Do you want to relieve that cold or boost your immune system? Rather, do you want to avoid illnesses such as colds? Forget about copious amounts of vitamin C or drastic lifestyle changes. It turns out that the old adage “don’t feed a cold” may be scientifically sound advice. That’s according to a study that says fasting for two to four days restores the immune system, benefiting everyone from healthy adults to chemotherapy patients.

How fasting helps the immune system

According to a study conducted in Cell, tests performed showed that prolonged periods of fasting significantly lowered white blood cell counts. This produces a change in the signaling pathways of the HSCs or hematopoietic stem cells, which give rise to new blood and immune systems.

One of the study authors, Vlater Longo, said: “When you starve yourself, the system tries to save energy, and one of the things it can do to save energy is to recycle a lot of immune cells that are not needed, especially those that can be damaged “.

Maximizing immune function

This can be especially beneficial for the elderly and people with autoimmune disorders who are more susceptible to disease. Another finding from the study showed that fasting reduces levels of a growth hormone known as IGF-1, which is linked to cancer, aging, and tumor growth.

Scientists are also seeing the benefits of fasting in other areas of health, especially in the field of neuroscience. In one study, they found that fasting twice a week can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease .

He also found that fasting can challenge the brain in the short term and stimulate two messaging chemicals that are key to the growth of new brain cells. This helps the brain to become resistant to protein plaques that lead to neurodegenerative diseases.

Several Silicon Valley executives are experimenting with fasting as a biohacking technique. Some of these biohackers abstain from food for up to four days, while only drinking water, coffee or tea. CEOs like Phil Libin say it puts you in a better mood, keeps you more focused, and even provides a mild euphoria.

The science behind this is similar to ketogenic diet concepts where the body, when lacking in carbohydrates and glucose, enters ketosis, producing ketones from the breakdown of fat in the liver. The body uses these ketones in place of glucose, while burning fat to create these ketones.

Benefits of fasting for chemotherapy patients

In an earlier study, Longo and his team found that fasting in animals effectively treats most types of cancer. He also discovered that.

For cancer patients, chemotherapy can devastate the immune system, which is why chemotherapy is usually supplemented with drugs to stimulate immune cells. After the chemo is finished, it can take almost a month for the immune system to recover.

However, fasting flips a “regenerative switch” that tells stem cells to create new white blood cells and eventually to regenerate the entire immune system.

At the same time, old and inefficient parts of the immune system are eliminated. This process not only reboots the immune system, but also reduces free radical damage and inflammation in the body.

Of course, the study says that patients should consult their doctors to see if their bodies are healthy enough to fast, as it is not always the right way to go depending on one’s weight and specific conditions.

Ancient fasting to regenerate the immune system

Fasting has been a tradition practiced by several different cultures and religions for hundreds of years.

The ancient Egyptians fasted and purged monthly to cleanse their bodies, believing that all disease emanated from the food they put into their system. When the ancient Greek philosopher Herodotus wrote about the Egyptians, he described them as the healthiest of men.

Whether it was Herodotus’s perception or otherwise, many other famous Greek men employed or at least praised the power of fasting in their lifestyles, including Plato, Hippocrates, and Plutarch. The latter was cited as famous: “Instead of using drugs, you better fast today.”

Many religions incorporate fasting into their traditions, often on the premise that it draws closer to God and has an aspect of purification. In Islam, Ramadan calls for a full month of fasting, and Prophet Muhammad encouraged fasting twice a week.

In Judaism, there is Yom Kippur and in Christianity, giving up food for Lent is a symbol of Jesus’ fasting for 40 days in the desert.

With modern medicine, we have become so consuming with the idea of ​​taking a pill for each disease, when often the solution can be found in our own self-healing capacity, and fasting is one of them.

By Dr. Eric Jackson

Dr. Eric Jackson provides primary Internal Medicine care for men and women and treats patients with bone and mineral diseases, diabetes, heart conditions, and other chronic illnesses.He is a Washington University Bone Health Program physician and is a certified Bone Densitometrist. Dr. Avery is consistently recognized in "The Best Doctors in America" list.

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