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  • Roy Jamron

    Can Fasting Help Regenerate a Damaged Celiac Disease Intestine?

    Roy Jamron
    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

      Journal of Gluten Sensitivity Autumn 2018 Issue

    Image: CC--Imad HADDAD
    Caption: Image: CC--Imad HADDAD

    Celiac.com 09/28/2018 - MIT researchers have found that intestinal stem cells removed from mice after fasting for 24 hours and grown in culture have twice the regenerative capacity of stem cells grown in culture from non-fasting mice. The study provides evidence that fasting induces a metabolic switch in the intestinal stem cells, switching from utilizing carbohydrates to burning fat. Switching these cells to fatty acid oxidation enhances their function significantly. The study also found that the beneficial effects of fasting can be reproduced by treating mice with a molecule that mimics the effects. Stem cell regeneration is dramatically improved by fasting in both young and older mice.

    Intestinal stem cells in humans lose their ability to regenerate as humans age, making it more difficult for older people to recover from gastrointestinal disease and disorders. Fasting and/or the use of drugs to mimic the regenerative effects of fasting on intestinal stem cells may, therefore, be useful to improve recovery from intestinal injury in older patients if the mice study findings are shown applicable to humans.

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    This study brings to mind past research on the protein R-spondin1 which showed great potential in completely regenerating and restoring the intestinal lining. R-spondin1 was being developed as a drug by Nuvelo, Inc. of San Carlos, CA designated as NU206 in 2005. Despite early successful human safety clinical trials in 2008, research was shelved and the promising drug has continued to sit idle on the shelf for years. The patent for NU206 is now owned by ARCA Biopharma http://arcabio.com/ of Westminster, CO after a merger with Nuvelo, Inc. in 2009.

    Fasting to regenerate the intestinal lining is free and requires no FDA approvals (though physician supervision may be advised.)

    Fasting may provide other potential health benefits. A Yale study found that during dieting or fasting the compound beta-hydroxybutyrate is produced which inhibits the inflammatory response in several disorders including autoimmune diseases, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, atherosclerosis, and autoinflammatory disorders.

    Fasting can also affect the activation of T cells. T cells are leukocytes, white blood cells. T cells are activated by antigens from pathogens presented to T cell receptors which initiates an immune response against the pathogens. In autoimmune disease, antigen presented to T cell receptors initiates an immune response which results in damage to the body itself. A Luxembourg Institute of Health study found that glutathione, important for metabolic waste disposal and detoxification, also acts as a switch which stimulates T cell energy metabolism while keeping T cells clear of metabolic wastes. Without glutathione, T cells remain inactive and sit in a hibernation state. T cell inactivity is undesirable for fighting off an infection, but, otherwise, keeping T cells inactive may ward off harmful effects of autoimmune disease.

    Fasting lowers the body's glutathione level as the body constantly consumes glutathione. In one 7-day fasting study involving healthy humans, a progressive decline in total glutathione concentration in leukocytes was found during seven days of starvation due to a decrease in free glutathione content. This study provides proof that fasting lowers glutathione levels in T cells. Hence, based on the Luxembourg study, fasting can reduce or stop the activity of T cells. Thus, fasting can be used to relieve the symptoms of autoimmune disease resulting from a T cell immune response, providing that the subject is otherwise infection free and has no condition requiring an active T cell response.

    Finally, as shown in a University of Southern California study, multiple fasting cycles lasting 2 to 4 days over a period of 6 months in both mice and humans work to rid the body of older and damaged white blood cells and trigger white blood stem cells to self-regenerate and fully repopulate the immune system with new white blood cells. Besides having applications to recovery from immune system damage caused by cancer chemotherapy toxicity, these immune system rejuvenation effects from fasting may have potential benefit applicable to treatment of autoimmune disorders.


    Fasting boosts stem cells' regenerative capacity.
    A drug treatment that mimics fasting can also provide the same benefit, study finds.

    Anne Trafton - MIT News Office
    May 3, 2018

    Fasting Activates Fatty Acid Oxidation to Enhance Intestinal Stem Cell Function during Homeostasis and Aging.
    Mihaylova MM, Cheng CW, Cao AQ, Tripathi S, Mana MD, Bauer-Rowe KE, Abu-Remaileh M, Clavain L, Erdemir A, Lewis CA, Freinkman E, Dickey AS, La Spada AR, Huang Y, Bell GW, Deshpande V, Carmeliet P, Katajisto P, Sabatini DM, Yilmaz ÖH.
    Cell Stem Cell. 2018 May 3;22(5):769-778.e4. doi: 10.1016/j.stem.2018.04.001.

    Mitogenic influence of human R-spondin1 on the intestinal epithelium.
    Kim KA, Kakitani M, Zhao J, Oshima T, Tang T, Binnerts M, Liu Y, Boyle B, Park E, Emtage P, Funk WD, Tomizuka K.
    Science. 2005 Aug 19;309(5738):1256-9.

    Nuvelo, Inc. Announces Positive Results from Phase 1 Clinical Trial of NU206 in Healthy Volunteers.
    Published: Dec 10, 2008

    Anti-inflammatory mechanism of dieting and fasting revealed.
    By Karen N. Peart
    February 16, 2015

    Master detox molecule boosts immune defenses.
    Scientists discover an unknown immune mechanism.

    April 18, 2017

    Glutathione Primes T Cell Metabolism for Inflammation.
    Mak TW, Grusdat M, Duncan GS, Dostert C, Nonnenmacher Y, Cox M, Binsfeld C, Hao Z, Brüstle A, Itsumi M, Jager C, Chen Y, Pinkenburg O, Camara B, Ollert M, Bindslev-Jensen C, Vasiliou V, Gorrini C, Lang PA, Lohoff M, Harris IS, Hiller K, Brenner D.
    Immunity. 2017 Apr 18;46(4):675-689. doi: 10.1016/j.immuni.2017.03.019.

