Caring for our bodies is very important ; we need to be mindful of our eating pattens and what types of food and nutrients we place in our bodies and … when we eat.
Stress, emotions, environmental factors , physical activity, and diet all contribute to how our bodies operate ; and how they sustain us . Our bodies consist of a number of biological systems that carry out specific functions necessary for everyday living; these complex systems work coherently to keep our bodies ‘working ‘optimally.
A few years ago I started intermittent fasting ; which worked for me when I was diagnosed in 2014 with an IBD (Irritable Bowel Disease) – namely, Ulcerative Colitis, fasting made the disease more manageable and assised me to get my body out of a horrible flair-up and minimise some symptoms of the autoimmunity disease. It seemed to have aided in resetting & controling the inflammation in my body.
In this article, I share some of the scientific benefits of fasting; please note I am not a health professional or doctor, this is based on my research and my experience , please consult a health practitioner before taking up intermittent fasting regime. References included in this article for ease of referring to the sources of the information provided.
What is Intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern where you cycle between periods of eating and fasting. Numerous studies show that it can have powerful benefits for your body and brain1. Fasting has been shown to have many health benefits, from increased weight loss & reduced visceral fat to better brain function.
There are many different ways of fasting. Most types of fasts are performed over 24–72 hours . Intermittent fasting, on the other hand, involves cycling between periods of eating and fasting, ranging from a few hours to a few days at a time.
Despite its recent increase in popularity, fasting is a practice that dates back centuries and plays a central role in many several cultures and religions. Fasting has been used therapeutically since at least the 5th century BCE, when Greek physician Hippocrates recommended abstinence from food or drink for patients who exhibited certain symptoms of illness.2
How does fasting work in the body?
Essentially, fasting cleanses our body of toxins and forces cells into processes that are not usually stimulated when a steady stream of fuel from food is always present.
When we fast, the body does not have its usual access to glucose, forcing the cells to resort to other means and materials to produce energy. As a result, the body begins gluconeogenesis, a natural process of producing its own sugar.
The liver helps by converting non-carbohydrate materials like lactate, amino acids, and fats into glucose energy. Because our bodies conserve energy during fasting, our basal metabolic rate (the amount of energy our bodies burn while resting) becomes more efficient, thereby lowering our heart rate and blood pressure.
Ketosis ( another process that occurs later into the fast cycle) happens when the body burns stored fat as its primary power source. This is the ideal mode for weight loss and balancing blood sugar levels.
Fasting puts the body under mild stress, which makes our cells adapt by enhancing their ability to cope. In other words, they become strong. This process is similar to what happens when we stress our muscles and cardiovascular system during exercise. As with exercise, our body can only grow stronger during these processes when there is adequate time to rest and recover. That’s why short-term fasting is recommended.3
Here are some of the changes that occur in your body during fasting according to Health Line Article:
- Insulin levels. Blood levels of insulin drop significantly, which facilitates fat burning).
- Human growth hormone (HGH) levels. The blood levels of the Hormone growth Hormone may increase dramatically. Higher levels of this hormone facilitate fat burning and muscle gain, and have numerous other benefits
- Cellular repair. The body induces important cellular repair processes, such as removing waste material from cells
- Gene expression. There are beneficial changes in several genes and molecules related to longevity and protection against disease
Benefits of Fasting.
Below are some documented and researched of the benefits of fasting:
Fasting Promotes Blood Sugar Control By Reducing Insulin Resistance
Several studies have found that fasting may improve blood sugar control, which could be especially useful for those at risk of diabetes. Studies showed that people with type 2 diabetes whom practiced- intermittent fasting significantly decreased blood sugar levels4 Another review found that both intermittent fasting and alternate-day fasting were as effective as limiting calorie intake at reducing insulin resistance5.
Promotes Better Health by Fighting Inflammation
While acute inflammation is a normal immune process used to help fight off infections, chronic inflammation can have serious consequences for your health. Researchers found that fasting reduces inflammation and improves chronic inflammatory diseases without affecting the immune system’s response to acute infections)6
Fasting may Enhance Heart Health by Improving Blood Pressure
Research shows that fasting can help lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol, control diabetes and reduce weight. One word of caution, though: Fasting can lead to an electrolyte imbalance. This can make the heart unstable and prone to arrhythmias.7
Fasting reduces Triglycerides and Cholesterol Levels
Heart disease is considered the leading cause of death around the world, accounting for an estimated 31.5% of deaths globally8 Some research has found that incorporating fasting into your routine may be especially beneficial when it comes to heart health. One small study revealed that eight weeks of alternate-day fasting reduced levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol and blood triglycerides by 25% and 32% respectively9.
Fasting might promote brain health
Research on mice suggests that fasting could have a protective effect on Alzheimer’s disease, in part because it fights inflammation10.
