Autoimmune diseases are becoming more and more common. When your own immune system turns against your body and attacks it by mistake, you have developed an autoimmune disease, which can then lead to various symptoms and other health problems. However, there are 3 ways that fasting helps against autoimmune diseases.
That's right, through appropriate diet and lifestyle strategies, you can reduce your risk and improve your autoimmune conditions. Fasting is one of these powerful strategies.
Fasting is an ancient healing method in which you abstain from eating for a period of time. It has many health benefits, including reducing inflammation and improving the immune system.
In this article, you will learn what autoimmune diseases are and the main factors involved in their development and progression. We'll also talk about how fasting affects your immune system and share 3 strategies to help you get started on fasting.
You will understand how to use these methods and how often to fast to support your immune system and find relief from your autoimmune conditions.
What are autoimmune diseases
Autoimmune disease refers to a group of conditions in which your own immune system turns against you and begins attacking your body. In a healthy body, the immune system protects you from harmful invaders, such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and toxins.
It is also capable of differentiating between your own cells and foreign or harmful cells. But if you suffer from an autoimmune disease, your body will mistake your own cells for foreign invaders and release an army of autoantibodies to attack them.
There are more than 100 autoimmune diseases. Some, like type 1 diabetes, only target one organ or part of the body, while other conditions, like lupus, affect larger areas or the entire body.
Some of the more common autoimmune conditions include:
1. Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA): RA affects the health of your joints. Its symptoms include pain, stiffness, warmth, and redness.
2. Celiac disease: Celiac disease is closely related to the consumption of gluten. If people with celiac disease consume something with gluten, they experience an autoimmune reaction, inflammation in their gastrointestinal tract, and a variety of symptoms including digestion problems, fatigue, and skin reactions.
If you suffer from celiac disease (and indeed, any autoimmune disease), you should avoid any trace of gluten.
3. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD): IBD, including ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, affects the gastrointestinal tract. Ulcerative colitis affects the large intestine and rectum, while Crohn's disease can affect the entire gastrointestinal tract.
4. Autoimmune thyroid conditions: Hashimoto's thyroiditis causes slow production of thyroid hormone, while Graves' disease produces too much thyroid hormone.
The symptoms of Hashimoto's disease can include weight gain, fatigue, cold, and hair loss, while Graves's disease causes weight loss, heat intolerance, anxiety, and a rapid heartbeat.
5. Lupus: Lupus affects multiple organs in your body, including the skin, joints, brain, heart, and kidneys. It is characterized by fatigue, pain, and skin rashes, among other symptoms.
6. Psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis: Psoriasis affects the skin and causes skin cells to multiply faster than normal, resulting in dry, red patches and scales. More than a quarter of people with psoriasis also develop arthritis-related symptoms.
7. Multiple sclerosis (MS): MS causes damage to the protective layer around nerve cells, called the myelin lamina. Its symptoms can include weakness, numbness, balance problems, and mobility problems.
8. Type 1 Diabetes: Type 1 diabetes affects the pancreas and destroys the insulin-producing cells that interfere with the regulation of blood sugar. Symptoms include thirst, frequent urination, fatigue, blurred vision, and hunger.
Main factors involved in autoimmune diseases
Autoimmune diseases are complex, however there are some important factors involved in their development and progression. Let's look at the main factors that can trigger symptoms or worsen your autoimmune conditions.
Intestinal dysbiosis and infections
Did you know that your gut houses about 70 to 80 percent of your immune system? Therefore, their care can be decisive for your health. Having an inflammatory diet low in nutrients, toxic exposure and stress can compromise the balance of the intestinal flora.
The imbalance of the gut microbiome and intestinal dysbiosis can lead to inflammation, compromise the health of the immune system, and lead to the development of leaky gut syndrome.
Leaky gut syndrome is one of the possible precursors and root causes of autoimmunity. If you have leaky gut syndrome, the joints of the intestinal lining that are normally too "tight" become too loose, allowing microbes, toxins, and larger undigested food particles to enter the bloodstream.
Unfortunately, your body can recognize these particles as harmful and foreign invaders, and in reaction can trigger an inflammatory and autoimmune response.
In addition to intestinal dysbiosis from diet and lifestyle, infections can also trigger autoimmunity. There are various infections, including the Epstein Barr virus (EBV), or better known as the virus responsible for E. coli and herpes simplex 1 and 2 that have been linked to autoimmune conditions.
These infections can lie dormant within your body for years or even decades until they are triggered by a physical or emotional stressor that creates an autoimmune response.
Food sensitivities and autoimmune diseases
Unlike food allergies, food sensitivities do not create an immediate reaction in your body. However, over time, if you regularly consume foods that you are sensitive to, they will create inflammation, intestinal dysbiosis, and a variety of symptoms, including digestion problems, skin problems, headaches, and fatigue.
