Our bodies need food to restore and replenish themselves. But paradoxically, intermittent fasting can actually help your cells revitalize and rejuvenate.
Occasionally depriving your cells of food—say, for twelve to sixteen hours at a time one day a week—can support better function of the mitochondria, the powerhouse that generates energy for the cells. Food restriction also helps your body lower the rate of cellular death.
Fasting of this type can significantly improve metabolic efficiency. You don’t need as much sleep and your body begins to need less food. It’s as though you’re practicing, one day a week, for a time when you need no food at all and can live entirely on the SPIRIT (the seventh of the Seven Systems of Full-Spectrum Health which focuses on connection, purpose, “soul).
Of course, as long as we live and breathe, occasionally going without food can actually be good for the body as well as the SPIRIT. Here’s a small sampling of research on the benefits of fasting and calorie restriction:
Prolonged fasting seems to reduce levels of a hormone called IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor 1), a substance that contributes to aging and perhaps to some cancers. Researchers believed that by reducing IGF-1, fasting contributed to cell renewal and regeneration.
Similar research found that fasting supported stem cell regeneration. We used to believe that stem cells were irreversibly destroyed by the aging process. Apparently, calorie restriction helps to reverse the effects of aging.
Fasting seemed to improve the mood of depressed and aging men. Researchers observed “significant decreases in tension, anger, confusion, and total mood disturbance and improvements in vigor.”
About the Author
Dr. Deanna Minich is a Fellow of the American College of Nutrition (F.A.C.N.), a Certified Nutrition Specialist (C.N.S.), Certified Nutritionist (C.N.), and a Registered Yoga Teacher (R.Y.T.). A resident of Port Orchard, Washington, she is a senior advisor to the Personalized Lifestyle Medicine Institute in Seattle, Washington, and an adjunct professor at the Institute for Functional Medicine, Maryland University of Integrative Health, and the University of Western States.