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Can Fasting Help with Anxiety and Depression?

Can Fasting Help with Anxiety and Depression?

Find out if a restricted eating plan has a positive impact on your mood and behavior

The epidemic of anxiety and depression is engulfing the world. Globally, one in every 13 people suffer from anxiety and over 264 million people have depression. While there are many causes of mental health issues—think stress and lifestyle—consistent research has also linked them with eating habits. And when assessed their treatment options, psychiatrists prescribe a mix of therapy, medication and self-care that includes regular exercise and healthy food habits.

Connection Between Fasting and Mood

A study on therapeutic and religious fasting showed that for most people fasting was followed by “mood improvement, a subjective feeling of well-being and sometimes of euphoria”. Another research that studied the impact of calorie restriction on depression found out that fasting can be used as a therapeutic strategy against depression. The research showed that fasting increased the production of ketone, which is a byproduct of fatty acids. Ketone is a compound that has a pain relieving effect on our body and it prevents, which is a condition responsible for low blood sugar, bad mood and irritability.

An intervention study asserted the same findings and revealed that men who practiced intermittent fasting showed significant decrease in tension and anger, and felt much more active when compared to those who did not practice intermittent fasting. Another benefit of fasting is that it aids one in sleeping better, which automatically makes one feel rested and rejuvenated.

Impact of Fasting on Hormones


How we feel is intrinsically linked to our hormones. To a large extent hormonal balance is influenced by what and how we eat. According to a research published in the British Journal of Nutrition, intermittent fasting results in visible improvements in insulin sensitivity. Well regulated insulin sensitivity helps you steer clear of Type-2 diabetes and high blood sugar levels, but other than this it also strengthens your cognitive abilities, like decision making, and stabilizes your energy levels. People who have Type-2 diabetes are two to three times more susceptible to anxiety and depression. Dieticians often recommend time-restricted eating and fasting to control insulin secretion.

Controlled food restriction and fasting has shown increased levels of norepinephrine. Norepinephrine based anti-depressants are employed to treat depressive symptoms like lack of energy and erratic behavior. When people get a surge of norepinephrine induced by fasting, they experience enhanced mood.

Fasting techniques like circadian fasting (fasting according to your body’s circadian rhythm and eating only in the daylight hours) leads to better nutrient absorption and controls the excessive production of hunger hormones (ghrelin and leptin) that subdues impulses like sugar craving. It also stabilizes cortisol, which subsequently makes one feel calm and composed even during demanding times.

Impact of Fasting on Blood Pressure And Obesity

Fasting can also help control high blood pressure. And anything that is good for your heart will also be good for your brain. Conditions like pre-hypertension or hypertension lower the blood flow to our brain. This impacts our neurological activities and causes headaches and fatigue. These small stressors make depression and anxiety worse. It has been observed in SPECT scans that low blood flow is linked with mood disorders like depression, ADHD, generalized anxiety disorder and even schizophrenia.

Another way in which fasting can help mitigate the impact of anxiety and depression is by helping people burn fat and manage obesity. An expansive body of work has linked obesity to mental health issues like low self-esteem, body dysmorphia and eating disorders. These things have the potential to develop into anxiety and depression. Fasting helps one stay in shape and can be used as a method to treat obesity.