Alternating fasting – stimulating cell regeneration and strengthening the immune system

Nowadays, more and more people are trying to strengthen their immune system by alternating fasting and losing weight in the process. Such a diet can stimulate the regeneration of the stem cells of the damaged, old immune system. Protection against immunosuppression through chemotherapy also suggests that this effect could be maintained in humans. Such a diet that mimics fasting also appears to slow aging by being able to regenerate these cells. The process thus puts the stem cells from a state of rest into a state of self-renewal, which enables the production of new white blood cells. In this article we try to summarize the main advantages and disadvantages as well as the effects of such a diet.

Alternating fasting and its health benefits

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The positive effects on the body are basically due to the energy reserves in the form of glycogen, which you completely exhaust during the diet. The body needs at least 24 hours and probably 48 hours or more to use up these reserves. The good news is that you probably only need to fast once or twice a year to get the benefits described. The lymphocytes are therefore a key component of the immune system. As soon as you start eating again, your stem cells will go into overdrive to replenish the renewed cells. There is also another type of intermittent fasting that has been making headlines lately – the 5 to 2 diet. While the name suggests long periods of time without eating, this diet is also alternating fasting.

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With this diet, you fast every other day, but eat what you want on days without fasting. The most common version of this type of diet is modified fasting, which allows you to eat 500 calories on fasting days. Alternating fasting is therefore a very powerful tool for weight loss and strengthening the immune system. It can also help reduce the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. A new study found that the extreme dietary strategy of fasting on the second day had positive health outcomes after just four weeks. Research suggests that nutrition is at least as effective as general calorie restriction and may be easier for individuals to tolerate.

Nutrition strategies for strong immunity

alternating fasting in 16 and 8 hour cycles of the day

So it turns out that you can take advantage of many of the benefits of fasting without doing a three-day fast, which is really hard to achieve for most people. Instead, you can try a much easier way of fasting, which is limited to cycles and times of the day. With such a strategy, you fast every day by planning your total food intake in a 6-hour or 8-hour window. However, you can also opt for the more difficult variant, which is still easier than 3-day fasting. It is about 2 full days of alternating fasting per week. So here are two intermittent fasting strategies that have similar health benefits.

5 to 2 diet healthy eating vegetables and kitchen board

The first strategy would be to fast for 16 hours a day as the simplest option. Their benefits can correspond to those of the 5: 2 diet and 3-day fasting. However, no study compared these 3 schemes directly. Have lunch from noon and end dinner at 8pm. Then fast until noon the next day, which is about 16 hours of fasting. As already mentioned above, the 5 to 2 diet is about 2 different days per week. This means that you only consume 500-700 calories of food and drink on these days and eat normally on the other 5 days.

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The benefits of intermittent fasting are numerous. Alternating fasting also reduces the markers for systemic inflammation and oxidative stress associated with atherosclerosis. This diet also helps you lose weight for obvious reasons. Cutting out all snacks in the evening is the biggest change. This is done by fasting for a limited time and means not only a reduction in calorie consumption, but also a reduction in the amount of food in your own diet.

Strengthen immune defense through alternating fasting

autophagy process in human cells showing 3D graphics

Since intermittent fasting reduces inflammation, it can also improve the symptoms of arthritis and even rheumatoid arthritis. But why does alternating fasting work at all? The main thing is to get your body to switch from glucose metabolism to ketone metabolism. The usual three meals a day provide the body with a constant source of fuel in the form of glucose. Once this glucose is used up, the body uses fatty acids and ketone bodies that provide more than just fuel. These also regulate the expression and activity of many proteins and molecules that are known to affect health and aging.

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The ketone metabolism seems to bring a variety of health benefits. The trick is to get the body to switch to it every now and then. If you eat constantly, your body feeds on enough glucose and never switches. However, it is still controversial whether a so-called immune reset or a restart of the immune system is possible. Science suggests that a long 2 to 3 day fast will cause your body to purify some old immune cells and start producing new ones if you can. In recent times, people have noticed that intermittent fasting, which is easier to do, works the same way and offers them several health benefits.

