What fasting and cold exposure have in common, and how they effect our brain.

Recently I have been fasting a few days per week and I really noticed the benefits, a clearer mind, improved mood and a lot more energy to name a few.

Fasting is good for the body, your  metabolism shifts and it promotes fat burning and the production of beneficial ketones in the body and they are good for the brain.

Below is a TEDx talk given by Mark Mattson, the current Chief of the Laboratory of Neuroscience at the National Institute on Aging. He is also a professor of Neuroscience at The Johns Hopkins University, and one of the foremost researchers of the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying multiple neurodegenerative disorders, like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.

Mark explains here the effects of fasting on the brain. He also explains that fasting is a challenge to our brains, it stimulates the production of neurotrophic factors, they promote the growth of axons and dendrites in the brain, neurons that fire together wire together, strengthening the synapses and the production of new neurons. 

Now interestingly neurotrophic factors are also increased after rigorous exercise and for me very interesting, as a lover of cold therapy, also after exposure to Ice water. 

Mark is mentioning in this talk that in the Roman times they used to think that people with seizures were demonised and they figured out that locking them up and not giving them food would make the demons go away.  Nowadays we know that fasting helps increase ketones, because of the fat burning, and ketones in return can suppress seizures in people with epilepsy. Even today ketogenic diets are being used for patients with severe epilepsy.

Fasting also increases mitochondria in your nervecells, now, it is not mentioned in this talk but I know that the cold water exposure burns the white fat and increases the more healthy brown fat and the brown fat is where we find the mitochondria. When I was in Poland with The Iceman, Wim Hof I also asked him, what do I do when I can not do the cold exposure and Wim suggested fasting too. He didn’t explain why but now after watching this video, it makes complete sense to me that similar things happen in the body after fasting, exercise and for example the cold exposure, they are all of course challenges for our brains.



So, maybe during this period of Lent we can do ourselves a favour and fast a little, exercise a little more and maybe take a cold shower every day 🙂


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