Fasting, or abstaining from food for a period of time, can be a healing strategy for our bodies that costs nothing and has a rejuvenating impact on our immune system and cells. Throughout history, and across various cultures, individuals have practiced intermittent fasting for a variety of reasons. (Sometimes out of necessity!) Intermittent fasting benefits can include rejuvenating our body, preventing disease, easing the symptoms of chronic illness and encouraging overall well being. Find five benefits of intermittent fasting below and learn how to incorporate it into your modern life with these tips from Dr. David Jockers.
Today, we have a massive abundance of food sources. We can more or less relax and eat as we please. This lifestyle, however, leads to a loss of metabolic flexibility, the ability to alter our metabolism to meet the demands of our environment. We also lose energy efficiency, or the ability to use our energy in the most efficient manner possible to regulate our bodies’ needs. These losses have actually made us more at risk to develop inflammation and chronic diseases.
Anytime we eat, we are actually increasing inflammation in our bodies. This happens even with “anti-inflammatory” foods, because even the process of digestion can stimulate inflammation.
That’s why I recommend intermittent fasting, which allows our bodies to rest and devote energy toward healing and tissue repair. Intermittent fasting is a simple, inexpensive healing strategy that can have an incredibly rejuvenating effect on your immune system and overall health. Here’s why you should try intermittent fasting and how to do it.
Why Try Fasting? 5 Benefits of Intermittent Fasting:
1. Fasting Improves Immune Regulation
Fasting allows the body to devote more energy on effective immune regulation. Fasting while drinking water or herbal tea flushes out the digestive system and reduces the number of natural microorganisms in the gut. Because the number of microorganisms is typically regulated by the immune system, fasting gives this system a chance to send its energy to other areas of the body.
Intermittent fasting also helps regulate the immune system by controlling the level of inflammatory cytokines that are released in the body. (1, 2, 3) This may be helpful if you suffer from moderate to severe allergies. (4)
2. Fasting Stimulates Cellular Autophagy
Fasting also stimulates the process of “autophagy.” In this process, the body breaks down old, damaged and abnormally developing cells and recycles them for energy. Intermittent fasting stimulates autophagy processes, which restrict viral infections and the replication of intracellular parasites. These processes also help the body get rid of toxins, and can prevent cancer cell development.
3. Fasting Improves Genetic Repair Mechanisms
Research has shown that cells live longer when going through food scarcity or famine. Intermittent fasting helps cellular rejuvenation by acting on certain genetic repair mechanisms, in part because we use less energy to repair a cell than to divide and create new cells. When our food consumption is low, the body slows down cellular division to conserve energy. In fact, the act of fasting will reduce the very mechanism that cancer cells use to take control.
Researchers at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute found that men who had fasted for 24 hours had a 2,000 percent increase in circulating human growth hormone (HGH). Women who were tested after a 24-hour fast had a 1,300 percent increase in HGH. (6) These findings are important because HGH is critical for cell repair. HGH also changes our metabolism to favor fat burning and improves the overall functionality of our muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones.
4. Fasting Improves Insulin Sensitivity
During times of food abundance, the body desensitizes the cells to insulin in an effort to avoid the stress of heavy calorie intake. The result is elevated insulin levels, increased fat storage, increased oxidative stress and inflammatory conditions in the body.
During times of food scarcity, our cell membranes become more sensitive to insulin. This is especially important when food is scarce because it ensures that every bit of food is efficiently used or stored.
Fasting has been shown to reduce the amount of insulin that is secreted and to improve cellular insulin sensitivity. Why is this important? It means the body is better at using insulin, so less is needed when we do consume food. By reducing the overall demand for insulin, we reduce inflammation in the body and improve HGH levels.
5. Intermittent Fasting and Chronic Diseases
Individuals with autoimmune diseases such as systemic lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, colitis and Crohn’s disease often see their symptoms improve when they try intermittent fasting. (9) Because intermittent fasting reduces inflammation, it can help people with chronic conditions develop a more normal immune function.
Intermittent fasting can also starve cancer cells, ultimately helping to destroy them. (10, 11)
Two Intermittent Fast Strategies To Try:
Interested in giving intermittent fasting a try? There are several strategies to try that can be applied on a daily or weekly basis. I’ve described two simple ways here that you can start with.
Before you begin, it’s important to understand that with fasting, there is a building window and a cleansing window. The building window, also called the eating window, is the time between our first meal and our last meal. The cleansing window, also called the fasting window, is the time between our last meal of the day and the first meal the next day.
So, for example, if you eat between noon and 8 p.m., and then fast until noon the next day, you’d have an 8-hour building window and a 16-hour cleansing window.
To begin to implement intermittent fasting in a non-intimidating way, choose an option that makes you feel good, and consider challenging yourself from time to time with a deeper fast. Sticking to one method and maintaining a consistent pattern with intermittent fasting is the best way to develop the metabolic flexibility and energy efficiency that strengthen our bodies’ internal resistance.
