Fasting & The Immune System

August 26, 2020

The body is seriously amazing! A study published in the journal, “Cell Stem Cell” (http://www.cell.com/cell-stem-cell/home) has identified the benefits that fasting has on the immune system. Hematopoietic stem cells (stem cells that give rise to all other blood cells including leukocytes otherwise known as white blood cells) are awoken from a dormant state to an active state.

What does this mean? Essentially, fasting for periods of 2-4 days was shown to signal the multi-potent stem cells to become active and regenerate new blood cells. Older cells or damaged cells become replaced by the newly proliferated cells which enhances the body’s immune response. How amazing is this!?!

How does this happen? According to the study, prolonged fasting not only forces the body to turn to adaptive mechanisms whereby it uses glucose, fat stores, and ketones as energy supplies BUT it also reduces the body’s white blood cell count in order to conserve energy. With each fasting cycle (say 2-4 days at a time), the body’s white blood cell depletion triggers a negative feedback loop whereby the body needs to compensate and so it signals the hematopoietic stem cell system to become active and generate new cells. A specific gene shuts down and signals the stem cells to switch to their active role.

Fasting is so important for the body to renew itself! What’s more, this study pointed to the fact that chemotherapy has a significant damaging impact on a person’s immune system. Chemotherapy reduces a cancer patient’s WBC (white blood cell) count and fasting was a key finding to activate the multi-potent stem cell system.

Food for thought. If fasting triggers the body to conserve energy, one of these mechanisms by way of reducing WBC count, what other mechanisms kick in? A post for another time to talk about why cleansing the body, from liver tissue to adipose (fat) tissue is so important and necessary to do. Until next week!




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