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Intermittent fasting is the latest buzz word in the health and wellness industry….which can immediately make you roll your eyes and dismiss it as just a craze. But, before you do, I’ve seen fantabulous results from intermittent fasting, particularly in clients that have been doing all the right things but still can’t shift the weight or were inflamed, had high blood sugars or poor liver function test results.
Fasting has been practiced by many cultures for thousands of years, whether as part of a religious practice, to conserve food supplies or as part of a healing treatment.
In today’s world, we’re literally eating ourselves to death. Food is a comfort tool, social connector, reward, celebratory tool and much more.
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting means eating in a compressed feeding window, so your digestive system gets a rest for a specific period of time. During the fasting phase you can drink water or clear non-caffeine herbal teas with no sweeteners, such as lemongrass and ginger, chamomile, or peppermint tea, if desired.
Why intermittent fasting works
Intermittent fasting gives your digestive system a break and uses that excess energy to clean, repair and rebuild your body. Digesting and absorbing your food can take up to 5 hours after eating and during that time your insulin levels are high, so your body can’t easily burn fat for energy.
When you’re in the post digestive phase, that takes place 8-12 hours after your last meal and your insulin levels are lower, you can easily burn fat.
When in the fasting state, your body naturally finds ways to extend your life. It’s kind of like a survival mechanism, where when faced with the possibility of starvation, your body will do everything in its power to heal and keep you alive.
Health benefits of intermittent fasting
In my clinic I’ve seen huge success with 16:8 intermittent fasting for losing weight, especially if clients are already eating well but were lacking the results. For instance, they were eating cleanly, hydrating, de-stressing, doing a mix of strength and cardio exercise, sleeping well – yet their body still holds onto those extra kilos. It’s very frustrating for those people, but also comforting to know they’d do well if starving in the desert!
16:8 intermittent fasting practised daily dropped off the weight consistently and quite quickly.
Initially there will be hunger pangs but if you use herbal teas and lemon water in this period and ride them out, they will reduce over the days to follow.
For best results exercise at the end of a fast then eat. If you’re a morning exerciser, that means eat after training. Eg, Exercise 6am, feeding window 7am to 3pm, fasting 3pm to 7am.
You’ll get results with intermittent fasting even if you can’t manage the exercise at the end of a fast because you’re an evening exerciser.
Giving your gut a break frees up energy for detoxifying, cleaning, repair and building, and also resets and lowers your appetite.
Intermittent fasting also improves gut microbiota, increasing the ratio of beneficial gut flora. This is a by-product from the positive changes of reducing inflammation, losing weight and normalising blood sugar levels.
Blood Sugar Levels
Intermittent fasting keeps blood sugar levels more stable and prevents the constant spiking and crashing of insulin levels that can have you craving sugars and chasing caffeine fixes all day long. It’s very helpful for those with diabetes or those struggling with fatty liver.
Inflammation is your body’s natural response to injury, toxicity and disease. Chronic inflammation is at the heart of many chronic degenerative diseases and ageing, as well as cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular problems and much more.
Intermittent fasting also enhances your body’s natural resistance to oxidative stress which reduce inflammation throughout your body.
If you’ve ever seen an interview with a centurion, most talk of eating less, often one meal a day, and having gone through extended periods of fasting, whether their choice or not, in their life.
There’s an old saying “The less you eat, the longer you’ll live” and I’d have to agree with it.
Intermittent fasting prevents cognitive function decline and decreasing memory and learning as we age. And the anti-inflammatory effect can slow the progression of neuro-degenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Intermittent fasting can improve your heart health by helping to lower the following common risk factors that contribute to heart dis-ease:
- Blood sugar levels
- High blood pressure
Perfect for those with a looming family history of by-passes, stents, strokes, heart-attacks and more.
Ways to intermittent fast
There are three ways:
Most popular and easiest method, involves you eating in an 8 hour window and fasting for 16 hours. This can look like first meal of day at 11am and last meal of the day at 7pm or 7am to 3pm. Set your own window to suit your life.
You can do this every day, only weekdays or a few times a week depending on the results you want and what works into your schedule.
Remember you can start anywhere and improve over time. It’s better than not starting at all. You learn by doing.
This involves eating a maximum of 600 calories two days a week. I liken it to whole food fasting. Make sure your diet on those days is of quality wholefoods like vegetables, fruit, nuts, etc.
This method requires you to fast for 24 hours, ideally from dinner one day to the following day, once to twice a week.
Intermittent fasting is definitely worth trialling to set yourself up to remain healthy, energetic and disease-free.
Love to hear if you’ve tried it and what results you’ve gotten? Or if you need help to get started?
Julie XX (Feeling Great Naturopath, Mount Martha)