Yay or Nay to Intermittent Fasting

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that involves cycling between periods of eating and fasting for specific blocks of time.

Despite this practice becoming mainstream in recent years, intermittent fasting has actually been around for a very, very long time. In ancient times, humans practiced fasting out of necessity since food sources were often inconsistent and sometimes scarce. Fasting is also central to many religious practices, such as Ramadan.

This practice has gained popularity, not because of it’s many supposed health benefits, but because of its claims to assist with weight loss. Let’s dive in and explore this topic a little deeper…

Types of Intermittent Fasting

There are so many different ways that you can practice intermittent fasting, but I wanted to go through some of the more popular types of fasting:Alternate-Day Fasting – this is basically fasting every other day. On fast days, you’ll limit your calories significantly or just not eat at all. On non-fast days, you can enjoy your normal diet.

16/8 Diet – as its name suggests, on this diet you will fast for 16 hours of the day and limit your eating to an 8-hour block

5:2 Diet – when on this diet, you are allowed to eat your normal, healthy diet for five days a week and on the remaining two days you should fast. Most people cut their calorie intake to 500-600 calories a day for their fast days.

Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

  • Promotes blood sugar control – several studies have shown that this diet can be an effective way to help support healthy blood sugar levels
  • Supports healthy weight maintenance – studies have found that fasting can reduce body fat and rev up weight loss to support weight management
  • Can help boost brain function – animal studies have shown that chronic interval fasting actually improved several markers of cognitive function, including learning and memory.
  • Reducing chronic inflammation – studies have shown that intermittent fasting could be beneficial for easing inflammation to support better health. 
  • Can enhance heart health – studies have found that fasting for a month can lead to improvements in cholesterol and triglyceride levels. It can also lead to reductions in systolic blood pressure and belly fat, all of which are major risk factors for heart disease.

It should be noted that the majority of studies around intermittent fasting have been done on rats, not actual humans.

Dangers of Intermittent Fasting

  • Interfering with social aspects of eating – if your eating window closes at 7pm and you have a standing dinner date with friends at 8:30pm…this might be cause for issue. If not because your window might have to be pushed back, but because of the mindset and guilt that accompanies restrictive dieting.
  • Binging – if you are anticipating a period of fasting coming up, it can be very easy to eat in excess.
  • Potential long term consequences for women – intermittent fasting since it can cause serious disruptions of certain hormones that can lead to irregular periods, infertility and a lot of other serious effects.
  • Potential weight gain – although intermittent fasting is used as a vehicle for weight loss, and many see its benefits early on, reducing energy intake too severely can lead to the body responding with physiological adaptations that can cause weight regain after losing the weight in the first place. It is very likely that individuals will not maintain their weight loss after extreme restrictions of food intake, and might in fact gain even more weight.

Intermittent Fasting and IBS

There are many claims that fasting helps curb the effects of IBS – there are no direct, long-term studies looking at fasting in IBS so it is hard to back this claim with real facts.

There was a 12-week study done in Japan back in 2007 that focused on this. It showed that those who fasted had improvements with pain, discomfort, diarrhoea, and anxiety. Although the study looks promising, you should be weary before implementing Intermittent Fasting to help with IBS symptoms. 

  • The fasting period was 4 weeks, which is not safe outside of a hospital environment
  • It is unclear what diet the participants were given, it very well may have been a low FODMAP diet
  • Because the study was only 12 weeks long, there isn’t sufficient data to back the claims

Fasting can actually worsen IBS symptoms. Irregular eating and fasting can lessen prebiotic and fibre intake and this could harm the levels of good gut bacteria.

Is Intermittent Fasting For You?

Intermittent Fasting, while it can seem like an excellent option for everyone, is actually not made for everyone. As always, I strongly recommend that you seek a professional’s opinion before shifting your diet drastically. For example, diabetics should consult a professional because going long periods of time without food can have serious consequences.

Pregnant or breastfeeding women should also steer clear of the diet for they run the risk of nutritional deficiencies or problems with fetal growth and development.

Women should also be weary of this diet, for reasons stated above. 

This diet is NOT recommended for children and teenagers, individuals with a history of eating disorders, or individuals with health issues such as thyroid problems or gallstone disease. 

Personally, I am not a fan of any diet that requires you to disregard your body’s innate hunger and satiety cues. These diets oftentimes trigger disorders, and are difficult to sustain – not to mention that they can wreak havoc on your digestive system. If you decide to try Intermittent Fasting, I urge you to speak with a professional for personalised advice and supervision.

1 Comment
  1. Really interesting post, Sandra!
    You should absolutely check also the latest results on fasting and IBS from the Longevity Institute of the University of Southern California: In a study published in March this year Rangan et al. demonstrate that cycles of a fasting-mimicking diet (FMD, in the study the kit ProLon was used) show promise to ameliorate IBD-associated inflammation in humans (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30840892).

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