3 ways intermittent fasting can help reduce inflammation!
Low energy, swelling and stiffness, sore joints, back pain, low mood, anxiety and overwhelm - what do all of these seemingly unrelated symptoms have in common? They are all often triggered and exacerbated by systemic inflammation. In my clinic, I see a variety of clients that struggle with symptoms of inflammation - where and when appropriate I support them to introduce intermittent fasting into their routine. Intermittent fasting has been shown to help reduce inflammation in the body. In this article, I discuss what intermittent fasting is and how it works to reduce systemic inflammation - helping to quell those aches and pains, restore your energy and feel on top form once again.
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting involves not consuming anything which adds to energy intake (including drinks such as milky tea and fruit juices) in a set period of time – in other words, abstaining from consuming anything other than water (black tea and coffee). There are many methods of intermittent fasting – in this article I am going to concentrate on time restricted feeding. Time restricted feeding involves eating within a ‘feeding window’ (typically 8-12 hours a day) and fasting for the remaining time (1). For example, if using an 8-hour feeding window, you might choose to eat between 10:00-18:00, then fast between 18:00-10:00 the following day.
How can intermittent fasting reduce inflammation?
Here are three ways intermittent fasting can reduce inflammation...
Induce weight loss – a sustained calorie deficit is required to reduce body weight; while intermittent fasting is not a quick-fix to weight loss, for many people it can help reduce calorie intake (often from snacking) without a great deal of effort, as despite some misconceptions, people do not tend to overeat during their feeding window and subsequently lose body fat (2). This is good news if you are carrying a little extra weight, as fat loss of just 10% of body weight has been shown to reduce inflammation and associated symptoms, including low energy and joint pain (3).
Support blood sugar control – our blood sugar is an important factor in inflammation. When we eat, insulin production increases to move glucose into our cells for energy; however, eating too much or too often can result in increased levels of circulating glucose and insulin, which in turn can increase pro-inflammatory chemicals in the body (4) (you can read more about this process here). By fasting for a period of time, rather than grazing regularly through the day and raising blood glucose levels, you can support optimum blood sugar balance and keep inflammation at bay (5).
Reduce inflammatory biomarkers – inflammatory biomarkers are chemicals produced by the body in times of physical or emotional stress, are associated with low-grade chronic inflammation and linked to conditions including diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and depression (6). Research has demonstrated intermittent fasting can reduce inflammatory cytokines including homocysteine, interleukin 6, and C reactive protein; it has also been shown to increase adiponectin – an anti-inflammatory biomarker – thus intermittent fasting can support a two-pronged improvement in inflammation (7).
So, there you have it – three great reasons to try intermittent fasting! In my next article I’ll discuss how to apply the principles of intermittent fasting to your own lifestyle and how you can best benefit from it, as well as some practical, nutritious meal ideas to break your fast.
Harvie, M., Howell, A. 2017. Potential Benefits and Harms of Intermittent Energy Restriction and Intermittent Fasting Amongst Obese, Overweight and Normal Weight Subjects—A Narrative Review of Human and Animal Evidence. Behavioral Sciences, 7, e4
Johnstone, A. 2014. Fasting for weight loss: an effective strategy or latest dieting trend? International Journal of Obesity, 39, 727-733
Madsen, E.L., Rissanen, A., Bruun, J.M., Skogstrand, K., Tonstad, S., Hougaard, D.M., Richelsen, B. 2008. Weight loss larger than 10% is needed for general improvement of levels of circulating adiponectin and markers of inflammation in obese subjects: a 3-year weight loss study. European Journal of Endocrinology, 158, 179-187
Roder, P.V., Wu, B., Liu, Y., Han, W. 2016. Pancreatic regulation of glucose homeostasis. Experimental & Molecular Medicine,48, e219
Rothschild, J., Hoddy, K.K., Jambazian, P., Varady, K.A. 2014. Time-restricted feeding and risk of metabolic disease: a review of human and animal studies. Nutrition Reviews, 72 (5), 308-318
Zhong, J., Shi, G. 2019. Editorial: regulation of inflammation in chronic disease. Frontiers in Immunology, 10, e737
Malinowski, B., Zalewska, K., Wesierska, A., Sokolowska, M.M., Socha, M., Liczner, G., Pawlak-Osinska, K., Wicinski, M. 2019. Intermittent Fasting in Cardiovascular Disorders—An Overview. Nutrients, 11 (3), e67