    The effect of fasting on leukocyte and plasma glutathione and sulfur amino acid concentrations.
    Martensson J.
    Metabolism. 1986 Feb;35(2):118-21.

    Fasting triggers stem cell regeneration of damaged, old immune system
    BY Suzanne Wu - USC News
    June 5, 2014

    Prolonged Fasting Reduces IGF-1/PKA to Promote Hematopoietic-Stem-Cell-Based Regeneration and Reverse Immunosuppression
    Chia-Wei Cheng, Gregor B. Adams, Laura Perin, Min Wei, Xiaoying Zhou, Ben S. Lam, Stefano Da Sacco, Mario Mirisola, David I. Quinn, Tanya B. Dorff, John J. Kopchick, Valter D. Longo
    Cell Stem Cell. 2014 Jun 5; 14(6): 810-823.


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    That sounds interesting if I could make it a whole day without getting light-headed.

    I have reduced my meals to two per day & the amount to 1/2 due to early satiety.

    Eating food is revolting.  Varying from plain meat/veg/fruit causes GI problems.

    Got celiac in my late 50's after the introduction of modern wheat with it's massive increase in gluten content to 17 x the 1960's wheat, & its been downhill since then. No gluten cross-reactors are permitted : yeast, egg, dairy & coffee. No oils due to the toxic residue of hexane, bleach, defoaming agents, deodorizers. Cannot tolerate preservatives (nitrates/sulfites/celery powder)      I pay dearly when I ingest any of these additives & residues & preservatives.

    The geneticists thought they were so smart in hybridization of wheat to make it insect & drought resistant. Instead they made it "people resistant". If I had ONLY been warned this was coming, the harm could have been avoided.  It makes me feel like the entire US population were the test subjects of this harmful cross-breeding experiment.  

    Thanks for this article, I'll start my own experimentation with fasting.

    I hope that one day scientists find a way by which humans can swallow a pill in exchange for eating food.

    Celiac disease when at its worse is a living hell.



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    Not surprised. My gi naturally after my gluten challenge could not handle food. My digestion was impaired amongst many other symptoms. I would blend and purée foods anti inflammatory food combos for weeks.  I remember my celiac cousin asked one day what did you eat today ? early in recovery, I replied a peach and tons of water.

    I still remember months later when my gallbladder "turned back on" before then any attempt to eat meat had me awake all night in tears as my body struggled to digest with sub par performance of bile, gastric juices and enzymes apparent from my organs. I'd say to myself ok can't handle meat yet . Tcm helped tremendously to aid the healing process and no joke I slept for 2 years trying to repair 4 decades of damage.

    As many know some cultures do a periodic fast at certain times of year and often times researchers report how their group reveals better health overall. 

    So the researchers findings doesn't surprise me at all (science background), but a great conformation read.  

    For those who can't fast perhaps as many veterans on celiac .com suggest bone broth /clear liquids you make at home may be a good start. I use crock pot to make them and freeze batch excess. It maybe a way to experience relief and jump start health if a full fast cant be done, A quasi fast. As always lots of water!

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    This article is fascinating but I wish it would have included the actual fasting schedule and what exactly is meant by "fasting".  Is this water only?  Liquids only?  What is the 2 to 4 day cycle over 6 months?  Two days fasting, 4 days regular for 6 months?  That seems extreme.

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    To AWOL: Thanks for your message.  So sorry to hear about your struggles with health. I never thought about TCM. My mother always told me that as bad as I think my life is; "look around & see what others are experiencing and you'll see what bad really is".  Due to my aging joints I began supplementing my Wellesse joint supplement with: 1/3 cup bone broth followed by 1/3 c cherry juice. I haven't bought the collagen II pills yet.  Just adding the broth & juice has made me feel better.  Joint pain has mostly subsided.

    To George: Agreed, not enough information supplied. Humans should no be more than 3 days without fluids or the kidneys begin to shut-down.


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    The following March 2019 article provides exciting new findings on the benefits of fasting, fasting-mimicking diet, and cell regeneration resulting from such dieting.  It is an "Open Access" article and can be freely read in html or pdf format:

    Fasting-Mimicking Diet Modulates Microbiota and Promotes Intestinal Regeneration to Reduce Inflammatory Bowel Disease Pathology
    Priya Rangan, Inyoung Choi, Min Wei, Gerardo Navarrete, Esra Guen, Sebastian Brandhorst, Nobel Enyati, Gab Pasia, Daral Maesincee, Vanessa Ocon, Maya Abdulridha, Valter D. Longo
    Cell Reports, Volume 26, Issue 10, 5 March 2019, Pages 2704-2719.e6


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    I’ve wondered about fasting after being glutened, to see if recovery is faster or easier. It usually takes about two week to get over being glutened. I got glutened (again) this week, after three days of painful diarrhea I decided to just stop eating for a while. I’ve been doing intermittent fasting since December (2019). I’ve also done long term fasting of three or seven days in the past, for religious reasons. I just finished reading The Obesity Code, by Jason Fung, and he talks about fasting to reset insulin resistance. 
    Right now I just want relief from painful symptoms.  It’s been about 24 hours since I last ate, and I’m feeling pretty cleaned out, but not really tired or hungry. I am tempted my the chips & nuts around the house, but I know what will happen if I eat something. Better not. 

    Has anyone else tried fasting to recover from being glutened? 

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  • About Me

    Roy S. Jamron holds a B.S. in Physics from the University of Michigan and an M.S. in Engineering Applied Science from the University of California at Davis, and independently investigates the latest research on celiac disease and related disorders.

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