Intermittent fasting has become increasingly popular recently because of its rapid weight loss effect. Unlike other types of diet that focus on specific foods to eat, intermittent fasting focuses on the timing of eating, stretching the gaps between meals to allow for the benefits of fasting without being deprived of food completely. Intermittent fasting can be done in different approaches: alternate fasting days, two full fasting days a week, or — most commonly — 14- to 16-hour fasts every day.
Restricting daily food intake into a shorter chunk of time enables the digestive system to benefit from 14 to 16 hours of rest time. It is believed that by structuring the times that you eat, you can maximize the body’s ability to burn fat and lose weight. It can also help prevent food cravings, snacking habits, and excessive food consumption.
However, women who would like to try intermittent fasting should consider several factors first. Some studies have reported that intermittent fasting can cause more negative side effects in women than in men, depending on the type of approach. For example, women can experience worsened glucose tolerance in alternate day fasting, but men experience better glucose tolerance in this type of fasting.
Intermittent fasting done to the extreme could affect a woman’s menstrual cycle, contributing to menstrual irregularity and even amenorrhea, or the absence of menstruation. This is because the hormones that regulate menstruation are heavily influenced by glucose and food intake. Animal studies have also demonstrated that alternate day fasting can result in smaller ovaries, infertility and irregular cycles. This type of fasting can also influence bone density.
Still, this does not mean that women can’t adhere to intermittent fasting. Women can still benefit from intermittent fasting without the negative side effects by taking a gentle approach. You should start with shorter fasts several days each week from 10 to 12 hours, leading up to 14 hours; maximum fasting time should only be 16 hours. If you already have hormone problems, chronic disorders, or want to become pregnant, work closely with a practitioner to find out best fasting times and frequency.
It is also important to seek the help of your medical practitioner before starting intermittent fasting if you:
- Are underweight.
- Have diabetes, thyroid problems, or hypoglycemia.
- Have struggled with eating disorders.
- Have a digestive disorder that is linked to nutrient deficiency such as Crohn’s disease or Celiac disease.
Intermittent fasting is not for everyone. Here are common signs that your intermittent fasting plan is causing imbalances in your body:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Fatigue or weakness
- Feeling more depressed or anxious than usual
- Frequent headaches
- Menstrual cycle changes such as worsening premenstrual syndrome (PMS) or longer or late periods
- Mood swings
Additionally, keep in mind that intermittent fasting is not suitable for women under 18 years old and those who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Other benefits of intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting does not only aid in weight loss. If done properly, you can also reap the following benefits:
- Reduced oxidative damage and inflammation in the body: It can help protect against aging and the development of many chronic diseases.
- Better heart health: It can improve numerous risk factors for heart disease such as blood pressure, cholesterol levels, triglycerides, and inflammatory markers.
- Cellular repair: Fasting induces autophagy, a metabolic pathway that eliminates waste material from cells.
- Reduced cancer risk: It has several benefits on metabolism that may help prevent cancer.
- Improved brain health: It may boost the growth of new neurons and prevent brain damage. It may also prevent neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.
- Longer life: It affects health at a cellular level, fighting off aging and promoting longevity.
Read more news stories and studies on fasting and women’s health by going to Fasting.news.