Is There Any Benefit To Fasting Longer Than The Natural 810 Hours Of Fasting We Get While Sleeping
The simple answer is yes. Research has found that fasting periods ranging from several hours to a day support the health of the gut microbiome. One mouse study found that alternate-day fasting promoted bacterial clearance.6 The process of bacterial clearance allows the gut to regain the ideal balance of bacteria. It was also found that during fasting, bad bacteria tend to starve more quickly than healthy bacteria, leaving more opportunity for good bacteria to colonize.
There has also been evidence to support that a sixteen-hour fasting window with an eight-hour feeding window has beneficial effects. Researchers divided mice into two groups and fed them the same chow however, one group was restricted to an eight-hour feeding window while the other could eat as desired.7 The study found that although the mice were eating the same amount and type of foods, the group of mice that ate during all times of day gained weight. To connect the weight change to the microbiome, stool samples were collected every four hours to assess changes. The researchers found significant differences in the microbial composition of the two groups stool. This leads us to believe that our microbiome is connected to changes in weight and that the microbiome is significantly altered when there is no fasting window.
Fasting And The Gut Microbiome
To truly understand whether or not fasting causes a shift in gut flora, scientists have to establish something else: that a change in our gut actually happens when we fast. Research here is preliminary, but so far studies point to a delicate balance, or homeostasis, in our gut composition that can change in response to what and when we eat.
This balance might interact with other parts of our body signals to our brain, circadian rhythms, exercise regimens, genes in ways that are not yet fully understood.
In one study, researchers found mice who fasted for period periods of 16 or 20 hours saw increases in Akkermansia a genus of bacteria known to be beneficial and decreases in another genus, Alistipes, which play different roles in the body but is linked to regulation of certain diseases and inflammation. After the fasting period, this effect on the microbes ceased.
Sofia Forslund, who studied the effects of a longer fast in another study on human participants, previously toldInverse fasting is perhaps a controlled challenge or controlled the insult to the system that allows it to adapt and regain homeostasis and that involves both the microbiome and the host. The mechanics of just how, however, are unclear.
How Fasting Causes Constipation
Constipation will mostly depend on people. When fasting, youll logically have fewer bowel movements each day.
If youre used to one or more every day, it will feel strange not to go to the toilets more often.
Everyone is different and certain people have digestive tracts that move slower than others. Eating constantly will help it keep moving, fasting will drastically reduce bowel movements.
Most of the time, its just a natural side effect, youre not so much constipated as not needing to go to the toilets.
This will come from your body having to adapt from burning sugar for energy, to burning fat. During this transition, this can cause irregularity in your bowel movements.
So, I would mostly advise you to wait as it will get back to normal, or at least to more regularity with a bit of time.
But if it becomes a real discomfort, you should definitely take some action:
- Drink a lot
- Try taking magnesium citrate, it could help hydrate your colon
- Try bulletproof coffee in the morning. It wont be a strict fast, but it can help to get things moving
- Exercise and move more
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What We Do Know In Humans
Despite compelling evidence in animal studies, we still have a way to go to know how intermittent fasting affects the human microbiome, and in turn, our overall health. Some of the best insights we currently have come from studies of individuals participating in Ramadan8-12. In the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, individuals fast from dawn to sunset.
Ramadan fasting practices have been shown to have many health benefits, including weight loss, reduced cholesterol and improved blood sugar levels13.
Some studies have found that after Ramadan, individuals had increased levels of beneficial gut bacteria such as Akkermansia, Faecalibacterium and Roseburia8,9. Fasting also increased microbial richness and diversity , and increased levels of the beneficial SCFA, butyrate8,9,12 which are all generally associated with a healthy gut microbiome. However, its also important to note that Ramadan had different effects on different ethnic groups10 and age groups12, meaning that while fasting might benefit some people, it might not work for everyone.
Benefits Of Water Fasting
Most people whove heard of fasting are familiar with the word autophagy. Autophagy is the process of cellular renewal where old parts are disassembled and used for new cellular structures. Researchers regard it as one of the most important anti-aging mechanisms we can tap into.
This process of autophagy has been shown to protect cells from stresses of all kinds, and its especially useful for enhancing cancer treatment and negating the effects of neurodegenerative diseases. Studies show that water fasting is an important strategy for enhancing autophagy.
Better gut health
Research conducted on humans shows that prolonged fasting such may reduce intestinal inflammation and improve symptoms of IBS. When the gut is always at work digesting food, it lacks the time and resources needed to clean house and repair itself. Longer periods of fasting, then, far from damaging your gut, may promote gut health.
More stem cells
Stem cells are said to be the fountain of youth, and theyre often injected to facilitate healing and to reduce inflammation. These procedures can be costly, however. Studies suggest that water fasting may be a more economical way to increase stem cells in the body.
