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Intermittent Fasting: What are the Benefits?
- Intermittent fasting is currently one of the most popular health trends. It involves alternating between cycles of eating and fasting. Studies show that this process can lead to weight loss and better metabolic health.
- One of the most obvious benefits of the popularity behind intermittent fasting is weight loss. Since it encourages your body to use your fat stores for energy, you burn through weight faster. Though some people worry that basal metabolic rate could be negatively affected, studies indicate this may not be the case. People even eat less on non-fasting days.
- Intermittent fasting has benefits beyond weight loss. For instance, it can improve glucose tolerance and stimulate brain function, helping to reduce the risk of neurological conditions.
- Intermittent fasting can also improve the function of the immune system, and reduce the risk of chronic disease. Studies have found that it is effective at improving heart function, and can also prevent cancer.
- Besides a wide range of health benefits, intermittent fasting may also help for fighting back against chronic conditions like Lyme disease. Intermittent fasting helps the body to repair and regenerate cells, while boosting the immune system.
- Additionally, intermittent fasting can also help to fight back against oxidative stress, and reduce inflammation. Both of these problems can be significant in a range of conditions, including chronic Lyme.
- There are a wide range of different intermittent fasting plans to choose from. As the health trend becomes more popular, it’s likely that more options will emerge. Today, the most popular option is the 16/8 method. This involves fasting for 16 hours per day, and eating within an eight hour window.
- Fasting may not be right for everyone. It’s important to speak to your doctor before trying it out, especially if you are suffering from chronic diseases or conditions. For example, people with diabetes or hypoglycemia should avoid fasting. Additionally, breastfeeding mothers or pregnant women may want to think twice about intermittent fasting.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
“Intermittent fasting” is one of the world’s most popular health and fitness trends. As the name suggests, the method involves alternating cycles of eating and fasting. Many studies show that this solution can promote weight loss, improve metabolic health, and protect against disease.
Most of the time, intermittent fasting does not dictate which foods you can eat, but rather when you should eat them. There are a range of intermittent fasting methods which split the day and/or week into periods of eating and fasting. Most people frequently “fast” each day when they sleep regardless. Intermittent fasting may simply involve extending that experience a little longer.
For example, one idea might be to skip breakfast, eat your first meal at noon, then follow up with your last meal at 8pm. This way, you technically fast for 16 hours each day, and restrict yourself to eating in an eight-hour window. This is one of the most popular forms of intermittent fasting, called the 16/8 method.
Despite common belief, fasting can be quite easy to do. Most people find that they have more energy, and feel better during a fast. Hunger is typically not much of an issue, although it can be a problem towards the beginning of your experience. While no food is allowed during the fasting period, you can drink plain coffee, water, tea, and other beverages. Taking supplements may also be allowed if there are no calories in them.
It turns out that fasting has many health benefits, ranging from improved health of the cardiovascular system to reduced cancer risk. Fasting can even help with gene repair to potentially help people live longer.
Some experts believe that a common factor in driving disease could be eating too frequently. When you are in a constant “feast” mode, your body forgoes much of the natural “repair and rejuvenation” that comes with fasting. Research suggests that you can achieve many of the same benefits associated with severe caloric restriction with intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting actually mimics the eating habits of our ancestors. Since they did not have access to grocery stores or takeaways, our ancestors would cycle through periods of famine and feast, experiencing biochemical benefits as a result.
Intermittent Fasting for Weight Loss Purposes
Perhaps one of the key reasons intermittent fasting has become so popular, is its ability to promote weight loss. Instead of functioning on the food you just ate, fasting causes your body to tap into reserves. In other words, you use your accumulated fat, which can aid in removing extra weight. Fasting can lead to slow, steady weight loss that is usually easier to maintain.
Since fasting is incorporated as more of a lifestyle change than temporary fix, it can be more sustainable than other fad diets. Many studies indicate the practices is a reliable tool for weight loss and maintenance. While you might see an initial result from losing water weight, eventually you will start to lose true body fat.
