Intermittent Fasting Immune System: The Boosting Effects of Fasting

Written by Stephen Anton PhD on July 9th, 2020

“Have you ever felt sick, sluggish, and weak after an indulgent weekend?”

If you are like most people, the answer is yes.

Back in 2005, I was doing post-doctoral work in New Orleans, LA, when my parents decided they wanted to come for a weekend visit.

Once they arrived, we spent the next two days enjoying the city and the wonderful restaurants.

It was a great visit.

The problem arose with me on Monday morning; I felt as if I had been hit by a truck and run over.

Now, I know you might be thinking I was drinking all weekend, but that was not the case.

And that is what confused me initially because all I did was consume abundant amounts of rich, delicious foods all weekend with my parents.

That is when the light bulb went on as I thought to myself,

“Is it possible that eating too often and not giving the body enough time between meals could have substantial negative effects?”

How Eating Frequency Affects Our Immune System

At that point, I dove into all the literature I could find on eating frequency and its effects on the body.

I discovered that eating frequency affects our immune function.

You see, every time we eat, our body has to use energy to metabolize food and convert food into fuel.

This process puts stress on our cells, and if the stress becomes chronic, in this case from eating too often, we can overtax our body’s natural waste removal or cellular cleaning system.

Inside our bodies, we have a system that removes waste and damaged particles from our cells: it is known as the autophagy system.

Autophagy allows the cells to function more efficiently, which improves the functions of our organs, tissues, and the entire immune system.

The number of inflammatory molecules in our blood is directly linked to the function of our autophagy system.

How Autophagy Affects Our Immune System

If you are not familiar with autophagy and the autophagy system, allow me to give you a unique comparison.

Imagine there is trash lying around your house.

You walk through the halls and the rooms and pick up the trash, put the trash in bags,  and put the bags in cans by the street.

Then your local garbage collector comes by and takes the garbage; they put it into their truck and haul it off to the landfill or incinerator.

This is what the autophagy system does within our bodies.

The autophagy system has special cells that pick up the waste products and take them to the equivalent of the landfills or incinerators within our bodies.

Finally, we dispose of these waste products through exhalations, secretions, and excretions.

“Why is this important?”

The Negative Effects of High Eating Frequency on Immune System

It takes our bodies 4-6 hours to digest, metabolize, and utilize the nutrients in food before returning to pre-meal homeostasis.

That means that if you were to eat throughout the day, from when you wake up to when you go to bed, you could end up staying in a post-prandial (that’s a fancy term for post-meal) state for 18 hours or more each day.

Here’s the problem with that.

When you are in the post-prandial state, your body is focused on digesting and assimilating nutrients, not on removing wastes.

So garbage can accumulate in your cells and tissues.

Then over time, it can start to impair the function of your body’s immune system.

Imagine if you were to make your dinner meal using the same pots and pans you used to make your lunch meal, without cleaning them first.

“I know, pretty gross, right?”

Yet, almost all of us do this to our bodies all the time.

Luckily there’s a simple method you can use to take advantage of autophagy and boost immune function.

That method is intermittent fasting.

Boosting Your Immune System with Intermittent Fasting

If you’re open to it, I’d like to share a few strategies to help you adapt and eventually thrive using intermittent fasting:

1) Ease into it

You don’t have to dive right into the 16/8 model

You can begin by delaying your breakfast, having it a little later and later each day

Also, a shift toward a ketogenic eating style is often more satisfying for many people as they get into intermittent fasting

2) Drink a ton of water

Drink at least 3 to 4 liters of water a day

3) Drink coffee

It’s a natural appetite suppressant and can help you in your fasting phase

There’s also evidence that coffee can help your body produce ketones

Ketones are a fuel source that originates from fat instead of sugar for carbohydrates

So it can help you get into ketosis and burn fat while preserving muscle

4) Stay busy

If you’re not thinking about eating at the beginning of the day, you won’t crave food

Make sure you stay busy to start your day

5) Try it for at least three weeks

If you can’t get used to IF and need more frequent meals, switch back, but make sure you give it three weeks

6) Pick the right foods

Just because you’re practicing IF doesn’t mean that you can eat a bunch of junk; we are consuming a lot of great tasting food, but our goal is autophagy, health, and immunity-boosting

Eat clean, live clean

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A strong immune system is not a replacement for wearing a face mask. The face mask I use is The Better Fit Mask and they were kind enough to create a 10% off code for all my readers.

Code: DRANTON

Visit Website: thebetterfitmask.com

Conclusion

Intermittent fasting boosts your immune system because it facilitates removal of waste in your body.

This waste removal allows your body and organs to run more effectively, which leads to stronger immune function.

However, the benefits of intermittent fasting go way beyond just immune boosting.

More on intermittent fasting:

Intermittent Fasting for Weight Loss: 7 Ways fasting Can Help

Intermittent Fasting for Brain Health: A Powerful Tool

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Anton

I’ve had the privilege of studying the fields of obesity, metabolism, and aging for the past 20 years and felt an increasing desire to share what I’ve learned with as many people as possible the past few years.

More About Dr. Anton
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    ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Dr. Anton

    I’ve had the privilege of studying the fields of obesity, metabolism, and aging for the past 20 years and felt an increasing desire to share what I’ve learned with as many people as possible the past few years.

    More About Dr. Anton
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    RECENT ARTICLES

    Real science. Real advice. Straight to your inbox!

    Get the latest news on topics like intermittent fasting, healthy aging, reducing obesity, and more.