In prolonged fasting, researchers found that inflammatory hormones decrease while stem cell counts increase. This is thought to be one of the main reasons that fasting improves cellular resistance to stress and disease.
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It Profits From Autophagy
The process of autophagy literally comes from the words auto and phagy , so youre body is basically eating itself.
This process is well known in fasting and its the detox effects you get when you fast. When your body turns to body fat as the main source of energy, it also starts the process of autophagy. This means getting rid of dead cells, eliminating toxins, fatty tissue, and many other waste products in the body.
If like me youre into before / after stories on the Internet of people doing incredibly long fasts , you might already know that many of them experienced a strange side effect on such long fasts: certain scared tissues simply disappeared. The body ate it during autophagy.
Autophagy will do wonder on your gut. Ill help the proliferation of good gut bacteria, improve metabolism, clean toxins, and waste products in the gut, improve digestion, reduce oxidative damages, strengthen the gastrointestinal mucosal lining, reduce inflammation and reduce oxidative damage.
Can You Eliminate All Bad Bacteria Through Fasting
Unfortunately, youre very unlikely to kill all the harmful gut bacteria in your digestive tract.
Fasting can help you decrease the number of bad bacteria and toxins, but only a healthy diet can fully heal your gut.
With that being said, remember that simply eating one healthy meal every once in a while wont heal your gut.
The key is consistency. Consuming unhealthy foods sometimes wont harm your gut as long as you follow a healthy diet aside from that.
Some research also indicates that it might be nearly impossible to get rid of all harmful gut bacteria in your digestive tract.
Luckily, though, if you follow a healthy, balanced diet, the remaining bad bacteria shouldnt cause you too much trouble.
This is because they usually stay dormant when you consume healthy food, as youre primarily feeding the good gut bacteria that help offset the negative effects of the other type of bacteria.
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My Personal Experience With Fasting
Ever since grade school I noticed I had an unruly digestive system which manifested in various ways, and as I entered into the world of strength-training and bodybuilding in my twenties, I increased my food intake in order to build muscle, which placed even more stress on my digestive system. I did begin improving my diet dramatically during this time, increasing my consumption of whole and unprocessed foods, but this did not provide all the relief I was hoping for.
The only way things were going to turn around was if I provided my digestive system an extended break from the stress and rigors of digestion, and once I stumbled upon fasting my gut health began to quickly take a turn for the better. Some health issues take a long time to heal, but thankfully most of the tissues of the gut turns over so quickly that once the right solution is found the digestive system can be healed quite rapidly. It took me many years to figure out what I needed to do to heal my gut simply because almost no one, from my gastroenterologist to discussion online, was examining the situation from a broad enough vantage point. Thats the still mostly the case it seems, though awareness on natural healing methods for the gut like fasting and herbal teas is increasing.
Quickly into my discovery of fasting for gut health, I noticed a few things always happen at the end of long fasts:
It Synchronizes Your Gut Circadian Rhythm
You may have heard of circadian rhythm the natural, internal process that regulates the sleep-wake cycle and repeats every 24 hours8. Surprisingly, your microbiome has a circadian rhythm too. Different types of microbes fluctuate in abundance and activity throughout day and night. This fine balance can be disrupted when the human circadian clock is affected, thus compromising metabolic health. A 2014 study in mice, revealed that IF improved the diversity and circadian cycling of gut flora9.
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The Dangers Of Fasting Too Long:
If you continue fasting indefinitely there comes a point where the fast turns into starvation. You obviously dont want to overstep this mark! For when your fat stores are finally depleted, the body has no choice other than to devour muscle tissue, as well as feed from your inner organs. Youll do yourself serious damage. Fortunately, though, the body sends a clear sign: extreme hunger. Although its unlikely youll miss this red flag, two other less obvious scenarios also demand the end of a fast and its here, again, that fasting under supervision can help. The first possibility is that you run out of muscle tissue before you deplete your fat stores. In order to power your body as a whole, its true that ketosis is extremely efficient. The problem is that the brain demands another fuel entirely: glucose. And this cannot easily be metabolised from fat tissue. Instead, the body must extract it out of muscle. The second possibility is that you deplete your electrolytes . Although unlikely, its extremely dangerous! For this reason its advisable to have your blood tested at relatively regular intervals after the first 7-10 days of fasting.
When To Sleep: 11 Pm
But that doesnt mean that adults dont benefit from the fuzzy snuggles, too.
Garden. Play outside. Lounge on the grass. Exposure to the natural microbes around us can help replenish our microbiota and encourage diversity.
Its probably not wise to go around licking subway poles or eating undercooked chicken, but most of us could benefit from a little less cleanliness.
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So What Can You Do To Improve Your Water Quality
Dont drink unfiltered water!
If you dont already have an effective water filter then go out and get one ASAP. There are several different types of filters. You can use a special pitcher , a faucet-mount, a faucet-integration system, or an under-the-sink filter.
