Could the key to nerve regeneration start in our gut? New research recently published in one of the premiere science journals Nature, is showing potential promise for nerve repair through intermittent fasting in mice.
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting (IF) is an eating pattern that cycles between periods of fasting and eating.
It doesn’t specify which foods you should eat but rather when you should eat them.
In this respect, it’s not a diet in the conventional sense but more accurately described as an eating pattern.
Many people who partake in intermittent fasting prefer to refer to their meals times as their “eating window” rather than the more negative connotation of attempting to go without food during the fasting state. While it might sound daunting, IF can have many positive benefits in addition to potential nerve regeneration.
There are multiple ways to perform IF which we will cover at a later date, but there is sound science to the results, with the Nature article being just one in a string of research touting the benefits.
Could IPA be the key?
The article, conducted by Imperial College London researchers, observed how fasting led to the gut bacteria increasing production of a metabolite known as 3-Indolepropionic acid (IPA). This metabolite is required for regenerating nerve fibers called axons. Axons are the thread-like structures at the ends of nerve cells that send out signals that “talk” to other cells in the body.
It was noted that when there was reduced IPA, it was more difficult for the nerves to repair themselves. Intermittent fasting has previously been linked by other studies regarding its ability to assist with wound repair and the growth of new neurons – but this study is the first to explain exactly how fasting might help heal nerves.
When fasting occurred, levels of IPA in the gut increased and showed up to a 50% increase in nerve regeneration compared to the control group after 24-72 hours.
More studies will need to investigate whether IPA increases after fasting in humans and the efficacy of IPA and intermittent fasting as a potential treatment in people, but it is a promising start.
Here at the Maryland Center for Brain Health, we also utilize additional therapy devices which work on:
Improving oxygenation to cells
Increase cellular energy production
All of which can lead improved nerve function and repair.