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Intermittent Fasting: Powerful Effect on Anxiety & Depression

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Intermittent Fasting: Powerful Effect on Anxiety & Depression – Thomas DeLauer

Here’s how intermittent fasting can not only improve your mood, but also help support the production of new brain cells. We’re talking literally getting smarter. You see, everything I’m going to talk about in this video is backed up in peer-reviewed journals. I’m talking purely evidence-based science that truly looks at how fasting helps improve our mood and encourages the production of new brain cells.

But before we can start to understand how fasting literally affects the brain, we have to understand something known as brain-derived neurotropic factor, BDNF. BDNF is a naturally occurring growth hormone that helps promote what is called neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to migrate and shape-shift. We used to think that once you lost a brain cell, you lost it for good. But nowadays, we know that this BDNF thing allows our brains to produce new brain cells. If we have adequate amounts of BDNF, we can produce new brain cells, but also preserve existing brain cells. So, not only can we keep our brain from sort of dying off, we can actually help support new growth, especially when it comes down to memory.

So, what we have to look at is the relationship between fasting and BDNF. Fasting has been shown in multiple studies to improve brain-derived neurotropic factor, but specifically when it has to do with synapses. Synapses are where neurotransmitters travel from cell to cell, so without synapses, we don’t have the ability to send signals through serotonin or dopamine or any of those neurotransmitters. So, fasting has been shown to promote that. In fact, there was actually a study that was published in the Journal of Neurochemistry that found that simple bouts of intermittent fasting for just a few weeks could improve your BDNF levels anywhere from 50% all the way up to 400%. That’s pretty darn alarming. And now that we’re starting to understand how powerful BDNF is, this particular study just gained a heck of a lot more clout.

Now, we already know that fasting helps promote BDNF, which is powerful and cool in and of itself. But fasting specifically helps BDNF when it comes down to synapses. It promotes what is known as synaptic plasticity. Synaptic plasticity is a lot like simple brain plasticity, except it has to do with our synapses. And remember, synapses are what allow neurotransmitters to do their thing. So, when we have synaptic plasticity, it means that we’re able to modulate our moods a lot better. For example, we’re able to strengthen a synapse or weaken a synapse whenever possible. Now, you might be wondering, “Why would I ever want to weaken a synapse?” Well, let me give you an example. You wouldn’t want to constantly have a surge of serotonin going when you don’t need one. When you’re scared or your frightened, why would you want the feel-good hormone to be pumping? You want to be frightened, because that’s going to allow you to do the job that you need to do to get out of harm’s way.


1) Neuroplasticity in mood disorders. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3181795/

2) Neuroplasticity Studies Give Hope for Treatment Advances | Psychiatric News. (2008, January 18). Retrieved from https://psychnews.psychiatryonline.org/doi/full/10.1176/pn.43.2.0028

3) Brain-derived neurotrophic factor ( BDNF ) gene: no major impact on antidepressant treatment response | International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology | Oxford Academic. (2010, February 1). Retrieved from https://academic.oup.com/ijnp/article/13/1/93/647804

4) Fasting and Exercise Increase Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor – Rogue Health and Fitness. (2017, September 5). Retrieved from http://roguehealthandfitness.com/fasting-exercise-increase-brain-derived-neurotrophic-factor/

5) Dr Brady Salcido. (2017, November 11). 6 Surprising Brain Power Benefits of Intermittent Fasting. Retrieved from https://medium.com/@drbradysalcido/6-surprising-brain-power-benefits-of-intermittent-fasting-49ad1bc39e04

6) Mattson MP , et al. (n.d.). Meal size and frequency affect neuronal plasticity and vulnerability to disease: cellular and molecular mechanisms. – PubMed – NCBI. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12558961
7) All You Need to Know About BDNF + Natural Ways to Increase It – Selfhacked. (2018, June 11). Retrieved from https://www.selfhacked.com/blog/a-comprehensive-list-of-natural-ways-to-increase-bdnf/#BDNF_and_Wellness

8) BDNF signaling: Harnessing stress to battle mood disorder. (2018, April 10). Retrieved from http://www.pnas.org/content/115/15/3742.short


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  1. I feel exhausted all the day and I feel low … During intermittent fasting and water fasting

  2. I am currently fasting. 1.5 months (intermittently) in and I’ve lost 20 pounds. I feel less mental fog and love the fact that I’m losing weight.

