Fasting has been a very popular topic in the media over the past several years, but is fasting really healthy for you? Or is it just the next health craze?
Starting today, I’m going to dive into the topic of fasting, the health benefits, and the latest the science behind it. You’ll learn how you can use cutting-edge science to change the trajectory of your health, maintain your wellness, and even prevent future diseases.
Before I kick off this series, I’d like to begin with a warning:
It may seem obvious, but I need to remind you that no one should ever try a fast of any sort without first talking with their personal health care provider. Many of us have metabolic issues, health conditions, or take prescription medications that may keep us from jumping straight into a fast. Pease seek the oversight of a licensed medical practitioner to help you make the best decision for your health.
Fasting is Not New
Most of the academic research on fasting today is coming out of Dr. Valter Longo’s clinic at the University of Southern California. However, clinical researchers have been looking at fasting for several decades. Dr. Jeff Volek, from Ohio State University, was one of the initial pioneers to research fasting and ketosis in cancer, diabetes and other metabolic diseases. His research dates back almost 40 years!
The concept of fasting actually goes back to ancient times.
The ancient Egyptians had about 70 meat fast days built into their calendar and routinely fasted for one to three days. Every ancient religion has had a fasting practice of some type. Only in more recent times have we moved away from fasting as a regular part of our personal, religious, and societal practices.
But is fasting actually beneficial to our health? Let’s talk about that.
The Benefits of Fasting
The emerging research from the last five to ten years is showing that fasting is the therapy we’ve all been looking for.
Fasting is anti-inflammatory. It’s anti-cancer. It’s anti-aging. It improves performance, cognitive function, and gut function.
Some of the new literature is showing that a lot of our gut issues like IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth), and gut dysbiosis are actually driven by the way we eat. Fasting can improve the bacterial composition of the gut, improve gut motility, and decrease inflammation originating in gut.
Diseases like metabolic syndrome, PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), fatty liver disease, and insulin resistance, are driven by our feeding patterns. Fasting research has shown you can actually reverse some of these issues. For example, fasting has been shown to reduce fat in the liver in fatty liver disease. As a side note, fatty liver disease, which was rare when I was in medical school in 1996, is now expected to be the most common cause of liver transplantation. It is shocking that 10% of Americans have fatty liver disease and 30% of the world’s population has it.
Researchers, like Terry Wahls from the University of Iowa, are looking at different kinds of fasting diets to help treat neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis. And Dr. Dale Bredesen (UCLA) is using fasting to help his Alzheimer’s patients.
Why is fasting so powerful?
When you fast, your body has the opportunity to do some cleanup. Your cells take the trash out! Cell trash and waste products accumulate every day in your metabolism. This cell trash is best removed during fasting. If we never fast and eat from sunrise to sunset, we are actually impairing our cells’ ability to detoxify. Many neurological conditions are actually caused by the buildup of these toxic waste products in our cells. Fasting helps to accelerate the removal process.
Research is showing that, in mouse models, a mouse’s life expectancy can be extended 30% simply by fasting. CT scans of mice with cancer have shown that the size of tumors is reduced 30 to 40%. Research in cancer and chemotherapy has shown that fasting actually improves the cells’ response to chemotherapy and also has a protective effect on normal non-cancer cells.
If fasting is so awesome, why don’t we talk more about it?
Because fasting can be challenging to actually implement. It can be difficult to compress your food intake into a smaller eating window, especially given the easy availability of ultra-processed foods and the chronic stress that many of us experience.
Now that we know about fasting being such an incredible therapy, how do we go about taking advantage of such powerful information? We’ll start next week by talking about the different kinds of fasting and the benefits of each type.
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Since 2010, Richmond Integrative and Functional Medicine has been helping people to restore their health and hope with an integrative approach to conventional and alternative medicine that’s entirely science-backed. We at RIFM believe everyone is made for health. We offer a comprehensive, in-person patient membership program to ensure you get access to the care you need to thrive.
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