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Reduce Inflammation with a Healthy Microbiome and Intermittent Fasting

 

The microbiome and intermittent fasting have emerged as two pivotal areas of interest. The human microbiome, comprising trillions of microorganisms inhabiting our bodies, plays a crucial role in various physiological processes. At the same time, intermittent fasting, an eating pattern cycling between periods of eating and fasting, has garnered attention for its potential health benefits. Understanding the intricate relationship between intermittent fasting and our microbiome sheds light on how this dietary practice can positively impact our overall well-being and reduce inflammation.


Exploring the Microbiome:

The human microbiome encompasses a diverse array of microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, fungi, and archaea, primarily inhabiting the gut. This complex ecosystem influences numerous aspects of human health, ranging from digestion and metabolism to immune function and mental health. A balanced microbiome promotes homeostasis within the body, while dysbiosis, an imbalance in microbial composition, is associated with a wide variety of health conditions, including obesity, inflammatory bowel disease, and autoimmune disorders.


Intermittent Fasting:

Intermittent fasting involves alternating cycles of eating and fasting, with popular methods including the 16/8 method (fasting for 16 hours and eating within an 8-hour window) and the 5:2 diet (consuming a normal diet for five days and restricting calorie intake for two consecutive days).

With the 16/8 method, we recommend eating the first meal between 6-8 am and the second meal 1-3 pm. Eating nothing in between the two meals (see blog “Nourishing the Mind and Reducing Inflammation, Part 3” for a better understanding of how snacking and/or grazing impacts inflammation). After your second meal, eat nothing until the next morning. We also recommend eating high-fiber, high-water content foods (see blog “Nourishing the Mind and Reducing Inflammation, Part 1”), in other words, plant foods, because naturally occurring fiber and high-water content foods are found only among plant foods. It can take about a week for the body to adjust to no evening meal and to no longer feel so hungry in the evenings.  With the 5:2 diet, we recommend two consecutive fasting days, especially for autoimmune conditions. Day one of fasting the body is releasing toxins from storage, day two the body is eliminating the toxins from the body. Without the second fasting day, you are missing one of the biggest benefits. During the two fasting days, you are eating 400-600 calories a day, preferably from whole plant foods.


Beyond mere calorie restriction, intermittent fasting triggers a cascade of metabolic changes within the body, promoting cellular repair and autophagy (the process of cellular self-cleansing), increasing the incidence of auto-immune disease remission, improving sleep, and regulating hormones.

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The Interplay Between Intermittent Fasting and the Microbiome:

Emerging research suggests a profound interaction between intermittent fasting and the microbiome, with fasting exerting a significant influence on microbial composition and diversity. Studies indicate that intermittent fasting can modulate the gut microbiota, promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria while inhibiting the proliferation of harmful microbes. This shift in microbial balance may contribute to reduced inflammation, improved metabolic health, hormonal regulation, and enhanced immune function.


Furthermore, intermittent fasting has been shown to stimulate the production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), metabolites produced by gut bacteria during the fermentation of dietary fiber (remember fiber is only found in plant foods, and beans (legumes) are the king of fiber). SCFAs play a crucial role in maintaining gut integrity, regulating appetite, and modulating immune responses. By fostering the production of SCFAs, intermittent fasting nurtures a symbiotic relationship between the host and its microbial inhabitants, fostering an environment conducive to overall health and well-being.


Potential Health Benefits:

The synergy between intermittent fasting and the microbiome underscores the potential health benefits of adopting this dietary approach. Research suggests that intermittent fasting may confer numerous advantages, including weight loss, improved insulin sensitivity, enhanced cognitive function, reduced inflammation, and longevity. Moreover, by promoting a favorable microbial profile, intermittent fasting may mitigate the risk of various chronic diseases, such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, inflammatory responses, and cardiovascular disorders.


In conclusion, the symbiotic relationship between intermittent fasting and the microbiome underscores the profound impact of dietary practices on human health. By modulating microbial composition and promoting metabolic resilience, intermittent fasting holds immense potential as a holistic approach to reducing inflammation and promoting overall well-being. As research in this field continues to evolve, integrating intermittent fasting into dietary regimens may pave the way to Start a New YOU!®


Here's to a Happy Microbiome,


Dana West, RD, LD, ACLMDIP

 

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