When friends get chatting about intermittent fasting, they mostly talk about its miraculous weight loss and fat burn effects, and sometimes about how fasting is beneficial for gut health, but its other health benefits are often underrated.
Boosting the immune system is one of the many important benefits of intermittent fasting (1), as the immune system is the shield that protects your body against illnesses.
In this article, you’ll find details about the relationship between intermittent fasting and the immune system, and the answer to the question “Can fasting improve your immune system?”, together with the best intermittent fasting plans for immunity.
What is the immune system?
The immune system consists of a collection of several organs, white blood cells, and other chemicals.
Your tonsils, lymph nodes, spleen, small intestines, thymus glands, and bone marrow are just a few of the elements that work together to build the immune system, which protects you against diseases by fighting viruses, bacteria, parasites, and fungi.
How does intermittent fasting boost the immune system?
Intermittent fasting and immunity can’t be considered separately, as fasting is known to start a process called autophagy in the body.
Autophagy is a body cleanse system that brings longevity and protects you from many serious diseases. After being depleted of nutrition for a while, the body starts to clean itself up by eating the old, damaged, and infected cells. The body then has room for young, healthy cells. This is the best detox mechanism you can imagine!
How long should you fast to boost your immunity?
Autophagy starts around the 14th hour of the fasting window, and it gets broader and more effective as your fasting period extends. The autophagy mechanism accelerates between the 24th and 48th hours of fasting.
But eating nothing and drinking no caloric beverages for 1-2 days is no easy ask. So this should only be attempted by advanced, experienced intermittent fasters, who don’t have any medical issues that could create potential health problems.
If you can extend your fasting for up to 72 hours (3 days!), you will enter deep ketosis, which is the final stage of fasting. When you’re in the deep ketosis stage:
- The body gets better at clearing out toxins and stress hormones.
- The immune system starts to rejuvenate.
- Production of new stem cells is triggered.
- The body’s inflammation level decreases.
- The likelihood of inflammation-related diseases and conditions (e.g. Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, some forms of cancer, heart diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, type 2 diabetes, skin conditions like acne, eczema, psoriasis, etc.) decreases.
- Existing inflammation-related diseases may begin to heal.
Prolonged fasting hours have also been found to offer protection against COVID-19 and its risk factors. (2)
Which intermittent fasting plan is the best for immunity?
As we have mentioned above, if you would like to boost your immune system, you should fast for at least 14 hours, which means you should follow a 14/10 intermittent fasting plan.
If you would like to better boost your immune system, you can gradually increase your fasting window by switching your plan to 16/8 intermittent fasting. And if you’re OK with that, you can gradually increase your fasting hours.
To sum up
You should consult a medical professional if you’re planning to change your intermittent fasting schedule for a more intense plan.
If you are affected by a serious illness like cancer, checking in with your doctor before beginning intermittent fasting is also vital, as fasting may not be beneficial for specific cancer types or all cancer stages. The same thing applies to other serious diseases too. Kompanion will ease your fasting journey with its science-backed blog articles on intermittent fasting, nutrition, and wellness – and with its other tools that can help you on your unique fasting journey.