The Role Of Intermittent Fasting In Reducing Inflammation And Pain

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The Role Of Intermittent Fasting In Reducing Inflammation And Pain

Have you ever wondered about the remarkable ways your body heals itself? From ancient practices to modern scientific discoveries, understanding this innate ability has captivated researchers and individuals alike.

Intermittent fasting has garnered praise as a health trend for its numerous benefits, notably its ability to reduce inflammation. But how does it facilitate this improvement?

In this article, let’s find out the role of intermittent fasting in reducing inflammation and pain.

Inflammation In The Body

Inflammation is a crucial aspect of your body’s defense system, managed by your immune system to protect against infections, injuries, or diseases. Without inflammation, the healing process for numerous ailments would be significantly compromised.

However, in certain conditions, such as autoimmune diseases like specific types of arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease, this protective mechanism can turn against healthy cells, leading to detrimental effects.

There are three primary classifications of inflammation:

  • Acute Inflammation: This type typically occurs over a short period but can be intense in severity. Symptoms manifest rapidly but usually subside within two weeks or less once the triggering cause, often an injury or infection, is resolved. Acute inflammation is crucial for restoring the body to its pre-injury or pre-illness state1.
  • Chronic Inflammation: Characterized by a slower onset and generally milder symptoms compared to acute inflammation, chronic inflammation persists for an extended period, typically lasting more than six weeks. Medical experts have associated chronic inflammation with autoimmune disorders and extended periods of stress, highlighting its potential long-term impact on health2.
  • Subacute Inflammation: This transitional phase bridges acute and chronic inflammation, lasting approximately two to six weeks. It represents a crucial period in the healing process, where the body transitions from immediate defense mechanisms to more sustained responses or resolution of the inflammatory process1,2.

Causes And Symptoms Of Inflammation

Acute Inflammation

Acute inflammation is typically triggered by various factors such as infections, injuries, or tissue damage. Here are some examples of what can cause acute inflammation:

  • Infections: Pathogens like bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites can directly stimulate an immune response, leading to acute inflammation. For example, a bacterial infection in the throat can cause inflammation known as pharyngitis3.
  • Injuries: Physical trauma, such as cuts, burns, or blunt force injuries, can result in acute inflammation as the body responds to repair damaged tissues4. An ankle sprain is a common example that causes localized inflammation in the affected area.
  • Chemical Irritants: Exposure to certain chemicals or irritants can trigger an inflammatory response. For instance, inhaling smoke or fumes can lead to acute inflammation in the respiratory system, as seen in cases of smoke inhalation injury5,6.
  • Allergic Reactions: Allergens like pollen, pet dander, or certain foods can provoke an immune response in susceptible individuals, leading to acute inflammation. Allergic rhinitis is an example where pollen triggers inflammation in the nasal passages7.

Chronic Inflammation

Chronic inflammation is often caused by persistent irritants or triggers that lead to a prolonged immune response. Here are some common causes of chronic inflammation:

  • Persistent Infections: Chronic infections by bacteria, viruses, or other pathogens can sustain an inflammatory response over time. Examples include chronic hepatitis C infection leading to liver inflammation or chronic sinusitis causing ongoing inflammation in the sinuses8,9.
  • Autoimmune Disorders: In autoimmune diseases, the immune system mistakenly targets healthy tissues, leading to chronic inflammation10. Conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), and inflammatory bowel diseases (Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis) are examples of autoimmune disorders characterized by chronic inflammation.
  • Prolonged Exposure to Environmental Factors: Continuous exposure to environmental factors such as air pollution, tobacco smoke, or industrial chemicals can trigger chronic inflammation. For instance, long-term exposure to cigarette smoke can lead to chronic inflammation in the lungs, contributing to conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)11,12.
  • Obesity: Adipose tissue in obese individuals can release pro-inflammatory substances, leading to chronic low-grade inflammation. This chronic inflammatory state is associated with various obesity-related complications such as insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and cardiovascular diseases13.
  • Persistent Stress: Prolonged psychological stress can also contribute to chronic inflammation. Stress hormones like cortisol can modulate the immune response, potentially leading to a chronic inflammatory state. Chronic stress has been linked to conditions such as depression, anxiety disorders, and chronic fatigue syndrome, which are associated with inflammation14,15.

The Role Of Intermittent Fasting In Reducing Inflammation And Pain

Intermittent fasting (IF) is a dietary approach that involves alternating periods of eating and fasting. Specific eating windows characterize it, such as the 16/8 Method (16 hours of fasting followed by an 8-hour eating window) or the alternate-day fasting (fasting every other day while eating normally on non-fasting days).

Highly sought after for its weight loss support, it has also captured attention for its numerous health benefits. Among these, it stands out for its potential to reduce inflammation and alleviate pain, which are closely tied to conditions such as cardiovascular disease, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, metabolic syndrome, chronic illnesses, and inflammatory bowel diseases.

