Hot Take: Try Fasting for your Gut Health

We’ve talked about intuitive eating, and the importance of breaking your fast by eating in the morning. 

But as several diligent readers have pointed out…

We’ve neglected the benefits of intermittent fasting. Now, as we’ve discussed in the past, science doesn’t condemn those who don’t eat breakfast as doomed to the dredges of obesity and malaise. There are certainly undeniable benefits, like beginning the thermogenetic process of energy production early in the day.

But intermittent fasting, or IF, has plenty of its own benefits.

Especially on maintaining the health of the gut’s microbiome, as well as diversifying the bacterial population in the gut.

If you’ve never tried intermittent fasting, our current situation might be ideal for you!

  1. We’re being encouraged to make as few trips to the grocery store as possible, which means we shouldn’t be overeating (even if we’re bored.)
  2. We may feel disconnected from the exercise routines that peppered our lives pre-coronavirus. Sure, we can always do calisthenics, yoga, weight-lifting at home… But work-out classes, support groups, and fancy gym equipment are temporarily unavailable. IF can help keep body weight in check. 
  3. And most importantly, we know that our gut health is where the rest of our health begins. IF has so many benefits for the microbiome, which in turn has implications for the resilience of our immune system – absolutely crucial during this pandemic.

If you’re new to the idea of IF, I’d highly recommend checking out this handy guide. It’s wonderful for IF beginners. IF can do wonderful things for your mental clarity, energy reserves, and personal discipline. 

But today, we’re going to talk about how autophagy and IF can boost your digestive system and aid in not only weight management, but comfort, immunity, and bacterial diversity.

What is Autophagy?

Autophagy translates literally to “self-devouring.” It refers to the process by which old, dead, or damaged cells get repurposed – broken down for parts, in a sense – into new cells. 

It helps you not only look young, but keep your organs and inward mechanisms functioning as they did when there were… less miles on them, so to speak. 

Fasting has been shown to induce autophagy, because when your body isn’t receiving new nutrients, it turns to the nutrients already existing in the cells of the body to dismantle and absorb. 

During this process of examining the insides of cells and its valuable parts, toxins and harmful particles are weeded. Think of it like clearing your fridge of rotting vegetables and old meat so that the old food doesn’t contaminate the new, and so that you can make room for the healthy, fresh food you just brought home.

Encouraging the body to engage in the process is a simple and effective way to keep all systems running smoothly with fresh, young cells, and without damaged or polluted cells.

To keep your gut firing on all cylinders, this continual reusing and recycling of parts is ideal. 

The last cells in your body that you want to be functioning sub-optimally are your gut cells.

But that isn’t all…

Fasting and Your Gut Health

IF has been proven several studies over to promote diverse flora in the gut, which is critical for a thriving digestive system. The less often we eat, the more our gut can self-regulate. And if we’re being very careful about how often and what we’re eating, we’re more likely to feed the gut what it needs and less likely to mindlessly snack.

And on that note…

Giving your gut a break from constantly digesting food is definitely beneficial. Especially as you start to induce autophagy, your gut has a chance to rebuild cells and repair itself when you’re not tasking it with breaking down food. 

Not to mention that intermittent fasting gives you a hard and fast no-eating-at-night boundary. While we know intrinsically that the gut isn’t meant to digest food while we’re sleeping, there are specific bacteria in the gut that are sensitive to melatonin production. 

Eating at night disrupts their circadian rhythms and messes with the natural production and absorption of the sleep hormone.

Intermittent fasting can be done any number of ways, and the best way to sort out which matches your rhythm best is to experiment!

Try it out during the quarantine – two meals per day? Eating eight hours, not eating sixteen? Fasting for a whole day out of the seven? 

As long as you’re safe and listen to your body’s signals, you stand to see myriad benefits.

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Dr. Pedram Shojai

NY Times Best Selling author and film maker. Taoist Abbot and Qigong master. Husband and dad. I’m here to help you find your way and be healthy and happy. I don’t want to be your guru…just someone who’ll help point the way. If you’re looking for a real person who’s done the work, I’m your guy. I can light the path and walk along it with you but can’t walk for you.