Gastrointestinal infections and other gut problems can become a chronic, long-term problem as we lose the ability to naturally regenerate intestinal stem cells, the source of all new cells in the gut.
But fasting for 24 hours can kick-start the process even when you are older, researchers from MIT have discovered. After fasting, our cells start to break down fatty acids instead of glucose, or blood sugar, and this metabolic switch is enough to start the regeneration of stem cells.
Intestinal stem cells maintain the lining of the intestine, and normally they renew themselves every five days or so. The process is vital following an injury or infection as it helps repair the damage—but this ability to renew declines as we get older.
The MIT researchers, who tested a group of laboratory mice of all ages, discovered that fasting doubled the regenerative abilities of the stem cells.