The effect of fasting on longevity has fascinated me for years. I remember being in graduate school reading research about how eating less could increase our life span. But I always felt kind of conflicted talking about it. As a dietitian, we weren’t taught about the healing benefits of fasting. We were actually taught just the opposite.
So for many years I quietly educated myself about the different types of fasting. And I practiced using them on my own. Throughout this time, I slowly had to unlearn some of the “rules” I was taught in nutrition school. Mostly because once I started actually listening to my body, they didn’t really work for me. And if they didn’t work for me, they probably weren’t working for my clients, either.
Fast forward to today, and fasting has become a passion of mine. It’s helped me understand my body in a whole new way. I no longer eat by the clock. Instead, I listen to the signals my body is giving me. I also stopped snacking throughout the day. I don’t eat breakfast “within an hour of waking.” I can exercise in the morning, on an empty stomach, and actually burn fat!
The more I’ve practiced fasting, the more flexible my metabolism has become. Now I can go for hours without eating and don’t feel like crap. I don’t “need” to eat because my blood sugar is going to crash. I’m able to burn fat in between meals.
I’m thrilled that the science has caught up with the powerful healing benefits of fasting. It’s something I LOVE to talk about and share with my clients.
The Benefits of Fasting for Women
What we know now is that fasting has amazing benefits for the body. From longevity to disease prevention to reversing metabolic disease, fasting is our body’s built-in healing mechanism, and it’s been used for thousands of years in many different cultures. I’m most fascinated by how fasting benefits longevity and what that means for women as they move through their 40’s and into middle age and beyond.
This post is about:
- The difference between autophagy fasting and intermittent fasting
- The benefits of autophagy fasting
- Fasting and women’s health, including its effect on hormones as we age
- How fasting has helped me and my clients
- How you can eat while fasting and still get the benefits
The Difference Between Intermittent Fasting & Autophagy Fasting
Autophagy fasting usually means you’re fasting for 3 or more days (I’ll get into the exact why of that in a minute.) Intermittent Fasting means you’re fasting intermittently, over the course of a day or a week, usually for a period of 24 hours or less.
Intermittent Fasting is great for giving your body a chance to rest and digest in between meals, for getting more metabolically flexible, and for resetting hunger cues.
Autophagy fasting is used more for healing, cellular rejuvenation, longevity, and detoxification.
What is Autophagy Fasting?
Autophagy fast helps increase cellular and tissue rejuvenation through a process in which worn-out cell parts and proteins that aren’t working like they should are degraded and recycled through lysosomes. It’s your body’s way of cleaning house!
After about 17 hours without food, you induce autophagy in the liver. After a few days of fasting, you begin to see autophagy in the brain – which in my opinion, is where all the fasting goodness begins to happen!
How Does Autophagy Fasting Effect the Body?
- Lowers insulin levels and reduces insulin resistance. Regular autophagy fasting has been shown to reduce insulin levels and lower insulin resistance, even with short 24-36 hour fasts. Longer duration fasts have an even more dramatic impact on insulin resistance.
- Improves metabolic flexibility by training your body to burn fat when carbs are not available.
- Increases human growth hormone (HGH) production. Your body will more than double its HGH production during a fast. This is to preserve muscle and bone while you are fasting.
- Improves biomarkers of disease, like inflammation
- Normalizes ghrelin levels, also known as “the hunger hormone”
- Lowers triglyceride levels
- Preserves memory function and learning
- Boosts your brainpower by stimulating BDNF (a brain-boosting hormone)
It can also help with the following health conditions:
- Depression and anxiety
- Autoimmune conditions
- High blood pressure
- Thyroid conditions
- Chronic pain
- Gut dysbiosis
- Gallbladder disease
- Fatty liver
- Heart disease
Fasting can also help with the symptoms of perimenopause and menopause by improving metabolic health, gut health and balancing hormones.
Fasting For Women Over 40
The 40’s are an amazing decade, and for most women, a transitional time before menopause. The body is going through a second puberty and for some, this can include a bit of…unpleasantness. As hormones flux, you may experience hot flashes, night sweats, weight gain, irritability, moodiness, tension, anxiety, and emotional instability. Many women also experience depression and a feeling of unease as their body goes through this change.
Fasting can help with this!
Research shows that intermittent fasting during peri-menopause can improve mental health and depression. It can improve quality of sleep, increase alertness, and improve mood, helping you feel a bit more at peace. And who doesn’t want that?
I’ve seen amazing benefits myself from fasting over the years and I’ve witnessed the results from participants in Fasting + Food, my 4-day autophagy fasting program. Many of the women report feeling more in control around food with less sugar cravings and improved metabolic flexibility. (I recently did a live training on Metabolic Flexibility. You can watch the replay here.)
The type of fasting we do in Fasting + Food is a little unique. It signals the body to activate the metabolic pathways used during a fast, but you actually get to eat a little bit of food! Done regularly, Fasting + Food can help improve metabolic flexibility and increase longevity by “turning on” cell-based rejuvenation. Other benefits include decreased inflammation, better insulin sensitivity, and improved fasting glucose levels.
Effects of Fasting on the Brain
Personally, I love fasting for the effects on the brain. My grandmother died of Alzheimers Disease and I’ve always been fascinated with the research in this area. Fasting has been shown to help improve cognition, stall age-related cognitive decline, slow neurodegeneration, reduce brain damage and enhance functional recovery after stroke, and help to prevent vascular dementia.
What is Fasting + Food?
Regan Jones (award winning Dietitian and podcaster at This Unmillenial Life) and I created Fasting + Food so we could get all the amazing longevity and health benefits of fasting, while not feeling forced to live a day in and day out fasting lifestyle.
We tried other fasting-in-a-box programs and knew that as culinary dietitians we could create a version ourselves using delicious, homemade food. And we did!
How is Fasting + Food Different Than Intermittent Fasting?
Fasting + Food is designed to get the benefits of fasting, without living a fasting lifestyle. With intermittent fasting, you are fasting in some way, every single day. Whether it’s time-restricted feeding, the 5:2 method, or a modified 2-day fast, you are fasting on a daily or weekly basis. While we appreciate the benefits you get from these intermittent fasting protocols, we were mostly interested in autophagy, and wanted to do longer fasts, less frequently (like seasonally).
Intermittent fasting, time-restricted eating, and autophagy fasting all have proven benefits to increase wellness, improve metabolic health and optimize longevity. They’re also easy, inexpensive ways to heal your body from the inside out. I love recommending fasting as a tool for women to help minimize many common peri-menopause symptoms, and for making the transition into mid-life more empowering and positive.