Fasting and Brain: Is Fasting good for Brain?

Fasting and Brain: Is Fasting good for Brain?

Is Fasting good for Brain?

[Contributors- Dr Rashmi Byakodi (Editor, Best for Nutrition), Amber’O Brien (Medical Doctor at Mango Clinic), JClay (Spiritual teacher)]

Illuminating the magnanimous benefits of fasting, Benjamin Franklin stated, “The best of all medicines is resting and fasting.”  Fasting is a great tool to wholly reset your body and mind to tune in with the universe. It offers wondrous benefits to the brain especially. In this article, ‘Fasting and Brain: Is Fasting good for brain?’ we shall look into the brainy benefits of fasting, their types, and the ways one can follow to reap max benefits.

(NOTE- If you have any chronic illnesses, or you're on medications, make sure you consult with a qualified healthcare professional before you start fasting. You may need to adjust your medications or take other precautions, depending on your health condition)

Gut health determines the overall health

Before getting into the core topic, it is vital to know why problems arise in our bodies? It all boils down to the food we eat on a daily basis. We take fruits, vegetables, grains, pulses, chocolates, caffeine, junk food, and many other things. Over time, the brain has created a need for food when one does not always exist. Moreover, we eat out of habit not out of hunger. We gulp down our food several times a day without giving much thought to our gut microbiota. It takes 3 hours for vegetables to get digested. 6 hours and 18 hours for fruits and grains respectively. This means, we are overloading our stomach by ingesting more and more food, even before the previous meal is digested. Moreover, we eat junk food, which is made of sugar, processed, and refined food, which is indigestible.

We don't even exercise regularly. Thus, digestion becomes an onerous task for our digestive system. Digestion is the most significant process for the proper functioning of our body. And when that is disturbed, problems arise.

 (RELATED: Vitamin D for Brain: Why is Vitamin D Important for the Brain?)

How does fasting impact your brain?

Fasting induces an altered metabolic state that optimizes neuron bioenergetics, plasticity, and resilience in a way that creates the neuroprotective effect. Fasting helps in preventing and treating metabolic syndromes, which are major risk factors for many neurological diseases. 

The ‘fast and famine’ situation can make your brain brainy by imposing good stress on it. The fasting shock increases the formation of neurons in a part of the brain known as the hippocampus. A healthier hippocampus slows down cognitive decline (due to age or medical conditions) and improves brain functioning” quoted Dr Waqas Mahmood, Medical Healthcare Specialist at Fasting has a lot of benefits. It improves cognition, helps people slow down the process of neurodegeneration, and plays a role in functional recovery after a heart attack.

Fasting allows for the body to slow down and uses the energy that it would have been using to digest food on recycling other toxins out. This process helps with neurodegeneration and the diseases associated with that.  Additionally, it also impacts mood and energy levels” said Dr Livingood, MD

How is fasting good for brain?

According to the NIH, "Fasting improves cognition, stalls age-related cognitive decline, usually slows neurodegeneration, reduces brain damage and enhances functional recovery after stroke, and mitigates the pathological and clinical features of epilepsy and multiple sclerosis in animal models."  There is no doubt that when you are fasting, your brain and body both function well. The same has been found during experiments on animals. The brain and body are both able to perform well while you are in a fasting state. It helps in alertness, enhanced cognition, memory, and more.

(RELATED: Sleep and Mental health: Can Sleep patterns affect Mental health?)

Improves brain power, cognition, and mental clarity

If you fast for enough hours, your body will run out of glycogen (the stored form of carbohydrates).  Your brain needs glycogen to function so your body will need to find a way to make it from something else.  This is what ketones are.  Your liver takes fat and turns it into ketone bodies for your brain and muscles to use as energy.  Ketone bodies feel good in the brain giving you that feeling of clarity and calmness. “With IF, you need to fast long enough to deplete glycogen stores.  As someone who has been doing IF (both time-restricted eating and longer 3 to 5 day fasts such as the ProLon Fasting Mimicking Diet), your brain may start to feel sharper and more focused doing as little as 16 hours.  I feel my best mentally (and physically) when I fast for 18+ hours. “ said Jill Brown, Nutrition coach. Fasting also boosts your ketone levels, and ketones have several positive impacts on brain health.  This includes improving learning and memory, as well as a better function after a traumatic brain injury. “When it comes to improving brain health, it is better to do some slightly longer fasts (rather than just short-term daily fasting, usually called "intermittent fasting").  That's because autophagy and ketone levels both ramp up a lot more after about 36 hours of fasting. However, there's no need to do too much too fast! Take it really slow at the beginning, and let your body gradually adapt. That will be easier, and safer. Then later on you can try fasting a little bit longer.  One step at a time.” Said Physician Assistant Ben Tanner. 

