What is Intermittent Fasting and is there a science behind it all? Intermittent Fasting is typically associated with weight loss, but there are many other benefits too, including greater wellbeing and improved gut health.
Gut health is important for weight loss as depending on how your gut bugs act, this can determine how well you process your food and even tell your brain when you are hungry or full.
As such, a healthy gut is important for weight loss and overall health and fasting can help improve the gut flora.
So how does Intermittent Fasting work? IF is an eating pattern that involves consuming food during specific hours. For example, you might start eating at 6am and end your last meal at 4pm meaning your body has a 14-hour break from meals.
Researchers have found that IF actually improves your gut ecology as weight loss reduces
inflammation giving your gut the reboot it needs.
If you think about it simply, your gut microbes need rest to in order to function effectively. If you give your body a large meal to digest late at night, your gut is going to have to work very hard and it will have a negative effect on your overall gut health.
In one study, researchers put their overweight subjects on a weeklong fasting program followed by a six-week intervention with a probiotic supplement.
At the end of the study the participants had a healthier gut flora overall thanks to the combination of fasting and consuming probiotic-rich supplements.
“We say that fasting is very similar to rebooting the hard drive in a computer. Sometimes, the computer gets corrupted, and you do not know exactly where the problem is. But if you just turn it off and reboot it, a lot of times, that corruption gets cleared,” says Dr. Alan Goldhamer, the lead researcher on the study.
“The same thing happens in the human body. We develop issues, and when you turn the system down with fasting and allow it to reboot, a lot of things—from gut flora and microbiota in the gut to chronic inflammatory conditions—tend to sort themselves,” he adds.
Furthermore in an another study, a team of researchers found that IF significantly increased bacteria ldiversity in mice after four weeks.
The higher the bacterial diversity, the more likely you are able to achieve gut balance.
Back in 2018, another study showed that IF helped reduce the bacterial load, leading to improved gut health and longer lifespan in fruit flies.
“Guts of flies 40 days post-IF showed a significant reduction in age-related pathologies and improved gut barrier function. Improved gut health was also associated with reduced relative bacterial abundance,” claims the study.
Not only that, fasting can actually help food sensitivities alongside improved gut function. “I initially became interested in fasting for its applications in healing the gut,” says Dr. Michael Ruscio in The Complete Guide to Fasting by Dr. Jason Fung.
“Many of the patients I work with have severe food sensitivities even though they have very healthy diets. For these patients there is usually some underlying inflammatory or infectious issue. Fasting can provide instantaneous relief of symptoms and aids in supporting recovery from the underlying issue.”