Welcome to a journey of insightful exploration into the world of intermittent fasting. As a dedicated practitioner in the field of natural health, it’s my pleasure to present you with a comprehensive article that unravels the intricate tapestry of intermittent fasting—one of today’s most discussed and intriguing wellness practices.
In this article, we’ll delve into ten essential truths and facts about intermittent fasting, each shedding light on its effects, benefits, and potential limitations. From weight management and insulin resistance to the delicate interplay of hormones and the impacts on stress, we’ll navigate through the scientific terrain with a holistic perspective.
In a world where wellness practices abound, it’s crucial to discern what aligns with your unique needs. This article aims to empower you with knowledge, enabling you to make informed decisions about integrating intermittent fasting into your lifestyle. So, let’s embark on this journey together, discovering the nuanced realities of intermittent fasting that will guide you toward balanced health and vitality.
#1: Intermittent fasting is good for weight loss
That’s because when you restrict the time in which you can eat, it restricts how much you can eat. So when you restrict how much you can eat, it pushes you into a calorie deficit, which then allows you to lose weight. Fasting restricts the time in which you can eat, and it also helps limit boredom eating and mindless eating. This helps eliminate a whole lot of eating that can lead to weight gain. Compressing the time in which you can eat restricts what you can eat to the food you need, not any extra.
#2: Intermittent fasting is good for insulin resistance.
Insulin resistance results from eating too much carbohydrate too frequently. So when you don’t eat for long periods of time (fast), this reduces the amount and frequency of carbohydrates you eat and this then helps reduce your insulin production. This is important because insulin resistance causes type 2 diabetes and weight gain.
When you eat carbohydrates too frequently, your body produces insulin constantly and over time your cells become less and less sensitive to it. This results in your body needing to release more and more insulin to keep your blood sugars steady.
Now, this is an issue for weight control because insulin is a fat-storing hormone. So, as your cells become less and less sensitive to insulin, and your levels become higher it pushes your body into a fat-storing mode and blocks you from fat burning.
So, intermittent fasting is good for insulin resistance because it restricts how much carbohydrate you eat and the frequency that you eat it, which then brings down your overall insulin levels and enhances your cell’s sensitivity to it.
This then reduces the fat storing signal, and as you lower the fat storing signal, it increases the fat burning signal and you can lose weight.
#3: Intermittent fasting is good if you have high blood sugar levels.
High blood sugar levels are often the result of insulin resistance. So, as the cells become less and less sensitive to insulin, the ability to move sugars from the bloodstream and into the cell becomes less and less.
And as a result, blood sugar levels start to rise. Eventually, this leads to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
Excess sugar in the bloodstream can damage the blood vessels, which can lead to eye damage, kidney damage, nerve damage, and many other complications. So, with intermittent fasting, when you restrict how much you eat and the time in which you can eat, it gives your body a nice break from sugar coming into your system.
This then resensitizes the cells to insulin, which makes them more effective at drawing sugar out of the bloodstream and this lowers blood sugar levels.
#4: Intermittent fasting is stressful on the body.
It’s not talked about much, but intermittent fasting is a stress on the body.
When you don’t eat for long periods of time, it causes the body to release stress hormones to keep your blood sugars stable. If your blood sugars get too low, then you would die.
This is what happens to type 1 diabetics if they take too much insulin and don’t eat enough. Their blood sugar levels drop so low that their cells cannot survive.
Now, for non-diabetic people, that’s not going to happen to them. But when you don’t eat for long periods of time, the body has to do something to keep the blood sugars up. And so it releases the stress hormone cortisol.
So when you fast regularly you activate your stress response regularly. This would be fine if this was the only stress your body had to deal with, but when we have so much stress in our lives already, then intermittent fasting just becomes another stress on the body.
#5: Intermittent fasting is bad if you have adrenal fatigue or burnout, to put it more simply.
If you’ve had a lot of stress in your life or have a lot of stress in your life, then as I just mentioned, intermittent fasting becomes another stress on your body that it could probably do without. When your stress response system is already overworked and then you don’t eat for long periods of time, you worsen your stress response adaptibility, not improve it.
