Therapeutic Intermittent Fasting
What is Intermittent Fasting (IF)?
- Intermittent fasting (IF) is a term for an eating pattern that cycles between periods of fasting and eating
- It does not say anything about WHICH foods you should eat, but rather WHEN you should eat them
- In this respect, it is not a DIET in the conventional sense. It is more accurately described as an 'eating pattern'
- Common intermittent fasting methods involve daily 16 hour fasts, or fasting for 24 hours, twice per week
- Humans have been fasting throughout evolution. Sometimes it was done because food was not available, and it has also been a part of major religions, including Islam, Christianity and Buddhism
- When you think about it, our hunter-gatherer ancestors did not have supermarkets, refrigerators or food available year-round
- Sometimes we could not find anything to eat, and our bodies evolved to be able to function without food for extended periods of time
- If anything, fasting from time to time is more "natural" than constantly eating 3 to 4 or more meals per day.
DBM Protocol – Adjunct Therapy – Therapeutic Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting has been very popular for many years and several different methods have been used. All of them involve splitting the day or week into “eating periods” and “fasting periods.” During the fasting periods, you eat either very little or nothing at all.
These are the most popular methods: (note these methods are for weight loss and diabetes)
- The 16/8 Method: Also called the Lean-Gains Protocol, it involves skipping breakfast and restricting your daily eating period to 8 hours, for example from 1pm to 9pm. Then you 'fast' for 16 hours in between.
- The Eat-Stop-Eat: This involves fasting for 24 hours, once or twice a week for example, by not eating from dinner one day until dinner the next day.
- The 5:2 Diet: On two non-consecutive days of the week, only eat 500-600 calories. Eat normally the other 5 days.
By making you eat fewer calories, these methods should make you lose weight as long as you don’t compensate by eating much more during the eating periods. The 16/8 method is the simplest, most sustainable, and easiest to stick to. There are several different ways to do intermittent fasting. All of them split the day or week into “eating periods” and “fasting periods.”
How Intermittent Fasting Affects Your Cells and Hormones
When you fast, several things happen in your body on the cellular and molecular level. For example, your body changes hormone levels to make stored body fat more accessible. Your cells also initiate important repair processes, and change the expression of genes.
Here are some changes that occur in your body when you fast:
- Human Growth Hormone (HGH): The levels of growth hormone skyrocket, increasing as much as 5-fold. This has benefits for fat loss and muscle gain, to name a few
- Insulin: Insulin sensitivity improves and levels of insulin drop dramatically. Lower insulin levels make stored body fat more accessible
- Cellular repair: When fasted, your cells initiate cellular repair processes. This includes autophagy, where cells digest and remove old and dysfunctional proteins that build up inside cells
- Gene expression: There are changes in the function of genes related to longevity and protection against disease
These changes in hormone levels, cell function and gene expression are responsible for the health benefits of intermittent fasting. When you fast, human growth hormone levels go up and insulin levels go down. Your body’s cells also change the expression of genes and initiate important cellular repair processes.
Intermittent Fasting is a Very Powerful Weight Loss Tool
- Weight loss is the most common reason that people try intermittent fasting (13).
- By making you eat fewer meals, intermittent fasting can lead to an automatic reduction in calorie intake.
- Additionally, intermittent fasting changes hormone levels to facilitate weight loss.
- In addition to lower insulin and increased growth hormone levels, it increases release of the fat burning hormone norepinephrine (noradrenaline).
- Because of these changes in hormones, short-term fasting may actually increase your metabolic rate by 3.6-14% (14, 15).
- By helping you eat less (fewer calories in) and helping you burn more (more calories out), intermittent fasting causes weight loss by changing both sides of the calorie equation.
- Studies show that intermittent fasting can be a very powerful weight loss tool. In a review study from 2014, it was shown to cause weight loss of 3-8% over periods of 3-24 weeks
That is actually a very large amount compared to most weight loss studies. According to this study, people also lost 4-7% of their waist circumference (1). This indicates that they lost significant amounts of the harmful belly fat that builds up around the organs and causes disease.
There is also one study showing that intermittent fasting causes less muscle loss than the more standard method of continuous calorie restriction (16).
However, keep in mind that the main reason this works, is that it helps you eat fewer calories overall. If you binge and eat massive amounts during the eating periods, then you may not lose any weight at all.
Note: Intermittent fasting may boost metabolism slightly, while helping you eat fewer calories. It is a very effective way to lose weight and belly fat.
Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Many studies have been done on intermittent fasting, in both animals and humans. These studies have shown that it can have powerful benefits for weight control and the health of your body and brain. It may even help you live longer.
