WHAT IS INTERMITTENT FASTING?
Intermittent fasting is a pattern of eating where you designate times and durations for eating and not eating. It’s not a diet, as it provides no guidance as to what foods you should or should not eat. It’s more along the lines of timing your meals.
I’m a firm believer that everyone’s biochemistry is different—one way of eating doesn’t fit all. But intermittent fasting has helped me immensely in my pursuit for health, so it’s something I wanted to share.
When I began eating gluten free, I tried a number of different approaches to eating in an effort to gain relief from my digestive difficulties. I tried high fat (couldn’t stick to it), I tried low carb (I got hangry a lot), I tried the Zone diet, and the list goes on….
But what I’ve been doing for the past 4 months that has worked miracles for me and I can actually stick with, is intermittent fasting.
WHY INTERMITTENT FASTING?
I tried intermittent fasting in an effort to heal my digestive system. For whatever reason, my gut was not totally healing even though I’d been very strictly gluten free for years.
My health was way better than it had been, but I still had a plethora of food sensitivities, difficulty digesting anything I ate, etc. I stumbled across intermittent fasting and thought it was an interesting concept since it’s something we already do.
We fast every night when we sleep, which is why the first meal of the day is called “break-fast.” So fasting is something that’s kind of built into our biorhythm.
Our digestive systems need down-time to cleanse and heal. When you eat, it takes about 6-8 hours for the food to move through your stomach, small intestine, and into your large intestine (where it remains for quite a while).
So if you eat the standard 3 meals a day, assuming you eat breakfast at 8am and finish dinner by 6pm, your digestive system gets about 6 hours of rest from 2-8am.
Given my compromised gut, I figured providing my body extra time to rest and regenerate couldn’t hurt.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
The are several different approaches you can take. One approach is a daily fasted state, meaning every day you have a window of time to fast and a window of time to eat. This approach is typically named by its hourly constraints.
For example, 16/8 means 16 hours fasted and 8 hours fed, 19/5 means 19 hours fasted and 5 hours fed, etc. You can vary the number of hours fasted/fed and you can determine the timing for those hours so it best fits your daily routine.
A second approach involves fasting for a full 24 hours once or twice per week. The rest of the week you eat normally. This is called “eat-stop-eat.”
There is also “5:2” fasting. For 5 days a week, you eat normally. However, for 2 successive days, you eat only 500 calories.
If you want to give intermittent fasting a try, I recommend starting with an approach you feel is manageable (both physically and psychologically) and works well with your schedule.
I mention the psychological sustainability because, having celiac disease, we are ALWAYS constrained when it comes to food—we have to be very careful and deliberate in our consumption. So it’s very important that we feel like we have some ability to indulge.
My approach is that I can eat what I want during my meal window (with the exception of foods I‘m allergic to, like dairy). But if I want some sugar, I eat it! You’ve gotta enjoy life!
But many people do low carb, vegetarian, and other types of diets in conjunction with intermittent fasting with great success.
BENEFITS OF INTERMITTENT FASTING
When you fast, you achieve healing and repair at a cellular level. Also, your stored body fat is more accessible as an energy source.
Some documented benefits include: improved insulin sensitivity, human growth hormone increases exponentially, gene expression (genetic changes related to immunity and longevity), improved brain health, reduced inflammation, and improved LDL cholesterol and blood pressure.
Results I’ve personally noticed include measurably improved digestion, increased energy, more restful sleep, better attitude/mood, and weight loss.
Most of us probably live in an over-fed state (#firstworldproblems), meaning our organs and systems have little time for regeneration.
I believe even a very moderated approach (like eating breakfast a couple of hours later or dinner a little earlier) will provide noticeable health improvement for most people. In fact, there is a segment of the body building community that uses intermittent fasting to GAIN muscle mass (crazy, right??)!
Disclaimer: Please consult your doctor before starting a fasting regimen.