Renew Your Immune System with Fasting

Designed to protect us, our immune system is the superhero of the body, deploying white blood cells to battle the illnesses and infections trying to undermine our well being. To support our amazing immune system, we need optimal nutrition. But other lifestyle factors makes a difference, too. Choices such as lack of exercise, late bedtimes, inadequate water intake, lack of sunshine and fresh air, or smoking are the equivalent of Kryptonite to our Superman immune system. Aging is an inevitable immune system influence that slowly weakens our biological defenses, making us more susceptible to disease. And if we develop cancer, our immune system takes a major hit during chemotherapy.

Once the damage is done, is there anything we can do to revive our body's superhero? Absolutely! In addition to making diet and lifestyle changes, we can recharge our immune system when we engage in prolonged fasting. Cycles of fasting which last two to four days cause the entire immune system to regenerate, even in the elderly. Additionally, water fasting before and after treatment helps protect against damage done to the immune system during chemotherapy. These remarkable findings are the result of studies done on mice and a phase 1 human trial conducted by researchers at the University of Southern California. According to Medical News Today, this original research is the first to demonstrate that "a natural intervention can trigger regeneration of an organ or system through stem cells."

Valter Longo, Professor of Gerontology and the Biological Sciences at the University of California and one of the study's authors, says that what researchers "started noticing in both our human work and animal work is that the white blood cell count goes down with prolonged fasting. Then when you re-feed, the blood cells come back. So we started thinking, well, where does it come from?" When we fast for a duration of two to four days, our body is forced to use its stores of energy to keep us going. It not only burns glucose, fat, and ketones, but our body also begins breaking down a significant number of white blood cells, particularly white blood cells that are damaged, old, and ineffective. Each cycle of fasting "gives the 'OK' for stem cells to go ahead and begin proliferating and rebuild the entire system." In a body which is "heavily damaged by chemotherapy or aging, fasting cycles can generate, literally, a new immune system."

In the course of the research, the authors found that two to four day fasting reduces PKA, an enzyme which the team had previously discovered to be involved in extending the lifespan of simple organisms. Prof. Longo explains that "switching off the gene for PKA is the key step that triggers the stem cells to shift to regeneration," allowing us to build a brand new arsenal of white blood cells. Prolonged fasting also results in a drop in the levels of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) which promotes aging and tumor growth.

Prof. Longo notes that while the results of this research are extremely promising, the clinical trials aren't yet complete. So far, he says, "there is no evidence at all that fasting would be dangerous while there is strong evidence that it is beneficial." The team is now looking into whether other systems and organs show signs of regeneration as a result of fasting. 

In the meantime, it's good to know that we have the power to help strengthen our defenses against disease. This research tells us that prolonged fasting is to the immune system what Earth's sun is to Superman. It renews the power of our immune system to fight our body's enemies. Michael Klaper, MD has produced a video that explains how to prepare for and conduct a water-only fast; it is an excellent resource for anyone interested in experiencing the immune-boosting power of fasting. No phone booth required. 

Sources for this article:

Prolonged Fasting "Re-Boots" Immune System

Fasting Triggers Stem Cell Regeneration of Damaged, Old Immune System

Fasting for Three Days Can Regenerate Entire Immune System, Study Finds

For additional information:

(1) Water Fast Shrinks Cancer and Other Fasting Studies

(2) Taking the "Fast" Track to Improved Immunity

(3) Lack of Sleep Impairs Immune System