Intermittent fasting has been gaining more mainstream attention as a great way to help shed excess pounds. However, there’s more to this lifestyle craze then just blasting away fat. After watching an episode of Dr. Oz, I was amazed to find out intermittent fasting can help improve memory!
Now, if you’re anything like me, you might get a bit loopy when you’re hungry. So you must be thinking, how on earth could restricting food intake help your memory, right? Well, I decided to look into it…and there is a link between improved memory and intermittent fasting! Here’s what I learned about how intermittent fasting can help memory.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Before you can learn how intermittent fasting can help memory, it might help if you knew what intermittent fasting was in the first place. A lot of media outlets reporting on health treat intermittent fasting as the newest diet to hit the market. They throw intermittent fasting alongside the ranks of Atkin’s, South Beach, and Zone Diet.
Intermittent fasting is not a diet. It’s more of a lifestyle choice. Nuts and bolts, intermittent fasting is restricting calorie intake for prolonged periods of times. However, this way of life is a bit more complicated than that.
There are many protocols followed in the intermittent fasting community. These protocols include:
16/8 Method – Fast 16 Hours, Eat 8
5:2 Method – Eat Normal 5 Days a Week, Only 500 Calories for 2 Days
Eat-Stop-Eat – Fast a Full 24 Hours Twice a Week
Alternate-Day Fasting – Fast (or Limit to 500 Calories) Every Other Day
Warrior – Eat Small Amounts of Fruits and Veggies During Day and One Big Meal at Night
And our plan…The Enjoying The Art Of Living Reset…5 day reset every month
Unless you are partaking in the 5:2 Method or doing the 500 calorie limit during Alternate-Day Fasting, there is no “dieting” involved in intermittent fasting. When you do eat, it’s the typical foods you would enjoy if you weren’t dieting.
During fast periods you are only allowed to drink liquids. It is best to stick to water, tea, and coffee. If you do go the caffeine route, drink it either black or with a splash of dairy. You want to consume as little calories as possible so your body doesn’t have to break down any food.
Like any other “diet,” it’s encouraged that you eat healthier foods during your feeding periods rather than junk food. However, if you do decide to fill up on fast food before an intermittent fasting protocol, you wouldn’t hurt the fast. Whereas, if you were to scarf down a burger on a “diet,” you would run said diet.’
How Intermittent Fasting Works
The reason why intermittent fasting is so effective in losing weight is that we are allowing our system a moment to reset. Instead of shoving a pile of food on top of a pile of food on top of a pile of food, intermittent fasting allows your body to work out the kinks. It does this by digesting the food it was already working on before you decided to stuff your face…again!
Intermittent fasting emphasizes on why we eat food in the first place. Sure, it tastes good. However, the purpose of food isn’t to soothe our ego, calm our anxieties, or cure boredom. The purpose of food is to give us energy.
If you eat whole foods rich in fibers, complex carbs, and proteins during your feeding period, your body will have more than enough energy to feed off of during your fast. Foods rich in insoluble fiber and protein take your body longer to break down. Therefore you might not be feeding your mouth during your fast, but the bacteria in your gut is still eating the nutrients left in your belly.
Once the food in your gut is digested and the nutrients enter the bloodstream, your body turns toward stored fat for energy. By feasting on the calories in your adipose tissue, the good bacteria in your gut becomes stronger. This has a lasting impact on the rest of the body…including memory.
How Intermittent Fasting Can Help Memory
There are many ways intermittent fasting can help strengthen your memory. Let’s take a look at some of the ways.
IF Reduces Inflammation
As Hippocrates once said, “All disease begins in the gut.” Almost any condition whether it be arthritis in the joints, colon cancer, or eczema stems from an inflammation. This is no different for Alzheimer’s Disease.
Luckily, intermittent fasting helps reduce inflammation, and in turn, may prolong symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s Disease. As one study puts it, “The fundamental mechanism underlying all forms of neurodegenerative diseases is progressive loss of structure, function or number of neurons, including death of neurons.”
When we fast, our body participates in a process called autophagy. This is when the body destroys old and damaged cells. By cleansing these cells, no inflammations will spring up…including on the brain.
Additionally, as we fast, our body uses up all the glucose it stored. Therefore, it dips into those adipose tissues I mentioned earlier. When fat gets broken down, it creates ketones.
One of the primary ketones our body makes is known as beta-hydroxybutyrate. A 2004 study shows that elevated levels of this ketone, “were associated with greater improvement in paragraph recall” in memory-impaired adults.
Intermittent Fasting Generates New Brain Cells
Seeing as autophagy sweeps up all the dead cells, this opens the door for more cells to be created. This happens because fasting cuts down on your body’s production of the pro-inflammatory cell known as adipocyte cytokine leptin.
Leptin has a significant impact on obesity (which is why IF is so great for losing weight). However, this pro-inflammatory cytokine also affects the hypothalamus. This is part of our brain that regulates functions such as appetite (hello, obesity) and emotional responses (hello, mind).
With less leptin floating around, your body is not as susceptible to inflammation. Autonomously, your body will generate new brain cells in the areas that are no longer infiltrated by cytokines.
IF and BDNF
Intermittent fasting not only regenerates brain cells but gives your mind an overall boost. A study found, “intermittent fasting results in increased production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).” Depending on your protocol you can up the protein production anywhere from 50% to 400%!
BDNF is a protein that plays a pivotal role in neuroplasticity. The more of this protein you have in your system, the less likely your brain is to harden with grey matter loss. Instead, your brain remains pliable. Therefore it remains open to change, adaptable to uncomfortable situations, and able to learn new skill sets.
Thanks to BDNF, your brain produces new cells while simultaneously protecting the ones you already have. In turn, this protein creates new pathways and synapses. This leads to improving mood, memory, and learning abilities.
Intermittent Fasting and Memory
These are just some of the many ways that intermittent fasting can help improve your memory. All of these results depend on which protocol you choose, which foods you eat during your feeding time, and how dedicated you are to this lifestyle change.
While IF may be a bit hard at first, find a protocol that works for your schedule and then make it work for you! You will results in the form of weight loss rather quickly. However, the memory-boosting benefits will come with time. No matter how you choose to implement IF in your life, be sure to consult a physician first.