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Does Intermittent Fasting Help With Inflammation?
Fasting involves the process of refraining from eating food for specific periods. Generally, you can drink tea or black coffee and water. Fasting is a common practice in some religions but has lately been studied for its health benefits and effects on inflammation, disease, and aging. Intermittent fasting (commonly abbreviated as IF) has been gaining traction as the go-to diet for obese people or people who have Type 2 Diabetes. You may be considering trying intermittent fasting to reap its many healing benefits. So how does intermittent fasting help with inflammation? Let’s look at some of the aspects of fasting before you make your decision.
How Does Fasting Work?
As mentioned above, fasting is the process of refraining from food for certain hours of the day or even certain days of the week. Intermittent fasting involves eating within a specific time window during the day and skipping meals for the remaining hours. Alternate day fasting is when low caloric foods or no foods are consumed on certain days of the week while you eat normally all the other days. You will want to work with your healthcare provider and do your research before engaging in any fasting techniques. Everyone’s body is different and will be affected differently based on your health status.
The 16/8 intermittent fasting method allows for an eating window of 8 hours a day, where you will eat all your meals within this timeframe. For the other 16 hours, you won’t consume any food, only water (or black tea/coffee). This way of fasting can be done every other day or even every day. For example, you may only eat between 12:00 p.m. and 8 p.m. You shouldn’t eat anything after 8 p.m. so your body can use fasting to its advantage. If this window seems too daunting, try a larger window of eating, and slowly scale back.
History of Fasting
The idea of fasting can be traced back to the first humans who lived as hunter-gatherers and had no choice but to fast for long periods because of scarce food sources. Some ‘extreme fasters’ even suggest that this is the most natural way for human beings to consume food. Times have changed, with humans having more access to all kinds of natural and processed foods. This increase in rations also brought forth more diseases related to inflammation, obesity, diabetes, and even an increased occurrence of certain cancers.
How Intermittent Fasting Affects the Body
Things in your body change when you fast; there’s no doubt about that.
- Your body starts producing energy from other sources, and this lowers your basal metabolic rate
- The process of ketogenesis starts, inducing the ‘fat-burning’ mode
- Your cells start clearing and recycling cellular waste
- Fasting facilitates changes in gene expression and hormone levels
Studies on humans have found that some of these changes can be highly beneficial. The benefits of fasting can partly be attributed to ketones. Ketones are what your body uses for energy when there is no more glucose in the bloodstream to use.
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
- Protecting the body against inflammation and reducing it
- Anti-aging effects and increased lifespan
- Reduction in the development of age-related diseases like Type 2 Diabetes and cancer
- Risk factors for cardiovascular diseases like high cholesterol, high triglycerides, and high blood pressure reduced dramatically
- Reduction in the development of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia
- Protecting the body against oxidative stress
- Increased healing at a cellular level
- Increase in stem cell production
- Improved memory, learning, and cognition
- Helps you lose weight by using fat for energy
How Fasting Affects Inflammation in Your Body
Fasting can help reduce inflammation in various ways. Fasting reduces inflammatory markers in the body and increases pro-inflammatory cytokines. A recent study by Mount Sinai found that fasting reduces monocytes, cells that have high anti-inflammatory activity, and are increased in the bloodstream with today’s modern diet. Reducing these inflammatory cells can significantly improve chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.
Oxidative stress causes damage to cells and DNA and is a result of the modern lifestyle and diet. This, in turn, produces molecules, called free radicals, that can cause severe damage to tissues and cells and start a chain reaction of destruction. Fasting can counter this by activating genes and hormones responsible for protecting the DNA and countering the effects of free radicals. Fasting starts a rejuvenation process in the cells to help to heal and remove unwanted cell debris.
Foods to Eat When Intermittent Fasting to Help with Inflammation
If you are going to try an intermittent fast, the foods you eat during the eating window should be healthy and nutritious. They should preferably be energy-rich and full of healthy fats to keep you going. Here are some examples of foods you can add to your fasting meal plan:
- Leafy greens high in antioxidants with anti-inflammatory effects like spinach, swiss chard, leeks, kale, broccoli, garlic, and onions
- Berries like blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries in moderation
- Pasture-raised meat and poultry
- Wild-caught fatty fish like salmon
- Healthy fats like avocado, coconut oil, and olive oil
- Foods containing probiotic cultures like certain yogurts, sauerkraut, kefir, and kombucha
- Snacking on nut and seed butter to help keep energy levels up. You can try almond butter, sunflower seed butter, or a combination with a few different nuts and seeds. Our latest favorite is called NuttZo, and you can find it online and at many of the health food stores.
Are there any side effects related to intermittent fasting?
If you decide to try fasting and are suffering from any chronic illnesses, be sure to discuss it with your healthcare provider first, especially if you are taking medication.
Intermittent fasting has been shown to reverse Type 2 Diabetes in his patients. Intermittent fasting can also help with inflammation. Read more about that here from Dr. Fung.
For healthy individuals, studies have found no serious side effects. The most common complaints when you start fasting are related to hunger, a lack of energy, and headaches. These symptoms are common and only temporary while your body adjusts to your new routine and detoxifies. It should clear after a few days.
Have you tried fasting yet? What has been your experience? Let us know in the comments below!
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