Calorie Restriction, Intermittent Fasting and A Healthier You

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Author: Leo Akin
November, 2014

Introduction

In an age where we have more food than we can eat and eat more food than we need, calorie restriction is a healthy choice not only for obvious benefits such as weight loss but also for lowering the risk of chronic diseases. Multiple studies have confirmed that restricting caloric intake prolonged lifespan and slowed down aging in a number of animal species. Recent evidences also indicate that calorie restriction can also provide similar benefits for humans. Two of the key benefits of calorie restriction is its positive effect on insulin and immunity. In many ways, calorie restriction shares most of its advantages with other forms of dietary restriction such as intermittent fasting.

Calorie Restriction and Gut Bacteria

There are more microbes living in your gut than there are native cells in your body. And there is a number of good reasons why the gut is heavily populated by these microbes. The diverse population of microbes living in the gut is known as gut flora, microbiota or microbiome. Most of these microbes are beneficial bacteria such as those belonging to the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium families.

A healthy gut flora is important because it prevents infections, inflammation and autoimmune disorders. Over the years, scientists have been discovering new benefits to this population of microbes. In fact, there is a growing realization in the medical community that the state of your gut flora is a huge determinant of health, aging process and longevity.

It is, therefore, important to ensure that your gut flora is dominated by beneficial microbes. To this end, probiotics can improve your health because they help re-establish a healthy gut flora. Recent evidences have also established that calorie restriction may change the gut flora for the better. In one recent study, constant calorie restriction in mice was demonstrated to change the composition of their gut flora and promote longevity.

The researchers specifically identified that calorie restriction led to an increase in the population of probiotic microbes such as Lactobacillus while inhibiting the growth of microbial species detrimental to health. The researchers also believed that one of the major ways by which the influence of calorie restriction on gut flora improved lifespan was the reduced antigen load on the immune system from the gut.


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Calorie Restriction vs. Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting is a more acceptable alternative to calorie restriction for most people. This is because most people are not willing to endure lifelong restrictions in their caloric intakes. Intermittent fasting requires only that you alternate periods of fasting with non-fasting without necessarily sacrificing overall caloric intake. You may set aside certain days for fasting or you can make intermittent fasting a daily routine by only eating during a 6 8-hour window every day.

Even without lowering the amount of calorie consumed, studies show that intermittent fasting is very healthful. It provides similar benefits as calorie restriction by improving insulin sensitivity, reducing oxidative stress and inflammation and also lowering the risks of certain chronic diseases. Even more than calorie restriction, intermittent fasting switches your body from a carb-loving to a fat-burning mode.

Therefore, it can be used to achieve weight loss even while lowering the blood levels of triglycerides and LDL cholesterol. Intermittent fasting can also improve your gut flora in the same manner as calorie restriction. Therefore, in many ways, intermittent fasting is the ideal form of dietary restriction to help improve your health.

Improving Gut Health

Poor diet and indiscriminate antibiotic use are the two biggest threats to gut health. When these wipe out the gut flora, they leave room for pathogens to colonize the gut. The results of such damage include leaky gut syndrome and an overrun immune system. Poor gut health can be the root cause of a number of chronic diseases ranging from inflammatory bowel disease to diabetes, cancer, autoimmune disorders and even skin diseases.

Even as you adopt intermittent fasting or calorie restriction to optimize your gut flora and health, there are a couple of ways you can improve the outcome. You should jumpstart the normalization of your gut flora by consuming more fermented foods and taking probiotic supplements.

Fermented milk (kefir, yogurt) and soy (natto) products are healthy choices as long as they are prepared from organic, traditionally prepared sources. Fermented vegetables prepared from cabbages, turnips, carrots, cucumbers and eggplants are especially rich in the right kinds of probiotic bacteria to improve your gut health.

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