Fasting For Depression: Happiness Hormones And Therapeutic Fasting
Fasting has many positive effects on the body and can even help to reduce the symptoms of depression.
Within a few days of a fasting programme, the brain stimulates the production of “happiness” hormones , which automatically improves mood – including in the case of those suffering from moderate forms of depression. As this sort of treatment needs medical assistance, it is recommended to undertake the programmes at a fasting clinic.
It Can Impact Your Cognitive Ability
Fasting for long periods of time can lead you to make more rash, short-term decisions, according to research.
“When you fast, you also change the neurotransmitters that are accessible in the brain,” says Albers-Bowling. “Thus, restricting foods that increase your serotonin level may also cause less of this feel-good chemical to be in your brain,” which can lead you to become more impulsive. Think: when making decisions regarding food.
Meanwhile, other research published in the International Journal of Research Studies in Biosciences that studied mice, suggests that intermittent fasting can increase levels of certain neurotransmittersincluding serotoninand strengthen learning and memory.
Clearly, there’s conflicting evidenceas is the case with much of the current research around intermittent fasting and the points in this article. Have a headache? Same. Unfortunately, there’s just a lot we don’t completely understand about IF right now.
What You Need To Know To Get Started
You should not consider attempting the fasting lifestyle if you have a history of eating disorders. Although there are several health benefits of fasting, you do not want to trigger the eating disorder behavior. Speak to your physician and mental health care provider if you want to try fasting for health reasons.
People with diabetes should consult with their primary care physician before attempting to fast as the blood sugar levels may dip too low, especially if the person isnt adhering to a healthy diet during mealtimes. You dont want a blood sugar high and then crash an hour later.
Pregnant or breastfeeding women should avoid fasting as they need to ensure the baby is receiving adequate nutrition for growth and development. Although the baby in utero will absorb many nutrients from the mother, not consuming enough food during this time can cause health concerns for both the mother and the child. Not eating enough calories throughout the day can cause the breastmilk for the baby to lessen and eventually stop.
If your physician gives you the go-ahead to fast and you are a healthy individual, start small. Choose to fast for 12 hours if you are used to eating breakfast. Then every three days or so, push your mealtimes back by a half-hour to an hour.
Start with small steps in the right direction and you will see that fasting for mental health is beneficial and easy to do. It will become second nature to consistently intermittent fast.
You May Like: Psa Blood Test Fasting Necessary
Or Spend Time With Loved Ones
Depression can tempt you to isolate yourself and withdraw from your friends and family, but face-to-face time can help wash away those tendencies.
If youre unable to spend time together in person, phone calls or video chats can also be helpful.
Try to remind yourself these people care about you. Resist the temptation to feel like youre a burden. You need the interaction and they likely do, too.
When you do the same thing day after day, you use the same parts of your brain. You can challenge your neurons and alter your brain chemistry by doing something entirely different.
Research also shows doing new things can improve your overall well-being and strengthen your social relationships.
To reap these benefits, consider trying a new sport, taking a creative class, or learning a new cooking technique.
Knock out a few birds with one stone spending time with other people and doing something new by volunteering and giving your time to someone or something else.
You may be used to receiving help from friends, but reaching out and providing help may actually improve your mental health more.
When you do something you love, or even when you find a new activity you enjoy, you may be able to boost your mental health more by taking time to be thankful for it.
Research shows gratitude can have lasting positive effects on your overall mental health.
Benefits Of Fasting For Your Physical Health
Since your body switches from burning glucose to burning ketones , you may find a boost in your energy levels, especially toward the end of the fast. Many people choose to exercise before they end their fast to take advantage of the energy and the fat-burning potential.
The reason many people opt to fast is for weight loss benefits. Between the calorie restriction from only eating during a specific window of time or on particular days, plus the fat-burning potential from ketones, the body may begin to lose weight water weight first and then fat. You may find that your clothes begin fitting comfortably again.
Giving your digestive system a break from the constant input of food is healthy for your body. This can help those people with digestive issues such as gas, diarrhea, reflux, and heartburn. The practice reduces the risk of obesity by allowing your systems to rest and repair. Fasting boosts longevity.
Depending on the length of the fast, you may see an improvement in chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation increases the risk of developing illnesses, diseases, inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, certain cancers, and therefore shortening your lifespan. Some inflammation is a response to a cut or acute infection and is natural and beneficial, but chronic inflammation from too much sugar and other inflammatory foods can be detrimental to your health.
Also Check: What Is 14 10 Intermittent Fasting
Tips To Use Fasting To Improve Your Well
Ease into it. Try not to go from eating to not eating all at once. Instead, try to cut back on food and drink intake over a few days or weeks.
