Science is now catching up to the amazing healing benefits of fasting

For many years, people have resorted to fasting as a powerful healing modality, but only now does research seem to be catching up to something that people have known all along. Fasting is now enjoying the spotlight it deserves after these studies have shed light on its health benefits.

When fasting, the body’s glycogen stores, which is the glucose the body stores for energy, are depleted within 24-48 hours of starting the fast. This activates the body’s complex biochemical pathways whose mission is conserve as much energy as possible while also providing adequate fuel to the vital organs. These mechanisms that conserevergy are the ones that may provide the body with the health benefits.

Fasting was able to help healthy mice regenerate immune cells

In a group of comprehensive experiments, a couple of researchers demonstrated that fasting reduced cell death and DNA damage in bone marrow cells and white blood cells, and decreased  mortality that is induced by chemotherapy in mice. Even more significant, they showed that after 4-5 cycles of fasting-accompanied chemotherapy, the white blood cell (WBC) count of the group that was fasting was normalized, but the WBC count stayed diminished due to the chemotherapy in the control group.

When they looked into fasting while excluding chemotherapy, the results were the same: the production of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) increased six times. HSCs are manufactured in bone marrow and give rise to other cells in your blood, which include the WBCs that regulate the functioning of the immune system.

Fasting also managed to stimulate the the regeneration of immune cells in mice that were healthy, and also restored the HSC profile of mice that were aging to look like that of younger mice.

These results were dramatic and they surprised the researchers. The lead author of the study, Valter Longo, briefly explained the research as follows:

“the body got rid of the parts of the system that might be damaged or old, the inefficient parts, during the fasting. Now, if you start with a system heavily damaged by chemotherapy or aging, fasting cycles can generate, literally, a new immune system.”

What is also interesting is that the researchers discovered that IGF-1 (Insulin-Like Growth Factor 1) signaling played a key role when it came to the regeneration of immune cells that occurred as a result of fasting. Mice that were provided additional IGF-1 during fasting did not show a similar increase in levels of HSCs.

Scientist seem to believe that fasting can provide the same benefits to humans

They performed a clinical trial that placed patients who were going through chemotherapy in 72 or 24 hour fasts before going through each cycle of chemotherapy. The preliminary results have been similar to what the researchers found in mice –  there was an improvement in the count of immune cells in the group that fasted for 72 hours and a shifting towards a “younger” cellular profile.

Their aim was to minimize the the bad side effects of chemo, and what they discovered was interesting. The immune system started to regenerate after fasting. This happened for a few reasons. First, the use of fat and glucose by the body. Secondly, the drop in WBC count caused the new immune cells to begin regenerating:

“When you starve, the system tries to save energy, and one of the things it can do to save energy is to recycle a lot of the immune cells that are not needed, especially those that may be damaged … What we started noticing in both our human work and animal work is that the white blood cell count goes down with prolonged fasting”

The co-author of the study and assistant professor of clinical medicine at the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and Hospital, Tanya Dorff, said that “while chemotherapy saves lives, it causes significant collateral damage to the immune system. The results of this study suggest that fasting may mitigate some of the harmful effects of chemotherapy.”

The results of the study suggests that fasting occasionally can have immune boosting benefits for people who are healthy and those going through chemo

When we fast for a few days, the body is able to simulate a shortage of energy, which allows it to kickstart the regenerating capability of the immune system. This exchanges the old immune cells for new immune cells.