Intermittent fasting for increased longevity, brain function & weight loss

intermittent fasting

intermittent fasting copyHumans have been fasting for millennia, either for religious or spiritual reasons or simply due to lack of food. Today, a new form of fasting called intermittent fasting is increasingly popular among those seeking its anti-aging and health benefits.

Intermittent fasting, or IF, makes fasting an everyday part of life versus something you do once or twice a year. Many people use it successfully for weight loss and inflammation as well as to improve brain function and insulin sensitivity. The promise of increased longevity is another reason people choose to fast regularly.

Whether intermittent fasting will help you manage your thyroid or hormone condition depends largely on how stable your blood sugar is and how sturdy your adrenal function is. If you have low blood sugar, going too long without eating can cause it drop too low, triggering inflammation and worsening adrenal fatigue. If your blood sugar is too high and you binge between fasts, you are compounding problems with insulin resistance.

However, if you have stable blood sugar and adrenal function, intermittent fasting may be beneficial for managing your condition.

Different forms of intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting can be done in a number of ways:

  • 5:2 diet — In this plan you eat normally five days per week, and either fast completely, or severely restrict calories (500-600 calories) the other two days.
  • Alternate day fasting — This plan includes normal eating for 24 hours and zero, or very low calories (500-600) for the next 24-hour period, alternating every other day. These 24-hour periods typically begin at dinnertime so that in any one day you may miss one or two meals, but not all three.
  • 16:8 or 14:10 — Also known as the “eating window plan,” this plan has you eat during an 8- or 10-hour window and fast the remaining 16 or 14 hours of each 24-hour period. For example, you stop eating at 7 p.m and do not eat again until 14 hours later at 9 a.m. the next morning.

Intermittent fasting for weight loss

Restricting caloric intake can lead to weight loss, but intermittent fasting seems to help with weight loss in more ways than that. For one thing, studies show intermittent fasters have better insulin sensitivity and glucose regulation. Among other things, this makes a person crave less sugar and use glucose more efficiently for energy production instead of being stored as fat. Intermittent fasting also causes your body to burn more fat. Because it depletes glycogen, the storage form of glucose, your body switches over to burning stored fat for energy.

As weight gain is a well known symptom of thyroid and hormone conditions, intermittent fasting in a stable metabolic state may give you a leg up on weight loss.

Intermittent fasting for brain function

Studies show intermittent fasting can benefit brain function and potentially even stave off Alzheimer’s disease and depression. This is likely due to better glucose and insulin control (Alzheimer’s disease is often called type 3 diabetes), as well as production of ketone bodies for fuel. Ketones provide a ready source of clean-burning fuel for the brain that leave behind fewer free radicals than glucose does. High-fat ketogenic diets have long been used to help prevent seizures.

The effects of unmanaged diseases like Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism on the brain are well documented. Those with autoimmune thyroid issues should make healthy brain function a primary goal. As long as blood sugar and adrenal function are stable, intermittent fasting may help further promote brain health.

Other benefits

Intermittent fasting has been shown in trials to reduce blood pressure, triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, and insulin-like growth factor, a hormone that is linked to cancer and diabetes. There is still much to learn about the benefits and pitfalls of intermittent fasting. Fortunately, it is an area of great scientific interest and research is happening at a rapid pace.

Intermittent fasting is not for everyone

Children and teens, pregnant women, people with eating disorders, as well as those with hypoglycemia should not fast. Also, diabetics taking insulin should only attempt this diet under supervision of a doctor. If you’re in metabolic disarray while trying to bring your hypothyroidism under control, you may need to wait until you’re more stable to try intermittent fasting.

Women often find less stringent forms of intermittent fasting are more suitable for them. For example, a woman might start by trying a 12:12 eating window plan and potentially lengthen her fasting time gradually, or not, as it suits her.

As always, it is important to understand that there is no one-size-fits-all remedy to any health concern. Contact my office to discuss if intermittent fasting might be right for you.

Joni Labbe

About Joni Labbe

Dr. Joni Labbe is a board-certified clinical nutritionist specializing in science-based nutrition with a focus on women's health issues. She has successfully helped pre-menopausal and menopausal women regain and maintain their health since 1995. Dr. Labbe is the author of the Amazon #1 Best Selling book Thyroid & Menopause Madness and It’s Not Just Menopause: It’s Your Thyroid. She is also a professional speaker, radio personality, fitness expert, and former host of “Healthier Way With Dr. Labbe.” Dr. Labbe is one of the country’s leading authorities on thyroid disorders, including Hashimoto’s disease. Dr. Labbe has also authored numerous articles and blogs on health, nutrition, and thyroid health, as seen in Naturally Savvy, Thyroid Nation, and Fox News. She is a Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist, Doctor of Chiropractic, and has post graduate training in Functional Neurology, Functional Endocrinology, Functional Blood Chemistry Analysis, and earned a Diplomate and Fellow in Nutrition from the American Association of Integrative Medicine.

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