blood cells were regenerated. This is particularly important for those undergoing chemotherapy, since chemotherapy destroys the good cells along with the cancer cells. Damaged white blood cells were found and recycled during fasting, helping to boost the immune system with brand new cells.
Valter Longo, a biogerontologist and cell biologist known for his studies on the role of fasting in aging and disease states, says:
“When you starve, the system tries to save energy, and one of the things it can do to save energy is to recycle a lot of the immune cells that are not needed, especially those that may be damaged,” Longo said. “
In addition, fasting has also shown benefits in brain functioning, such as improved memory.
INFLAMMATION AND IGF-1
Fasting enables to body to reduce inflammation, and also reduces the growth factor hormone IGF-1, which has been linked to cancer.
DIGESTION and fat burning
In fasting, the body is forced to use stores of glucose, fat and ketones. The body burns fat after glucose has been depleted which is great for body composition and weight loss. Additionally, with a smaller window of eating, the body has to work less on digestion, and can work on other necessary functions within the body. Simply ending your meal 3 hours before bedtime helps with sleep by giving the body a longer amount of time to work on digestion.
Blood sugar control
The levels of adiponectin, which is a a collagen like protein, increase in response to fasting. Adiponectin has been shown to play a role in glucose control and fat metabolism. Higher levels of this protein decrease inflammation and the risk of heart disease while lower levels are linked with obesity, insulin resistance and other health issues.
Intermittent fasting, which can have many definitions, but I define by fasting for 12-18 hours, forces the body to burn fat for energy, and ketones are released into the blood. Some people also will fast on alternating days, which seems like it could be a challenge.
Rats maintained on an alternate day food deprivation intermittent fasting (IF) diet exhibit decreased body weight, increased insulin sensitivity, reduced resting heart rate and blood pressure, and improved cardiovascular adaptation to stress.
HOW IT WORKS/EASING IN
If you normally eat breakfast at 7am, try extending your eating window. You CAN drink black coffee and lots of water. Dave Asprey of the Bulletproof Diet has also reported that adding MCT or coconut oil to your coffee in the morning will not raise insulin levels, which means you can blend one of these oils into your coffee and this will delay the time that you break your fast, or eat breakfast. You can start by not eating after dinner, and delaying breakfast in the morning if you are not hungry. Overtime, your body should adapt to a shorter eating window and you can try to extend the fast up to 18 hours.
It is important to note that intermittent fasting can affect hormones and contribute to infertility, so those trying to get pregnant and potentially pregnant women should not partake in intermittent fasting. If you suffer from any hormonal imbalances, it would be wise to do this under the guidance of a practitioner.
Additionally, fasting may cause disturbed sleep, which could be from low blood sugar. By making sure you are eating enough good fat and enough at your last meal, this can be avoided. As with anything, work with a qualified health professional if you decide to try intermittent fasting.
Have you tried intermittent fasting or fasting? What was your experience?
2 Collier, Roger. Intermittant fasting: The science of going without.
3 Aly, Sarah Mesaly. Role of Intermittent Fasting on Improving Health and Reducing Disease
4 Wan, R. Camanola, S. Mattson MP. Intermittent food deprivation improves cardiovascular and neuroendocrine responses to stress in rats.
5 Manju Chandran, MD, Susan A. Phillips, MD, Theodore Ciaraldi, PHD, Robert R. Henry, MD. Adiponectin: More Than Just Another Fat Cell Hormone?
6 Kumar, Sushil and Kaur, Gurcharan. Intermittent Fasting Dietary Restriction Regimen Negatively Influences Reproduction in Young Rats: A Study of Hypothalamo-Hypophysial-Gonadal Axis.