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How to Use Intermittent Fasting to Support Immunity

March 27, 2020 - Christy Goldfeder

With the rapid spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are afraid and unclear about how to stay healthy
Boosting immunity and staying healthy has become a staple on daily news reports. It’s the conversation around the virtual water cooler and one of the top google searches. 
Recent studies have found intermittent fasting can support fat loss as well as improve health markers. But can it also improve the immune system? 
The answer is it depends. 

Water-only fasts: Proceed with caution

In a 2014 study conducted at USC, participants on 3-day water fast lowered their white blood cell count, triggering the immune system to produce new white blood cells. Upon refeeding, stem cells would replenish damaged cells. 
Extended water fasting also showed promising results for managing chronic conditions. But the downside is that it is difficult to forgo eating for many days. 
Doing more than one 3-day water fast may be less helpful. In another study, conducted on mice, many rounds of water fasts reduced the immune response

Shorter, time-restricted feeding is as good as water fasts

A recent review of Intermittent Fasting in the New England Journal of Medicine found that shorter fasts provide the same benefits as a longer, water fast
Instead, you can use time-restricted fasting to support immunity. There are two ways you can use time-restriction with your clients:
  • Fast every day by restricting eating to a narrow 6 – 8 hour eating window. For example, have your clients eat their first meal at noon and their last meal by 8 pm, fasting until noon the next day. 
  • Use the 5:2 method of fasting – eat normally on 5 days of the week and restrict to 500-700 calories on 2 days of the week (not necessarily consecutive days)

Why fasting supports better health metrics, including immunity

Our hunter-gatherer ancestors didn’t have three meals and two snacks available to them each day
Instead, they had occasional large meals after a good hunt, and they grazed on whatever they gathered while looking for the bigger meals. As a result, humans have evolved to store more fuel in times of plenty to protect against times of famine. 
With fasting, the body switches from using glucose as fuel to using fatty acids and ketones as fuel. Using ketones as fuel triggers cellular responses that help increase stress resistance, suppress inflammation, and improve blood sugar regulation

How to apply intermittent fasting to client nutrition plans

In MBODY360, you can now select two intermittent fasting nutrition plans – the Mediterranean IF plan and the Cardiometabolic IF plan – to assign to you clients
Each of these two plans gives your clients the full guidelines for what to eat, recipes, shopping list, plus tools to keep them on track with their goals. The IF plans include a timer where your clients can track their fasting window. 
From your practitioner portal, you’ll be able to see how well they are complying with their intermittent fasting goals