Preventing Neurodegenerative diseases

According to studies, fasting improves cognition, prevents age-related cognitive decline, slows neurodegeneration, reduces brain damage, and even enhances functional recovery after stroke. Fasting can stimulate the brain to downregulate inflammatory response pathways, which help cells cope with stress and resist diseases. This effect on the ageing nervous system results in the prevention of neurodegenerative disorders. Fasting stimulates something called autophagy, which helps clear out old or worn-out proteins inside your brain cells.  

 Among other things, stimulating autophagy can be beneficial for people who are at risk for dementia / Alzheimer's, because Alzheimer's patients have a lot of misshapen proteins building up in their brain.

(RELATED: Travel and Mental health: Is Travel good for mental health?)

How to follow a fast?

When it comes to fasting, nothing is better than Intermittent fasting. Basically, its concept is healing many kinds of physical ailments, by fasting for a specific period of time or by limiting calorie intake. 

BENEFITS- It improves your cardiovascular health, reduces liver fat, improves blood pressure, clears your skin off acne and other problems, helps lower insulin levels, cures insomnia. It heals every inch of your body.

It's extremely helpful for weight loss since it enables your body to increase the production of fat-burning hormones. It detoxifies your body. It's also proven to expand your life span. The fact that it can be done in several ways is a cherry on the cake.

1.   16/8 fasting

This is perhaps, the most popular method. It's also called the Leangains protocol method. The concept is that you eat your last meal of the day by 8 pm and skip your breakfast the next day and take your first meal of the day at 12 noon. So, basically, you are fasting for 16 hours. In the 8 hour eating period from 12 to 8, you can eat anything provided, it's healthy. It's recommended that women fast for 14-15 hours, while men fast for 15-16 hours.

 2.    5:2 method

It's called the fast diet method. In the seven days of the week, for five days you eat normally, as you do regularly. But during the rest two days, you limit your calorie intake to 500-600 calories. Women are recommended 500 calories and men 600. 

3.   5:2 Eat Stop Eat

It's called the Eat stop Eat method. In the seven days of the week, for five days, you eat normally. And during the remaining two days, you have to do 24 hours of fasting. It is the most complex one among the other methods. You can do the 24 hours fast, either once or twice a week.

 4. Alternate day fasting

In this concept, you eat on one day and fast on the other day. So, it goes alternatively. During the fasting period, limit your calorie intake to 500-600 calories. 

5. Warrior Diet

As the name suggests, this diet is indeed a sartorial one. Take fruits and vegetables for breakfast and skip lunch. Don't take any solid meal until dinner. Take a healthy, huge meal at night. 

Precautions and tips

If you want to keep healthy through fasting, you must make sure to not prolong your fasting periods. Furthermore, you must avoid strenuous exercise and you must stay hydrated. Please realize the fact that you are fasting to stay healthy. If you want to be successful in that, you need to stop being hard on yourself and adopt a healthy lifestyle.

·  Do not fast for so many hours. Keep them short

·  Keep yourself hydrated

·  If you feel unwell, do not continue fasting

·  Consume enough amount of proteins

·  Meditate

Concluding: 'Is Fasting good for Brain?'

Fasting benefits your mental health by placing faith where it belongs, within yourself. People's mental health fails when they put a lot of value in things outside of themselves that they cannot control. When the focus is directed inward, a person realizes her or his personal power. If one can overcome something they feel they need to survive, i.e. food, then nothing is impossible for this person. A fast is a reminder that your mind controls your body and not the other way around. So no matter what you "think" your body is feeling, you can direct it to feel something else and it will act accordingly. As rightly stated by Jentezen Franklin, "fasting will break poverty from your life."

If you liked my work, you can also buy my ebook, 'Resuscitate yourself', by clicking here or you can get it from Kindle and Amazon. It is a self-help book, which is mainly focused on an effectively efficient approach in improving brain power and beating stress, depression, and other mental ailments. 

I hope my article, ‘Fasting and Brain: Is fasting good for brain?’ is of assistance. Subscribe to my newsletter and get all updates delivered straight into your inbox.

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