Here are the main health benefits of intermittent fasting: (I.F.)
- I.F. changes the function of cells, genes, and hormones. When you don’t eat for a while, several things happen in your body.
- For example, your body initiates important cellular repair processes and changes hormone levels to make stored body fat more accessible.
- Insulin levels: Blood levels of insulin drop significantly, which facilitates fat burning.
- Human growth hormone: The blood levels of growth hormone may increase as much as 5-fold. Higher levels of this hormone facilitate fat burning and muscle gain, and have numerous other benefits.
- Cellular repair: The body induces important cellular repair processes, such as removing waste material from cells.
- Gene expression: There are beneficial changes in several genes and molecules related to longevity and protection against disease.
- Cellular Repair: I.F. induces various repair processes by initiating cellular ‘waste removal’ – autophagy.
- Weight Loss: As mentioned above, intermittent fasting can help you lose weight and belly fat, without having to consciously restrict calories.
- Insulin resistance: Intermittent fasting can reduce insulin resistance, lowering blood sugar by 3-6% and fasting insulin levels by 20-31%. This should protect against type 2 diabetes.
- Inflammation: Some studies show reductions in markers of inflammation, a key driver of many chronic diseases. Reduces oxidative stress.
- Heart Health: Intermittent fasting may reduce LDL cholesterol, blood triglycerides, inflammatory markers, blood sugar and insulin resistance. These are all risk factors for heart disease.
- Cancer: Animal studies suggest that intermittent fasting may help prevent cancer.
- Brain Health: Intermittent fasting increases a brain hormone called BDNF, and may aid the growth of new nerve cells (26, 27, 28). It may also protect against Alzheimer’s disease.
- Anti-aging: Intermittent fasting can extend lifespan in rats. Studies showed that fasted rats live as much as 36-83% longer.
Keep in mind that the research is still in its early stages. Many of the studies were small, short in duration or conducted in animals. Many questions have yet to be answered in higher quality human studies. Intermittent fasting can have many benefits for your body and brain. It can cause weight loss, and may protect against type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer. It may also help you live longer.
Some People Should Be Careful with Intermittent Fasting (or Avoid It Altogether)
Intermittent fasting is certainly not for everyone. If you are underweight, or have a history of eating disorders, then you should not do intermittent fasting without consulting with a health professional first. In these cases, it can be downright harmful.
Should Women Fast?
There is some evidence that intermittent fasting may not be as beneficial for women, as it is for men. For example, one study showed that it improved insulin sensitivity in men, but worsened blood sugar control in women. Although there are no human studies on this, studies in rats have shown that intermittent fasting can make female rats emaciated, masculinized, infertile and cause them to miss cycles.
There are plenty of anecdotal reports from women who became amenorrhoeic (their menstrual period stopped) when they started doing IF, then went back to normal when they stopped doing it. For these reasons, women should be careful with intermittent fasting. Ease into it, and if you have any problems like amenorrhea then stop doing it immediately. If you have problems with fertility and/or are trying to conceive, then consider holding off on intermittent fasting for now. Intermittent fasting is probably a bad idea when pregnant or breastfeeding.
Note: People who are underweight or have a history of eating disorders should not fast. There is also some evidence that intermittent fasting may be harmful for some women.
Safety and Side Effects
Hunger is the main side effect of intermittent fasting. You may also feel weak and that your brain isn’t performing as well as you’re used to. This may only be temporary, as it can take some time for your body to adapt to the new meal schedule. If you have a medical condition, then you should consult with your doctor before trying intermittent fasting.
This is particularly important if you:
- Have diabetes
- Have problems with blood sugar regulation
- Have low blood pressure
- Take medications
- Are underweight
- Have a history of eating disorders
- Are female who is trying to conceive
- Are a female with a history of amenorrhea
- Are pregnant or breastfeeding
All that being said, intermittent fasting does have an outstanding safety profile. There is nothing “dangerous” about not eating for a while if you are healthy and well-nourished overall.
Note: The most common side effect of intermittent fasting is hunger. People with certain medical conditions should not fast without supervision by the practitioner.
Frequently Asked Questions About Intermittent Fasting
Here are answers to the most common questions about intermittent fasting.
1. Can I drink liquids during the fast?
Yes. Water, tea, and other non-caloric beverages are fine. Do not add sugar to your beverages. Small amounts of nut / coconut milk or coconut cream may be okay.
