Intermittent Fasting: The Missing Link for Avoiding Viral Illness?

Intermittent Fasting: The Missing Link for Avoiding Viral Illness?

Oct 5, 2021 | Herbal Remedies, Holistic Health

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A Simple Method for Enhancing Immune Response

As we enter into the influenza season with severe infectious respiratory illness making the rounds, fortifying your immune system should be a top priority. And one of the best ways to do so is to practice intermittent fasting. This has been a compelling topic of research over the last year or so because it greatly influences and enhances our immune response. Here’s why.

Intermittent Fasting 101

For those unfamiliar with intermittent fasting, it is not so much about what you eat but when you eat — although it is always wise to keep your diet healthy regardless of if you are fasting or not. A common method includes fasting for a 16-24 hour window several times a week. Then there is what is called a 5:2 diet where you consume only 500-600 calories during two, non-consecutive days of the week, yet eat normally for the remaining five days. Lastly, a time-restricted method is where you fast for 18 hours each day. For example, you would start by eating lunch at noon and finish with dinner at 6:00pm. You then fast until lunch the following day.

Intermittent fasting can have a profound impact on your health. Research has suggested it may even help you to live longer. As I wrote in My Favorite Diet for Managing Multiple Sclerosis:

“When you practice intermittent fasting, your human growth hormone (HGH) levels significantly increase, which leads to fat loss and lean muscle gain. You also experience improved insulin sensitivity. Cellular repair processes are initiated as well.”

But that’s not all. Exciting new research has found that intermittent fasting may have the same outstanding effects on immune function as a 3-day complete fast.

Resetting the Immune System

A 2014 study in the journal Cell Stem Cell found that fasting for 3 days reduced white blood cell counts, which in turn triggered the formation of new white blood cells by the immune system. These cells are an important aspect of fighting infectious disease. It was believed at the time that you had to fully exhaust your glycogen reserves, which could take up to 48 hours of fasting, before seeing the benefits.

However, a 2020 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine discovered a less painful method to reap the same benefits: time restricted fasting where you eat within a 6-8 hour window everyday.

In addition to resetting the immune system, the team found that the study participants experienced numerous positive health outcomes, including:

“[improvements in] blood pressure; resting heart rate; levels of HDL and LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, glucose, and insulin resistance…. In addition, intermittent fasting reduces markers of systemic inflammation and oxidative stress that are associated with atherosclerosis.”

Likewise, another study published in late 2020 found intermittent fasting may be a possible “priming tool for host defense” against serious and potentially life-threatening infectious respiratory infection:

“As a healthy practice, calorie restriction in the form of intermittent fasting (IF) in several clinical settings has been reported to promote several health benefits, including priming of the immune response. This dietary restriction also activates autophagy, a cell surveillance system that boosts up immunity.”

Nicole's Apothecary Travel Pack with Usnea Tincture Spray, Elderberry Tincture, and All Purpose Salve

Fortifying Your Immunity With Medicinal Herbs

In this age of serious infectious disease, it’s always a good idea to adopt several methods to encourage a robust immune response. Minimizing stress, spending time in nature, practicing gratitude, a healthy diet, and intermittent fasting all play important roles in this regard.

Medicinal herbs are also exceedingly helpful. This is why I never leave home without my Travel Pack. It contains an Elderberry Dual-Extracted Tincture to shorten the duration of cold and flu symptoms and a Usnea Dual-Extracted Tincture that I spray directly into my throat to prevent and treat colds and general illness. The pack also includes an All-Purpose (First Aid) Salve, which I apply to the inside of my nose to prevent picking up a bug while I am out in public or traveling.

If I feel that I could use some extra help, I turn to my Eastern Blend Tincture which fortifies me against colds, influenza, infectious respiratory illness, and more. Additionally, I always keep my Bronchial Blend Tincture on hand for respiratory issues, including viral and bacterial respiratory infections, bronchitis, and tight breathing.

By adopting these methods, I can say from firsthand experience that it is possible to stay healthy and free from illness during the cold and flu season and beyond.

Wishing you an abundance of health and happiness!

Nicole Apelian

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