Are fasting and the immune system linked? What is the impact of fasting on our health and what are the benefits? This article summarizes the observations made by fasting specialists. From the Orthopathy movement of the 1820s to the new emerging schools of thought. This article is not exhaustive but addresses the important general benefits. These benefits are only valid if fasting is well practiced, adapted, prepared, and under good conditions.
Fasting to Strengthen our organism
The body sets up adaptation mechanisms by imposing a constraint on the organism through food deprivation. Indeed, these mechanisms have allowed humans and living organisms to survive and adapt to their environment. Therefore, fasting is an adaptation mechanism shaped by the evolutionary history of living beings. But, again, let’s go back to the principle of hormesis. Any living organism exposed to a particular punctual constraint within the limit of what it can bear will seek the resources to survive, which will strengthen itself. The organism will therefore develop better resistance to stress, which is a health criterion.
Can we improve our immune system by fasting ?
Dr. Alexander Kokosov, successor of Dr. Yuri Nicolaev has supervised 7000 fasting cures in Russia. He speaks of sanogenesis (as opposed to pathogenesis). According to him, fasting and the immune system are linked. Indeed, he explains that fasting induces positive stress in the organism. It is different from the negative pressure resulting from starvation. This stress would generate the organism’s adaptation mechanisms, resulting in an essential hormonal and neuroendocrine disruption. Also, we observe that fasting brings about the same transformation of fats as exposure to cold. Indeed, white fats, which are storage fats, turn brown by the “beiging” phenomenon to become beige fats. These fats have the same energy production capacity as brown fats with mitochondria. However, a body with more mitochondria can produce energy and heat more remarkably.
Cancer, Immune system and fasting
“Fasting can correct the disease process and improve functional outcomes in animal models for disorders that include myocardial infarction, diabetes, heart attack, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease. One of the general mechanisms of action of fasting is, through the moderate stress it induces, to trigger adaptive cellular responses. As a result, they generate a better capacity to face more significant stress and counter pathological processes. Furthermore, fasting may delay and/or prevent cancer formation and growth by protecting cells from DNA damage, suppressing cell growth, and promoting the death of damaged cells.” Valter Longo and Mark P. Mattson
Immune system regeneration by fasting
Immune system deficiency remains a primary cause of aging and many diseases. However, in a 2014 study, Valter Longo and colleagues found a relationship between fasting and the immune system. In fact, fasting causes a significant change in the blood cell creation system. Indeed, hematopoietic stem cells begin to multiply to regenerate the immune system.
Does fasting affect white blood cells count?
During fasting, there is a decrease in the number of white blood cells and critical immune system components. Still, the cells that disappear are primarily damaged cells. These cells invites the immune system to produce new white blood cells. Once the individual refeeds, the white blood cell count returns to normal. In addition, multiple fasting cycles reduce immunosuppression and mortality caused by chemotherapy. According to Valter Longo, a single cycle of 4-5 days of fasting every 6 months should be enough for a healthy person to regenerate their immune system.
Resetting your immune system with fasting
“This (fasting) gives the bone marrow the green light to rebuild the entire damaged or aged and ineffective immune system during the fast. And if you’re starting from a system severely damaged by chemotherapy or aging, fasting cycles can help create a new immune system.” Valter Longo, gerontologist and Professor of Biology
If you want to learn more about fasting, don’t hesitate to have a look on my dedicated website: Jeûne & Sens
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- Nutrition and fasting mimicking diets in the prevention and treatment of autoimmune diseases and immunosenescence, Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology (2017)