Fasting May help with depression
- Fasting may have an antidepressant effect11, thanks to its ability to make feel-good neurotransmitters like serotonin and endogenous opioids more available12 to your brain. Fasting and calorie restriction have been shown to relieve negative emotions13 like tension and anger and boost feelings of euphoria.
- A 2008 review found that people with depression who reduced their daily calorie intake by 25 percent experienced fewer depressive symptoms14 over 6 months, without any apparent negative side effects.
It might reduce your risk of cancer
Experts still have a lot to learn about the relationship between fasting and cancer. But animal studies suggest15 that periodic fasting might have an anticancer effect, meaning that the practice could play a role in cancer prevention. The research also seems to suggest that fasting could make cancer treatments like chemotherapy more effective16
Restricting the hours when you eat has been shown to significantly improve memory, according to a study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 17. In this study, after 4 weeks of intermittent fasting, performance on a spatial planning and working memory task and on a working memory capacity test increased significantly. Additional research on animals has found that intermittent fasting improves learning and memory18
Research in the Journal of Nutrition Health & Aging19 found that after 3 months of intermittent fasting, study participants reported improved moods and decreased tension, anger20 and confusion. Another21 from 2018 that was investigating weight-loss strategies found that intermittent fasting was associated with significant improvements in emotional well-being and depression.
Is intermittent fasting safe?
As mentioned, before you try intermittent fasting (or any diet), you should check in with your health care practitioner first. Some people should steer clear of trying intermittent fasting:
- Children and teens under age 18.
- Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
- People with diabetes or blood sugar problems.
- Those with a history of eating disorders.
Intermittent Fasting Methods
There are several different ways of doing intermittent fasting — all of which involve splitting the day or week into eating and fasting periods.
There are many different types of intermittent fasting, such as the 16/8 and 5:2 methods.
These are the most popular methods:
- The 16/8 method: Also called the Leangains protocol, it involves skipping breakfast and restricting your daily eating period to 8 hours, such as 1–9 p.m. Then you fast for 16 hours in between.
- Eat-Stop-Eat: This involves fasting for 24 hours, once or twice a week, for example by not eating from dinner one day until dinner the next day.
- The 5:2 diet: With this method, you consume only 500–600 calories on two non-consecutive days of the week but eat normally the other 5 days.
Many people find the 16/8 method to be the simplest, most sustainable, and easiest to stick to. It’s also the most popular.
There are many apps to track your fasting regimen:
Try Zero fasting app and try one of the fasting schedules on the app. Note your experience. Did you feel very hungry, tired or find that you had more energy or did you find yourself concerned over the time when you will be required to break your fast?
Zero fasting App
Some Tips for practicing intermittent fasting:
The following tips may help people stay on track and maximize the benefits of intermittent fasting22:
- Staying hydrated. Drink lots of water and calorie-free drinks, such as herbal teas, throughout the day.
- Avoiding obsessing over food. Plan plenty of distractions on fasting days to avoid thinking about food, such as catching up on paperwork or going to see a movie.
- Resting and relaxing. Avoid strenuous activities on fasting days, although light exercise such as yoga may be beneficial.
- Making every calorie count. If the chosen plan allows some calories during fasting periods, select nutrient-dense foods that are rich in protein, fiber, and healthful fats. Examples include beans, lentils, eggs, fish, nuts, and avocado.
- Eating high-volume foods. Select filling yet low-calorie foods, which include popcorn, raw vegetables, and fruits with high water content, such as grapes and melon.
- Increasing the taste without the calories. Season meals generously with garlic, herbs, spices, or vinegar. These foods are extremely low in calories yet are full of flavor, which may help to reduce feelings of hunger.
- Choosing nutrient-dense foods after the fasting period. Eating foods that are high in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients helps to keep blood sugar levels steady and prevent nutrient deficiencies. A balanced diet will also contribute to weight loss and overall health.
Disclaimer: Please consult a medical professional before adopting an intermittent fasting programe .
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- Health Line. 10 health benefits of intermittent fasting article link: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-health-benefits-of-intermittent-fasting
- Britannica Fasting link: https://www.britannica.com/topic/fasting
- Boulder Medical Centre, Fasting for your health , what you need to know. Link: https://www.bouldermedicalcenter.com/6703-2/
- Arnason TG, Bowen MW, Mansell KD. Effects of intermittent fasting on health markers in those with type 2 diabetes: A pilot study. World J Diabetes. 2017;8(4):154-164. doi:10.4239/wjd.v8.i4.154 link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5394735/
- Barnosky AR, Hoddy KK, Unterman TG, Varady KA. Intermittent fasting vs daily calorie restriction for type 2 diabetes prevention: a review of human findings. Transl Res. 2014 Oct;164(4):302-11. doi: 10.1016/j.trsl.2014.05.013. Epub 2014 Jun 12. PMID: 24993615. Link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24993615
- Mount Sinai Researchers Discover That Fasting Reduces Inflammation and Improves Chronic Inflammatory Diseases link: https://www.mountsinai.org/about/newsroom/2019/mount-sinai-researchers-discover-that-fasting-reduces-inflammation-and-improves-chronic-inflammatory-diseases#:~:text=In%20a%20study%20published%20in,system’s%20response%20to%20acute%20infections.
