Since the human microbiome project in 2008, the revelations around the role that gut bacteria play in health have been accumulating year on year. From digestion problems, to immune system regulation and brain health, our tiny companions are seemingly ruling our lives. Scientists are learning the many ways that our lifestyles can influence bacteria, however there is one resounding message, diversity equals health. Scientists are now showing that levels of behavior and periods of fasting without food may influence your digestive bacteria.
Whilst the impact of the modern diet has shown to decrease diversity of our gut bacteria, many people are left with health problems that are fundamentally due to imbalances in their microbial populations. Beyond the vast influence of our diet on our microbial populations, research has shown that our overall lifestyle also plays a significant role in the happiness of bacteria.
Recent studies have shown that exercise and periods of fasting in fact have a profound effect on the diversity of microbes. In fact, fasting may even help rejuvenate brain cells while exercise induces a unique shift in gut microbiota.
Fasting and the gut microbiome
Studies have shown that fasting and daily feeding may affect the host metabolism that contributes to various metabolic processes in the body. Our gut microbiome is highly dynamic and consisting of trillions of various microorganisms that serves diverse and important physiologic functions.
During obesity, the interruption of normal physiological rhythm of feeding or fasting may contribute to imbalances associated with weight gain. Current findings shows that fasting or time restricted feeding can help to restore the cyclical fluctuations of gut microbes and may have a protective effect against obesity and other metabolic diseases.
Your body is designed for periods without food. It seems to have therefore created inbuilt mechanisms to allow these times to be productive in terms of physiological processes. Fasting stimulates the body to burn it’s own energy reserves. These periods are regulated by the sympathetic nervous system, which is activated by fasting and exercise. Fasting while exercising stimulates the catalysts and cellular factors which activate the breakdown of glycogen and fats for energy.
Allowing time for bacteria to reset
Fasting seems to allow the time for bacteria to reset their environment. We know that digestive microbes are active in the process of digestion, so by giving gut bacteria time without food, it seems to allow a mechanism by which bacteria go to work on their own populations. During this period it’s thought that the overall health and diversity of gut bacteria is maintained. Intermittent fasting is a term used for various periods without food where there is a cycle of fasting and non-fasting.
For example, the 5-2 method is a popular way to include daily intermittent fasting into your routine. You should schedule to fast for around 12-16 hours. Equating to eating only from the period of 11 am to 7pm. To do so you only have to skip breakfast and make lunch your first meal of the day.
In addition to a balanced, bacterial friendly, diet intermittent fasting seems to be an excellent way to allow your gut bacteria to reset and maintain overall health of your microbiome.