There are many benefits of intermittent fasting such as weight loss, increased energy, and decreased pain. If you feel like you’re running a little slow like your computer does once in awhile, sometimes it’s necessary to hit your reset button. Intermittent fasting can be a great way to reset yourself to regain your strength, focus, energy, and decrease pain levels. Read on to determine if you’re a good candidate to do it.
What is intermittent fasting?
Our ancestors of over 10,000 years ago were hunters and gatherers. This means they likely went without food for 12-16 hours or even had full days where they ate lightly or not all. These circumstances helped shape our genes to allow for periods of time where we don’t have to eat (fast).
The type of fasting I recommend for most patients would be intermittent fasting. This is where you alternate periods of fasting and non-fasting. For example, in an alternate-day fast, you eat one day and then you don’t eat the next day, you eat one day, you don’t eat the next day. In another example, you could do a compressed food intake fast. In this case, you restrict intake of food to a certain time frame like eight hours. So you might only eat from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. This is the type of intermittent fasting I use and recommend to patients because I feel it is the most convenient. To clarify, you would fast for sixteen hours with an eight hour eating window each day. This means you would stop eating around 8 p.m. and then start eating at 12 p.m. noon the next day.
Intermittent fasting can be done anywhere from one day to five days per week depending on each person’s circumstance. You will have to experiment with this yourself or get guidance from a health practitioner who has knowledge in this area. There are circumstances where you shouldn’t fast, and I will discuss these below.
General benefits of intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting has many benefits:
- promotes a process called autophagy, which is a process where your cells repair themselves (1, 2, 3)
- it is an effective weight loss tool (2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
- improves insulin sensitivity (blood sugar levels)(7, 8)
- reduces inflammation (swelling) and oxidative stress (An example of oxidative stress is if you bite into an apple and leave it on your kitchen counter, it will turn brown because oxygen is damaging it). (9)
- it reduces bad small LDL cholesterol and triglycerides (risk factor for cardiovascular disease)(4, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13)
- promotes healthy brain function and mental clarity (14)
- it helps optimize a longer life (15)
To give you more clarity, I want to expand on a couple of the above points.
When you fast, your body can clean out cells that are no longer working properly (autophagy). This recycling is important as it serves to maximize your body’s energy and its’ ability to function properly. Furthermore, toxins can be released from your fat cells and excreted during fasting.
By reducing inflammation and oxidation when you fast, you have an added benefit of decreasing any pain you may have and reducing the chance of getting a chronic illness. This is because inflammation and oxidation are major risk factors for chronic illnesses and pain including but not limited to: heart disease and strokes, arthritis, hypothyroidism, obesity, brain degenerative diseases, and depression. (16, 17, 18, 19)
Contraindications to intermittent fasting
There are circumstances where intermittent fasting is not recommended. They include:
- During pregnancy. Your child needs a lot of energy to grow and develop and that has to come from nutrient dense whole natural food. It might be okay to occasionally fast, but your focus should be on growing a healthy baby.
- Breastfeeding. Same reason as above. Intermittent fasting will back fire on you if you are breastfeeding. I made this mistake once with a patient when I didn’t know enough about intermittent fasting. It worked well for me, so I assumed it would work well for everyone.
- Being a child or teenager. Kids needs a lot of nutrients and energy to grow, develop, and stay active.
- Having HPA axis dysregulation (HPA-D). HPA-D stands for Hypothalamic Pituitary Adrenal Axis Dysregulation. HPA axis is the system in your body that controls your stress tolerance and stress management. If you’re not sleeping well, are really worn out and fatigued, and highly stressed, I would not recommend you intermittent fast. Even though intermittent fasting is a form of positive stress, when your system is already overloaded with too much stress, intermittent fasting can push you over the edge.
- Hypothyroidism. There is evidence that intermittent fasting can help with hypothyroidism, but there is lots of evidence that it makes it worse.
- Eating disorders. To be safe I would avoid doing any intermittent fasting. You want to make sure you have the eating disorder under control. If you are determined to try it, please work with a health professional who has a good working knowledge about intermittent fasting. Make sure this health professional is working with your other health professionals who have helped you manage and get your eating disorder under control.
Intermittent fasting offers a range of benefits, from improved weight management and enhanced brain function to cellular repair and better insulin sensitivity. However, it’s important to remember that each individual is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. Consult with healthcare professionals like chiropractors or naturopaths to determine if intermittent fasting is suitable for you. Start slowly, be mindful of your body’s response, and adjust your approach as needed. Embrace the potential benefits of intermittent fasting on your journey towards better health and well-being.