  3. I fasted for 2 days and it made me more calm, usually I'm anxious and panicky.

  4. when i started doing 16/8 IF had no idea it would help with anxiety; just arrived here by google search to see if other people felt it too. 100% gone. Days when I don't fast it starts creeping back. every time.

  5. Thomas, I really struggle with bad anxiety after fasting when I eat. I will eat a good keto meal then the anxiety kicks in bad. Can you explain this? Is it a good thing bad thing, or what please help! Thanks

  6. oh . forgot to say I'm also on keto. I've lost like 30 pounds but my main interest is my mood and health primary.

  7. How BDNF can be measured ? I've been on IF for around 3 months and still feel anxious and depressed . I am considering making extended fasting of at least 2 or 3 days . I wish I could say I feel mental clarity on fasting . I have lots of faith on fasting . since it is millenarian. and it's in the Bible.

  8. I've been so depressed since I started fasting!

  9. Hey Thomas, not sure if this is mentioned somewhere else in the comments but wanted to make sure people know that during Ramadan, the fasting is dry fasting. At least with the Muslims clients I have. I'm a massage therapist and was surprised when my clients told me they couldn't have water following massage because of fasting for Ramadan. Since dry fasting is so extreme, I thought it was important to mention. Thanks for the fantastic informative videos!

  10. I had severe anxiety but getting better so i fasted for 6 days my 5 days was fine didn’t need to take anything for sleep,didn’t feel anxiety so i said it awesome but when i got to my 6 day my Anxiety attack is that normal? My brain is awake again and took my herbs for sleep. Should i keep fasting? I’ve heard a lot of good benifits of it.

  11. This video is such bullshit. Since I started fasting, I started having regular panic attacks.

  12. Been doing OMAD and IF on and off for 2 months now. I can see the progress and its getting easier everyday, i don't even feel that hungry in my meal time.

  13. I know that Muslims and their fasting can become a case study, but it's a real turn off bringing such an volatile group into a discussion on health, or give them credit for anything. Wherever there is trouble in this world, there is, in most cases Islam – a group of people that are taught that non-muslims (infidels), are dirt. It's always a real turn off to bring religious practice into anything that's scientific, especially when Muhammad himself was a mass murderer.

  14. well today was day 8 for me doing a 16:8 and I lost my sh** for several hours over almost nothing… please tell me this will pass!

  15. Serotonin isn't exclusively a "feel good" neurotransmitter. It depends on which receptor it's signaling to. 5ht2a and 5ht2c are not receptors you want chronically activated. Suicide victims have a very high expression of both. Serotonin directs your nervous system according to status perception. I think it has to do with "threat awareness". This is why you can go bad on xtc. Activation of "negative" serotonin receptors. On xtc you just have everything going of at once. Serotonin in that case is causing secondary activation of oxytocin, crh(cortisol), dopamine, adrenalin etc. That's why xtc is superbad, because of the hyperactivation of the hpa axis.

  16. Hey Thomas, I really appreciate your amazing informative videos. You got me back on track and I'm down 45 lbs. I've been doing intermittent fasting the past 6ish months. I do at least 12/12 everyday, but I try getting it close to 16 fasting 8 eating if my schedule allows. Im wondering if this a healthy way to continue my personal fasting schedule.

  17. What you but into your mouth after fasting period , lets not forget:)

  18. people who give this a thumbs down are trolls!

  19. I have a panic attack disorder, would this help with the panic attacks?

  20. Oh Thomas thank you for these enlightening fasting videos! Love the detailed information.

  21. Ive lost 180 lbs water fasting and i feel better than ever of course due to not being ridiculously huge I am under 30% body fat now but i am stressed out and depressed from not being able to eat for over half a year. I almost had a mental breakdown at one point with the stresses of my normal life combined with this additional stress. But its worth it to transform my body but i cant sit here and lie and pretend that it doesnt take an enormous toll on me mentally and psychologically. Every day drags on and goes slower i dont sleep as much due to not using energy to digest. I feel a void is missing in my life and i chew on air. Now maybe when i reach my goal and do some normal healthy eating and normal IF i can say i feel better mentally and physically but for my experience water fasting is absolutely great for my body and really bad for my mind.

