Nurture Integrative Health

“The best of all medicines are resting and fasting.”

~ Benjamin Franklin

Intermittent fasting is an important part of overall brain health and critical to brain injury recovery. If we eat too much or too little, this impacts our brain. The body goes from a cell preservation mode to a cell growth mode by activating specific signaling pathways. Therefore, it is essential to take breaks between fasting and continue to get quality sleep and rest. Don’t forget about the importance of exercise as it creates similar effects on the brain.

Slowing the Brain Injury Cascade:

From a brain injury perspective, fasting can address the effects of the neurometabolic cascade. Oxidative stress, inflammation, energy crisis, mitochondrial dysfunction, and glutamate toxicity can all benefit from intermittent or long-term fasting periods. It is crucial to speak with your physician before trying a fast.

In the first phase of traumatic brain injuries, I have patients eating every 2 hours to stabilize the energy crisis and high demand for nutrients. Then, I switch them to a fasting program after the initial inflammatory phase has stabilized.

Advise your physician first if you have ever had an eating disorder, disorder eating, autoimmune disorder, or are pregnant.

What are the Benefits of Fasting?

Fasting switches your body’s fuel source. When you are eating normally, your body uses glycogen (stored energy) from your liver to fuel all activity. However, when you are fasting, your body pulls energy from ketones out of your adipose tissue. Adipose tissue is a mix of fat and muscle found around vital organs, under the skin, in bone marrow, and in the breasts. This switch from glycogen to ketones provides several healing benefits to the neurometabolic cascade after a brain injury.

  • It allows the nervous system to be more resistant to stress

  • It promotes neurogenesis and increases the survival of new neurons

  • It helps protect the brain against hyperexcitability when glutamate is high

  • It promotes antioxidants to fight oxidative stress that is damaging to the nerves and glial cells

  • It increases Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), which is helpful for nerve transmission, growing new nerves, and helps nerves have the resilience to stress.

  • It increases Ghrelin, the hunger hormone, which helps improve long-term memory by stimulating serotonin in the brain stem.

  • It supports mitochondrial energy production

  • It reduces inflammation in the brain

  • It improves neuroplasticity and can decrease glial priming (when the microglia are activated)

Fasting your brain increases brain plasticity. However, it is important to remember that your brain will be deprived of essential nutrients if you fast too often. Most importantly, remember that your brain is unique with its own unique needs. While fasting, keep a journal of your experience and discuss them with your physicians.

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