Intermittent fasting is a controversial topic in the world of wellness today. As you are well aware, there are many different nutritional approaches being touted as the best for overall health benefits, wellness, and longevity, intermittent fasting is no exception. Are you wondering if it is right for you? In this article I will provide guidance on who can benefit from and who should steer clear of intermittent fasting.

Brief History of Fasting

Intermittent fasting is not new. If we look back in time to the pre-civilization era, fasting was not always a choice. There were different environmental pressures that shaped how we humans evolved (imagine living in a cave without grocery stores, refrigerators, or delivery services, not knowing where your next meal would come from). Humans that were ill-equipped to survive until their next meal would quickly lose in the game of evolution.

In present day, we have inherited the chemistry our cave-dwelling ancestors used to survive periods of fasting.

Types of Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting, or “IF,” is a generalized term used to describe a time period that cycles between restricting calories and not restricting calories. Essentially, we are all practicing IF each night while we are asleep. That is where the word ‘breakfast’, i.e. breaking the fast originates. Here are four of the most common forms of IF.

  • Time Restricted feeding (TRF): This is when you restrict calories to a window of time during each day. A common window of time to consume calories would be between 8am – 4pm. Said another way, you would be fasting 16hr between 4pm and 8am the following morning.
  • Alternate Day Fasting (ADF): This fast would have you eat normally on days 1 and 2 and fast all of day 3. The fasting day may consist of only water and electrolytes, or up to 600 calories of food.
  • Fasting Mimicking Diet (FMD): This describes eating a strict ketogenic diet for 5 consecutive days once per month, for 3 months. Studies suggest similar benefits to other fasts despite the increased calories.
  • Extended Fasts: Includes any fasts greater than 24 hours.

The Benefits of Fasting

There are many reported benefits that range from increased energy, mental clarity, and longevity. Additional benefits include:

  • Improved insulin sensitivity
  • Decreased blood sugar
  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Promote weight loss

Advantages of IF Compared to Other Diets

IF diets are inexpensive. There are no meal replacements or special grocery lists, as the diet is about the timing of eating rather than what you are eating. IF is also highly adaptable to an individual’s lifestyle as they can tailor an IF schedule to their routine.

IF diets benefit insulin resistance.  Insulin is a hormone that controls our blood sugar. Insulin resistance leads to pre-diabetes and Type 2 Diabetes and is often an obstacle to weight loss that is undertreated with a conventional low-calorie diet

The Negative Side of IF

There are many ways to participate in an IF diet. What works for you, might not work well for someone else. This is why we suggest reaching out to your doctor before adopting an IF diet.

The largest concern for the average person on an IF style diet is that they may not be consuming enough protein. This is why some studies show that weight loss on a fasting diet includes both fat and muscle loss.

Protein is essential. Proteins are the building blocks of muscle, and muscle is vital to maintain as we age. If you are not getting enough dietary protein on a regular basis, your body will respond by breaking down your own muscle to subsidize for protein.

Is Fasting Right For You?

Who should not fast?

  • Those who are malnourished or already underweight
  • Children under the age of 18
  • Pregnant or Breastfeeding
  • Elders with low muscle mass

Who should consult with a doctor prior to fasting?

  • Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes diagnosis
  • Taking medications
  • Gastro-esophageal reflux disease (heartburn)
  • Gout
  • Pre-menopausal women
  • If considering fasting greater than 24 hours

The IF diet is another ‘tool’ that can be employed. Like any tool, the person using it needs to know when to use it, how to safely operate it, and when it is useless. In my practice, I find it a useful tool in treating conditions such as diabetes, pre-diabetes, obesity, poly-cystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

My Take on IF

To be clear, fasting in the presence of certain medications can be dangerous and life-threatening. That is why I recommend you always consult with your provider, preferably one who is experienced or knowledgeable about IF diets to help management side-effects and adjust medications as needed.

If you or someone you know is interested in IF or want to learn more about naturopathic medicine. Please call our office to schedule a free 15 min phone consultation.

To make an appointment with Dr. Robertson, call Natura’s front desk.
Read more about Dr. Robertson here.