It’s no secret that healthy eating and regular exercise can have a huge impact on your daily life. But what about intermittent fasting? Could this lifestyle change help improve your immune response as well?
Find out in this article as we explore the surprising immune benefit of intermittent fasting.
Quick Links:Enhance Autophagy | Stem Cell Regeneration | Inflammation | FAQs
Does Fasting Boost My Immune Health?
Intermittent fasting has taken the health and wellness community by storm in recent years. It's a popular method of dieting that involves cycling through periods of eating and not eating, with many touting its incredible weight loss benefits. But beyond just weight loss, intermittent fasting may also have profound effects on your immune system!
Immune health is essential for a well-functioning body and longevity. The immune system is responsible for protecting the body against infection and disease. It’s made up of a complex network of cells, tissues, and organs that work together to identify and eliminate foreign invaders, such as bacteria and viruses.
When you fast, your body goes into “repair and maintenance” mode, which can lead to a number of benefits.
One of these benefits being autophagy. Autophagy is the body's method of cleaning out damaged cells and recycling their components. Fasting helps stimulate this process, particularly in the spleen, an important immune system organ. This stage is essential for the maintenance of cell homeostasis, and has been linked to a variety of health benefits including improved metabolism, reduced inflammation, and enhanced immune health.
Intermittent fasting has also been shown to increase levels of certain immune cells, including natural killer cells, T-cells, and antibodies. Natural killer cells are important for fighting off viruses and cancer cells, while antibodies (proteins that fight infection) help to neutralize harmful bacteria and toxins.
Stem Cell Regeneration
One of the unique benefits of fasting is that it can help regenerate your stem cells. Research shows that the process of stem cell regeneration can be triggered by prolonged fasting from 24 to 72 hours.
A stem cell is a cell that has the ability to develop into many different types, including muscle cells and brain cells. When stem cells divide, they can either remain as is or become differentiated cells. For example, intestinal stem cells are responsible for maintaining the lining of the intestine, which usually renews itself every five days.
Stem cells have a remarkable capacity to divide and renew themselves for extended, or even indefinite - periods of time. They are essential in repairing damage from injury or infection, however; as we get older their regenerative power declines. A 2014 study found that prolonged fasting can enhance the immune system's ability to respond to toxins and stress in mice and humans.
Immune system defects are at the root of poor aging and a range of diseases. Intermittent fasting not only protects against damage, but also helps kick off immune system regeneration, shifting stem cells from a dormant to self-renewing state.
May Reduce Inflammation
Intermittent fasting can also indirectly boost your immune system health by reducing inflammation throughout the body. Inflammation is a normal immune response to injury or infection, but chronic inflammation can contribute to the development of many conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Intermittent fasting has been shown to reduce levels of inflammatory markers in the body, which can help keep your immune system functioning optimally.
Despite these potential benefits, it's important to note that intermittent fasting is not for everyone, and it should be done under the guidance of a healthcare professional. Some people may not be suitable for intermittent fasting, such as those with certain medical conditions, pregnant or breastfeeding women, and children.
Common Questions About Intermittent Fasting & Your Immune System
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about intermittent fasting and immunity:
Will intermittent fasting help me fight off infection?
Interestingly enough, it’s common for people to lose their appetite during the first few days of an illness. This could be your body's natural response to fighting off the foreign invaders. There is some evidence to suggest that short periods of fasting may support healthy immune function by promoting cell regeneration and limiting the inflammatory response.
Can I still exercise while fasting?
Yes, you can still exercise while fasting. In fact, exercising while fasting may actually help improve your immune system function. One study showed that people who exercised while fasting had an increase in anti-inflammatory cytokines, which are important for fighting off infection. Just be sure to listen to your body and don't overdo it.
Will I be more susceptible to illness if I fast?
There is no evidence to suggest that intermittent fasting will make you more susceptible to illness. In fact, as we mentioned above, there is some evidence to suggest that it may actually help boost your immune system function. However, if you're feeling run down or sick, it's always best to listen to your body and take a break from fasting until you're feeling better again.
Intermittent fasting may have a positive impact on the immune system by reducing inflammation, promoting the production of new immune cells, and enhancing the effectiveness of the immune response.