To fast or not to fast?

Fasting has a long history in cultures around the world, many of whom practice fasting for religious or spiritual purposes. It was also a natural part of evolution and our ancestors would have had extended periods of time without eating.

Fast forward to the present and Intermittent fasting (IF) or fast mimicking diets have been talked about a lot on social media, boasting health benefits including weight loss, and the potential to prevent and reverse chronic illnesses such as obesity, hypertension and asthma.

IF also shows promise for improving autoimmune conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis. So, if like me you are curious to try intermittent fasting for yourself, read on to discover more.

What is it?
As the name suggests, IF is a term for eating patterns that cycle between periods of fasting and periods of eating. There are many different methods however fasting periods typically last between 12-16 hours daily or 24hours once or twice a week. Most commonly, people adopt a 16-hour fasting period whereby they eat between 11am – 7pm.

What are the benefits?
IF is often used for weight loss, however it’s reported benefits are much broader than this. According to the science, when you fast for an extended period of time, the body has the chance to rest, repair cells and recover. New research studies demonstrate the potential of fasting to reduce oxidative damage and inflammation, optimise energy metabolism, and boost cellular protection.

IF and autoimmune disease.
Studies have shown the potential benefits of IF for autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis. This is based on the research that when you fast for an extended period of time, the body has the chance to breakdown damaged cells and whilst encouraging growth of healthy cells. IF is also reported to reduce intestinal permeability, modulate your body’s stress response and reduce leptin - a type of pro-inflammatory cytokine that is elevated in people with autoimmune conditions.

A word to the wise.
If you do want to try intermittent fasting, my advice is to proceed with caution and start slowly. Whilst I would encourage anyone who decides to embark on a trial of intermittent fasting to consult a medical professional first, if you have a health concern such as an autoimmune condition, are taking medication at meal times or have low blood pressure, IF might not be the right fit for you.

Additionally, if you are a woman and you are dealing with hormonal imbalances, thyroid issues or adrenal fatigue, an overnight fast for a 12-hour period might achieve the best results. The reason for this is that fasting can throw your hormones out of balance. Add to that the stress from a fast, it can exacerbate thyroid disorders and chronic fatigue if you fast for longer periods.

What to expect.

Accept that you will feel hungry.
This might seem obvious however, acceptance is key. A way to dampen this feeling is to avoid looking at, smelling or even thinking about food when you’re fasting. During the eating phase, ensure that you are eating nutritionally balanced meals that focus on high fibre moderate protein and healthy fats.

You might feel tired
It’s absolutely normal to feel tired when you first start fasting. You’re running on less energy and your sleep patterns may also be disrupted, since fasting can boost stress levels.

You may get irritable
I often ask my clients to track their food and mood because your nutrient intake has a direct effect on the activity of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. As a result, dys-regulating your appetite, may disrupt your mood. This should balance out as your body adjusts. To help with this, ensure that you stick to a nutritionally balanced diet during eating periods and be sure to focus on getting enough sleep.

The take home

  • If you decide to trial intermittent fasting start small and monitor how you feel. You could begin with a 12 hour overnight fast twice a week, working up to 16 hours over a few weeks.

  • Liaise with a health professional prior to starting so that they can advise and monitor carefully.

  • Ensure that when you eat, you are eating a whole foods diet of vegetables, fruits, lean proteins and healthy fats, similar to the Mediterranean diet and avoid snacking between meals and at night.

  • Be sure to focus on getting sufficient sleep; 7-9 hours.

Want more? You can contact me for some 1-1 person-centred coaching. Book a free clarity call to see how best I can help ❤️