I recently heard Dr Satchin Panda (a time restricted eating ‘guru’) talk about some of the benefits of time restricted eating/feeding (TRF). One of these, was the idea that we could give our guts more time to ‘heal’ therefore resulting in less ‘leaky gut.’ This in turn results in less inflammation. We want to reduce inflammation (naturally) as too much of it is a sign that something is wrong.
Firstly, what is TRF? It’s basically intermittent fasting (IF) where we restrict our feeding time (not our total calories) to a limited number of hours in the day – usually between 12 and 16. Outside this feeding window, we don’t eat any calories (some people allow black tea and coffee). The basic premise of TRF is that we go into ‘healing mode’ when we don’t eat (which is why many healing processes happen when we sleep).
Secondly, what is ‘leaky gut’? To answer this, I need to talk about how food is digested.
We all know food from the stomach is mixed with digestive fluids to break it down a bit. It is then passed to the small intestine where it is further mixed with juices from the pancreas, liver and intestine itself. Inside the intestine we have trillions of bacteria that aid in the digestion of the food.
The outside wall of the intestine comprises a SINGLE layer of epithelial cells. These cells absorb water and nutrients from the food into the blood stream. They also securely contain the contents of the ‘lumen’ (the space inside the intestine). This is because the cells are joined together by ‘tight junctions’ creating a pretty damn impermeable wall…well almost.
Enter leaky gut.
Leaky gut is where there are small ‘holes’ in the wall, which allows partially digested food, toxins and bacterial into the blood stream. These substances shouldn’t be in the blood stream.
Inflammation is our body’s way of dealing with problems in the body, it’s an immune response and too much of it is a bad thing (as it’s a sure sign that something is wrong, and it’s harming tissues as ‘collateral damage’.
Dr Panda suggests that by increasing the time we do not eat, we give the gut more time to heal (I suppose by repairing these tight junctions). This results in less harmful substances getting into the bloodstream (i.e. less leaky gut), resulting in less inflammation and therefore a healthy human. Studies have shown that bio makers of inflammation ARE reduced through TRF.