How Fasting Affects Your Gut

by Arthur Brown

Your gut has been called your body’s second brain. That’s often why when we first meet someone new and get a good (or bad) feeling about them, we will say, “I have a gut feeling that he’s not being completely honest.” According to an article on the Scientific American website, there’s a good reason for that.

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Your gut and your brain are connected by a network of neurons, chemicals, and hormones. The friendly bacteria in your gut play a big role in this process. Although following a diet that promotes good gut bacteria is important, studies have shown that there are other steps you can take to increase these bacteria. The practice of fasting, including intermittent fasting, can greatly improve the health of your gut and therefore, your mind/body connection.

The Beginnings of Disease

According to an article on Huffpost, a good number of scientists have come to the conclusion that most diseases begin in the gut.

Additionally, your gut health affects your body in myriad ways. An unhealthy gut will affect how much you weigh, how healthy your heart is, and even how clearly your brain thinks. Having a healthy microbiome in your stomach is the foundation for good gut health, and therefore, the prevention of diseases like these.

What Role Does Fasting Play in Gut Health?

Although it might seem counterintuitive, periods of fasting or even intermittent fasting can change your gut’s good bacteria in a positive way.

However, it’s first important to understand why this happens.

Scientific studies have shown that animals that were fed a reduced-calorie diet or calorie restriction enjoyed an increase in lifespan by as much as 50% (in some cases). While scientists performed the initial testing on animals, like fish and rats, it is now believed that when humans restrict their caloric intake, they could also reap the benefits of an extended lifespan.

It is believed, in part, that the species that subsist on a reduced-calorie diet live longer because the reduction in calories actually increases the number of gut bacteria in the organism.

Although it would be easy to suggest that a person undertake a low-calorie diet to achieve these results, it actually isn’t necessary. Going on a fast or even undertaking an intermittent fasting program has been shown to have the same results as adhering to a low-calorie diet, at least in terms of your gut health.

Some people actually prefer intermittent fasting, due to how difficult it is to stay on a restricted-calorie diet for a long period of time.

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting is when you purposefully restrict or reduce the number of hours you eat in a day. A simple intermittent fast would be a plan, where you eat during the day for only a six- to eight-hour window. The rest of the time, you fast.

However, there are a number of different ways you can introduce intermittent fasting to your diet, according to Healthline.

We already covered one type, which is the 16/8 method. That is you eat for eight hours a day and fast for 16 hours a day. This type of fast is easy to start because you’ll be sleeping for the majority of your fast. Usually, people who undertake this plan will begin eating around noon and be done eating for the day by 8:00 p.m.

Other types of intermittent fasting include plans that ask you to undertake a one-day fast one day a week or eat a restricted diet of 500 calories two days a week. A more disciplined regiment includes a fast every other day of the week. Another more extreme fast is to fast all day and then, to eat a big dinner.

It’s important to note that these types of fasts are a bit difficult for the beginner, though. It’s best to start with just reducing the number of hours you eat in a day.

Adhere to a Gut-Healthy Diet

If you do decide to start an intermittent fasting routine, you should know also that some pre-fast preparation will help you be more successful. This not only allows you to get into the mental space of fasting, but it also helps you to strengthen your gut bacteria before the fast.

A Mind Body Green article highlights the importance of adhering to a gut-healthy diet before you start an intermittent fasting program.

A gut-healthy diet consists of a diversity of foods, which in turn creates a diverse gut microbiome. A plant-based diet that includes healthy fats, plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, and high-quality sources of proteins, like beans will help build the gut microbiome.

Additionally, a post from Microbe Formulas by Dr. Todd Watts recommends eating fermented foods to improve your gut microbiome and mental health.

Foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, and coconut water kefir can all play a role in helping you rebuild the good bacteria in your stomach. However, if you are having trouble getting enough of these foods, then you can take a probiotic supplement that contains Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.

It is important that you consume real, whole foods as a part of this process. Processed foods contain unhealthy fats, sugars, and chemicals that can destroy the good bacteria in your stomach.

Takeaway

In summary, reducing your caloric intake can have positive effects on your health, including the possibility of an increased life expectancy. A decrease in calories promotes the proliferation of your gut’s good bacteria, which is one of the reasons why a lower-calorie diet can benefit your health. While you can achieve this goal by going on a diet that restricts your calories, you actually don’t have to do that. Instead, you can plan on doing some intermittent fasting. It has been shown that this type of fasting has the same effect on your gut’s microbiome as a restricted-calorie diet does.

The gut is among the most important organ systems in the body. The body, as well as the immune system, almost entirely depends on it for healthy functioning. When done right, fasting can be highly beneficial to both your gut and your overall health.

Author Bio
Arthur Brown is a dad of 3 kids and is a keen writer covering a wide range of topics such as health, fitness, Internet marketing, and more! When not writing, he’s found behind a drum kit.