Although intermittent fasting is not a cure-all for eliminating inflammation and pain, it can contribute positively to specific aspects. Its benefits are particularly significant in:

Reduction in Inflammatory Markers

Intermittent fasting has been associated with lower levels of inflammatory markers such as C-reactive protein (CRP) and interleukin-6 (IL-6), which can benefit individuals with inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and inflammatory bowel diseases16.

Enhanced Autophagy

Intermittent fasting, which involves calorie restriction, promotes autophagy, aiding in cellular renewal and reducing inflammation that contributes to pain. This mechanism can be beneficial for individuals with neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, where inflammation plays a significant role17,18.

Improved Gut Health

Intermittent fasting supports a healthier gut microbiome, which is beneficial for managing chronic diseases such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), where gut inflammation and associated pain are prevalent symptoms19.

Reduced Oxidative Stress

Intermittent fasting decreases oxidative stress, providing relief to individuals with chronic inflammatory conditions such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), which are characterized by inflammation and pain20.

Increased Anti-Inflammatory Molecules

Intermittent fasting may stimulate the production of anti-inflammatory molecules like adiponectin, offering relief to individuals with metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases where inflammation contributes to pain and complications21.

Other Benefits Of Intermittent Fasting

In addition to its impact on inflammation and pain, intermittent fasting offers a wide range of health benefits:

Weight Management

Intermittent fasting is renowned for its effectiveness in weight loss and management through caloric restriction. Limiting eating windows helps control calorie intake, promoting weight loss while enhancing metabolic health22.

Improved Insulin Sensitivity

Intermittent fasting can boost insulin sensitivity, benefiting individuals with insulin resistance, prediabetes, and type 2 diabetes. This improvement aids in better blood sugar control and reduces the risk of metabolic disorders23.

Cellular Repair and Longevity

Autophagy’s other benefits not only contribute to overall cellular health but also have potential anti-aging effects. Additionally, intermittent fasting improves mitochondrial function, further enhancing cellular resilience and longevity. These combined processes offer a thorough way to rejuvenate cells and could enhance overall health24.

Brain Health

Some studies suggest that intermittent fasting supports brain health by increasing the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein vital for neuronal growth and function. This may lower the risk of neurodegenerative diseases and enhance memory and spatial learning25.

Heart Health

Intermittent fasting has been linked to enhancements in cardiovascular health markers such as blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and inflammatory markers. These improvements reduce the risk of heart disease and promote overall heart health26.

Important Precautions With Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting is an attractive approach, yet it comes with specific precautions. Take into account the following:

  • Consult with a Professional: Before starting intermittent fasting, consult with a healthcare provider, particularly if you have underlying health conditions such as chronic inflammation or pain disorders. They can provide personalized guidance based on your medical history and needs.
  • Start Gradually: If you’re new to intermittent fasting, start with shorter fasting periods and gradually increase the duration as your body adapts. Sudden and drastic changes in eating patterns can lead to issues like fatigue, dizziness, and nutrient deficiencies.
  • Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water during both fasting and eating periods to stay hydrated. Dehydration can exacerbate the side effects of fasting and impact health.
  • Focus on Nutrient-Dense Foods: During eating periods, prioritize nutrient-dense foods that have anti-inflammatory properties. Include plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats in your diet to support overall health and pain management.
  • Monitor Your Symptoms: Pay attention to how your body responds to intermittent fasting. If you notice an increase in inflammation, pain, or other adverse effects, reconsider your fasting schedule or seek guidance from a healthcare professional.
  • Consider Supplements: Certain supplements, such as omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil), turmeric, ginger, and vitamin D, may have anti-inflammatory benefits. Consult with your healthcare provider before adding any new supplements to your regimen.
  • Balance Rest and Activity: Incorporate adequate rest and relaxation into your routine to support recovery and reduce stress, which can contribute to inflammation and pain.
  • Listen to Your Body: If intermittent fasting causes significant discomfort, fatigue, or exacerbates pain and inflammation, it may not be suitable for you. Listen to your body’s signals and adjust your approach accordingly.


1 Hannoodee, S., & Nasuruddin, D. N. (2022, November 14). Acute inflammatory response. StatPearls – NCBI Bookshelf. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK556083/#_ncbi_dlg_citbx_NBK556083

2 Pahwa, R., Goyal, A., & Jialal, I. (2023, August 7). Chronic inflammation. StatPearls – NCBI Bookshelf. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK493173/

3 Harberger, S., & Graber, M. (2023, July 3). Bacterial pharyngitis. StatPearls – NCBI Bookshelf. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK559007/

4 Chen, L., Deng, H., Cui, H., Fang, J., Zuo, Z., Deng, J., Li, Y., Wang, X., & Zhao, L. (2017). Inflammatory responses and inflammation-associated diseases in organs. Oncotarget, 9(6), 7204–7218. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.23208

5 Gorguner, M., & Akgun, M. (2010). Acute inhalation injury. The Eurasian journal of medicine, 42(1), 28–35. https://doi.org/10.5152/eajm.2010.09