Various filters are made from different substances, which vary in effectiveness. Some of the best filters use activated carbon . Activated carbon works by binding to contaminants and removing them from your water.
It Increases Akkermansia Muciniphila And Fights Infection
A 2018 study investigated the impact of fasting on mice infected with Salmonella typhimurium4. This bacteria can cause acute colitis as early as 12 hours after contamination. In this study, mice were fed macronutrients or fasted for at least 24 hours. The results were remarkable: fasting eliminated S.typhimurim infection and colitis. This is thought to be due to the deprivation of the pathogenic bacteria from nutrients, which in turn reduces its ability to trigger an inflammatory response.
The results were remarkable: fasting eliminated S.typhimurim infection and colitis.
The fasting group exhibited a greater diversity in their microbiome, particularly an increase in the genus Akkermansia, which has been shown to reduce fat mass gain and to improve gut barrier function and glucose metabolism5.
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Listen To Your Body Follow The Plan
Once youve waken up, you now have to make it to bedtime again without eating. Listen to your body, keep drinking water or herbal tea, and flow with your energy levels. About 16 hours into the fast youll have exhausted all quick sources of glycogen energy sources for your body and will be burning body fat in greater amounts. The food in your digestive system is also still providing a slowly dwindling stream of nutrients and energy for your body to run on, thats why the couple of meals before a fast are so important.
If you feel sluggish and hungry while working, change what youre doing find a different way to stimulate yourself. Going outside into nature is always highly refreshing and keeps a fast on track. Stay active but dont overexert yourself, drink something lightly caffeinated like green tea if experiencing an energy slump, or simply take a short nap if tiredness really sets in. Dont reach for the food unless its absolutely necessary! You should never feel bad about breaking a fast if you truly need too.
Heres What Happens When You Begin Eating The Last Meal Before Your Fast:
Your body will receive an insulin spike. The size of insulin spike depends on the amount of protein or carb youre having in that meal. If its high-protein, high-carb youre going to get a really big insulin spike. It will take about 8-10 hours for that insulin and glucose to start to come down. If youre eating a lower sugar, carb, or protein meal, your insulin spike will no be as high and will begin to come down a lot quicker.
Cheat code: If the last meal before your fast was a low carb/protein/sugar meal, you will encounter all of the benefits of fasting much quicker!
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It Gives Your Gut A Break
Digesting different foods is a task of great energy expenditure for your body. Fasting during prolonged periods gives the gut the time it needs to restore its integrity. This is especially important for those with leaky gut, also called intestinal permeability, where the gut lining is weakened thereby allowing toxins, partially digested foods and pathogens to enter the bloodstream. In turn, this may trigger inflammatory processes like endotoxemia6, which poses a risk of insulin resistance, obesity, and an overall decreased immunity. IF can help in many health conditions by reducing oxidative stress in the body and chronic inflammation 7.
Does Timing Really Matter
Most of the studies we have for the effect of intermittent fasting on the gut microbiome come from mice. These studies show several potential benefits, including increased microbial diversity, reduced inflammation, and increased production of beneficial microbial compounds known as short chain fatty acids 3,4. Intermittent fasting also improved cognitive function and increased levels of tryptophan in the blood, suggesting the gut-brain axis may be involved in mediating the effects of fasting3.
Another area of interest is the influence of the microbiome on our circadian rhythm the internal clock that helps regulate your natural sleep and feeding cycles. It turns out your gut microbiome has its own circadian clock studies show that the composition and function of the microbiome fluctuates throughout the day, including changes in the production of SCFAs5-7. These SCFAs alter the expression of circadian clock genes in the liver, which play an important role in the regulation of sleep, metabolism, and behaviour. While certain things can disrupt this rhythm , time-restricted feeding is thought to restore normal circadian patterns but so far this has only been shown in mice5,6. Together, these studies have started to give us clues into the effect of fasting on the gut microbiome.
Whats your microbiomes potential to produce beneficial SCFAs? Find out with Insight.
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How Long Should You Fast For A Healthy Gut
Fasting for a healthy gut should last about 16 hours every three days. During the fasting period, make sure to drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration and keep your metabolism working.
Studies show that this whole process should last about 30 days minimum in order to starve the harmful gut bacteria and improve the health of your digestive system.
Overall, most people will need about six months to fully cleanse their gut and notice some real benefits.
So, it all depends on the condition of your digestive system before starting your fasting journey.
Aside from fasting, make sure to follow an otherwise healthy diet in the hours that youre allowed to eat. This means that you should consume fresh produce with each meal and avoid processed junk food.
The foods that you can consume include:
- Whole grains
- Plenty of fresh fruits, such as apples or oranges
- Lots of vegetables, such as broccoli or kale
These foods help feed the good gut bacteria in your stomach, stopping any damage to them that might happen as a result of fasting.