alt=one-third of a plate is highlighted and filled with food to represent intermittent fasting.

Intermittent Fasting and Macular Degeneration

Can intermittent fasting play a role in helping our dry form of macular degeneration? Many theories exist which seem to lean in that direction.

Intermittent fasting can lead to autophagy, which is the degradation and recycling of cellular debris or simply put; cellular cleansing. Does that include the drusen in eyes with macular degeneration?  Drusen are the small deposits of cellular debris that accumulate under the retina. Or as Sue, one of our advocates explains it; eye poop!

But how long must we fast to induce autophagy?

There are different ways to do intermittent fasting. A popular weight-loss-focused one right now is the 5:2 plan, where you eat regularly for 5 days and then very low calories ( approximately 500 calories) for 2 days. Another is alternate-day fasting: having a very low-calorie day every other day.

I think a more reasonable-sounding plan is the one I’ve been following for a few years. This one is 16:8, where you fast for 16 hours and only eat during the other 8. It is easy to do. You’re fasting while you sleep, so then extend that to around noon. You can still have your coffee, but without cream or sugar. Then over the next 8 hours, have your 2 or 3 meals, but don’t eat past 8 PM. Or you could choose any 8 hour time period that works with your schedule.

Many follow the 18:6 plan, which is what I occasionally do, more from forgetting to stop what I’m doing and eat than planned. When following a low-carb diet, you feel full longer. I normally don’t feel hungry until about 3 or 4 PM, although I usually eat lunch anyway. I enjoy food!  There are other ways of doing intermittent fasting, but these are the ones that I’ve found have been more researched.

Don't forget to stay hydrated!

No matter how long you fast, drink plenty of water to stay hydrated! You need the water you would have had from food. I usually have a large glass first thing in the morning so I won’t forget.

Understanding autophagy

But back to autophagy. It is now accepted that dysfunctions in autophagy play a role in many neurodegenerative diseases, including AMD. Here is the statement I stumbled across that led me to do this research: "...preservation of autophagy may protect RPE (retinal pigment epithelial) cells from degeneration and thus represents a potential tool to slow or even prevent the development of AMD. 1

Intermittent fasting has other health benefits besides autophagy. It increases stress resistance, suppresses inflammation, and helps defend against oxidative and metabolic stress, among others. 2

Additional benefits

One very recent study called intermittent time-restricted feeding and using flies, studied the timing of the fasting as well. It claims the many benefits, including extended lifespan, work best when the fasting is at night. As human cells use the same cell-cleaning process as flies, more studies may prove the same benefit. Other studies show similar results with mice. 3

Don't forget to talk to your doctor!

If you decide to try intermittent fasting, make sure to check with your doctor first to rule out any counter-indications. My doctor approves of my low-carb, IF lifestyle, and my annual bloodwork shows I couldn’t be better.

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