6 Shubert, J., & Sharma, S. (2023, June 12). Inhalation injury. StatPearls – NCBI Bookshelf. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK513261/

7 Li, Q., Zhang, X., Feng, Q., Zhou, H., Ma, C., Lin, C., Wang, D., & Yin, J. (2023). Common Allergens and Immune Responses Associated with Allergic Rhinitis in China. Journal of asthma and allergy, 16, 851–861. https://doi.org/10.2147/JAA.S420328

8 Zampino, R., Marrone, A., Restivo, L., Guerrera, B., Sellitto, A., Rinaldi, L., Romano, C., & Adinolfi, L. E. (2013). Chronic HCV infection and inflammation: Clinical impact on hepatic and extra-hepatic manifestations. World journal of hepatology, 5(10), 528–540. https://doi.org/10.4254/wjh.v5.i10.528

9 Kwon, E., & O’Rourke, M. C. (2023, August 8). Chronic sinusitis. StatPearls – NCBI Bookshelf. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK441934/

10 Autoimmune diseases. (n.d.). National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/conditions/autoimmune

11 Air pollution and your health. (n.d.). National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/air-pollution

12 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US). (2010). Pulmonary diseases. How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease: The Biology and Behavioral Basis for Smoking-Attributable Disease – NCBI Bookshelf. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK53021/

13 Zatterale, F., Longo, M., Naderi, J., Raciti, G. A., Desiderio, A., Miele, C., & Beguinot, F. (2020). Chronic Adipose Tissue Inflammation Linking Obesity to Insulin Resistance and Type 2 Diabetes. Frontiers in physiology, 10, 1607. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2019.01607

14 Mariotti A. (2015). The effects of chronic stress on health: new insights into the molecular mechanisms of brain-body communication. Future science OA, 1(3), FSO23. https://doi.org/10.4155/fso.15.21

15 Sapra A, Bhandari P. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. [Updated 2023 Jun 21]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK557676/

16 Caron, J. P., Kreher, M. A., Mickle, A. M., Wu, S., Przkora, R., Estores, I. M., & Sibille, K. T. (2022). Intermittent Fasting: Potential Utility in the Treatment of Chronic Pain across the Clinical Spectrum. Nutrients, 14(12), 2536. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu14122536

17 Shabkhizan, R., Haiaty, S., Moslehian, M. S., Bazmani, A., Sadeghsoltani, F., Saghaei Bagheri, H., Rahbarghazi, R., & Sakhinia, E. (2023). The Beneficial and Adverse Effects of Autophagic Response to Caloric Restriction and Fasting. Advances in nutrition (Bethesda, Md.), 14(5), 1211–1225. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.advnut.2023.07.006

18 Yang, Y., & Zhang, L. (2020). The effects of caloric restriction and its mimetics in Alzheimer’s disease through autophagy pathways. Food & function, 11(2), 1211–1224. https://doi.org/10.1039/c9fo02611h

19 Paukkonen, I., Törrönen, E., Lok, J., Schwab, U., & El-Nezami, H. (2024). The impact of intermittent fasting on gut microbiota: a systematic review of human studies. Frontiers in Nutrition, 11. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnut.2024.1342787

20 Caron, J. P., Kreher, M. A., Mickle, A. M., Wu, S., Przkora, R., Estores, I. M., & Sibille, K. T. (2022). Intermittent Fasting: Potential Utility in the Treatment of Chronic Pain across the Clinical Spectrum. Nutrients, 14(12), 2536. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu14122536

21 Song, D. K., & Kim, Y. W. (2023). Beneficial effects of intermittent fasting: a narrative review. Journal of Yeungnam medical science, 40(1), 4–11. https://doi.org/10.12701/jyms.2022.00010

22 Kim J. Y. (2021). Optimal Diet Strategies for Weight Loss and Weight Loss Maintenance. Journal of obesity & metabolic syndrome, 30(1), 20–31. https://doi.org/10.7570/jomes20065

23 Vasim, I., Majeed, C. N., & DeBoer, M. D. (2022). Intermittent Fasting and Metabolic Health. Nutrients, 14(3), 631. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu14030631

24 Zinecker, H., & Simon, A. K. (2022). Autophagy takes it all – autophagy inducers target immune aging. Disease models & mechanisms, 15(1), dmm049345. https://doi.org/10.1242/dmm.049345

25 Brocchi, A., Rebelos, E., Dardano, A., Mantuano, M., & Daniele, G. (2022). Effects of Intermittent Fasting on Brain Metabolism. Nutrients, 14(6), 1275. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu14061275

26 Dong, T. A., Sandesara, P. B., Dhindsa, D. S., Mehta, A., Arneson, L. C., Dollar, A. L., Taub, P. R., & Sperling, L. S. (2020). Intermittent Fasting: A Heart Healthy Dietary Pattern?. The American journal of medicine, 133(8), 901–907. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amjmed.2020.03.030


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