  22. Are headaches common with fasting? How do you prevent them?

  23. Hej Thomas
    I watched all your videos on ketosis and fasting. In some videos you dig in deeper into the substance then in others. I now understand all the processes that are taking part when I put myself on a ketogenic diet, when I do intermittent fasting or when I combine these two. Apart from all the positive effects I still don't know if it is good for me personally. And out of all this complicated theoretical knowledge it is hard to work out the important parts which are ment for me, my body and my goals. It would be great if you could do a video in which you could give practical advice on how exactly different body types like ectomorphs or endomorphs with different physiques and different goals should use these princips.( For example: I am studying sportsscience and I therefore do a lot of sport. I would consider myself an athlete. I'm an ectomorph ( I can eat wathever I want and I don't stpre fat), but still am quite muscular. My goal is to grow some more muscles and when I have "enough" staying on that level. I could of course just continue with my regular nutrition- plan and exercise and get the results I want, but ketosis and fasting are sounding healthier…)what would be right for me?
    Greetings from Switzerland
    Jan Wohlgemuth

  24. Is this still safe if I am type 1 diabetic? I've been doing it for a month and I've noticed results right away, but is there a chance that I slip into diabetic ketoacidosis, which is very fatal

  25. Hi. Love the science and references on the channel. This video did not cover this. But I was wondering if you knew any research on fasting and the regeneration of telomeres? My apologies if you have covered this before. Thank you.

  26. More good news for fasting!

  27. Love this channel and one thing I wish you would talk more about if type 2 diabetes been doing IF and keto and I’ve stopped talking insulin and I’ve never felt so good… now I’d like to learn how to build muscle with best food for type 2 since I can’t eat many carb… I eat like maybe 20 grams a day…

  28. Boi just dropped the word clout in his scientific description of intermittent fasting benefits… Thomas stays awn his shit ✊🏼

  29. IF has completely changed my body, both internally and externally. I had a severe case of IBS, which I got after contracting Salmonella. Constant gases, stomach pains, and bloating. Been doing IF for 4 months and all my symptoms are gone. And though i’ve always been fit, IF has made me incredibly lean. So thanks, Thomas, for making this so publicly available. Changed my life for the better 👍🏻

  30. I started nomad and adf. To lose weight but the antidepressant benefits are the best part. I've been doing omad for 2 years and no depression. Not taking antidepressant medication has made weight management so much easier. Antidepressants make you fat

  31. Can anti-depressants break a fast?

  32. I've been doing 20/4 fasting for almost 6 months now, did 16/8 before that. Do the effects diminish once you get used to fasting since I don't really notice the benefits anymore.

  33. Another great video.. can you do a video on keto bulking.. I'm about 200 pounds and getting close to my body fat percentage, but I would like to be a steady 225 of course without the body fat.. do you have any advice on how to do that with either keto or/and fasting?

  34. Hi thomas
    I have a question about tasting while cooking does it trigger insulin because not everyone around is on the same diet plan as you and your the only person that cooks lol so for example stir fry beef with broccoli and using sauces that have alot of sugar like teriyaki sauce or oysters sauce and tasting the meat to check for flavor does it trigger insulin or does this have any bad side effects for keto or fasting?

    Second question
    So some time the craving or temptation is to overwhelming and you want to not necessarily cheat but have a taste of something sweet can you taste and then spit out sweets for example 1 piece of pink starburst and sucking and spitting out what ever desolves in your mouth would this have any bad side effects to keto or fasting and does rinsing your mouth out with chocolate milk just to get the taste and then spitting it out ok?

  35. I know you can drink coffee, tea and water. Is drinking protein water breaking fast?

  36. I don't know.

    It seems intermitent
    fasting makes me somewhat
    moody and anxious.
    At least in the first few days
    of starting it.

  37. Is Low carb healthy for Teens ?

  38. If you are practicing intermittent fasting but need to take medicine in the morning with food, what food(s) should you take it with?

  39. Hi Thomas
    I'm one of your New Subscribers I just LUV your Videos 💟

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