2. Isn’t it unhealthy to skip breakfast?
No. The problem is that most stereotypical breakfast skippers have unhealthy lifestyles. If you make sure to eat healthy food for the rest of the day, then it should pose no problem.
3. Can I take supplements while fasting?
Yes. However, keep in mind that some supplements (like fat-soluble vitamins) may work better when taken with meals. Also, it is not the practice of DBM to recommend general supplements – our supplements are patient specific and supplement specific.
4. Will fasting slow down my metabolism?
No. Studies show that short-term fasts boost metabolism. However, longer fasts (3 days or more) can suppress metabolism.
How to Start
Chances are that you’ve already done many “intermittent fasts” in your life.
- If you've ever eaten dinner, then slept late and not eaten until lunch the next day, then you have probably already done a 16+ hour fast
- Many people actually instinctively eat this way. They simply don't feel hungry in the morning
- We find that the 16/8 method is the simplest and most sustainable way to do intermittent fasting. We recommend this type of intermittent fast
- If you find that it is easy and you feel good during the fast, then you can try moving on to more advanced fasts like 24-hour fasts, once or twice a week (Eat-Stop-Eat), or only eating 500 - 600 calories 1 to 2 days per week (The 5:2 Diet).
- Another approach is to simply fast whenever it is convenient - i.e. skip meals from time to time when you are not hungry or don't have time to cook
- There is no need to follow a structured intermittent fasting plan to derive at least SOME of the benefits
Unless a specific fast has been set for you by your DBM Physician, it is acceptable, once you have clearance from the Physician to experiment with the different approaches and find something that you enjoy and suits your schedule. Numerous studies show that it can have powerful benefits for your body and brain.
10 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting.
1. Intermittent Fasting Changes the Function of Cells, Genes, and Hormones.
When you don’t eat for a while, several things happen in your body. For example, your body initiates important cellular repair processes and changes hormone levels to make stored body fat more accessible.
Here are some of the changes that occur in your body during fasting:
- Insulin levels: Blood levels of insulin drop significantly, which facilitates fat burning (1).
- Human growth hormone: The blood levels of growth hormone may increase as much as 5-fold (2, 3). Higher levels of this hormone facilitate fat burning and muscle gain, and have numerous other benefits (4, 5).
- Cellular repair: The body induces important cellular repair processes, such as removing waste material from cells (6).
- Gene expression: There are beneficial changes in several genes and molecules related to longevity and protection against disease (7, 8).
Many of the benefits of intermittent fasting are related to these changes in hormones, gene expression and function of cells. When you fast, insulin levels drop and human growth hormone increases. Your cells also initiate important cellular repair processes and change which genes they express.
2. Intermittent Fasting Can Help You Lose Weight and Belly Fat.
Many of those who try intermittent fasting are doing it in order to lose weight. Generally speaking, intermittent fasting will make you eat fewer meals. Unless if you compensate by eating much more during the other meals, you will end up taking in fewer calories. Additionally, intermittent fasting enhances hormone function to facilitate weight loss.
- Lower insulin levels, higher growth hormone levels and increased amounts of norepinephrine (noradrenaline) all increase the breakdown of body fat and facilitate its use for energy.
- For this reason, short-term fasting increases your metabolic rate by 3.6-14%, helping you burn even more calories.
- In other words, intermittent fasting works on both sides of the calorie equation. It boosts your metabolic rate (increases calories out) and reduces the amount of food you eat (reduces calories in).
- According to a 2014 review of the scientific literature, intermittent fasting can cause weight loss of 3-8% over 3-24 weeks. This is a huge amount.
- The people also lost 4-7% of their waist circumference, which indicates that they lost lots of belly fat, the harmful fat in the abdominal cavity that causes disease.
- One review study also showed that intermittent fasting caused less muscle loss than continuous calorie restriction.
All things considered, intermittent fasting can be an incredibly powerful weight loss tool. More details here: How Intermittent Fasting Can Help You Lose Weight.
Note: Intermittent fasting helps you eat fewer calories, while boosting metabolism slightly. It is a very effective tool to lose weight and belly fat.
3. Intermittent Fasting Can Reduce Insulin Resistance, Lowering Your Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
- Type 2 diabetes has become incredibly common in recent decades.
- Its main feature is high blood sugar levels in the context of insulin resistance.
- Anything that reduces insulin resistance should help lower blood sugar levels and protect against type 2 diabetes.
- Interestingly, intermittent fasting has been shown to have major benefits for insulin resistance and lead to an impressive reduction in blood sugar levels.
- In human studies on intermittent fasting, fasting blood sugar has been reduced by 3-6%, while fasting insulin has been reduced by 20-31%.