If you have never done an intermittent fast before, begin with the simple fast and stick with it for a while until it seems easy. Be sure to drink 8-16 oz. of water (as a minimum) when you first wake up to help reduce morning hunger, prolong the fast and improve the cleansing process.
This is really the best way to start. Everyone, besides pregnant women and infants, should be able to do a simple fast. It’s the first goal to get into a regular pattern of simple fasting.
Try a simple fast by only consuming water for 12 hours between dinner and breakfast. This will give the liver a chance to complete its cycle. Example: Finish dinner at 7 p.m. and don’t eat again until 7 a.m.
1-Day Food Fast
Another way to do intermittent fasting is to spend 24 continuous hours each week only consuming water, greens powders and herbal tea. Some may also include a diluted organic broth or green juices, during this fast or green juices. This is fine as long as there is no fruit. Lemons or limes, however, can be included because they have very few carbohydrates.
For example, a green juice with lemon, celery, cucumber, kale, parsley and ginger root would be acceptable to get nutrients into the body but still keep the benefits of the fast.
Making Intermittent Fasting Easier:
To help you get through the fasting hours, I recommend reducing starches and sugar in your diet, and consuming more good fats like coconut oil, olives, olive oil and avocados. The good fats will help with blood sugar stability, which will make the fast easier.
Here are some additional key strategies to consider when fasting.
1. Super Hydration: Drink as much clean water or herbal teas as possible. Hydration will help reduce stress hormones and stimulate bowel motility. Drink 8-16 oz. within the first 15 minutes of waking up, and then continuously drinking throughout your cleansing phase will reduce hunger, stabilize your adrenal glands and keep your bowels moving smoothly.
2. Minerals: We need minerals in order to produce electrochemical energy and adrenal hormones. When fasting or on a low-carb diet, we actually excrete sodium, and it is VITAL to replace this. I recommend adding Himalayan sea salt to your water, using organic broths or greens powders during the cleansing phase to make sure you’re getting the minerals you need.
3. Magnesium supplementation: Our bodies need magnesium for more than 300 vital functions. Magnesium is key for calming the adrenals and improving bowel movement. Using a good magnesium citrate, glycinate, malate or threonate supplement can help you function better when fasting.
4. Probiotics: Probiotic supplementation can help to improve bowel tone and reduce gut induced inflammation that may trigger problems with the adrenals.
Who Shouldn’t Fast?
Pregnant women, especially during the second and third trimesters, should not fast. During the first trimester, a pregnant mother could do a simple fast as long as she feels good. Babies and children can do a simple fast, although kids who work out intensely for more than an hour each day or participate in high-intensity activities such as playing basketball or soccer, may find a simple fast difficult.
As you can see, trying periods of intermittent fasting with the strategies here can help the body become stronger and more resilient against the development of chronic disease. So, consider the options and decide if periods of intermittent fasting could benefit your body and your overall health.
• Intermittent fasting allows our bodies to rest and devote energy toward healing and tissue repair. It is a simple, inexpensive healing strategy that can have an incredibly rejuvenating effect on your immune system and overall health.
• Intermittent fasting has several benefits, including enabling the body to regulate the immune system better, encouraging processes that rid the body of toxins, improving the body’s use of insulin and improving the symptoms of chronic disease.
• Dr. Jockers recommends starting with a simple fast by only consuming water for 12 hours between dinner and breakfast, or a one-day fast by spending 24 continuous hours each week only consuming water, greens powders and herbal tea.
• Dr. Jockers suggests hydration, minerals, magnesium and probiotics will help with the fasting process.
• Fasting is not for everyone. Those who should not fast include: pregnant women, especially during the second and third trimesters; babies younger than eight or nine months old; and children who participate in intense activities for more than an hour each day.
Want to learn more?
Faris MA1, Kacimi S, Al-Kurd RA, Fararjeh MA, Bustanji YK, Mohammad MK, Salem ML. Intermittent fasting during Ramadan attenuates proinflammatory cytokines and immune cells in healthy subjects. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23244540
Vasconcelos AR, Yshii LM, Viel TA, Buck HS, Mattson MP, Scavone C1, Kawamoto EM Intermittent fasting attenuates lipopolysaccharide-induced neuroinflammation and memory impairment. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24886300
Benjamin D. Horne, PhD MPH,a,b Heidi T. May, MSPH,a Jeffrey L. Anderson, MD,a,c Abdallah G. Kfoury, MD Usefulness of Routine Periodic Fasting to Lower Risk of Coronary Artery Disease among Patients Undergoing Coronary Angiography https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2572991/
Krista A Varady and Marc K Hellerstein. Alternate-day fasting and chronic disease prevention: a review of human and animal trials http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/86/1/7.full
Buschemeyer WC 3rd1, Klink JC, Mavropoulos JC, Poulton SH, Demark-Wahnefried W. Effect of intermittent fasting with or without caloric restriction on prostate cancer growth and survival in SCID mice.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20166128
Rogozina OP1, Nkhata KJ, Nagle EJ, Grande JP, Cleary MP. The protective effect of intermittent calorie restriction on mammary tumorigenesis is not compromised by consumption of a high fat diet during refeeding. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23446811