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Intermittent Fasting: Food for Thought for Brain Health. Yes, No?

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We may have been led to believe that meds were the quick fix for mood and anxiety disorders, but how we’ve grown wiser. Sustained relief is based upon how many arrows we keep in our quivers, their variety and how well we use them. See what you think about intermittent fasting…

Inflammation: Some studies show reductions in inflammation markers, a key driver of many chronic diseases. One may be depression.

In last week’s piece, BDNF: What It Is and Why It’s Crucial to Know, I pointed-out that it behooves those who struggle with mood and anxiety disorders to increase their BDNF levels. I mentioned that one of the ways we can do it is through intermittent fasting (IF). When I found that in my article research, I had no idea what is was or how it could be relevant.

I do now, and so will you.

Before we get crankin’, this important point. Obviously, in any discussion of IF, weight-loss is going to be featured. Certainly, a healthy loss of weight would have a positive impact on anyone’s mood or anxiety status, but that isn’t the reason I’m bringing you this information. Fact is, IF has become a very popular health and fitness trend, and that’s because it really can have powerful effects on our brains and bodies.

Let’s see what’s up…

What Is Intermittent Fasting?

Makes sense that IF refers to a food intake pattern of alternating periods of fasting and eating. IF doesn’t specify what foods you should eat, rather when you should eat them.

Does it surprise you that humans have evolved to be able to do without food for extended periods of time? In fact, one could say occasional fasting is more natural than chowing-down three-plus meals per day.

There are a variety of IF methods, these being the most popular…

  • The 16/8 method: Aka the Leangains protocol. It involves skipping breakfast and restricting your daily eating period to eight hours, say 1-9 pm. Then you fast for 16 hours in between.
  • Eat-Stop-Eat: This is fasting for 24 hours, once or twice a week. Maybe that means not eating dinner one day until dinner the next.
  • The 5:2 diet: Involves consuming only 500-600 calories on two non-consecutive days of the week, but eating normally the other five.

Seems most IF’ers go with the 16/8 method.

How Does Intermittent Fasting Affect Your Body?

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Fasting causes a variety of positive things to happen in our bodies at the cellular and molecular levels. Understandably, most of us never pause to think about the potential impact of such tiny things, but it’s real as it can be.

A handful of examples are an increase in human growth hormone (HGH), improvement in insulin sensitivity and a drop in insulin levels, ramped-up cellular repair processes, increased release of the fat-burning hormone norepinephrine (noradrenaline), and changes in gene expression relating to longevity and disease prevention.

Pretty powerful.

What Are the Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting?

All of those IF-induced cellular and molecular changes we just talked about translate into significant health benefits. Check these out…

  • Brain health: Increased levels of BDNF, which induces neuronal growth and repair dynamics such as neurogenesis and neuroplasticity. As a result, mood and anxiety management are enhanced.
  • Insulin resistance: Reduced insulin resistance can significantly lower blood sugar levels, providing a leg-up on type-2 diabetes
  • Inflammation: Some studies show reductions in inflammation markers, a key driver of many chronic diseases. One may be depression.
  • Heart health: Reductions in LDL (bad) cholesterol, triglycerides, inflammatory markers, blood sugar and insulin resistance
  • Cancer: Animal studies suggest IF may prevent cancer
  • Anti-aging: Extends lifespan in rats by 36-83%
  • Weight loss: Lose weight and belly fat without having to consciously restrict calories

Intermittent Fasting Isn’t for Everyone

Though IF brings many health benefits to the table, it isn’t for everyone. Those who are underweight or have a history of eating disorders need to chat with their doc before using IF. Actually, to be safe, anyone contemplating IF should check-in with their doc.

There’s some evidence suggesting that IF isn’t as beneficial for women as it is for men. The areas of concern include compromised blood sugar control and amenorrhea (which returns to normal when the previous eating pattern is resumed). It’s likely a good idea to hold-off on IF if you have fertility issues or if you’re trying to conceive, pregnant, or breastfeeding.

Finally, IF may produce side effects, some of which may be temporary as one adapts to a new eating pattern. Numero uno is hunger.

Again, chat with your doc!

All Done

Absolutely, success in living with a mood or anxiety disorder is all about how many arrows we have in our quivers and how well we use them. I mean, we’re not talking a “quick-fix” scenario here (is that hard to accept?).

Seems to me intermittent fasting is worthy of consideration. Yes, no?

Hey, they were good enough to use as resource material, so they’re good enough for you to invest your time in reading…

From Healthline: Intermittent Fasting 101 – The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide

From Time: What Is Intermittent Fasting and Is It Actually Good for You?

And let’s not forget about the hundreds of Chipur articles awaiting your review. Don’t hesitate, check-out the titles.