Does fasting improve gut health? what to know | India News

IIf you spend a lot of time online, you may have noticed that some parts of the Internet have hit a high fever. Online message boards are awash with posts touting the benefits of time-restricted eating and other intermittent-fasting approaches, which involve going without caloric food or drink for long periods of time—anywhere from 12 hours to several days. These online testimonials have helped popularize intermittent fasting, and they often feature two common-sense rationalizations: one, that humans evolved in an environment where food was scarce and food occurred sporadically; And second, that the relatively recent shift to round-the-clock eating has been devastating to our intestinal and metabolic health.

Mining the Internet for accurate information, especially when it comes to dieting, can feel like panning for gold. You have to sift through a lot of junk to find anything valuable. But this is one case where nuggets can be found easily. A lot of published peer-reviewed research on intermittent fasting makes the same claims you’ll find on those Reddit message boards. “Recently, the availability of food for humans has been unpredictable,” wrote the authors of the 2021 review paper in American Journal of Physiology, “Knowledge of early human evolution and data from recent studies of hunter-gatherer societies suggest that humans evolved in environments over times of food scarcity.” They say that fasting regimens can provide a period of “gut rest” that can lead to a number of meaningful health benefits, including improved gut microbiome diversity, gut barrier function and immune function.

The past decade has seen an explosion in research related to fasting. (According to Google Scholar, there are only about 150,000 articles in the last five years that examine or mention fasting.) Although that work has helped establish a connection between intermittent fasting and weight loss, as well as other benefits, It is not yet clear when (or if) fasting can help heal a sick gut. “I would still consider the evidence moderate,” says Dr. Emeran Meyer, professor of medicine and founding director of the Goodman Luskin Microbiome Center at the University of California, Los Angeles. ,[Fasting] Looks like a prudent way to maintain metabolic health or to re-establish metabolic health, but it is by no means a miracle cure.”

When it comes to gut conditions like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), he says the research is either absent or inconclusive. To their point, researchers have found that Ramadan fasting—a month-long religious period when people do not eat or drink anything between sunrise and sunset—can “remodel” gut bacteria communities in helpful and healthy ways. . However, in people with IBD, studies on fasting Ramadan have also found that a person’s gut symptoms may be worse.

While it is too early to suggest fasting schemes as a panacea for stomach-related disorders, experts say there is still hope that these approaches can emerge as treatments. It’s clear that some radical, and perhaps radically beneficial, things happen when you give your body a break from food.

How fasting can repair the gut

For a series of recent studies, a team of researchers based in the Netherlands and China examined the effects of Ramadan-style intermittent fasting on the gut microbiome – the billions of bacteria that live in the human gastrointestinal tract. (Ramadan comes up a lot in published research because it provides a real-world opportunity for experts to examine the effects of 12- or 16-hour fasting, which is one of many popular intermittent fasting regimens.) I wanted to know what intermittent fasting does to the body,” says Dr. Mackel Peppelenbosch, a member of that research team and a professor of gastroenterology at the Erasmus University Medical Center in the Netherlands. “In general, we have seen that intermittent fasting microbiome changes very clearly, and we consider some of the changes to be beneficial. If you look at fasting in general, not just Ramadan, you see certain types of bacteria growing.”

For example, they state that intermittent fasting pumps up the gut population of a family of bacteria called lacnospiraceae, “In the intestines, bacteria are constantly battling for ecological space,” he explains. Unlike some other gut microorganisms, lacnospiraceae Can live happily in an empty GI tract. “They can stay away from the slime that the gut itself makes, so they can outcompete other bacteria in the fasting state.” lacnospiraceae Produces a short-chain fatty acid called butyrate, which seems to be critically important to gut health. Butyrate sends anti-inflammatory signals to the immune system, which may help reduce pain and other symptoms of gut dysfunction. Butyrate also improves intestinal barrier function, Pepplenbosch says. This is potentially a big deal. Poor barrier function (sometimes referred to as “leaky gut”) is a hallmark of common GI conditions, including inflammatory bowel disease. If intermittent fasting can reduce inflammation and also help normalize the walls of the GI tract, those changes could have major therapeutic implications.

lacnospiraceae It is only one of several types of helpful bacteria that research has linked to fasting plans. But at this point, there are still plenty of gaps in the science. Peppelenbosch says that the guts of people with bowel disorders do not respond to fasting in the same way as the guts of people without these health problems. “In sick people, we see similar changes in the microbiome, but it’s not as clear cut as in healthy volunteers,” he says. “So now we’re really trying to figure out what’s going on there.”

