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Intermittent Fasting and Gut Health: The Link Between Your Eating Habits and Digestive System

1 year, 1 month ago

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Posted on Mar 16, 2023, 5 p.m.

As you may already know, in recent times Intermittent fasting (IF) has emerged as a powerful tool for losing weight and improving your overall health simply by changing when you eat.  However, one of the lesser-known benefits of this dietary approach is its impact on gut health.

The gut microbiome is a delicate balance of trillions of bacteria living in your digestive tract. It plays a pivotal role in the way you process nutrients, manage inflammation, and even has an impact on your mood. Therefore, disruptions in this bacterial harmony can lead to a plethora of health issues.

In this article, we delve into how intermittent fasting, combined with a few lifestyle modifications, can have a positive impact on your gut health. 

The Benefits of Intermittent Fasting for Gut Health 

Let’s take a closer look at the major benefits of intermittent fasting for gut health. 

1. Promotes Beneficial Bacteria Growth

Intermittent fasting encourages the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut, which is important for overall digestive health. 

By taking regular breaks from eating, your gut microbiome will have time to reset itself and replenish its levels of good bacteria. 

This is especially important if you have had a history of taking antibiotics or eating an unhealthy diet, as both of these can cause disruptions to the microbiota balance in your gut. 

2. Reduces Inflammation and Oxidative Stress

IF has also been linked to a reduction in inflammation and oxidative stress in the body.

This is due to its ability to reduce levels of inflammatory markers such as C-reactive protein (CRP). 

Additionally, research suggests that intermittent fasting may help reduce levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines, which could further reduce inflammation in the body. 

This could potentially be beneficial for those suffering from digestive issues such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). 

3. Increases Intestinal Motility

IF can increase intestinal motility by activating certain metabolic and physiological processes. In other words, food moves more quickly and efficiently through your digestive system.

During a period of intermittent fasting, the body shifts into a catabolic state, which is characterised by the breakdown of glycogen stores to create ATP energy. 

This shift in metabolism can help to stimulate digestive activity as well as improve mucosal lining and gut health.

4. Improves Digestive Symptoms

IF has also been shown to improve digestive symptoms such as bloating, gas, abdominal pain and other issues commonly associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). 

Studies have found that when people suffering from IBS followed an intermittent fasting schedule, their symptoms improved significantly compared with those who didn’t follow this schedule.  

Best Practices to Enhance the Benefits of Intermittent Fasting for Gut Health 

The following are some of the tried and tested lifestyle habits that when combined with intermittent fasting can help you achieve optimal gut health.

Eat a Fiber-Rich Diet 

Eating a fiber-rich diet is an essential part of maintaining gut health and may help to prevent or reduce symptoms of gastrointestinal disorders. 

Fibre helps promote regularity, creates a lubricating environment in the gut that can trap toxins and bacteria, and feeds beneficial bacteria that reside in your intestines. 

Fibre also has prebiotic qualities which aid in digestion by helping break down macronutrients such as carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, mineral salts, and other compounds. 

When consumed regularly it can modify the composition of intestinal microflora by increasing species diversity. 

In addition, fiber helps to slow down digestion which gives the body time to absorb more nutrients from food resulting in a better feeling of fullness for longer periods of time and reducing overall caloric intake when compared to consuming low-fibre foods. 

Aim for at least 28 grams of fiber per day from nutritious treats such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds, whole grains, and beans. 

Stay Hydrated

Drinking enough fluids is key when it comes to optimal digestion — liquids help soften stools while promoting movement through your intestines more quickly, reducing symptoms like constipation or diarrhea. 

In addition, the mucous layer inside your stomach needs hydration in order to work properly so drinking plenty of fluids helps protect against acid reflux or gastritis symptoms due to dehydration or overproduction of stomach acids. 

Aside from drinking plenty of water throughout the day during your fast, you can also stay hydrated by drinking unsweetened teas or low-calorie fluids such as vegetable broth.

Stay Active

According to the CEO of Gym Near Me, exercising regularly can increase the number of healthy bacteria in your digestive system. This is because physical activity helps create an environment that encourages beneficial microbes to proliferate. 

Additionally, it has been suggested that participating in aerobic exercise may even increase the diversity of species found in our microbiome, which is associated with better gastrointestinal health overall. 

Furthermore, increasing blood flow throughout our body and stimulating muscles to contract during exercise may also help improve gut function overall. 

The combination of these factors can lead to a decrease in inflammatory markers (chemicals produced when inflammation occurs) in the intestines and promote a healthier environment for digestion and absorption of nutrients to take place more efficiently. 

Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days a week — this could include walking, jogging, swimming, yoga, or cycling but any activity counts! 

Reduce Intake of Processed Foods 

Processed foods often contain high levels of artificial ingredients, sodium, sugar, and unhealthy fats which could contribute to digestive problems like bloating and gas. 

Additionally, chemical additives found in many processed products may cause inflammation in the GI tract

Moreover, these kinds of foods lack fiber which is essential for promoting healthy digestion and the growth of beneficial bacteria in the digestive system. 

It is best to limit or avoid eating processed foods as much as possible and instead focus on consuming unprocessed or minimally-processed whole foods like fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, legumes, nuts, and seeds. 

All of which are packed with important vitamins and minerals that are beneficial for your gut health.

Conclusion

Intermittent fasting is an effective way to boost your gut health but its results are better seen when it is done in combination with other healthy habits such as the ones mentioned in this article to achieve optimal digestive health!

Incorporating these tips into your daily routine while doing intermittent fasting will help ensure long-term success.

This article was written for WHN by Krishma Patel who is the Co-founder and the Superintendent Pharmacist at MedsNow, an online pharmacy in the UK that provides health and wellness products and treatments along with free online consultations. She is passionate about showcasing the integral function community pharmacies can play in supporting the healthcare system and the NHS by providing patients with high-quality, safe, and discreet access to healthcare at their convenience. Along with being the co-founder of MedsNow, Krishma is also the Director and the Superintendent Pharmacist of Enimed Ltd., an independent pharmacy group comprising 32 branches.

As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement.

Opinion Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy of WHN/A4M. Any content provided by guest authors is of their own opinion and is not intended to malign any religion, ethic group, club, organization, company, individual, or anyone or anything.

Content may be edited for style and length.

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