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Intermittent Fasting: A Complete Guide To Benefits, Diet Plans & Meals

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As a functional medicine practitioner, I see a wide range of health problems that all stem from chronic inflammation. And while acute inflammation is a natural and healthy response to help fight off pathogenic bacteria and infections, long-term chronic inflammation that doesn’t subside when the threat is gone can contribute to everything from autoimmune conditions to cancer.

There are many amazing natural remedies to drive down inflammation, but intermittent fasting is one of my all-time favorites. Intermittent fasting is when you go without food for a certain amount of time.

While the idea of fasting can be overwhelming, especially if you haven’t done it before, intermittent fasting can actually be a lot easier than many other types of eating plans. Since you are fasting for time restricted chunks of the day, you’ll be eating less food, which eliminates a lot of the stress around having to meal prep. During the periods of time in which you're eating, you’ll still want to focus mainly on healthy fats, clean protein, and carbohydrates from whole food sources—but this isn’t an excuse to hit the drive-thru and load up on sugar the rest of the time! Here are some of the effects of intermittent fasting:

The benefits of intermittent fasting.

Now, I know what you're probably thinking: What’s wrong with eating whenever you want as long as your meals are from healthy, whole-food sources? Well, giving your body a break from food allows your gut time to rest and inflammation to cool down, thus producing some amazing health benefits and potentially helping you live longer:

1. Lowers cancer risk.

Multiple studies have shown a link between intermittent fasting and a reduced risk of breast cancer.

2. Enhances heart health.

Intermittent fasting is thought to lower heart disease risk due to its ability to lower triglycerides and blood pressure and raise beneficial HDL cholesterol.

3. Improves autoimmune conditions.

A fasting-mimicking diet under 1,000 calories a day for three-day cycles has been shown to improve symptoms associated with autoimmune conditions like multiple sclerosis as well as lupus.

4. Improves blood sugar.

When it comes to managing blood sugar, intermittent fasting takes center stage. With its proven ability to lower insulin resistance and increase metabolism, it's one of my favorite tools to recommend to patients with blood sugar problems.

5. Encourages weight loss.

Weight-loss resistance can often be due to an underlying hormone imbalance. Leptin resistance occurs when your brain stops recognizing leptin's signals to use your body’s fat stores for energy. This causes your body to continually store fat instead of using it. Intermittent fasting has been shown to improve chronic inflammation that can dull the brain’s leptin receptor sites.

6. Curbs cravings.

If you're worried you’ll be starving while fasting, you’ll be pleasantly surprised! Intermittent fasting decreases your hunger hormone ghrelin, which in turn can increase dopamine levels in the brain. (Just another example of the gut-brain axis at work.) Fasting can also help free people from emotional eating and kill cravings by transitioning your metabolism from unstable sugar-burning to steady fat-burning.

7. Increases cognitive function.

Studies have shown that intermittent fasting can improvedegenerative brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

8. Improves lung health.

One study showed intermittent fasting’s ability to decrease asthma symptoms as well as reduce oxidative stress.

9. Helps heal the gut

Lowering inflammation in the gut with intermittent fasting improves inflammatory gut problems such as IBS, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn’s disease.

 

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