Intermittent Fasting and Gut Health

Thu, 06/18/2020 - 08:51

Intermittent Fasting or IF — not to be confused with starvation diets – refers to the practice of restricting your eating into an 8 to 12 hour window over a 24 hour period. IF has become increasingly popular as it can help with weight loss (simply because you are eating less when you don’t consume that second dinner before bed).  IF helps to combat oxidative stress as well, because we are eating for less hours of the day which means less free radicals from the process of breaking down our food into energy. IF can help slow the aging process because it allows the body to focus on breaking down dead or senescent tissue instead of constantly needing to break down an influx of fuel / food. However, a few new studies suggest that IF might even help improve your gut health.

Now, this is kind of a big deal and here’s why – gut health unto itself has been linked to everything from enhanced mood (as 90% of serotonin is made in our gut), improved immunity (because certain beneficial bacteria can help us fend off a variety of sicknesses), weight management, cognitive function and the list goes on. 

We know that eating foods with beneficial bacteria like yogurt, kimchi, miso, cottage cheese etc. can help replenish the good bacteria in your body!

And eating foods that feed these healthy bacteria (pre-biotics) can dramatically improve gut health. The key is to make sure you are getting enough fiber (25 grams/day for women and 38 grams/day for men minimum).  Fruits, veggies, whole grains help do this, serving as prebiotics meaning they help to nourish not just your cells, but the good bacteria in your gut. 

So much so, that I personally take a pre/pro biotic supplement (link to alaya product) on top of eating the aforementioned foods.  

But how can IF help improve the health of your microbiome – scientists think the answer lies in helping to regulate our sleep cycle. 

IF has been shown to help improve sleep for many.  I could hypothesize as to why – maybe because any digestive issues like gerd, heartburn, bloating etc. that might keep someone up are no longer disruptive to sleep if we aren’t eating several hours before bed.

Another thought is that because you’re giving your body a chance to rest and giving the digestive system a longer break period could be having a positive impact on our microbiome as well. 

Regardless, the best practices to reap the overwhelming benefits of a strong microbiome are: a healthy balanced diet of fermented foods and foods high in fiber, hydration, a pre/pro biotic supplement, and a 12 to 16 hour overnight fast period.