Avoid sugar. Food and cookies made from sugar can make you feel satisfied at first, but when your blood sugar goes down, you might become hungry and weak. To prepare for an experience like fasting, fill up on things like pasta, rice, meat, beans, and potatoes instead.
Cut back on activity. When you’re fasting, try to take it easy on yourself. Try not to do much strenuous movement or exercise. Your body doesn’t have the ability to replenish itself when you’re not eating.
Consider medication. Before you start a fast, check with your doctor about any medications you might take. If there are medications you have to take every day, talk with your doctor about whether it’s OK to take them without food.
Stop slowly. When you’re getting ready to finish your fast, get back to eating slowly. Don’t eat a huge meal right away. Instead, spread out your meals and let your body adjust and get used to the process of digesting food again.
Keep in mind that fasting too much or too often can be dangerous and cause dehydration, mental stress, and disrupted sleep.
Also, doctors warn against fasting if you:
- Have diabetes
- Are recovery from surgery or illness
- Are breastfeeding
Fasting For Mental Health: A Link Between Food And Depression
There are many possible reasons for depression and anxiety, but one potential cause that doesnt get the attention it deserves is the food we eat. For example, studies indicate there may be a link between gluten and depression:
- Gluten allergies may cause malabsorption, which is the inability to properly absorb nutrients. As a result, brain functions may be compromised.
- A study published by Ailmentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics believes gluten might affect the amount of tryptophan and serotonin in the body, which gives feelings of happiness.4
- The same study discovered that gluten ingestion was associated with higher depression symptoms in test subjects compared to subjects taking a placebo.4
Are you suffering from depression and anxiety? Take a good look at the foods you eat.
Recommended Reading: How To Get Electrolytes While Fasting
Benefits Of Fasting For Your Mental Health
If you could improve your emotional and mental health by delaying the time you eat, would you? Thats what many people are reporting with fasting for mental health. Fasting causes the human body to deplete its glucose stores which is what is used for energy. With no available glucose, the body converts stored fats into ketones.
These ketones work as a fresh fuel to power-up the brains processes. Therefore, after the initial brain fog you might experience at the beginning your mind becomes much clearer and your ability to focus is sharper.
A study published in Current Neuropharmacology in 2015, found that the short-term calorie restriction from fasting can boost anti-depressant chemicals in the brain. As our brain runs on ketone fuel, intermittent fasting may help with the symptoms of Parkinsons disease, Alzheimers disease, and other neurodegenerative disorders.
The neurons in the brain use the new fuel to enter a growth phase and create new synapses. These synapses help to improve memory and brain functioning.
Some people experience irritability or moodiness when they first start intermittent fasting until their bodies adjust to the delay of food. Therefore, it is important to start slowly. Eventually, fasting will help to improve your self-control, make it easier to cope with anger and stress, and alleviate depression.
Intermittent Fasting Can Disrupt Your Sleep Which Is Critical To Health
There’s some preliminary evidence that intermittent fasting can improve sleep by keeping you from waking up in the middle of the night. When people start their fast earlier, their eating window also tends to expire well before they go to bed. This helps them avoid nighttime snacking, which can improve quality of sleep.
But Rumsey said intermittent fasting can also disrupt your sleep cycle or lead to restless nights. Multiple studies have shown that fasting can , which is believed to improve memory, mood, and learning capacity.
You May Like: Can You Drink Alcohol While Intermittent Fasting
How Should You Get Started With Intermittent Fasting
There are a number of different ways you can practice intermittent fasting, but those described below are the most popular and often the most realistic and sustainable.
- Stick to an eating window of about four to eight hours per day, which means you should consume all meals within this time frame and fast over the remaining hours . As an example, you might only eat from about 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. or 8 p.m. on days that youre fasting.
- If a four- to eight-hour eating window seems a bit too tough, especially when you first get started, then begin with an eight- to 10-hour eating window instead as your body acclimates to fasting.
- When youre fasting, avoid eating any solid food at all , but you can still consume sugar-free coffee, tea, seltzer, or water infused with lemon juice or essential oils.
- Many people who practice intermittent fasting do so by skipping breakfast. This strategy has pros and cons. For example, consuming food earlier in the day and avoiding eating at night seems to be very beneficial for metabolic health in general, according to recent studies. However, if you like to eat dinner with your family or have flexibility in your schedule to go out with friends later in the day, then skipping breakfast in order to fast will be a more realistic option.
- Yet another approach is to do alternate-day fasting, in which you consume about 500 calories or less on fasting days and then eat normally and focus on food quality on non-fasting days.
Do Something You Enjoy
Depression can push you to give into your fatigue. It may feel more powerful than happy emotions.
Try to push back and do something you love something thats relaxing, but energizing. It could be playing an instrument, painting, hiking, or biking.
These activities can provide subtle lifts in your mood and energy, which may help you overcome your symptoms.
