14th February 2024

Intermittent fasting and the immune system: Bolstering your body’s defenses

When life is feeling hectic, a solid focus on health and immunity is more important than ever, so understanding how lifestyle choices affect our body’s ability to fight off illness is crucial.

Intermittent fasting (IF) has gained popularity not only as a weight management tool but also for its potential impact on the immune system.

Keep reading as we explore the intriguing relationship between IF and the immune system, shedding light on how this dietary approach can boost your body’s natural defenses.

The impact of IF on immune health

The relationship between intermittent fasting (IF) and immune health is an area of growing interest and research, revealing how eating patterns can significantly influence our body’s defense mechanisms. The beneficial impact of IF on the immune system is largely down to the process of ‘autophagy’, a critical cellular function that IF notably enhances.

What is autophagy?

Autophagy, often described as the body’s way of cleaning out damaged cells, is a natural process where nutrient-deprived cells are removed or recycled (‘auto’ meaning self and ‘phagy’ meaning eat: literally meaning ‘self-eating’). During fasting periods, as the body enters a state of energy conservation, cells are able to efficiently recycle and renew, breaking down and removing old, worn-out proteins and cellular debris. This cleanup is essential for maintaining cellular health and function.

By facilitating autophagy, intermittent fasting helps in clearing out cells that are not performing optimally, including immune cells. This renewal allows for the generation of newer, more efficient immune cells, better equipped to fight off infections and diseases. Essentially, IF can help reset and rejuvenate the immune system, enhancing its ability to respond to external threats.

Reducing inflammatory responses and risk of disease

Another critical aspect of how intermittent fasting benefits immune health is through the reduction of chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation is often linked to a weakened immune system and an increased risk of various diseases. IF has been shown to lower the levels of inflammation in the body, which in turn  reduces the risk of chronic health conditions and bolsters overall immune function. Regular cycles of fasting and eating, like what happens when you try intermittent fasting, have been associated with improved resistance to diseases, particularly those related to age and lifestyle. The strengthened immune response, courtesy of enhanced autophagy and reduced inflammation, plays a key role in this improved resilience.

Nutrient absorption and immune function

It’s important to note that the benefits of intermittent fasting on the immune system are maximised when combined with a nutrient-rich diet. Eating foods that are high in vitamins and minerals during your eating windows can significantly bolster your immune health. Nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, and antioxidants are vital for maintaining an effective immune response. Nuts, seeds, beans, broccoli, spinach, Greek yogurt and ginger are all excellent foods for supporting your immune system to enjoy during your eating window.

The bottom line: Intermittent fasting bolsters your immune system

Giving intermittent fasting a go can be a transformative step towards giving your immune system the support it needs. By encouraging cellular repair, reducing inflammation, and enhancing overall cell rejuvenation, IF offers a powerful approach to fortifying your body’s natural defenses. Coupled with a nutrient-rich diet like a Mediterranean-style diet, this practice not only supports weight management but also contributes significantly to a healthy immune system, preparing your body to effectively combat illnesses. By prioritising your body’s natural defense mechanisms through dietary choices like IF, you’re setting the stage for long-term health and longevity, ready to face life’s challenges with a stronger and more prepared immune system.

If you’re new to intermittent fasting, or want to learn more about it, sign up now to a 7-day free trial of The Fast 800 Programme where you can try methods like Time Restricted Eating and The New 5:2 diet, paired with a range of delicious, immune-boosting recipes and meal plans that are suitable for fasting and non-fasting days.

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