Intermittent fasting has recently become a popular health trend. This trend involves an eating pattern where you cycle between fasting and eating.
What sets intermittent fasting apart from other diets or health plans is that it’s not concerned with the type of food that you can only eat. Instead, with this plan, you can eat any food you want. The other aspect of intermittent fasting that sets it apart from other diets is that it has other health benefits on the body other than simply losing weight.
Some of the many other health benefits intermittent fasting offers include the following:
1. Changes Cell, Gene, and Hormone Function
When you put your body through a fasting phase, there are different cellular repair processes and changes in hormone levels that occur. These changes within the body make the fat your body has stored more accessible.
Some of the changes that begin to happen to your body during a fast include:
- Insulin levels drop, aiding in fat burning.
- Human growth hormone levels increase, which aid in both fat burning and muscle gain.
- Your body will begin to go through the process of cellular repair, like removing waste materials from your cells through autophagy. What is autophagy? This is a process that cleans out damaged cells in the body, making way for newer and healthier ones.
- Changes will happen within genes and molecules that correlate with longevity as well as protection against disease.
Many of the following benefits of intermittent fasting will relate back to the different changes that begin to happen in hormones, gene expression, as well as the function of the cells.
2. Cellular Repair Processes
As mentioned earlier, during fasting, the body experiences autophagy–the process of removing cellular waste from the body. This process breaks down and metabolizes cells that are no longer healthy and serves as a way to protect the body from diseases, like cancer or Alzheimer’s, by replacing those unhealthy cells with healthier ones.
3. Reduce Insulin Resistance
Diabetes has become more common over recent years, and the main cause of this increase comes from high sugar levels in relation to insulin resistance. Lowered insulin resistance should help lower blood sugar levels, which would then help protect a person from type 2 diabetes.
In relation to intermittent fasting, insulin resistance has been shown to be lowered due to fasting, which, in turn, leads to a reduction of blood sugar levels. What this means for those who try intermittent fasting is that it has the potential to protect those who are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
4. Reduce Inflammation
Oxidative stress, an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants in the body, won’t only cause aging but can also be a cause of chronic diseases. Oxidated stress can lead to diabetes, heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, etc.
That being said, intermittent fasting has been known to enhance the body’s ability to resist oxidative stress, protecting the body from many of these potential chronic diseases. Beyond this, intermittent fasting has also aided in reducing inflammation, which is a major cause of those common diseases.
5. Beneficial to Heart Health
Heart disease, one of the world’s biggest killers, can be fended off by fasting. There’s research that shows that fasting may improve many factors that may potentially lead to heard disease, such as the following:
- Blood pressure
- Cholesterol levels
- Blood triglycerides
- Blood sugar levels
- Inflammatory markers
Since intermittent fasting has been known to combat these different risk factors, this also means fasting can improve your heart health by reducing those risk factors.
6. Can Improve Brain Health
While it’s important to keep your body healthy, it’s just as important to keep your brain healthy at the same time. Intermittent fasting can help improve different metabolic features that are important to brain health, such as the following:
- Reduces oxidative stress
- Reduces inflammation
- Reduces blood sugar levels
- Improves insulin resistance
Fasting has also been known to increase the growth of new nerve cells, which will benefit your brain’s functions. Additionally, fasting can increase the level of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which serves to increase learning and memory within the brain. The way fasting increases the growth of these neurons serves to protect the brain from different kinds of damage.
Intermittent Fasting Stages
Now that we’ve addressed how fasting may help one to heal, let’s look into the different stages of fasting your body will go through:
In the first 12 hours of fasting, the body enters a metabolic state called ketosis. During ketosis, your body will start to break down and burn fat. Some of the fat in this stage is used to produce ketone bodies in the liver, serving as an alternative energy source for cells in the heart, skeletal muscle, and brain.
During ketosis, your body begins using ketone bodies instead of glucose, at least partially, for fuel, which aids not only the brain but other organs as well. Additionally, these ketones produce less inflammatory products, which promotes brain development.
2. Fat-Burning Mode
By 18 hours of a fast, the body will switch to a fat-burning mode. During this stage, ketone levels are at the highest. These increased levels of ketones in the bloodstream signal molecules to increase stress-busting pathways, reducing inflammation and repairing damaged DNA.
At 24 hours, the body’s cells are increasingly recycling their old components, breaking down proteins that can lead to Alzheimer’s and other diseases. This is what we previously referred to as autophagy; the 24-hour mark of fasting is what causes autophagy.
4. Growth Hormone Level Increases
When your body hasn’t had calories in 48 hours, this causes your growth hormone levels to increase up to five times what they started at. The increase in this growth hormone helps preserve lean muscle mass, reduce fat, and promote both wound healing and cardiovascular health.
At 54 hours, insulin levels will have dropped to their lowest level, causing your body to become even more insulin-sensitive. These lowered insulin levels play a key role in reducing insulation and protect you from different diseases of aging.
6. Replacing Old Cells with New
Finally, by 72 hours, the body is breaking down old immune cells and replacing them with new ones. Fasting for as long as 72 hours has proven to preserve healthy white blood cells for those who are going through chemotherapy.
While many people will turn to intermittent fasting as a way of losing weight, the fasting process has a lot more to offer than just a smaller waistline. Fasting may improve overall health as well as aid in the body’s healing through the six stages of fasting described above.
If a healthier lifestyle is what you’re looking for, intermittent fasting may be the answer.