One concern that some people have about intermittent fasting, is that reducing calorie intake each day could lower the basal metabolic rate. This would make weight loss harder to achieve. Some studies have suggested that this effect may even continue for years after a diet, and can continue indefinitely.
However, one study into intermittent fasting found that basal metabolic rate was higher after 36, and 60 hours of fasting. The researchers believed this was due to an increase of norepinephrine. Additionally, fat metabolism increased. This means that fat was burned for energy instead of glycogen. In the same study, muscle breakdown was not evident until the end of the third fasting day.
When you start eating again after a fasting period, it is possible to continue burning fat instead of carbohydrates for energy. Some scientists even believe that the long-term use of intermittent fasting might shift the pattern of burning carbohydrates for energy to fat. However, it is not known how much fasting needs to be done to achieve this shift.
Studies show that people eat 20% less on their feasting days. This could be because eating less reduces the amount of food you need to feel satisfied.
The Additional Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Fasting is a common practice throughout history. It began as a spiritual practice, and modern science has confirmed its health benefits. Besides weight loss, there are many good reasons to consider intermittent fasting. For instance:
1. May Improve Glucose Tolerance
For diabetics, fasting can be a great way to normalize glucose and improve glucose variability. People in search of a solution for increasing insulin sensitivity could consider intermittent fasting. This process can change the way your body processes glucose.
In many cases, insulin resistance is the outcome of an accumulation of glucose in tissues not appropriate for fat storage. As the body burns through body fat, that accumulation becomes smaller, allowing the cells in the liver to become more responsive to insulin.
2. Stimulates Brain Function
One study that was discussed in 2015 found that intermittent fasting can have great effects on the brain. Scientists undertook research on humans and animals to see the implications of fasting for brain health. The research found that fasting stimulates the brain in many ways. Not only does it promote the growth of neurons, but it also aids in recovery following a stroke or brain injury.
Intermittent fasting can also improve memory and reduces a person’s risk of developing diseases that degenerate the brain such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. There is some evidence to show that it may even improve quality of life for people who already have those diseases.
3. Boosts the Immune System
According to researchers from the University of Southern California, fasting can regenerate the immune system. In simple terms, it boosts the body’s production of white blood cells, and helps to fight off infection. Cyclic fasting, performed by intermittent fasters, enables the body to purge inefficient immune system elements. It also means that you can replace bad cells with newly generated ones.
Studies show that 72-hour fasting can help to protect cancer patients from the toxic effects of chemotherapy treatments, which can cause significant damage to the immune system. Though additional research is needed, many researchers are confident that fasting could be ideal for immunocompromised individuals.
4. Improves Heart Function
A lower body fat percentage caused by intermittent fasting can be very useful. Not only does it have wide-reaching benefits throughout the body, but it’s great for cardiac function. Consistently, studies show that populations known for practicing intermittent fasting show lower levels of cardiac mortality.
Intermittent fasting can even reduce cholesterol levels, particularly triglycerides. Having less body fat removes some of the strain on the kidneys, minimizing blood pressure, and increasing growth hormone production. Ultimately, these benefits lead to improved heart function.
5. Helps to Prevent Cancer
There is research to indicate that intermittent fasting might even lower the risk of developing cancer. Regular eating prompts the body to promote new cells. If those cells mutate, along with a variety of other variables, this can cause cancer.
Fasting gives your body a rest from cell rejuvenation. This may lessen the chances of new cells growing cancerous. Studies indicate that fast-like diets can reduce the protection that prevents immune systems from attacking cancer cells. This impact is improved when combined with chemotherapy.
Intermittent Fasting Helps you to Fight Back Against Disease
One of the key benefits of intermittent fasting is its ability to help you fight back against disease. We’ve already mentioned how intermittent fasting can improve immune system function. When it comes to fighting back against chronic diseases like Lyme, intermittent fasting could actually be the key to success for many people.
