Intermittent fasting – Healthy aging and weight control
Research has shown that many people often have a late supper and early breakfast and eat constantly throughout the day in between, thereby not allowing their digestive system a long enough break to replenish. Recent studies have focused on how caloric restrictions can decrease aging and diminish age-related diseases. A popular concept in this field at the moment is intermittent fasting.
During Intermittent fasting the window of time in which you can eat is limited. It is recommended that individuals consume their daily food intake within a 6-8-hour time frame and fast for 14-16 hours after that. Typically, fasting should start after an early supper so as to respect the natural biological processes in our body and the circadian rhythms of hormones and detoxification.
There are many benefits of intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting plays a major role in weight loss and maintaining current weight. It promotes Insulin and Leptin sensitivity and normalizes the “hunger hormone” Ghrelin. Intermittent fasting stabilizes Insulin secretion and prevents Insulin Resistance thereby indirectly preventing Cardiometabolic syndrome, Diabetes type 2, Dementia, visceral fat formation, certain cancers, cholesterol and triglycerides imbalance, premature aging, etc.
Recent cutting-edge research explains how intermittent fasting supports our natural microbiota (bacteria present in our gut). Our microbiota outnumbers our human cells 10:1 and is important for many biological processes and in maintaining our health. It also plays a major role in balancing our immune system and converting the fiber that we eat into short chain fatty-acids (SCFA).These short chain fatty acids are the most significant fuel source for our colon cells and are known to prevent colon cancer. Beneficial gut bacteria are essential for the production of vitamin B12, Biotin and Vitamin K. 60 % of bodily Biotin come from these “good” bacteria, and helps our body to convert fat into an energy source. Vitamin K is important for calcium absorption into bone and regulation of blood clotting. By balancing our gut bacteria, intermittent fasting indirectly prevents endotoxemia related Insulin resistance, cardiovascular problems, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Intermittent fasting allows our gut cells to rest and renew. This is very important because these cells essentially make-up a barrier that protects the body from the “toxic outer world” and helps in absorption and assimilation of all vital nutrients. Gut cells have a life cycle of 2-7 days but by eating continuously without a decent period of rest, we are not allowing them to adequately replenish themselves. There is an epidemic of the Leaky gut which is often putting people at risk of developing autoimmunity. Numerous studies concluded that Hashimoto Thyroiditis (that is so prevalent in South Africa) resides in the Leaky gut. An easy way to rest the bowel and leaky gut is to introduce intermittent fasting.
There is an increase in Growth Hormone production during intermittent fasting which, as an anabolic hormone, has anti-aging properties that promote healing and repair of damaged and inflamed tissue.Growth hormone also contributes to creating a lean body.Furthermore, intermittent fasting helps to fight free radicals and suppress inflammation and exercising during intermittent fasting can enhance protection from age-related muscle wasting.
Intermittent fasting does not mean a reduction in calories; the calorie intake remains the same, it just reduces the window of time in which you can consume them. That does not mean that individuals should eat processed food, refined carbohydrates, and predominantly grains. “Bad” caloric intake will not allow intermittent fasting to work to its full potential.
For this reason, the food consumed during “feeding time “ should be restricted to healthy fats, moderate amounts of high-quality protein from organically raised and grass-fed animals and unrestricted amounts of fresh organic, low GL vegetables and fruits.
How to fast?
Before you start fasting it is advisable to go for a check-up and seek guidance from an Integrative medicine physician for two reasons: Firstly intermittent fasting is usually started by someone suffering from a particular medical condition or purely for weight loss (that can be complicated by certain medical conditions), and that always needs medical supervision. Secondly, many people undergoing intermittent fasting have nutritional deficiencies that will limit the effectiveness of intermittent fasting. These deficiencies usually are related to Vitamin D, Chromium, Zinc and Magnesium. They all affect Insulin sensitivity, Methylation, and Gut health but importantly if insufficient they can affect blood sugar stability and compromise the fast.
Our bodies need to adjust to intermittent fasting and shift into fat burning mode within few weeks, so that is why it needs to be introduced gradually. Once the fat burning mode is established it is much easier to stick to the program as one will typically feel less hungry. People who are using this method to overcome obesity, high cholesterol, insulin resistance, etc. can maintain it every day until they achieve results.
Intermittent fasting is not recommended for underweight and malnourished individuals, children, elderly, pregnant and breastfeeding mothers or people on anti-diabetic drugs, suffering from gout etc.
Besides this minority, almost everyone will benefit from intermittent fasting as that is nothing more but simulating what our ancestors did centuries ago when they had limited food supply!