The Health Benefits of (Intermittent) Fasting

From antiaging to the prevention of severe health conditions

Rike Aprea
Oct 17 · 5 min read
Photo by Daniel Brunsteiner on Unsplash

“Fasting empties the stomach and the mind; freeing up space to refuel our bodies with the Bread of Life.”
Allene van Oirschot

Fasting has been used for centuries to treat or prevent health conditions. The word fast stems from the Old English expression fæsten, which refers to the voluntary abstinence from food.

It allows the body to rest and recover. While fasting is not for everybody*, it can be an effective method to cleanse the liver, colon, or kidneys.

Fasts that last 24 hours or longer have a wider range of health benefits, but even short (intermittent) abstinence from food can improve your health significantly.

This article will provide you with an overview of the major health benefits associated with fasting. And I will also share some tips and tricks that can help you to make your fast safe, effective, and successful.

The health benefits of fasting:

Fasting of 12 hours or longer can help to decrease inflammation.

If you’re interested in learning more about inflammation and its dangers for your health, please also refer to the following article by Mark Heid:

According to research by Dr. Miriam Merad, MD, Ph.D., Director of the Precision Immunology Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, fasting helps to reduce the release of monocytes, which are cells that promote inflammation and can cause tissue damage.

This effect does not only occur during prolonged fasts. A study conducted by the Department of Clinical Nutrition of the University of Hail, found that regular food restriction of 12 hours or longer can also help to decrease inflammation markers.

Fasting can increase the secretion of the human growth hormone

A lack of this so-called “youth hormone” can lead to decreased bone density, reduced muscle mass, and increased body fat.

Human Growth Hormone is suppressed during feeding and can thus positively influenced by fasting. This has been supported by various studies: Research published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation has shown that 5-days fasts can stimulate the secretion of the human growth hormone significantly.

Another study suggests that even a 2-day fast can lead to a 5-fold increase in the 24-h endogenous production rate of the Human Growth Hormone.

Fasting induces Autophagy

Autophagy is the body’s response to nutrient stress, such as fasting.

Very simplified, autophagy occurs when your body runs low on sugar: as there is nothing else that can be easily converted into energy, you start to “eat” cell waste instead.

Autophagy can be a powerful anti-aging tool. According to Sara Gelino and Hansen, one aspect of aging is the decline in cellular repair and “housekeeping”. So, as you get older, your inner cell cleaning process slows down, which leads to the accumulation of damaged cells and, ultimately, to the deterioration of organs and tissues.

As autophagy helps to recycle cell waste, it can help to counteract this and thus to favor longevity.

Apart from that, Autophagy can support the treatment of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which is one of the most common causes of chronic liver disease and can lead to cirrhosis.

A study published in the Exercise and Sports Science Reviews by the American Colleague of Sports Medicine suggests that autophagy can help to improve non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Last but not least, a Brazilian study suggests that autophagy induced by Intermittent Fasting might also be beneficial for cancer treatment.

Tips and tricks for successful fasting:

“Everyone can perform magic, everyone can reach his goals if
he is able to think, if he is able to wait, if he is able to fast.”
Hermann Hesse

Regular intermittent fasting can help to prepare you for longer fasts

Once you have practiced the 12-hour fasting 12-hour feeding rhythm for a week, you can add an hour to your fasting window per day. If that’s too fast, you can stick to a 13 or 14-hour fast for the next week or until whenever you’re ready to move to the next level.

Listen to your body

Hydration is key

Keep busy, but avoid stress

Instead, chose a day for which you have planned activities that you enjoy, to keep your mind from focusing on (not) eating.

Start your 20 or 24-hour fast with a protein-rich breakfast.

Your body can run efficiently with a low intake of fats and carbohydrates, but it needs protein to run smoothly.

That does not mean that you cannot survive without this macronutrient for a couple of hours (or days), but it’s a good idea to include enough protein in your last meal before the fast.

Apart from that, protein keeps you full longer than fat or carbohydrates, which can make it easier to start fasting.

*A word of warning: if you are suffering from any (chronic) health condition, please consult your health care provider before going on a fast.

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In good health,
Rike

Wellness Decoded

Increase your health and happiness —  step by step, day by day

Rike Aprea

Written by

Certified Personal Trainer & Behavior Change Specialist. Let me help you to change your attitude, your habits, and your life. www.derexercisecode.com

Wellness Decoded

Increase your health and happiness —  step by step, day by day

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