For years, I’ve written about the lunacy of fasting. How it messes up your body. Messes with your blood sugar. Messes with your brain. Messes with your metabolism. But I may not have been totally on target because apparently fasting messes with your stem cells too…..but in a good way.
A study in the issue of Cell Stem Cell shockingly showed that fasting not only protected against immune system damage (a major side effect of chemotherapy) but caused the immune system to regenerate. Scientists studied mice and patients receiving chemotherapy, and found that after long periods of not eating their white blood cell counts were significantly lowered and the stem cells that are responsible for the generation of blood and immunity, were renewed! These studies are important not only to people undergoing chemotherapy but should offer hope to the elderly and also to those who experience complications due to compromised immune systems (like people with autoimmune diseases.) It’s possible that fasting for 2-4 days could potentially provide the immune boost they may need to fight off big infections, or smaller inflictions that have a tendency to become bigger. This would mean huge things for their quality of life and life expectancy. And to the strain that these complications put on caregivers and our health care system. This is pretty ground-breaking stuff! Science has long studied ways to super supplement patients to help boost immune systems, when in actuality, taking away nutrition could help them, even more.
Basically, this is what happens. When a person starves, their body tries to save energy and one of the main ways it does this it to recycle the immune cells that are damaged and not needed. During each cycle of fasting, the enzyme PKA is reduced and stem cells are ordered to self-renew. Additional research also found that prolonged fasting lowered levels of IGF-1, a growth hormone that’s been linked to aging, tumor growth and cancer risk.
The research is pretty amazing because it shows that an old, damaged system can literally generate a new, young and effective immune system. Chemotherapy can save lives but sometimes at a severe cost. It can cause significant damage to the immune system and other systems of the body. The result of this study suggests that fasting may help to offset some of the harmful effects of chemotherapy.
Scientists are looking into the possibility that fasting may also help other systems of the body, and organs as well. Can you imagine being able to regenerate a new part of your liver? Or repair your arteries after blockages? Or even repair an injured limb? This is the crazy stuff of the 25th century, but researchers were pretty amazed to discover these results. They’re extremely hopeful and anxious to find ways fasting can help the body even more. As are we!
As a devout antagonist, I never thought there would be any reason to convince me that it was beneficial to “starve the body to help the body” but, in this case, this zebra’s stripes may be switching to horizontal.