- One study in diabetic rats also showed that intermittent fasting protected against kidney damage, one of the most severe complications of diabetes.
- What this implies, is that intermittent fasting may be highly protective for people who are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
However, there may be some differences between genders. One study, women showed that blood sugar control worsened after a 22-day long intermittent fasting protocol. Intermittent fasting can reduce insulin resistance and lower blood sugar levels, at least in men.
4. Intermittent Fasting Can Reduce Oxidative Stress and Inflammation in The Body
- Oxidative stress is one of the steps towards aging and many chronic diseases.
- It involves unstable molecules called free radicals, which react with other important molecules (like protein and DNA) and damage them.
- Several studies show that intermittent fasting may enhance the body’s resistance to oxidative stress.
- Additionally, studies show that intermittent fasting can help fight inflammation, another key driver of all sorts of common diseases.
Studies show that intermittent fasting can reduce oxidative damage and inflammation in the body. This should have benefits against aging and development of numerous diseases.
5. Intermittent Fasting May be Beneficial for Heart Health
- Heart disease is currently the world’s biggest killer.
- It is known that various health markers (so-called “risk factors”) are associated with either an increased or decreased risk of heart disease.
- Intermittent fasting has been shown to improve numerous different risk factors, including blood pressure, total and LDL cholesterol, blood triglycerides, inflammatory markers, and blood sugar levels.
- However, a lot of this is based on animal studies. The effects on heart health need to be studied a lot further in humans before recommendations can be made.
Studies show that intermittent fasting can improve numerous risk factors for heart disease such as blood pressure, cholesterol levels, triglycerides, and inflammatory markers.
6. Intermittent Fasting Induces Various Cellular Repair Processes
- When we fast, the cells in the body initiate a cellular “waste removal” process called autophagy.
- This involves the cells breaking down and metabolizing broken and dysfunctional proteins that build up inside cells over time.
- Increased autophagy may provide protection against several diseases, including cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
Fasting triggers a metabolic pathway called autophagy, which removes waste material from cells.
7. Intermittent Fasting May Help Prevent Cancer
- Cancer is a disease, characterized by uncontrolled growth of cells.
- Fasting has been shown to have several beneficial effects on metabolism that may lead to reduced risk of cancer.
- Although human studies are needed, evidence from animal studies indicates that intermittent fasting may help prevent cancer.
- There is also some evidence on human cancer patients, showing that fasting reduced various side effects of chemotherapy.
Intermittent fasting has been shown to help prevent cancer in animal studies. One paper in humans showed that it can reduce side effects caused by chemotherapy.
8. Intermittent Fasting is Good for Your Brain
- What is good for the body is often good for the brain as well.
- Intermittent fasting improves various metabolic features known to be important for brain.
- This includes reduced oxidative stress, reduced inflammation and a reduction in blood sugar levels and insulin resistance.
- Several studies in rats have shown that intermittent fasting may increase the growth of new nerve cells, which should have benefits for brain function.
- It also increases levels of a brain hormone called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a deficiency of which has been implicated in depression and various other brain problems (36).
- Animal studies have also shown that intermittent fasting protects against brain damage due to strokes.
Intermittent fasting may have important benefits for brain health. It may increase growth of new neurons and protect the brain from damage.
9. Intermittent Fasting May Help Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease
- Alzheimer’s disease is the world’s most common neurodegenerative disease.
- There is no cure available for Alzheimer’s, so preventing it from showing up in the first place is critical.
- A study in rats shows that intermittent fasting may delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease or reduce its severity (38).
- In a series of case reports, a lifestyle intervention that included daily short-term fasts was able to significantly improve Alzheimer’s symptoms in 9 out of 10 patients (39).
- Animal studies also suggest that fasting may protect against other neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease (40, 41).
- However, more research in humans is needed.
Studies in animals suggest that intermittent fasting may be protective against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease.
10. Intermittent Fasting May Extend Your Lifespan, Helping You Live Longer
- One of the most exciting applications of intermittent fasting may be its ability to extend lifespan.
- Studies in rats have shown that intermittent fasting extends lifespan in a similar way as continuous calorie restriction (42, 43).
- In some of these studies, the effects were quite dramatic. In one of them, rats that fasted every other day lived 83% longer than rats who weren’t fasted (44).
- Although this is far from being proven in humans, intermittent fasting has become very popular among the anti-aging crowd.
- Given the known benefits for metabolism and all sorts of health markers, it makes sense that intermittent fasting could help you live a longer and healthier life.
Article Source: Dr.Jockers