Healthy microbiome changes aren’t the only potential benefit researchers have linked to intermittent fasting. The mayor of UCLA mentions a phenomenon called the migrating motor complex. “It is rarely mentioned in fasting articles today, but when I was a junior faculty it was one of the hottest discoveries in gastroenterology research,” he says. The migrating motor complex refers to recurrent cycles of powerful contractions that sweep the contents of the intestine, including its bacteria, down into the colon. “It’s a 90-minute recurring contractile wave that makes the gut swoon, and its strength is comparable to that of a nutcracker,” he says. Essentially, this motor complex behaves like a street-sweeping crew cleaning up after a parade. This ensures that the intestine is cleansed and cleaned in between meals through repeated cycles of 90 minutes, making fasting more frequent. It also helps to rebalance the gut microbial population so that more of them can live in the colon and lower regions of the GI tract. “But when you bite it stops – it stops immediately,” he says.

Meyer says that modern eating habits—so-called “grazing,” or eating consistently throughout the day—leave little time for the migrated motor complex to do its job. “This function is gone by the time we fall asleep, but it has also been disrupted because many people wake up in the middle of the night and snack on some,” he says. “So those long periods of time when we re-cleanse and rebalance our gut so that we have a normal distribution of bacteria and normal population density—which has been seriously disturbed by these lifestyle changes.”

Ideally, Meyer says people can (for the most part) follow a time-restricted eating program that allows a full 12 to 14 hours each day for the motor complex to work. “If you don’t snack, this motor complex will happen between meals, and you’ll also get this 12- to 14-hour window at night where the digestive tract was empty,” he explains. In other words, eating three meals a day and avoiding bites in between meals (or nighttime snacks) may be enough. But again, it is unclear whether such an eating program can undo gut damage or treat existing dysfunction.

Read more: The truth about fasting and type 2 diabetes

more potential profit

Another potential benefit of fasting involves a biological process called “autophagy.” During autophagy, old or damaged cells die and are removed from the body. Some researchers have called this a helpful housekeeping mechanism, and it occurs naturally when the body goes without energy (calories) for a long period of time. There is some expert speculation, based mostly on evidence from laboratory and animal studies, that autophagy may help strengthen the gut or counteract the obstruction problems seen in people with IBD. But these improvements have not yet been demonstrated in real-world clinical trials involving people.

Meanwhile, some experts have found that fasting can help rewire the gut’s metabolic rhythm in useful ways. “By changing the feeding time, it will actually change his activity
microbiome, and this can have negative health effects,” said principal investigator Dr. Aron Elinav says.

Some of Alinav’s work, including an influential 2016 paper in the journal roomhave shown that the gut microbiome undergoes day-night shifts that are influenced by an individual’s eating schedule, and this causes altered patterns of metabolite production, gene expression and other important elements of gut health. “If you change the timing of the diet, you can flip the circadian activity of the microbiome,” he says. These are likely to have health effects, although what they are is, well, unclear.

Read more: What do we know about leaky gut syndrome?

fasting isn’t going anywhere

It’s clear that when you eat, including how often you eat, matters to your gut health. But the devil is in the details. At this point, it is unclear how intermittent fasting can be used to help people with gut-related disorders or metabolic diseases.

“For a condition like IBD, it’s important to make a distinction between what you do during one flare and what you do to prevent the next flare-up,” Meyer explains. Research on people who observe Ramadan suggests that, during at least one flare-up, fasting can make a person’s IBD symptoms worse. Finding out whether fasting can also lead to long-term improvements is one of many questions that need to be answered.

While much remains unknown, experts say that common methods of fasting appear to be safe for most people. Time-restricted eating, for example, involves cramming all of your day’s calories into an eating window of six to eight hours. Even in people with metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, research shows this form of fasting is safe, provided a person is not taking blood-sugar medications.

That said, there simply isn’t much work on intermittent fasting as a treatment for gut problems. In addition, there is little research on more extreme forms of fasting, such as plans that involve going without calories for several days. These diets can be therapeutic, but they can also be dangerous. If you’re considering any of these approaches, talk with your health care provider first.

“We really need better studies to compare all the different fasting protocols,” Pepplenbosch says. “But generally speaking, increasing the space between calorie consumption is a good thing for you. The body isn’t built to eat all day.”

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