How Does Intermittent Fasting Work?
Regular fasting has been practiced for generations. We are now learning that there are many health benefits linked to this ancient practice. A few of the benefits to fasting include:
- Weight loss — due to the increased use of body fat for fuel
- Pre-diabetes and Type 2 diabetes prevention and/or treatment — due to reduced insulin secretion
- Enhanced thinking, mood & metabolism — due to increased norepinephrine and growth hormone secretion
- Cellular repair and regrowth
- Reduced hunger —due to suppression of leptin and ghrelin
Fasting also has anti-aging and brain health benefits, including a reduced risk for Alzheimer’s disease and cancer! That’s quite a list!
What is fasting? Is it safe?
Fasting is CHOOSING to abstain from food (not eat) for a set period of time. It is very different from starvation. In starvation, there is no choice and the period of time is unknown. During fasting, there is a specific time period during which we choose to give our bodies a break from eating. This allows us to undergo housekeeping and help keep our cells, tissues, and organs working at their best. Specific biochemical changes take place and these changes safely and effectively help us improve our health.
What are the different types of fasting? How long should I avoid eating?
Time-restricted feeding occurs when we limit our food intake to a specific eating “window” each day. For example, if I eat all of my food between 8:00 am and 8:00 pm, I leave 12 hours during which I do not eat. This is a 12-hour daily fast. If I eat only between 10:00 am and 8:00 pm, I practice a 14-hour daily fast. This type of fasting can be practiced daily.
Alternate day eating occurs when I eat every other day. On the day I fast, I do not eat. The following day I resume my normal eating pattern. This may be done once per week. Total fasting occurs when I do not eat for several days. This type of fasting is much more extensive and may be practiced once per year.
So, who should fast?
Most people can safely fast and receive tremendous benefits. There are a few exceptions, however. A person who is malnourished or underweight, less than 18 years of age, pregnant, or breastfeeding should not fast. If a person has gout, is taking medications, has type 1 or type 2 diabetes, or has gastroesophageal disease, they should consult their healthcare provider before fasting.
During fasting it is important to drink plenty of fluid. The following beverages can be consumed during fasting: water, black coffee, green/black tea (no sugar or sugar substitutes), and chicken/beef/vegetable broth (avoid bone broth due to protein content). Medications and vitamin supplements can also be taken as long as they don’t cause nausea. At times it may be necessary to move fasting periods around medication times. Talk with your healthcare provider if you have any concerns regarding fasting and medications.
If you are struggling with food cravings or food addiction, fasting is an effective way to help break the cycle of unhealthy eating. In addition, fasting can save you time and money! (When you are eating less food, you are buying fewer groceries and spending less time preparing food). Fasting also helps you navigate the food scene when traveling or finding yourself in circumstances with limited healthy food options. There are many benefits to this flexible tool and you can use it to improve your health, reduce medications, optimize your mental well-being, and so much more!
Well-Being Program at Florida Medical Clinic
If you are interested in learning more about the benefits of fasting and transforming your health and well-being check out our Well-Being program! This complete wellness transformation program was created by a unique team of Florida Medical Clinic health care professionals and it guides you step-by-step toward better health.
During the program, you learn both the “why” and “how” of healthy eating and discover how to create long-lasting healthy habits. The program leads you through the details of a low-carbohydrate or ketogenic eating style and offers tips for success along your journey! For more information, please visit our Well-Being website.
About Kim Chism, MPH, RDN, LDN
Kim received her bachelor’s degree in dietetics from Harding University in 2001, and her Masters in Public Health in 2012 from the University of South Florida. Kim has practiced in the clinical setting as well as public sector. She is also the Co-Creator of Well-Being, A Tribe Planted with Purpose – A 12 week wellness transformation program. During her free time, Kim enjoys biking and spending time with family.