Research suggests people who spend time in nature have improved mental health.
Exposure to sunlight may offer some of the same benefits. It can increase your serotonin levels, which can provide a temporary mood boost .
Consider taking a walk at lunch among the trees or spending some time in your local park. Or plan a weekend hike. These activities can help you reconnect with nature and soak in some rays at the same time.
You May Like: What Is 14 10 Intermittent Fasting
Fasting For Mental Health: A Viable Option
We live in a day and age where mental health issues such as depression and anxiety are growing at alarming rates. Fasting for mental health is a winning combination! Lets further explore
According to the CDC:
- Between 2013 and 2016, 8.1% of American adults aged 20 and over had depression in any 2 week period.1
- Women were almost twice as likely as men to suffer from depression .1
- Nearly 80% of adults with depression and anxiety said it affected their work, home and/or social life.1
For Some It Could Increase The Risk Of Developing Disordered Eating
Both Albers-Bowing and Hertz agree that intermittent fasting’s strict rules about when you can and cannot eat could be triggering for someone who has a history of an eating disorder or could be at risk for a one.
“At its most basic, anorexia is about creating restrictions and rigid rules about eating, ignoring hunger and fullness, and having preoccupying thoughts about food, all of which have the potential of being perpetuated and exacerbated by IF.”
The diet may also cause “fear of loss of control ” and “overeating during non-restricted days,” says Ansari. Both of which are symptoms of binge eating disorder. In fact, one study found that women who decreased their caloric intake by 70 percent for four days and then ate “normally” for three for a total of four weeks had more eating-related thoughts, increased fear of loss of control, and a frequent tendency to overeat during non-restricted hunger.
IF could also cover up an already-existing eating disorder, says Albers-Bowling. “People don’t express concern when you say, ‘Oh I’m not eating because I am on that new fasting dieting …’,”she says.
If you find that you can’t get your mind off food or are eating more than you would if you hadn’t fasted, then odds are IF isn’t for you. And if you have a history of disordered eating or a poor relationship with food, pros recommend steering clear of intermittent fasting altogether.
Read Also: Is 119 High For Fasting Blood Sugar
What Should You Eat When Youre Not Fasting If You Want To Feel Your Best
While fasting itself offers many benefits, its still important to focus on quality nutrition when youre inside your eating window.
The brain is the most energy-consuming organ in the human body, so it makes sense that your diet will help determine how you feel mentally and emotionally. If youre low in essential nutrients , then youre not going to be performing cognitively as well as you could. Researchers now believe that a poor diet is a major contributing factor to mental health issues, including depression and anxiety, not to mention that it can increase your risk for cognitive decline as you age.
In the newly emerging field of nutritional psychiatry, researchers have been uncovering much more about the impact that nutrition has on the brain and mental health. A March 2019 article published by The New York Times reports that nutritional psychiatrists counsel patients on how better eating may be another tool in helping to ease depression and anxiety and may lead to better mental health.
When you arent fasting, focus on including these food groups in your diet in order to support brain health:
Overall, research tells us that when it comes to feeling our best emotionally for many years to come, we should aim to follow a balanced Mediterranean-style diet, which you can do whether you also choose to do intermittent fasting or not.
Know That Today Isnt Indicative Of Tomorrow
Todays mood, emotions, or thoughts dont belong to tomorrow.
If you were unsuccessful at getting out of bed or accomplishing your goals today, remember that you havent lost tomorrows opportunity to try again.
Give yourself the grace to accept that while some days will be difficult, some days will also be great. Try to look forward to tomorrows fresh start.
Don’t Miss: What Is 14 10 Intermittent Fasting
Does Fasting/ Intermittent Fasting Help Depression Or Anxiety
over a year ago
I heard from a few people that fasting can help in the treatment of depression or anxiety. I am a bit sceptical about this to be honest, I just don’t know how could this be able to help, if you ask me, this can only make things even worse.
However, since it is not just one person who told me this, maybe there is more to this than I think of it to be. I was wondering if anyone here has some thoughts about this, what do the people here think, does fasting or intermittent fasting help depression or anxiety?
over a year ago
I know that it can sound weird, but fasting can indeed help with depression and anxiety. There were some studies conducted in order to determine if fasting can help depression and anxiety and the findings showed that a FCR dietary regime is effective in improving mood states and nutritional status among aging people.
However, there was another study which suggests that one or two day food restrictions worsen mood. Since these two are contradicting, I’m guessing that these depend of a person, for some people this can help, for some it just makes things worse.
over a year ago
Even if this sounds very good, I am not sure that intermittent fasting was helpful to anyone. Of course that is always a good idea to start taking care of what you are eating, and this can be helpful to you for sure, but you can expect that this can help you deal your depression or your anxiety attacks.
over a year ago