Fasting Boosts Your Immune System:
Our ancient ancestors grew up in a world of stress and scarcity. Food was often not available and intermittent fasting was common. This form of life left a genetic blueprint with key information pertaining to our health and wellbeing. Intermittent fasting reduces free radical damage, regulates inflammatory conditions in the body and starves off cancer cell formation.
In nature, when animals get sick they stop eating and instead focus on resting. This is a primal instinct to reduce stress on their internal system so there body can fight off infection. This natural mechanism allows the animal to concentrate all their internal energy systems towards immunity. Humans are the only species that often look for more food during times of illness.
Energy Conservation in the Body:
The body has a certain amount of available energy that it diverts into important function such as digestion, physical movement (kinetics), immunity, cognition, etc. The continual need to digest food diverts energy away from these other factors while fasting conserves energy for use with these other systems. In fact, the digestive process diverts huge amounts of blood and is considered energy expensive.
When we eat food the immune system gets activated to increase inflammatory conditions to ward off any unwanted microorganisms within the food. This happens whether the food is raw or cooked as nothing is truly sterile. When the immune system activates in order to attack newly ingested pathogens it is using up its energy reserves that could be used for other activities. Fasting frees these white blood cells up to destroy dormant infections and other problematic areas.
Fasting Increases Immune Regulation
The practice of fasting allows the body to put more energy and focus into the process of effective immune regulation. Fasting while drinking water and cleansing beverages flushes out the digestive system and reduces the number of natural microorganisms in the gut. The microorganism count is typically regulated by the immune system. So this allows the immune system to divert energy to other more important areas.
Intermittent fasting is a terrific regulator of the immune system as it controls the amount of inflammatory cytokines that are released in the body. Two major cytokines Interleukin-6 and Tumor Necrosis Factor Alpha promote an inflammatory response in the body. Studies have shown that fasting reduces the release of these inflammatory mediators (1, 2, 3). The immune system modulation that intermittent fasting provides may also be helpful if you have moderate to severe allergies (4).
Autophagy to Protect the Body:
Fasting also stimulates the process of autophagy, where the body breaks down old, damaged cells and abnormally developing cells to recycle for energy. The process of autophagy is part of the innate immune system and utilizes pattern recognition receptors to identify viral cell invaders.
Intermittent fasting stimulates autophagy processes which restrict viral infections and the replication of intracellular parasites. This catabolic process helps the body rid itself of intracellar pathogens as well as abnormal cancer cell development. It is also important in protecting the brain and tissue cells from abnormal growths, toxicity and chronic inflammation (5).
Intermittent Fasting and Auto-Immunity
Individuals with auto-immune diseases such as systemic lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, colitis and Crohn’s disease have seen a tremendous improvement in symptoms with the incorporation of intermittent fasting (6). This process reduces the hyper inflammatory processes these individuals undergo and allow for more normalized immune function.
Cancer cells are known to have anywhere from ten to seventy times more insulin receptors than normal cells and depend upon anaerobic metabolism of sugar for fuel. Intermittent fasting starves cancer cells and leaves them vulnerable to free radical damage and ultimate destruction (7, 8).