Part 2

In our last newsletter I introduced intermittent fasting. Fasting is no new concept, it has been practiced intentionally (religious orientation) and non-intentionally (times of hunger/sickness) for many generations. Recently more research has been completed and positive correlations have been found between many health benefits and intermittent fasting.

A few of the possible health benefits of regular intermittent fasting include: longevity, weight loss, increased muscle mass, increased insulin sensitivity, cognitive improvements as well as a decreased risk of disease.

Intermittent fasting is NOT for all. Everyone should proceed with caution when debating whether or not to begin intermittent fasting. Not all people, medications, diseases and lifestyles are created equal. The people who should not participate in intermittent fasting include:

Pregnant:Women who are pregnant require extra energy and nutrients than a non-pregnant woman. Extreme alterations to diet should not be made during pregnancy without the recommendation of a physician andthe guidance of a registered dietitian.

History of an eating disorder:People who struggle to maintain a healthy relationship with food should avoid intermittent fasting. If you have struggled or continue to struggle with food anxiety or eating disorders seek help from a medical provider or registered dietitian to help find the best, scientifically-proven recommendations that best fit your personality, history and lifestyle.

Type 1 or 2 Diabetes:Diabetes is a disease that affects blood sugar levels. When blood sugar levels fall too low or climb too high, serious side effects may occur. Usually, these individuals would not benefit from intermittent fasting. The risk of life-threatening side effects do not outweigh any kind of benefit.

Gut Issues:If you struggle with gastrointestinal problems like diarrhea, constipation, IBS, Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis, intermittent fasting likely will not improve your symptoms. Remember fasting decreases the length of time you are eating, it does not identify foods that may be causing inflammatory reactions.

Women tend to be less successful than men.I do not have to tell you that men and women are notthe same. One distinct difference is men have around ten times the hormone testosterone than women. Research agrees that men do tend to have a higher success rate at losing weight with intermittent fasting than women; possibly due to a higher basal metabolic rate.

Women also have multiple hormones, in higher quantity than men, that regulate our monthly cycles and hunger. These hormones are sensitive to energy (calorie) intake. For some women, a decrease in calories may affect their monthly cycle. In a study using lab rats, after 12 weeks of intermittent fasting, the female lab rats had lost 19% of their total body weight, lowered their glucose and noted a decrease in size of their ovaries. Levels of kisspeptin, estradiol, ghrelin and leptin had all been disrupted. It only took 10-15 days of intermittent fasting to throw the female reproductive cycle out of sync.

Because the female reproductive cycle is very sensitive, it is important for women who are interested in intermittent fasting to begin very slow. There are possibilities of extreme hunger, moodiness, trouble sleeping and hormone/cycle issues if fasting is begun too aggressively. Please, take it slow.

On a daily basis I meet with women who are beyond frustrated because they cannot lose weight. They have tried everything: counting calories, counting macros, vegan diets, low carb, keto…

If you are one of those women. Please take a deep breath and listen.

Fasting is no joke. If taken to the extreme, there is the possibility of negative side effects. No one individual is like another. We all have different medical history, medications and lifestyles. If you are thinking of beginning intermittent fasting to achieve personal goals, please work with a registered dietitian who understands you and the science behind intermittent fasting.

Leslie Rusch-Bayer, RD, LDN, CPT