Intermittent fasting leads to changes in the body, and the cells of the body respond to those changes by enhancing their ability to cope with stress and resist disease. Research conducted over the years found that with animals, intermittent fasting can fend off and reverse illnesses. This impact is not limited to simple conditions either. Intermittent fasting can reduce diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and degenerative brain disorders.
The studies suggest that intermittent fasting offers these benefits because it allows the body to respond better to stress. For instance, fasting could help to reduce tumors, limit inflammation, and help to remove damaged cells and molecules. Intermittent fasting effectively helps the body to repair and rejuvenate, promoting overall health.
Research has moved beyond animals too. Intermittent fasting has also been found to have a beneficial impact on patients with cardiovascular disease and diabetes. It can reduce cholesterol levels, and impact the process of inflammation. In fact, intermittent fasting can even trigger the regeneration of stem cells.
Though the human body is constantly working to cleanse and detox, when we are eating around the clock, this process may not be as efficient. Eating a normal diet at “normal” times may wear out the cells. This is particularly true in the mitochondria. Because these cells need to be replaced, our immune systems can struggle. Intermittent fasting allows the body time to exclusively focus on repairing cells.
In Lyme patients, intermittent fasting can even reduce the inflammation responsible for many symptoms. Many people with Lyme and chronic Lyme know that inflammation can worsen their condition. Not only does inflammation make it harder to fight off disease, but it can damage other internal systems within the body.
On a regular basis, we are all exposed to oxidative stress, caused by an imbalance in the body’s production of reactive oxygen. This process can lead to chronic diseases and even cancers. Unstable molecules like free radicals can react with protein and DNA causing imbalances. In fact, oxidative stress is one of the steps in aging and chronic disease.
The weight reduction introduced by intermittent fasting can reduce the body’s levels of overall stress. This reduces the development of unpleasant inflammation and conditions. A huge benefit is the greater capability to fight back against inflammation. Intermittent fasting is definitely something that should be carefully considered in patients suffering from Lyme, other chronic illnesses, or people wanting to improve their overall wellbeing.
Types of Intermittent Fasting
There are a huge range of intermittent fasting types to choose from. Generally, the one that you pick will depend on your specific needs in terms of diet and nutrition, and the recommendations given to you by your doctor. Intermittent fasting has become very trendy over the years. The more popular it gets, the more new solutions emerge.
Here is a brief outline of some of the most popular methods trending today:
- The 16/8 Method: This is the method we mentioned above. It works by extending your fasting period after you sleep, so that you fast for sixteen hours each day, and eat for only eight. Usually, you’ll eat between 12 and 9pm.
- The Eat-Stop-Eat: This is the method where you eat once or twice in a week. Basically, you don’t eat anything from dinner one day, to dinner the next, in between feasts. You take part in a 25-hour fast.
- The 5:2 Diet: In this form of intermittent fasting, you only eat 500 calories for two days of the week. This is slightly easier than some other forms of fasting for beginners.
There are also many other variations available. As long as you stick with healthy foods, restricting your eating window can have some amazing health benefits. It’s a great way to lose fat and improve your metabolic health. What’s more fasting can simplify your life too.
Is Intermittent Fasting Right for You?
Intermittent fasting may not be the best choice for everyone. For instance, if you have diabetes, or hypoglycemia, you should avoid this method until your blood sugar and insulin levels normalize. Additionally, breast-feeding and pregnant mothers should avoid this eating schedule. If you are suffering from any illness, it is best to check with your healthcare practitioner before beginning something like intermittent fasting.
Addressing proper nutrition is crucial to intermittent fasting. Make sure that you look at your diet carefully. You should also listen carefully to your body. If you experience any headaches, tremors, weakness, or irritability, you might need to level out your blood sugar.
Remember, cutting back on calories, even for short periods, is a big change. Make sure that you eat the right foods, particularly on fasting days.
From an emotional perspective, it is worth noting that intermittent fasting is not as hard as it seems. Most people wonder if they can do it, worrying about things like mood swings. However, while it might take some time to get used to, it usually gets easier after a few days.