Everyone fasts while they’re sleeping, but a popular way of eating known as intermittent fasting or IF now has many people extending that fast well into the day. There are a variety of IF protocols that you can follow, and there is a growing body of research that suggests intermittent fasting is an effective way to eliminate the inflammation that is a factor in all autoimmune disorders. We already know that fasting consistently can reverse type II diabetes, eliminate obesity and increase your resistance to cancer, so it’s not a far stretch to think of intermittent fasting as a solution for autoimmune disease.
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
was a natural part of our early ancestor’s lives because they had
periods where food wasn’t plentiful, so fasting was the only option.
Food is now abundant in many areas of the world, and it’s common for
people to put something in their mouths most hours of the day. The food
that we consume today is also loaded with gluten, fat, sugar,
preservatives, pesticides, hormones and other things that weren’t
consumed by our ancestors. Perhaps that is why a growing percentage of
the population is obese and disease is rampant.
now proven that there are many health benefits that come with setting
food aside for at least 16 hours each day, including:
- Natural fat loss
- Improved energy
- Greater mental clarity, focus
- Lower cholesterol
- Controlled blood pressure
- Improved insulin sensitivity
- Reduced inflammation
can also eliminate damaged or decayed cells while generating new,
healthy cells for all areas of your body through a process known as
autophagy. This is one of the reasons that intermittent fasting is
believed to effectively reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease and
many other life-threatening illnesses. The fasting periods give your
body the time that it needs to regenerate on the cellular level.
Intermittent Fasting and Multiple Sclerosis
National Multiple Sclerosis Society received a lot of attention in 2018
for sponsoring an upcoming study to look closely at the impact of intermittent fasting on MS.
This is a result of research that showed the bacteria found in the gut
microbiome of mice was significantly changed through intermittent
fasting. Those changes had a positive impact on MS symptoms, so a small
study was conducted with 16 people diagnosed with relapsing MS.
found that bacteria in the gut of the fasting MS patients was similar
to that found in the gut of the fasting mice. Blood samples taken after a
period of fasting also revealed molecular changes that are associated
with reduced inflammation. This research will continue with another
study of 40 MS patients willing to consume only 500 calories each day.
They will maintain this restricted diet for two weeks, allowing
researchers to determine the impact of fasting on MS.
this upcoming research is generating a lot of buzz about intermittent
fasting and multiple sclerosis, it’s important to note that most fasting
protocols won’t restrict you to eating just 500 calories per day. The
focus is more on restricting your eating to certain hours of the day so
that your body is in a fasted state for at least 16 consecutive hours
Many people who follow the 5:2 IF protocol allow
themselves up to 500 calories per day on their two weekly fasting days.
When those calories are consumed as one meal, it provides some
nourishment for the body while maintaining a fasted state for the
majority of the day. This is what the upcoming MS study will mimic, but
they will do this type of fasting every day rather than only two days
There have also been other studies in the recent
past that point to IF as a potential cure for MS. One study published in
a 2016 issue of the journal Cell Reports found that a fasting mimicking diet
reversed multiple sclerosis symptoms in 20 percent of participating
mice. Other mice experienced a significant decrease in symptoms. The
participants either followed a ketogenic diet or a calorie-restricted,
low-protein diet to produce these results.
is needed to prove that multiple sclerosis is effectively cured or even
prevented through intermittent fasting, but many medical professionals
are already suggesting this way of eating to patients.
Intermittent Fasting and Rheumatoid Arthritis
research into multiple sclerosis and IF has shown that fasting may
fight MS symptoms by changing the composition of bacteria in the gut, it
makes sense that fasting may also help people suffering from rheumatoid
arthritis. It is believed that this autoimmune disease is caused at
least partly by the overgrowth of harmful bacteria in the digestive
tract, leaky gut syndrome and other issues centered in the gut
Since fasting is proven to change the bacteria in
the gut, fasting for rheumatoid arthritis improvement isn’t out of the
question. Dr. Fuhrman
is one of the biggest advocates for IF, and his clinical research on
human rheumatoid arthritis sufferers has shown that fasting combined
with a vegan diet can reduce inflammation throughout the body while
naturally reducing pain. He has also found that extended fasting can put
this condition into remission, but this requires a fasting protocol
that goes beyond intermittent fasting to include multiple days of
The use of intermittent fasting and
vegetarian diets to control or even eliminate arthritis has been studied
for many years. One study completed in 1979 found that rheumatoid
arthritis sufferers reduced pain and stiffness while reducing their
reliance on medication by fasting for up to 10 days and then following a
lactovegetarian diet. This means that they consumed dairy products but
eliminated meat and eggs. There have also been other studies that show
improvements in rheumatoid arthritis when patients consume bone broth
while fasting for at least seven days and then follow a vegan diet long term.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Intermittent Fasting
bowel disease is a category of disease that includes many autoimmune
conditions like Crohn’s Disease. The number of people suffering from
conditions like IBS, colitis and Crohn’s is increasing rapidly, and that
is likely the result of modern dietary practices and a dramatic
increase in the number of environmental toxins that are encountered in
the modern world. Diseases of the digestive system are directly tied to
the bacteria in the gut microbiome, so it’s not shocking that
intermittent fasting can help.
