Intermittent fasting and general fasting therapy have been shown to improve IBS and IBD symptoms when conventional medical intervention has failed.
By Dawn Flemming
Scientists have researched a lot of serious health problems in the world and their potential solutions. Surprisingly enough, although fasting as a religious, cultural and health practice around the world has been ubiquitous, it hasn’t been a big area of research for scientists.
However, the few studies that we have on fasting indicates that it may have positive effects on irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and irritable bowel disease.
A 2006 study showed that people suffering from IBS who happened not to respond to conventional pharmacotherapy benefited from fasting. According to the study, patients undertook fasting therapy. Here is how it went:
Of 84 inpatients with IBS, 58 patients who still had moderate to severe IBS symptoms after 4-week basic treatment were investigated retrospectively. Of the 58 patients enrolled in this study, 36 underwent FT, whereas the remaining 22 received a consecutive basic treatment (control therapy). There were no significant differences in the 4-point severity scales of gastrointestinal and psychological symptoms between the 2 groups before the start of FT. The basic treatment consisted of pharmacotherapy and brief psychotherapy, whereas the FT consisted of 10 days of starvation followed by 5 days of refeeding.
So what were the results? The study concluded that “Our results suggest that fasting therapy may have beneficial effects on intractable patients with IBS.”
It seems that fasting therapy is also effective in helping with irritable bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis. In a study from the University of Southern California, the following study was conducted:
The team tested three groups of mice with inflamed bowels. One was fed a regular diet. One was given only water for 2 days per 14-day diet cycle. The third was given a fasting-mimicking diet for 4 days per diet cycle. The first day of this fasting-mimicking diet provided about 50% of the calories of a regular diet. It had vitamins, minerals, olive oil, essential fatty acids, and vegetable powders. On days two to four, the diet provided only about 10% of the regular diet’s calories. The two groups of fasting mice received a regular diet on the other days.
So what were the results? The National Institute of Aging writes the following:
In the mice given cycles of the fasting-mimicking diet, gut inflammation and other signs of IBD improved. The researchers also observed that the average colon length returned to normal, suggesting tissue regeneration. In the mice given only water during fasting cycles, the researchers also noted a reduction in certain signs of inflammation.
The team also detected enhanced growth of beneficial bacteria in the guts of mice on the fasting-mimicking diet. To test whether these bacteria could be linked to improvement in bowel inflammation, the researchers performed fecal transplants into mice with inflamed bowels. Those receiving a transplant from the fasting-mimicking diet mice had reduced signs of inflammation compared to those receiving the transplant from mice on a regular diet.
Fasting is hard to stick to, but if you are determined it can be beneficial. If you intend to fast, make sure to do so under the supervision of a medical doctor.
If extended fasting is too difficult, you can opt for intermittent fasting. There are many ways to do so, including the Warrior’s Diet, Leangains, the 5:2 method etc. You may learn more about the different types of fasting by clicking here.
Dawn Flemming is Director of Business Services at Geriatric In-Home Care in Fresno, California.