SHAFAQNA Türkiye – Psychotherapist and specialist in internal medicine Dr. Selin Yurdakul provided information on the effects of fasting on the brain and psychology. Pointing out that fasting increases resilience to stress, Yurdakul said: “The intermittent fasting diet, which is very fashionable lately, involves eating periods of 8 hours after a 16-hour fast, or fasting periods of 4 hours within 20 hours. Fasting during Ramadan is actually a good example of intermittent fasting. Much has been discussed about the impact of intermittent eating on physical health. So how does this diet affect our brain? During fasting, glucose drops and ketones are used as an energy source. The use of ketones leads to an increase in the level of BDNF (brain natriuretic peptide). By activating neurogenesis and neuroplasticity, BDNF provides brain restructuring and has a rejuvenating effect. This result indicates that fasting has a potential role in increasing resilience to stress, as well as maintaining and improving cognitive function. Another change in the brain during fasting is an increase in serotonin and tryptophan levels. It is about improving well-being and reducing the perception of pain. The release of endogenous opioids is also associated with improved well-being,” he said.
“Reward leads to positive psychological experiences such as achievement, pride, and a sense of control.”
Dr. Selin Yurdakul also stated that neuropeptide Y levels have been found to increase during fasting in rodent experiments, adding: “In general, fasting activates stress-resistance defense mechanisms in cells that counterbalance the potentially harmful effects of stress-induced increases in cortisol and catecholamines. In contrast, overeating is associated with chronic neuroendocrine activation, which increases neuronal degeneration and impairs neurogenesis. While fasting can cause negative feelings such as irritability and fatigue in the short term, it leads to positive psychological experiences such as reward, achievement, pride, and a sense of control in the long term. Those who fast for the first time may have more negative emotions at the beginning, while experienced ones may have more positive ones. These positive emotions are more common, especially in those who are highly motivated because of their religious beliefs. In a study examining the relationship between fasting and people’s psychological well-being during Ramadan, it was found that mean values for self-acceptance, autonomy, positive relationships, environmental adaptation, and personal development increased significantly after fasting. There are also publications on the model of Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy, confirming the positive effect of fasting. However, for people with chronic conditions, I recommend that you consult your doctor before trying diets like intermittent fasting. Of course, another point to consider is to make healthy choices during breaking the fast and suhoor.”
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