Food sensitivity can also trigger an autoimmune response and autoimmune symptoms. Common food sensitivities that can trigger autoimmunity include sensitivities to gluten, dairy products, sugar, eggs, legumes, nuts, seeds, and nightshades.
Exposure to toxins and autoimmune diseases
Unfortunately, toxins are everywhere around us, from the air we breathe to non-organic foods, conventional cleaning and body care products, tap water, plastic, cigarette smoke, etc. The average adult body contains more than 500 different toxins.
Too much exposure to toxins leads to a toxic load on your body, which can overwhelm your immune system and trigger an autoimmune response. Toxic molds or mycotoxins, heavy metals such as mercury in dental amalgam, and pesticides in non-organic foods are just some of the culprits.
Chronic stress and autoimmune diseases
Chronic stress can be described as a chronic physical, psychological, emotional, or spiritual tension that creates a constant state of fight or flight response and elevated cortisol and adrenaline levels. Chronic stress also increases chronic inflammation in your body, which can lead to intestinal imbalance and an autoimmune response.
If you experience chronic stress, you are more likely to try to cope with it through unhealthy diet or lifestyle choices, such as sugary, inflammatory foods, lack of exercise or smoking, which can further increase your risk of inflammation, intestinal dysbiosis, autoimmunity and related symptoms.
Eating an inflammatory diet low in vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, and lean protein can lead to nutrient deficiencies. The problem is that nutrient deficiencies can increase your risk of inflammation and autoimmune disease.
There are several key nutrient deficiencies that often play a role in autoimmunity, including magnesium, vitamin D, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, glutathione, and selenium.
How fasting helps the immune system
Fasting is a practice of abstaining from food and consuming only water for a period of time. Fasting has a number of health benefits, including a powerful impact on your immune system. Let's see how fasting can benefit your immune system and how it can improve your autoimmune condition.
Fasting and autophagy
Autophagy is a process that allows your body to break down old, damaged, and weakened cells and cellular components and recycle them for energy. This stimulates and creates space for the production of new, healthy and more efficient cells.
Autophagy helps your immune system control the replication of viral and intracellular parasites and, as a result, reduces inflammation. Research has shown that restricting food through fasting is a great way to achieve autophagy in your body.
A study has found that upregulating autophagy through fasting can prevent, delay, or enhance the development of neurodegenerative diseases of the central nervous system (CNS), such as MS.
Fasting helps the microbiome
Balancing the gut microbiome plays a critical role in the health and efficiency of your immune system. Research has shown that fasting is a powerful strategy with a positive impact on your gut.
For example, a study has shown that fasting helps your body support the growth of beneficial bacteria over harmful species of bacteria, such as salmonella. Another study has shown that intermittent fasting can increase the diversity of the gut microbiome, improve antioxidant microbial metabolic pathways, and strengthen the immune system of people with MS.
Fasting and the regeneration of immune cells
Fasting can also improve the regulation of immune cells in your body. According to a recent research study, a prolonged fast lasting 48 to 120 hours can boost your immune system. It can also help activate certain mechanisms that improve your resistance to stress and toxins.
Fasting can also help to activate immune cell regeneration, allowing your body to recycle old and damaged immune cells and build healthy blood and a healthy immune system.
This is not only good news for people with autoimmune conditions, but it can be beneficial in preventing tumor growth, supporting cancer treatment, and experiencing anti-aging benefits.
Ways to start the fast
Knowing the immune-boosting health benefits of fasting, you're probably excited to start your fasting journey. Read on to learn how to start fasting to improve your autoimmune condition.
Start with intermittent fasting
To experience the immune benefits of fasting, it is recommended that you start with intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting is a strategy that involves fasting for a certain period of a day.
There are different types of intermittent fasting strategies you can choose from depending on your fasting experience, health, lifestyle, and preference. Some types can be practiced every day of the week, while other types of fasting are best used only several times a week.
If you are new to intermittent fasting, it is best to start with simple fasting. It is the shortest duration of the intermittent fasting strategy. It is the easiest and the best for beginners because you will only be fasting for 12 hours and you will have a 12-hour eating time.
The fasting period includes nighttime sleep, so it is easy to follow. To practice simple fasting, you can finish dinner at 6 pm, and you can eat again at 6 am. Similarly, having your dinner at 7 pm, you will be ready for your first meal at 7 am.
Coming to the food options, there is no single belly-busting food that can help you. However, what’s needed is that you become smarter with the choices you make. A good way to start off would be by making some simple meal swaps or cutting out your regular snacks. Liquid calories could be a big contributor too. Ditch out sugary drinks, alcohol and heavy smoothies for simpler, low-calorie drinks.