The Health Benefits Of Intermittent Fasting (IF)


Fasting and intermittent fasting seems to have been one of the biggest health rages of 2019. With 2020 here, It’s likely you’ve considered experimenting with it yourself. As a doctor, there’s not one day in practice that goes by without hearing the words intermittent fasting come up in some fashion. Most commonly, patients ask me what I think of it. The first thing I will say is, nothing in medicine is one size fits all. Meaning, IF may be indicated for you and may not be indicated for another. I will touch on the primary benefits of IF that have been researched. Keep in mind, if you have certain pre-existing conditions or diagnosis, these benefits may not apply.

Never eat soy unless it is fermented as Miso, Tempeh or true Tamari Soy Sauce (Gluten-Free). Avoid all Gluten, and try going Grain-Free as well.

What Is Intermittent Fasting?

IF is a practice of abstaining from food, drink, and other nutrient sources (other than water), for varying durations. The majority of studies being done cover IF durations of 12–36 hours.

When considering IF, it’s important to understand a bit about the history of fasting in general. If you understand how and why you’re doing something, it has a tendency to have better outcomes and lasting effects.

A Brief Historical Overview Of IF

Fasting has been a common practice for centuries. We see it first being mentioned dating all the way back to the 5th Century B.C. Hippocrates recommended it for varying illnesses and symptoms prevalent to the time. We also see it heavily used in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, as a means to seek God during moments of physical hunger. Throughout history, there are numerous examples of religious texts utilizing the concept of fasting and abstinence to speak to a much needed life-communion and reliance on a higher power in one’s daily life.

Cut down on processed food. Processed foods are not good because (1) most nutritional value is lost in the making of these foods and (2) the added preservatives are bad for our health. Many processed foods contain a high amount of salt content, which leads to higher blood pressure and heart disease. Processed foods are anything that is not in its raw form. In general, most food in supermarkets are processed — the more ingredients it has on the label (especially the ones ending with ‘ite’ or ‘ate’), the more processed they are. Watch out for those with salt/sugar in the first 5 ingredients and go for unprocessed food as much as possible.

The Health Benefits Of IF

Why are so many people doing it now? If thousands of YouTube videos are being made and athletes, as well as non-athletes, are jumping on the bandwagon—it must be yielding some desired results and positive outcomes. So, what benefits are people actually seeing which motivate them to keep on this cycle of IF?

For starters, IF has shown impact on immune function, gut microbiome, circadian rhythm and a significant impact on the endocrine system, just to name a few. What does all of that actually mean for you?

Have a solid breakfast with plenty of protein and fat. Eat meals and snacks at regular times every day.

Your Gut & Weight Loss

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When you IF, you give the gastrointestinal tract a chance to recalibrate and heal the lining of your GI tract. The intestines are the most highly regenerative organ in the human body. The majority of people have some dysbiosis (imbalance of various bacterial strains) in their gut. By IF you are allowing your gut to heal, therefore reducing inflammation and furthermore, reducing systemic inflammation. The lining of the gut begins to repair in just six hours. If you remove the offending agents which are present in most of the American diets, you are creating an environment in the microbiome that heals and begins having a positive impact not only locally to your gut but to your immune system as well.

Take Care of your Body. It is very important to take care of our bodies when adopting a healthy lifestyle. Having good personal hygiene day-to-day will definitely make you feel better. Asides than your daily routine, you could even go to the spa to get pampered. If you are feeling tense and stressed, why not choose a therapeutic massage? After all, our bodies will be with us throughout our lives, so we need to take care of them and learn to love them for what they are.

Another positive impact of IF on the GI tract involves the body’s reduced need to pump out insulin—restoring cellular and pancreatic optimization. The food we eat is broken down by various enzymes. Simple carbohydrates (white flour, breads, pastries, cookies, white rice, pasta), are quickly broken down into sugar which our cells use for energy. If our cells don’t use it all, we store it in fat cells which make up our fat tissue.

Between meals, as long as we don’t snack, our insulin levels go down and our fat cells release stored sugar to be used as energy. Weight loss occurs when we let our insulin levels go down.