If you have adrenal fatigue or burnout, then intermittent fasting is going to burn your system out more. Intermittent fasting is more suitable for people with good adrenal function and a resilient stress response because then it can resist the stress of not eating.
But for a lot of people, and I see many patients in this situation, intermittent fasting ends up being counterproductive rather than beneficial.
#6: Intermittent fasting is bad if you have low blood sugar levels.
To keep your blood sugar steady, you need good adrenal function and good cortisol output. Now, if you’re someone who’s prone to low blood sugar levels, then it’s more than likely that you have adrenal fatigue or suboptimal adrenal function.
So then, if you do intermittent fasting, you put further stress on an exhausted system, and you’ll make your blood sugar issues worse. So, if you’re already prone to low blood sugar levels, then intermittent fasting may trigger more frequent episodes of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar levels) and you’ll feel worse for intermittent fasting rather than better.
#7: Intermittent fasting is bad for weight loss.
It can seem paradoxical that intermittent fasting can be both good but also bad for weight loss.
While fasting limits your calorie intake and pushes you into a calorie deficit, fasting can also trigger the famine response in your body which suppresses and slows your metabolism.
Your body adapts to less food and your metabolism slows, often to the point that the calorie intake that gave you a deficit may now give you a surplus.
And even though you eat less, you don’t lose any weight. So, for intermittent fasting to help with weight loss, your stress response needs to be strong so your body can cope with lower calories without dialling down metabolism.
#8: Intermittent fasting is good for men and women.
However, men and women respond differently to intermittent fasting. Men seem to do better with long fasts, 14 to 16 hours.
Whereas women do better with shorter fasts, 12 to 14 hours.
#9: It doesn’t matter what time of the day you do your fast.
When you fast is extremely important. This is because, metabolically, your body responds differently to food during the day than it does at night. During the day you need energy because you’re up and about and you’re moving. Whereas at night you’re asleep, so you need far less energy. So this means it’s better to eat at the beginning of the day rather than at the end of the day.
However, most intermittent fasting advice has been to skip breakfast and not eat until lunchtime.
The thinking behind this is based on the assumption that once you’re up and you’re moving if you don’t eat then your body will tap into its reserves (body fat) to get the energy it needs.
This sounds true, but as I mentioned earlier in this article, when you don’t eat it causes the release of stress hormones. So when you don’t eat in the morning and skip breakfast then you’re running on stress hormones until lunchtime. When you’re running on stress hormones you’re suppressing your metabolism. exactly the opposite of what you’re wanting to do.
However, if you eat a good sized breakfast and then a good sized lunch, and then have a small early dinner, and then fast from that early dinner all the way through until breakfast again, then most of the fasting is done when you’re not moving and when you’re sleeping.
This is far less stressful on the body and doesn’t trigger excess stress hormone production which doesn’t suppress your metabolism. It doesn’t switch on the adaptive mode and slow down your metabolic rate.
So when it comes to intermittent fasting, you’re better off skipping dinner, not breakfast. Eat during the daylight hours, and then fast during the nighttime hours.
#10: Intermittent fasting can cause hormone imbalances.
Because intermittent fasting triggers the stress response it can be detrimental to hormone balance, particularly in women. When the body is under stress, as it is in fasting, reproduction is seen as non-essential so reproductive hormone production is suppressed.
This adaptation is what causes pre-menopausal women to lose their period when their body weight drops too low and hot flushes, night sweats and irritability in peri-menopausal women.
So as you digest (no pun intended) these ten essential truths and facts about intermittent fasting, I encourage you to reflect on the intricate interplay of science and individuality. Hopefully, you now have a greater understanding of the complexities of this practice, from its impact on weight management and insulin resistance to its effects on hormones and stress.
Remember, wellness is a mosaic, and what suits one may not fit another. Intermittent fasting, though celebrated for its potential benefits, requires a personalised approach. With this newfound understanding, you’re better equipped to navigate your path to vibrant health.
As a dedicated naturopath, I’m here to support you in weaving intermittent fasting into your lifestyle, should you choose. Embrace your unique needs, and may this knowledge empower you on your quest for holistic wellbeing.