Intermittent Fasting and Spinal Cord Injury

intermittent fastingI must admit, 4 years ago when I first started reading about intermittent fasting I responded like most people usually do, I doubted it because it went against everything I had ever learned about proper nutrition and healthy eating. After months of reading research articles I decided to give intermittent fasting a try, the typical dogma of eating 6 small meals a day and never skipping breakfast was blown to smithereens

To this day I have continued the intermittent fasting lifestyle, I dropped from 200lbs to a lean 170lbs, from a 14-16% body fat percentage to a consistent 9-10%, I saw energy levels increase, my attention levels and my ability to retain newly learned information increased as well.

Martin Berkhan, in my opinion is the guru who designed the lean gains intermittent fasting program (the one I follow) if you have not already, please check out his site for specifics on his intermittent fasting program.

Intermittent fasting has been researched and proven to have health benefits including

-Decreasing risk for cardiovascular disease

-Decrease cancer risk

-Lower risk of diabetes and increased insulin sensitivity

-Improved cognitive function

-Weight loss and

-Increased energy to name a few.

Now, I am not going to use this as a springboard to advise anyone to try this diet lifestyle as I did. If you are interested in trying intermittent fasting I would strongly urge you to discuss this with your doctor. I am simply putting this information out there to educate those who may be interested in intermittent fasting and how it works, especially those living with disabilities.

So, I decided to research the effects of intermittent fasting on the disabled population (specifically those living with spinal cord injury) I found several studies that discuss the benefits for those living with spinal cord injury.

For the most part everything I found discussed the amazing benefits and improved healing properties that this diet had. The majority of studies included the use of rats with thoracic level spinal cord injuries. These rats were put into different groups and ultimately the studies showed that healing was increased in those rats that were put on every other day fasting as well as the longevity of their lives were increased over their counterparts.

Intermittent Fasting and spinal cord injuryOne doctor reported “Fasting helps because it dampens the body’s immune system, causing fewer overzealous immune cells to reach the site of spinal injury. These cells sometimes block off the site of injury to such an extent that they prevent nerve regeneration.”

But he also stated “patients with spinal cord injury have undergone a major trauma to their body, which can result in profound metabolic changes that potentially leave them at risk of malnutrition, which fasting may exacerbate.”

-see full articles here:


“Dr. Wolfram Tetzlaff, the Associate Director of the International Collaboration on Repair Discoveries (ICORD) and professor in the Departments of Zoology and Surgery at the University of British Columbia, investigated the efficacy of every-other-day fasting (EODF) to improve functional recovery following SCI and found exciting results.

EODF, as it sounds, is the restriction of food for 24 hours every 48 hours (0 to 24 hours without food, 24 to 48 with, 48 to 72 without…).  Though it may sound torturous and unhealthy, EODF and other forms of dietary restriction have been shown to increase lifespan and promote recovery following stroke, as well as other neurologic and non-neurologic diseases.

In two studies (Plunet et al., 2008 and Jeong et al., 2011), Dr. Tetzlaff’s group found that EODF for 7 to 10 weeks following rat cervical and thoracic spinal cord injuries increased neuroprotection, improved functional recovery, and promoted plasticity when compared to control groups either on an ad libitum diet or on basic calorie restriction (comparable to that of EODF) following injury”

Read on here:

Plunet et al.,2008

Jeong et al., 2011

Ultimately, while it is still controversial, intermittent fasting does have scientific research to support its use for those living with disabilities as well as those without.

Knowing that secondary complications tend to increase following a disability it may be worth having a discussion with your Doctor to go over the pros and cons of giving intermittent fasting a try.

About the Author 

Devon palermoDevon Palermo LPTA,CPT
Licensed Physical Therapist Assistant
NESTA-Certified Personal Trainer
ISSA-Certified Exercise Therapist/Specialist in Adaptive Fitness
NESTA-Certified Biomechanics Specialist
BFI-Certified Boxing Fitness Instructor



“Never Give Up”-Winston Churchill
“Those who do not find time for exercise will have to find time for illness”- Earl of Derby

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