Intermittent fasting may be widely known as a way to lose weight, but we all know that eating can affect more than just the waist. In recent years, occasional fasting has had some surprising health benefits: research has suggested that a diet can help prevent disease, reduce the risk of various cancers and metabolic diseases, and possibly even increase your health.
A new study published in Nature has revealed another benefit of intermittent fasting: it may be able to help us heal damaged nerves. Frequent fasting has been linked to other studies in wound repair and the development of new neurons – but our research is the first to clearly explain how fasting can help heal emotions.
There is currently no treatment for people with neurological injuries other than surgical resection, which only works in a small percentage of cases, prompting us to investigate whether lifestyle changes can help recovery.
It may sound like a jump – how can fast repair nerve damage? It all decreases in the intestinal metabolite known as 3-Indolepropionic acid (IPA). It is a powerful antioxidant that has a great impact on the treatment of deadly bacterial infections; plays an important role in protecting us from diabetes and intestinal and liver issues. Best of all, it comes from our body naturally and is produced in our gut by the bacterium Clostridium sporogenesis.
It is also an important metabolite for the reproduction of axons. These are cord-like structures at the end of nerve cells that send electrochemical signals to other cells in the body – when your axons are damaged, your nerves cannot communicate properly, which is why neurodegenerative diseases weaken. as they are.
But wait: if the IPA stimulates the nerves, then the question of neurologists is not “how we develop emotions,” but “how we get more IPA in our patients” – and that is exactly what Imperial researchers have found. They realized that many of the various known methods of promoting sensory stimulation – exercise, enriching the environment, those types of things – have the same effect on knocking as fasting from time to time.
After all, occasional fasting is widely known to have positive effects on the gut biomes, where the IPA resides. Could occasional fasting be a key to emotional recovery?
To test the hypothesis, nerve resuscitation was performed on mice with the sciatic nerve – the longest nerve in the body, running from the spine down the leg – crushed. Half of these poor rats were then incarcerated, one day eating as usual followed by a day’s fast, and the other half were allowed to swim foolishly whenever they wished.
At thirteen days of testing, axon regeneration was measured in both groups – and the results were clear. The rapid axons had grown by about 50 percent more than mice that did not have such a dietary limit.
There are also very high levels of certain metabolites, including IPA, in the blood of rats limited to food. Another study confirmed the discussion: mice who were given IPA after nerve damage recovered faster and better than those that were not given it.
Of course, there are still a few questions to be answered before the IPA can be considered a miraculous cure for neurological damage. One of the questions we have not fully explored is that, since IPA stays in the bloodstream for four to six hours at a high concentration, does repeat administration throughout the day or incorporating it into a regular diet help increase its therapeutic effects?
Without further research, the team cannot say for sure whether these results will be repeated in humans – although there are reasons to be optimistic.
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