Friday, July 05, 2024

Fasting, or the act of going without food and sometimes liquids as well, provides remarkable benefits for the brain. Many have the misconception that fasting is merely a tool for weight loss, but there are so many more benefits in addition to shedding pounds. The effects on mental clarity, resilience, and overall brain function are certainly noteworthy, and can even help prevent neurodegenerative diseases. 

​Dr. Jason Fung said, "Fasting is not about eating less. It's about eating less often. It's about giving your body a break." 

​By allowing the body and all of its amazing systems significant time to reset, intermittent fasting incorporates an eating plan that offers a regular schedule for both eating and fasting. With a certain window of time set aside for consuming food, the same is provided for fasting. Often, the largest portion of time spent without eating includes the hours spent sleeping, thus the term "breakfast" literally refers to breaking one's fast. For example, an individual may decide that they are going to eat between the hours of 9am and 6pm, and fast from 6pm to 9am. This is just an example, as everyone is different and adjusts fasting to their lifestyle and nutritional needs. Pay attention to your body's responses to fasting and make changes as necessary. 

When considering fasting, preparation is essential. The night before you begin, have an early and light dinner that is low in carbohydrates, which will lessen the feelings of being bloated or overly full. Healthy fats, lean protein, and grilled veggies will provide long-lasting fuel and leave you feeling full longer than a high carb meal would. As always, hydration is important, especially when participating in fasting. Try increasing your water intake the evening before, and keep water nearby while fasting. Not only does this help keep you hydrated, but will also curb hunger pains while abstaining from food. Be sure to keep your water bottle handy! Drinking black coffee or herbal tea are also great options during the fasting process. If you've never considered a ketone drink, now is the perfect time to look into them, as they offer benefits like boosting energy and promoting weight loss. 

The fasting process promotes autophagy, which is when cells clean out damaged components. Think of it as the body's opportunity to do some decluttering or housekeeping, which is essential for a healthy brain and better cognitive function. When these dysfunctional components are removed and cleared out the buildup of amyloid plaques, which are associated with Alzheimer's and other diseases, is reduced. Fasting preserves the brain's existing cells and even encourages the growth of new ones which, in turn, enhances cognitive flexibility. This has a positive impact on memory and ability to focus. Regulation of blood sugar is another great result of fasting and lowers the risk of insulin resistance, a known factor in dementia. Ketones are also increased, which is a chemical that the body and brain both use for energy.

When we keep in mind promising results like this, our desire to incorporate regular fasting into our lives can be fueled as we focus on efforts to feel and think better. 

​For more information on autophagy and even more reasons to give fasting a try, check out this article by Amen Clinics where they list "7 Incredible Things Intermittent Fasting Does for Your Brain." 

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