The practice of fasting has been in use for millennia and is built into many religious traditions. 1 More studies need to be conducted on the health impacts of fasting, however emerging research suggests that intermittent fasting can enhance overall health, slow the aging process, and help to manage weight. 2
What Happens to the Body During Fasting?
Fasting may cause a number of changes in the body that can result in positive health impacts, including gene expression (how active genes are at directing functions). 3 4 Fasting may also trigger cellular regeneration, which helps to prevent neurodegeneration, malignancy, and infection. 5 6 During the process of cellular repair, the cellular digestion, removal, and recycling of no-longer functioning proteins occurs. 7 8
Fasting is correlated with a decrease in insulin and an increase in human growth hormones. 9 10 11 Low insulin levels can be helpful in weight loss and weight management, and increased human growth hormone levels enhance cognitive function and promote muscle gain as well as fat loss. 12 13 14
Three Common Intermittent Fasting Methods
Everybody’s physical and lifestyle needs are different, so speak to your naturopathic doctor if you are considering intermittent fasting. Your naturopathic doctor can collaborate with you to create an intermittent fasting plan individualized to your particular needs and ensure that this is safe for you to implement. Intermittent fasting is contraindicated for people with a history of or who are at risk of developing eating disorders.
There are three common intermittent fasting methods that are especially popular, the 5:2 method, the 16/8 method, and the eat-stop-eat method.
The 5:2 Method incorporates consuming a low number of calories (usually 500-600) per day for 2 days per week and eating normally for 5 days per week.
The 16/8 Method restricts eating to a specific 8-hour period during the day, such as 1:00-9:00 P.M., and fasting occurs for 16 hours between eating periods. Many people find this to be the easiest method to integrate into their life, with the least amount of disruption to daily activities.
The eat-stop-eat method consists of fasting for a full day (24 hours) once or twice per week and eating normally for the rest of the week.
You may need to experiment with a few types of intermittent fasting before finding one that works best for you. Speak with a naturopathic doctor (ND) to determine if fasting is right for you.