Here’s the rub. Improve your circulation and help your lymph glands to drain by the way you towel off. Helping your lymph glands function can help prevent them becoming infected. When drying off your limbs and torso, brush towards the groin on your legs and towards the armpits on your upper body. You can do the same during gentle massage with your partner.

Your Body’s Inflammatory Load

There is a lot of information currently being written about lipopolysaccharides (LPS), and their role in illness, autoimmune disease, and overall inflammation. Many of the foods we eat, combined with poor lifestyle choices, will induce LPS production and growth. LPS can help protect the bacterium from host defenses and can contribute to illness in the host. We know through various tests that IF reduces the amount of LPS in the body yielding enhanced cognition, reduction in pain and systemic inflammation.

Your Circadian Rhythm

I cannot express how important normalizing your circadian rhythm is. I also know that you know the difference of how you feel waking refreshed vs. waking groggy and exhausted—wondering how in the world you’re going to tackle all the duties of the day.

When your body goes to bed on a relatively empty stomach, approximately three hours after having last eaten, it can focus on hormone regulation, melatonin production, cerebral enhancement, smooth and skeletal muscle repair, and so much more. If you go to bed having just eaten, your body is then shifting its focus on digestion by providing blood flow to the intestines rather than healing the gut as mentioned above.

By incorporating IF into your weekly routine, you are also aiding the regulation of your body’s cortisol. When you refrain from caffeine and sugar specifically, your body’s demand for cortisol release goes down, therefore allowing you to be in a more rested state when the sun goes down and it’s time to induce sleep.

Avoid pesticides in your food, your home and your yard.

Lastly! Is IF Right For You?

My suggestion is to first talk with your doctor to see if IF is right for you. Typically, integrative doctors, naturopathic doctors as well as functional medicine doctors are likely to have the most expertise in the field of intermittent fasting. If you are healthy and have no diagnosis that could negatively impact the outcome of IF, then I think IF could be a great addition to your New Year goals! It’s important to start slowly and listen to your body. If your body is accustomed to eating every 3-4 hours, I would discourage starting with anything longer than an 8-10 hour fast. It’s important to mitigate as many side effects as possible. IF can make you tired and easily feel fatigued when first beginning. Make sure to drink plenty of water and limit your exercise when beginning IF protocols.There are various ways and times to do practice IF. One of the most common time frames is to fast after an early dinner (depending on your bedtime) until about 12pm-1pm the following day. An alternative way is to have an early breakfast (depending on waking time), and IF until dinner. A common question and topic that has differing opinions is regarding the consumption of coffee or tea during IF. In my professional opinion, it’s not only about calories allowed. I believe it’s best to refrain from caffeinated beverages altogether while you’re in a fasting state. The caffeine will have an effect on your cortisol levels which will be exacerbated in a fasting state, increasing heart rate and causing agitation. The elevation in cortisol can also prohibit your hormones to fully reset and affect your adrenal glands. It’s optimal to simply have water (it’s okay to add lemon as it supports healthy gut bacteria and pH levels), during a fast or herbal tea without adding sweeteners or cream.There is no wrong way to fast as long as you’re listening to your body and drinking plenty of water!For those of you that have already been practicing IF and are wanting to try longer stents, SFNM has a team of qualified doctors to help you on your journey. Dr. Jillian Shannon has recently formulated an Intermittent Fasting IV protocol, which can help ensure your body is still getting the minerals and hydration it needs, particularly if you’re still maintaining a workout regiment while intermittent fasting. Call SFNM today to get your health off to the right start this New Year!

Cut down on smoking and drinking. Have you ever met a smoker who is glad they started smoking? Neither have I. It is the single most destructive thing you can do to your body. Drinking can be harmful if you consume alcohol in excess or binge drink but, like most things, moderation is the key. A glass of red wine has even been proven to be good for the heart. But too much can be devastating to your health.

REFERENCES:IF for Weight loss & Metabolism IF Effects on Metabolic ChangesIF Effects on Bacterial vs. Viral Immunity
Dr. Jillian Shannon has a general naturopathic practice and specializes in regenerative medicine including BHRT, joint injections and IV therapies. She has been working closely with other practitioners specializing in functional endocrinology and anti-aging medicine with the use of stem cells, ozone, and PRP. She is available full time at SFNM and is accepting new patients.