For those who are not familiar with intermittent fasting, it may sound a little extreme or even just another trendy diet. However, the benefits of intermittent fasting go far beyond weight loss. It turns out, when you eat could be as important as what you eat. Just as the brain functions best on a schedule in line with the circadian rhythm, the digestive system also needs a schedule of rest and activity to function optimally. Intermittent fasting, like sleep, gives the body time to rest — which reduces inflammation and gives the organs a chance to recover.
There are many different ways to practice intermittent fasting. One of the most common is a 12-14 hour fast. During this fast, you normally stop eating after an early dinner, around 6 p.m., and don’t eat until breakfast the next morning, around 8 or 9 a.m., in line with your circadian rhythm. Fasting means consuming nothing but water, herbal tea or black coffee, depending on the purpose of the fast.
More advanced versions of IF are the 16:8 or the 18:6 window, which means you will fast for 16 or 18 hours and eat between an 8- or 6-hour window. This could look like eating two meals each day between the hours of 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. Our tip? Check out bulletproof coffee to keep you satisfied until lunch.
For those more experienced with fasting, there are different versions of 24-hour fasts that can be practiced. A 20:4 fast from dinner one evening until dinner the following evening prompts the body to use glycogen, fat and glucose as energy. More intense fasts include fasting for 24 hours for two non-consecutive days of the week or even alternating days of eating and not eating every 24 hours.
The biggest benefit of fasting is that it reduces chronic inflammation; potentially reducing the risk of cancer; lowering blood pressure and triglycerides which are associated with heart disease; improving autoimmune conditions like lupus and multiple sclerosis; decreasing leptin resistance which is associated with weight gain; and reducing brain inflammation which is associated with anxiety, depression and brain fog.
According to functional medicine expert, Dr. Will Cole, menstruating women tend to be more sensitive to fasting than men due to higher levels of kisspeptin. Fasting could potentially disrupt a woman’s hormones or her cycle. Unfortunately, many intermittent fasting studies have been done with men, and research regarding pre-menopausal women is still lacking. Another sensitivity people may run into from intermittent fasting is adrenal fatigue from an imbalance of cortisol.
Before fasting, be sure to consult a doctor to ensure it is the best choice for you and your health needs.