We are living in a critical time for our health and safety and that of our families. The coronavirus (which causes the illness COVID-19) is the main buzz right now and it’s plaguing communities, governments, and nations with fear as it continues to spread. Stay safe (and worry less!) by learning how intermittent fasting improves immunity!
Families are searching the internet for answers and stocking up on face masks and hand sanitizer to be prepared for the coronavirus. However, we must remain calm! There are many resources and practical steps we can take in order to best protect ourselves and families from contracting this virus.
While there are lots of things we can’t control, there is one thing that we can control… and that is our health choices! We have to make choices every day that will either feed or fight the spread of illness. Focusing on a whole-food, nutrient-dense diet—paired with regular exercise, intermittent fasting, and plenty of sleep—can help build up the immune system and aid in the prevention of COVID-19.
Here at the FASTer Way, one of our main focus areas for our community is intermittent fasting.
You may have heard of intermittent fasting before, as it has become increasingly more popular in the health and fitness industry. While fasting is an ancient practice, today it is mainly used to capitalize on its many health and fat loss benefits. Intermittent fasting, simply put, is an eating schedule. Our bodies are in one of two states: fed or fasted. In the fed state, our bodies focus on digesting food. In the fasted state, our bodies focus on healing and repair.
Here are just a few of the many benefits of intermittent fasting:
- Fat loss
- Natural detoxing
- Cellular repair
- Decreased insulin levels (helping you burn fat)
- Reduced inflammation
- Improved hormone profile
- Improved immunity
However, what you may not know about intermittent fasting is that it also aids in building your immunity. Yes, you read that right! Intermittent fasting can help your body fight off infection and disease! At such a critical time, with the rapid spread of the coronavirus, we must be diligent in taking the necessary steps to protect ourselves against contracting the virus. Intermittent fasting is a great place to start!
Let’s talk about the immunity-boosting benefits of intermittent fasting:
Fasting helps improve the body’s immune system. Valter Longo’s 2014 research on prolonged fasting (2–4 days) has since lead to a lot of promising research on shorter-term intermittent fasting. These studies suggest that T cells, B cells, white blood cells, and inflammatory responses are all positively impacted by fasting.
Angus Chen’s article discusses three different studies that demonstrate improved immune responses that are directly correlated to intermittent fasting. One exciting example is how T cells improve immunity:
“In Belkaid’s study, she found that memory T cells, which produce molecular weapons to kill pathogens and cancers, suddenly became supercharged when they retreated to the bone marrow [during fasting]. ‘Not only were they able to survive, they were also optimized, and these T cells were able to protect [the body] better,’ Belkaid says.”
Another powerful effect of intermittent fasting is the reduction of inflammation in the body. Inflammation is the body’s response to injury, but we are not meant to be in a chronic state of inflammation. Chronic inflammation has been linked to heart disease and stroke, and may also lead to autoimmune disorders. But there’s good news! New research shows that during fasting, inflammatory cells called monocytes are 1) less active in the body and 2) fewer are released into the bloodstream. This means the inflammatory response is naturally reduced. For more information about monocytes, you can read the study here.
There is so much exciting new research coming out all the time that continues to confirm that intermittent fasting supports and improves our immunity. Keep yourself healthier and better able to fight off infection by practicing intermittent fasting!
How to get started with intermittent fasting:
Intermittent fasting is safe for nearly everyone, but we recommend it for adults age 18 and older. However, please refer to your doctor before beginning a new health regimen—especially if you have any health concerns that are affected by diet (such as diabetes). If your doctor is not current on his or her intermittent fasting research, make sure to do your own! You may even consider seeing a functional medicine doctor, as they are usually up-to-date on strategies like IF.
When you’re ready to start intermittent fasting, simply decide what you want your fasting window to be. Stop eating after dinner (usually around 6 pm–8 pm), and then break your fast 16 hours later (around 10 am–12 pm). That’s it! If that seems like too much all at once, you can ease into with a shorter fasting window (12 hours is a good starting point), or try fasting once or twice a week. Gradually increase your fasting window or the number of days you fast each week, and soon you’ll be practicing daily!
As you make these changes to your health during this critical time, we want to reassure you that there is no need to fear! Rather than going into panic mode, stay calm and focus on pairing proper nutrition with intermittent fasting. See what works best for your body; whether it be a 12/12 protocol (12 hours fasting/12 hours eating) or a 16/8 protocol (16 hours fasting/8 hours eating). Let’s use the tools we have and focus on the things we can control, rather than what we cannot. Together, we can set our bodies up for success and give them all the necessary tools to stay healthy and fight off infection.