A number of ancient health practices are proving to be effective in multiple ways. We recently posted an article about meditation, and how neuroscience can now explain what happens to the brain when we meditate. Now, scientists have discovered the first evidence of a natural intervention triggering stem cell-based regeneration of an organ or system. The study was published in the June 5 issue of Cell Stem Cell by researchers from the University of Southern California. The research shows that cycles of prolonged fasting protect against immune system damage and induce immune system regeneration. They concluded that fasting shifts stem cells from a dormant state to a state of self-renewal.
Human clinical trials were conducted using patients who were receiving chemotherapy. For long periods of time, patients did not eat which significantly lowered their white blood cell counts. In mice, fasting cycles “flipped a regenerative switch, changing the signalling pathways for hematopoietic stem cells, which are responsible for the generation of blood and immune systems.”
“We could not predict that prolonged fasting would have such a remarkable effect in promoting stem cell-based regeneration of the heatopoietic system. When you starve, the system tries to save energy, and one of the things it can do to save energy is to recycle a lot of the immune cells that are not needed, especially those that may be damaged. What we started noticing in both our human work and animal work is that the white blood cell count goes down with prolonged fasting. Then when you re-feed, the blood cells come back. ” – Valter Longo, corresponding author.
Again, because fasting significantly lowers white blood cell counts, this triggers stem cell-based regeneration of new immune system cells. More importantly, it reduces the PKA enzyme, which has been linked to aging, tumour progression and cancer. It’s also noteworthy to mention that fasting protected against toxicity in a pilot clinical trial where patients fasted for 72 hours prior to chemotherapy.
“Chemotherapy causes significant collateral damage to the immune system. The results of this study suggest that fasting may mitigate some of the harmful effects of chemotherapy.” Co-Author Tanya Dorff
Fasting is a tradition that’s been incorporated into many ancient cultures, from Vedic to Buddhist and more, fasting should not be confused with starvation. It’s the process of restrain and control from the sensorial experience of eating and at the same time making sure you are doing it correctly. When I fast, I usually do water fasts and I have been doing them for almost eight years now and I always feel great and full of energy after doing so.
Below is a TEDx talk given by Mark Mattson, the current Chief of the Laboratory of Neuroscience at the National Institute on Aging. He is also a professor of Neuroscience at The Johns Hopkins University, and one of the foremost researchers in the area of cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying multiple neurodegenerative disorders, like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
“Dietary changes have long been known to have an effect on the brain. Children who suffer from epileptic seizures have fewer of them when placed on caloric restriction or fasts. It is believed that fasting helps kick-start protective measures that help counteract the overexcited signals that epileptic brains often exhibit. (Some children with epilepsy have also benefited from a specific high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet.) Normal brains, when overfed, can experience another kind of uncontrolled excitation, impairing the brain’s function, Mattson and another researcher reported in January in the journal Nature Reviews Neuroscience.”
How To Fast?
Before you fast, make sure you do your research. Personally, I’ve been fasting for years, so it is something that comes easy for me.
One recommended way of doing it — which was tested by the BBC’s Michael Mosley in order to reverse his diabetes, high cholesterol, and other problems that were associated with his obesity — is what is known as the “5:2 Diet.” On the 5:2 plan, you cut your food down to one-fourth of your normal daily calories on fasting days (about 600 calories for men and about 500 for women), while consuming plenty of water and tea. On the other five days of the week, you can eat normally.
Another way to do it, as mentioned above, is to restrict your food intake between the hours of 11 am and 7 pm