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The Connection Between Intermittent Fasting And Your Endocannabinoid System

Balancing your endocannabinoid tone by implementing intermittent fasting may help you achieve an optimal weight, improve longevity, and provide additional health benefits. 

Keto, Paleo, and Whole-30 are a few of the most popular diets based on guidelines about what foods you can and cannot eat. Valter Longo, a cell biologist, has a different approach. As a pioneer of intermittent fasting, which focuses on when you eat, rather than what you eat, his research shows that shortening the “eating window” can have a profound impact on weight, longevity, immunity, and overall health.   

Humans evolved to live for extended periods of time without food. Our physiological systems boast adaptations to both survive and thrive during periods of starvation. In our modern food system, we have plentiful access to processed, high-sugar foods. We are no longer hunting and foraging for our food and going long stretches of time with absolutely nothing. If we want the benefits of unintentional fasting that our primal ancestors reaped, induced intermittent fasting may be the answer. 

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is intimately involved in hormone regulation and metabolism. It plays a crucial role in food intake and weight management. Endocannabinoids, which our bodies naturally produce, are altered during fasting and feeding.

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According to neurologist Ethan Russo, we all have a clinical endocannabinoid tone, which is basically the overall state of your ECS. Individuals who are obese may have an elevated (or imbalanced) endocannabinoid tone, which impacts overeating. Intermittent fasting can break the cycle by theoretically reducing the expression of CB1 receptors along with endocannabinoid levels. 

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Photo by Brooke Lark via Unsplash

Intermittent fasting works to calibrate your body’s sensitivity to hormones such as insulin. During fasting, your body is burning through glucose stored in the liver for 10-12 hours. After that, a process called metabolic switching happens, where fat is used for energy 

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Though the term “fasting” may conjure up negative thoughts and emotions for many, this type of intermittent fasting can be manageable. Thinking about “dieting” is generally more stressful than the doing. Like everything wellness-related, it requires planning. That means that you need to schedule your mealtimes. Here are few choices for intermittent fasting:  

  • 16/8: eat all your food within an 8-hour daily window and fast the remaining 16 hours. 
  • 5/2:  consume your typical calories for 5 days and 600 calories or fewer for 2 days. 
  • Eat Stop Eat: fast for a full 24-hours 1-2 times weekly.

Balancing your endocannabinoid tone by implementing intermittent fasting may help you achieve an optimal weight, improve longevity, and provide additional health benefits. 

You can catch Laura speaking about the interaction among the endocannabinoid system, eating behavior, and cannabis at Villanova University on March 6.

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