- Cleveland clincic , Fasting: How Does It Affect Your Heart and Blood Pressure? Link: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/fasting-how-does-it-affect-your-heart-and-blood-pressure/
- Benjamin, E. J., Blaha, M. J., Chiuve, S. E., Cushman, M., Das, S. R., Deo, R., de Ferranti, S. D., Floyd, J., Fornage, M., Gillespie, C., Isasi, C. R., Jiménez, M. C., Jordan, L. C., Judd, S. E., Lackland, D., Lichtman, J. H., Lisabeth, L., Liu, S., Longenecker, C. T., Mackey, R. H., … American Heart Association Statistics Committee and Stroke Statistics Subcommittee (2017). Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics-2017 Update: A Report From the American Heart Association. Circulation, 135(10), e146–e603. https://doi.org/10.1161/CIR.0000000000000485 link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5408160/
- Bhutani S, Klempel MC, Berger RA, Varady KA. Improvements in coronary heart disease risk indicators by alternate-day fasting involve adipose tissue modulations. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2010 Nov;18(11):2152-9. doi: 10.1038/oby.2010.54. Epub 2010 Mar 18. PMID: 20300080 link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20300080
- Hallmarks of Brain Aging: Adaptive and Pathological Modification by Metabolic States Mattson, Mark P. et al. Cell Metabolism, Volume 27, Issue 6, 1176 – 1199 link: https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S1550413118303188
- Zhang Y, Liu C, Zhao Y, Zhang X, Li B, Cui R. The Effects of Calorie Restriction in Depression and Potential Mechanisms. Curr Neuropharmacol. 2015;13(4):536-542. doi:10.2174/1570159×13666150326003852 link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4790398/
- Michalsen, A. Prolonged Fasting as a Method of Mood Enhancement in Chronic Pain Syndromes: A Review of Clinical Evidence and Mechanisms. Curr Pain Headache Rep 14, 80–87 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11916-010-0104-z link: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11916-010-0104-z
- Hussin, N.M., Shahar, S., Teng, N.I.M.F. et al. Efficacy of Fasting and Calorie Restriction (FCR) on mood and depression among ageing men. J Nutr Health Aging 17, 674–680 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12603-013-0344-9 link: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs12603-013-0344-9
- Redman LM, Martin CK, Williamson DA, Ravussin E. Effect of caloric restriction in non-obese humans on physiological, psychological and behavioral outcomes. Physiol Behav. 2008;94(5):643-648. doi:10.1016/j.physbeh.2008.04.017 link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2535933/
- Nencioni A, Caffa I, Cortellino S, Longo VD. Fasting and cancer: molecular mechanisms and clinical application. Nat Rev Cancer. 2018;18(11):707-719. doi:10.1038/s41568-018-0061-0 Link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6938162/
- Greatist Helath Benefits of fasting article , Link: https://greatist.com/health/benefits-of-fasting#better-workouts
- Farooq A, Herrera CP, Almudahka F, Mansour R. A Prospective Study of the Physiological and Neurobehavioral Effects of Ramadan Fasting in Preteen and Teenage Boys. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2015 Jun;115(6):889-97. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2015.02.012. Epub 2015 Apr 1. PMID: 25840939.link : https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25840939
- Chronic Intermittent Fasting Improves Cognitive Functions and Brain Structures in Mice
- Liaoliao Li,Zhi Wang,Zhiyi Zuo Published: June 3, 2013 https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0066069 Link: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0066069
- Hopkins Medicine Intermittent fasting, what it is and how does it work , Article Link: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/intermittent-fasting-what-is-it-and-how-does-it-work
- Link: https://www.amenclinics.com/conditions/anger-issues-violence-intermittent-explosive-
- Fitzgerald KC, Vizthum D, Henry-Barron B, Schweitzer A, Cassard SD, Kossoff E, Hartman AL, Kapogiannis D, Sullivan P, Baer DJ, Mattson MP, Appel LJ, Mowry EM. Effect of intermittent vs. daily calorie restriction on changes in weight and patient-reported outcomes in people with multiple sclerosis. Mult Scler Relat Disord. 2018 Jul;23:33-39. doi: 10.1016/j.msard.2018.05.002. Epub 2018 May 5. PMID: 29753994; PMCID: PMC6107078. Link: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29753994/
- Medical News today, seven ways to do intermittent fastig https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322293#tips-for-maintaining-intermittent-fasting