(NaturalHealth365) According to recent research, intermittent fasting – the practice of doing without solid food, often for 20 to 30 hours at a time – has a surprisingly beneficial effect on health.
Studies have shown that fasting boosts the immune system, promotes the growth of new neurons, reduces side effects in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, eases autoimmune disorders and even helps to reduce heart disease risk factors. Now, a new animal study conducted at UT Southwestern Medical Center shows that fasting can inhibit the progression of the most common type of childhood leukemia – a truly exciting finding.
Fasting reverses the progression of 2 different subtypes of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL)
Although ALL is the most common leukemia affecting children, it actually can occur at any age. There are two subtypes: B-cell ALL and T-cell ALL. Both involve an uncontrollable proliferation of cancer cells – which then displace healthy cells, causing anemia and infection.
In the study, which was published last year in Nature, researchers experimented with various types of dietary restriction, using fluorescent proteins to mark cancer cells and determine the effect of fasting on levels. They found that cancer development was completely inhibited by a regimen six cycles long, consisting of one day of fasting alternating with normal feeding.
Fasting demolishes cancer cells and doubles survival time
Amazingly, the mice that had fasted had no detectible cancer cells in bone marrow and spleen – compared to nearly 68 percent of cells found to be cancerous in the control group. They also had dramatically reduced levels of white blood cells.
In fact, 75 percent of the mice that had fasted lived for more than 120 days without any signs of leukemia – while every one of the mice with ALL that had not fasted died within 59 days – meaning that fasting more than doubled the survival time.
Researchers called the results “striking,” and called for clinical studies.
Fasting triggers astonishing regeneration of immune cells
In a 2014 study conducted at UC Davis and published in Cell Stem Cell, prolonged fasting – periods of no food for two to four days at a time – induced immune system regeneration, shifting stem cells from dormant to self-renewing. In animal studies – as well as human studies of patients receiving chemotherapy – prolonged fasting lowered white blood cell counts.
To be clear: researchers report that the act of fasting actually kills older, damaged cells – while generating new ones.
The amazing results even took scientists by surprise. The research team called the effect of fasting “remarkable,” and confessed it was not a result that had been predicted.
How exactly does fasting achieve its beneficial effects?
Stores of energy in the body are finite, and are channeled into the processes of digestion, movement, cognition, respiration and more. The act of digesting food – which requires large amounts of blood – diverts energy away from other processes. In addition, eating causes an unavoidable – and energy-depleting – spike in immune activity, with inflammatory conditions increasing as a natural line of defense against pathogens that may be in food.
Prolonged fasting, on the other hand, decreases inflammation by suppressing the release of pro-inflammatory interleukin-6 and tumor necrosis factor alpha. It also reduces free radical damage, along with levels of IGF-1, a growth-factor hormone associated with aging, tumor progression and cancer risk.
And, avoiding solid food while drinking water, green tea and other cleansing beverages helps to flush the digestive system of toxins.
Perhaps most importantly, fasting stimulates a process called autophagy, in which the body breaks down old and damaged cells and recycles them for energy. This process not only combats viral infections and the spread of intercellular parasites, but also helps the body eliminate abnormal cancer cells. It also helps to deprive cancer cells of nutrients, thereby “starving” them and slowing the growth and spread of tumors.
Homeopathic physician Dr. Thomas Lodi notes that 60 to 70 percent of the lymphoid system, associated with immunity, is located in the gastrointestinal tract. In light of this fact, it’s easy to see why fasting and immune health are interconnected.
You can hear Dr. Lodi discuss the immune advantages of fasting – below:
If you would like to try intermittent fasting to boost your immune system – or to prevent and treat cancer and heart disease – discuss the matter with your integrative healthcare provider. Generally speaking, fasting is not recommended for those under 18, or for pregnant or breastfeeding women.
Although it may seem counterintuitive, significant medical research supports the healthful effects of temporarily foregoing solid food. No doubt, intermittent fasting is rapidly emerging as a promising natural therapy to prevent, treat and even reverse a variety of debilitating diseases.