Human antibodies activate the immune system through therapeutic fasting

Regarding other health benefits, the study also showed that those who followed the plan for six months had lower LDL cholesterol levels. This type of cholesterol is often referred to as “bad” because it can lead to arterial formation. Furthermore, lower values ​​of the triglycerides can be found. This is a type of fat that can increase your existing risk of heart disease compared to those who eat normally.

Are there any side effects to fasting?

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When it comes to weight loss, nutrition experts point out some disadvantages to fasting. Of course, there are other ways to lose weight through reduced calorie intake. Even the study's authors suggest that healthy people should only try alternating fasting through consultations with doctors. In the first place, it should be mentioned that you can miss important nutrients that your body needs every day.

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The diet can also lead to a lack of energy. This is easy to understand because your body needs food for energy. This would be like trying to drive a car without petrol. Dehydration can also be a problem. According to experts, people get a good part of their daily water intake from food. Therefore, avoiding food throughout the day can lead to dehydration. Intermittent fasting can also lead to overall muscle wasting, poor sleep, and overeating.

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Extreme forms of such fasting can be particularly bad if you are taking medication to treat an ongoing health problem. Taking medication on an empty stomach can cause a headache or disrupt your gastrointestinal tract. Aside from safety, alternating fasting can also affect your overall wellbeing. This also means your mental and social health. It is important to understand the consequences of such a diet. Not to mention the fact that a strict diet plan can force you to focus on your eating habits in an unhealthy manner. This can be particularly dangerous for people with a history of eating disorders.

What to eat on fasting day?

Asian woman with bowl of salad and alarm clock in hand, intermittent fasting

There is no general rule of what to eat or drink on fasting days, except that your total calorie intake should not exceed 500 calories. It is best to drink low-calorie or non-calorie drinks, such as water, coffee, or tea, for alternating fasting. Most people find it beneficial to eat a large meal late in the day, while others prefer to eat early or split the amount into 2 to 3 meals. Since your calorie intake is severely restricted, it's best to focus on nutritious, protein-rich foods and low-calorie vegetables. This makes you feel full even without many calories. Soups can also be a good option on fasting days, as they make you feel fuller than if you had eaten the ingredients yourself. You can also find numerous recipes for quick 500 calorie meals and healthy low calorie snacks online. However, here are some combinations that are suitable for fasting days:

  • Eggs and vegetables
  • Yogurt with berries
  • Grilled or lean meat with vegetables
  • Soup and a piece of fruit
  • Generous salads with lean meat

Alternating fasting and autophagy

autophagy process in human cells showing 3D graphics

One of the most common effects of fasting is to stimulate autophagy. This is a process in which old parts of cells are broken down and recycled. According to the research, this plays a key role in preventing diseases such as cancer, neurodegeneration, heart disease and infections. Animal studies have consistently shown that long and short-term fasting increases autophagy and is associated with delayed aging and a reduced risk of tumors. This has also shown that fasting extends the lifespan of rodents, flies, yeast and worms. In addition, this leads to effects that can help you stay healthy and live longer. This has been confirmed in human studies showing that diets reduce oxidative damage and promote changes that may be associated with longevity. The results look very promising, but the effects on autophagy and longevity need to be examined in more detail.

smiling woman holding an empty plate in her hand alternating fasting 5 to 2 diet

Apart from the health risks, alternating fasting is far too intense, which makes it even less sustainable. Therefore, it may be more difficult to stick to long-term weight loss, which should focus on simple adjustments. You have to live with them for a long time even after you have achieved your goals. If you still want to try it, it is best to do so under medical supervision. Nonetheless, this type of diet has several advantages over traditional low-calorie diets. As mentioned above, medicine combines fasting with significant improvements in health by driving cell regeneration and immunity. The best part is that it is surprisingly easy to stick to, since you only have to go on a diet every other day.

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