You may have heard of intermittent fasting even if you aren’t yet aware of it as part of an overall strategy for protecting your brain from Alzheimer’s.
In basic terms, intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that cycles between periods of eating and periods of fasting. While that sounds pretty simple, it needs to be used responsibly, and that may include checking with your doctor.
The type of intermittent fasting recommended for those using the Bredesen protocols is more appropriately called timed feeding. That means you use the hours you sleep as part of your fast and just add a few hours on either side of that, which makes it a sustainable practice. Here are four reasons why it’s important:
- Fasting triggers the natural process of autophagy, a cellular recycling process that helps detoxify and clear toxic proteins in the brain. Studies have shown that one of the fundamental causes for the accumulation of toxic proteins — like beta amyloid, which can accumulate and form plaques in the brain — is inadequate clearance by autophagy. One of the ways you can stimulate the process is by using intermittent fasting.
- Intermittent fasting improves insulin sensitivity, one of the main goals for protecting your brain health. It also helps you get into ketosis, which is part of the KetoFlex 12/3 diet for preventing or fighting Alzheimer’s disease (explained, below).
- Intermittent fasting helps reduce inflammation, another important goal for preventing or fighting Alzheimer’s disease.
- Fasting increases BDNF. Low levels of BDNF are linked to Alzheimer’s. Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor increases the resistance of neurons in the brain to dysfunction and degeneration.
With these benefits in mind, here’s how to use intermittent fasting — or timed feeding — on the Bredesen protocols:
- Stop eating 3 hours before bedtime.
- Wait until it’s been at least 12 hours to break the fast; i.e., have breakfast.
- For most people, extending the fast for 14 hours is recommended.
- For people with the APOE/4 gene, fasting 14-16 hours is recommended.
Using the hours you sleep as part of your fast makes logical sense and helps the practice become part of your lifestyle. It’s not a complicated practice, but it can be challenging at first. This is especially true if you have a habit of snacking after dinner or if you have insulin resistance. If it’s hard for you, start with 12 hours — like 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. — which means going to bed by 10 p.m.
What breaks the fast? In other words, can I drink coffee before it’s been 12-14 hours? Calories break the fast, which means you can drink coffee but don’t put calories in it. A couple of drops of stevia is OK. It’s actually a good idea to add some tea to your diet, and first thing in the morning is a good time to enjoy a cup of oolong or green tea.
If you aren’t already using intermittent fasting as part of your overall strategy, give it a try. I believe you’ll find it to be an important part of your Alzheimer’s prevention strategy.
Angela Chapman is a Bredesen ReCODE Practitioner and Functional Health Educator. If you’re searching for proven ways to protect your brain health and avoid Alzheimer’s disease, her Sunday email is a great resource for you.