Research published in 2016 showed that intermittent fasting
has promise for people suffering from many inflammatory bowel diseases.
The study was conducted on fruit flies and found that the barrier
between the gut and the bloodstream was reinforced through the fasting
process. This prevented bacteria from leaking out of the gut microbiome
into the bloodstream, which is a common factor believed to cause much of
the distress that comes with IBD.
Another study published in a 2017 issue of the Journal of Biochemistry and Nutrition found that mice suffering from colitis
recovered from the illness faster after fasting for 36 consecutive
hours. Inflammation was reduced, and healing of epithelial cells was
accelerated through intermittent fasting.
More research is
needed to prove that intermittent fasting is an effective treatment for
irritable bowel disease, but many medical professionals are already
recommending IF to patients suffering from Crohn’s Disease, IBS and many
other illnesses that involve the digestive system. Further research
will show which fasting protocols are the most effective for each
What Is the Best Intermittent Fasting Protocol?
you have an autoimmune disease or at high risk of developing one due to
excessive inflammation, you may want to give intermittent fasting a
try. It’s considered safe for most people, but you may want to check
with your doctor if you take prescription medication or have other
health issues that may be impacted by short periods of fasting.
The most common approach to intermittent fasting is to skip breakfast and limit eating to an eight-hour window each day. This is the 16:8 IF protocol, so you can eat breakfast and eliminate dinner if you prefer to open your eating window earlier in the day. This is the easiest plan to manage because you have a long eating window that allows you to consume two or three meals, but it’s not always the most effective if you hope to maximize the health or weight loss benefits of intermittent fasting.
you follow the 16:8 protocol for at least two weeks and don’t notice
any change in your autoimmune disorder symptoms, you can try narrowing
your eating window. The longer you fast, the more likely you are to
receive the benefits.
Many medical professionals recommend
the 5:2 plan, which means that you fast two days out of the week and eat
normally for five days. You want to spread the fasting days throughout
the week so that they aren’t consecutive, and you may allow yourself up
to 500 calories consumed in a single meal on your fasting days.
Eventually, you may find that you can eliminate the 500 calories for a
complete 24-hour fast two times per week.
fasting is another effective IF plan. You simply fast one day and eat
normally the next, with or without the 500 calories on fasting days.
This rotation means that you will fast two days one week and three days
the next. This gives you longer periods of fasting that are more likely
to put your body into ketosis and lead to autophagy, allowing your body
to heal itself at the cellular level.
Intermittent Fasting Safety Tips
is considered safe for most people, but you should talk to your medical
provider first if you take prescription medications or have other
health issues that are sensitive to your dietary patterns. Many medical
doctors aren’t up to date with the research and have little to no
training in the medicinal use of nutrition and fasting, so you might
want to talk to a specialist in functional medicine. There are medical
doctors who specialize in functional medicine, but your insurance may
not cover all of their services.
If you want to try IF to see what impact it may have on your autoimmune symptoms, keep these safety tips in mind:
a lot of water while fasting. Many people also consume black coffee or
tea without any sweeteners. This keeps your body hydrated even though
you aren’t receiving the fluid that is normally delivered through your
- It’s important to consume nutrient-dense foods during
your eating window. Your body still needs the vitamins, minerals,
proteins, amino acids and other nutrients that can only come from food,
and you have a limited period of time to deliver what your body needs. A
well-balanced diet with a lot of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and
healthy fats is adequate, but a vegetarian diet is best if you have
- If you fast for more than 18 hours
and are worried about electrolyte imbalance, try sipping bone broth
throughout the day or eating a bit of pink Himalayan salt. Most people
don’t have electrolyte issues when eating at least one big meal each
day. Those issues are usually more problematic for extended fasting
protocols that require more than 24 hours of consistent fasting.
restrict your calories excessively during your eating window. Focus on
nutritious foods that nourish your body and fill your stomach rather
than deprivation. IF is all about consuming food in a limited period of
time, but you should never feel like you’re starving.
into workouts on your fasting days, especially if you fast for a full 24
hours. There are many benefits to fasted exercise, especially if you do
high-intensity interval training. Some people need to take their
intensity down on fasting days while others find that they have more
energy when fasting. Take it easy when you start to see how your body
reacts to fasting. Staying hydrated is even more important if you want
to workout on fasting days.
If you want to try intermittent fasting, start by learning about the various fasting strategies to select a schedule that will work with your daily routine. Many people choose to fast while at work because their mind is distracted and they can increase productivity by not stopping for meals.