I’ve been working as a Certified PA for over eight years now. When I first started my career, I didn’t think of fasting as a tool for health improvement. If you’re like most people, you may think intermittent fasting sounds like a new or trendy diet topic, but in reality, people have been fasting for many thousands of years. It was only in the last 50-100 years that most people stopped fasting, mainly due to the convenience of things like grocery stores, refrigeration and fast food.
Today, I’ll share with you five ways that this normal human activity we call “intermittent fasting” can benefit your health. You should consult your Certified PA or other medical provider before fasting, especially if you have chronic medical conditions (like diabetes) or take certain medications.
When you eat, your blood sugar goes up, and so does a hormone called insulin. Insulin is secreted by your pancreas to help push blood sugar into your muscle and fat cells.
Many people have excessively high blood sugar, and excessively high insulin. That’s what causes type 2 diabetes, and it’s getting ridiculously common these days.
When you fast, your blood sugar and insulin gradually go down. That not only reduces your risk of getting diabetes in the future, it can also help improve signs and symptoms of type 2 diabetes.
Overall, the logic here is pretty simple. If you have diabetes (or prediabetes, or even just high insulin), that puts you at higher risk for almost every other chronic illness. For example, you’d be at much higher risk of having heart problems, kidney failure or even cancer.
So anything you can do to lower your risk of diabetes (or reduce the severity if you have it already), will help reduce your risk of other chronic medical problems.
3. Improved sleep quality
If you practice daily intermittent fasting (time-restricted eating), it actually helps regulate your circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is the daily pattern of various hormonal, metabolic and other activities happening in your body every 24 hours. Some activities happen in the morning, others at night. Food timing influences the circadian rhythm by letting your liver know when it’s time to digest, and when it’s time to do other things. If you stop eating at least a few hours before bedtime, your body’s able to finish digesting all of the food and better prepare to focus on rest and repair at night. If you’re still digesting food when it’s time to sleep, your sleep quality will be somewhat diminished.
4. Rejuvenated immune system = fewer autoimmune symptoms
Studies have shown that prolonged water fasting (drinking water but not eating any food) can reduce autoimmune symptoms from conditions like multiple sclerosis. In this case, “prolonged fasting” means about four to five days, or longer.
Basically what happens is after about four or five days of fasting, your body starts breaking down a lot of your white blood cells, and it makes more stem cells. When you start eating again, your body uses the stem cells to rebuild your immune system.
When it rebuilds your immune system, the white blood cells tend to work better, and they don’t have as many autoimmune problems (or in other words, they’ll be less likely to attack your own body by accident).
5. Cleaning out the “junk”
When you fast for several hours or more, it starts to stimulate a process called “autophagy.” Autophagy is when your body starts scavenging for old or worn-out proteins inside your cells, in order to recycle them- basically it’s like “spring cleaning” inside your cells. You may not notice the effects right away, but overall, autophagy will make your body function better and reduce your risk of certain diseases – just another one of the cool benefits of fasting!
There are more ways fasting can benefit your health – I’ve only mentioned a few in this article. Overall, it can reduce the risk of diabetes and other chronic medical conditions and can have a dramatic impact on your health, and on the health of society at large. Talk to your Certified PA about intermittent fasting and how it might benefit your health!