What Is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern where you eat within a defined period of time and otherwise avoid eating. For the purpose of this article, intermittent fasting means eating within a 6-9-hour window and avoiding food for 16-18 hours. This is usually achieved by eating dinner around 6:00-8:00 pm and eating the first meal of the day around 10:00 am to noon.
Intermittent Fasting Benefits
This controlled eating pattern has many benefits including:
- reduce insulin resistance (it can lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes)
- increase human growth hormone which is important for tissue repair, healing, muscle mass
- improve cellular repair and remove waste materials from cells
- weight loss (including belly fat)
- reduce inflammation
- improve brain health
You can see why intermittent fasting is something to consider! However, you’re probably wondering if intermittent fasting is okay for women, especially women with a hormone imbalance.
That answer is not a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’. It depends on what kind of hormone imbalance you have.
Problems With Intermittent Fasting
Ultimately, intermittent fasting is mild form of stress. So if your hormone imbalance is caused by stress, the added stress of intermittent fasting will hinder your healing process.
Moreover, fasting can be made even more stressful if you restrict your calories and under eat, which is easy to do when you skip a meal. When you under eat, your body assumes you are in a time of famine and produces the stress hormone cortisol. Chronically high cortisol will imbalance your other hormones and could cause you to lose your menstrual cycle.
In addition, stress will also increase the hormones leptin and ghrelin, which control satiation. Over time this can imbalance hormones and impair ovulation. This is why you need to carefully consider if intermittent fasting is the right approach for you.
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When You Should Try Intermittent Fasting
In fact, intermittent fasting can actually help hormone-related conditions that are associated with insulin resistance. Here’s when you should intermittent fast (and when you shouldn’t).
Consider Intermittent Fasting If You Have…
Insulin-resistant PCOS- you can utilize intermittent fasting to stabilize your insulin levels. Actually, the longer you fast, the better! Even committing to intermittent fasting for one day a week can be effective.
Endometriosis- is an inflammatory condition. Intermittent fasting gives your body more time to reduce inflammation and heal itself.
Menopausal Weight Gain- during menopause your body becomes slightly insulin resistant and requires fewer calories. Intermittent fasting could be a great way to keep calories down to reduce or maintain your weight.
Avoid Intermittent Fasting If You Have…
Adrenal Fatigue- if you have low energy, brain fog, or other symptoms of fatigue, intermittent fasting may not be best for you. To regain your energy, you need to decrease any forms of stress. Routine is soothing to the body and even skipping breakfast can cause some stress.
The key is to eat a balanced breakfast with protein, fats, and a little bit of complex and healthy carbs within an hour of waking. However, limiting your eating window to 12 hours would allow you to receive some of the benefits of fasting.
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Hypothalamic Amenorrhea- is caused by stress of some kind so again you need to feed your body with constant meals during your waking hours.
Thyroid Issues- your body is sensitive to stress, it’s best to consume meals that include a good source of complex carbs, protein and lots of vegetables. I recommend you treat thyroid issue similar to adrenal fatigue.
If you have another hormone related issue, use your judgment, be mindful and follow the guidelines listed below.
How To Do Intermittent Fasting
So you’ve decided to try intermittent fasting. Great! However, it’s important to realize that when done incorrectly, intermittent fasting can cause or worsen a hormone imbalance.
Here’s how to do it to make sure you don’t disrupt your hormones.
Eat Enough Calories- or if you are trying to lose weight set a deficit of no more than 500 calories. When intermittent fasting you can enjoy larger meals and feel very satiated from what you eat. This can make it easier to lose weight!
For example, if you are consuming a 1600 calorie diet, a meal may look like this:
8 oz grass-fed beef
1-½ cups roasted sweet potato
Spinach with grated carrots for a salad
1 Tbsp olive oil, balsamic vinegar dressing
Hydrate In The AM- caffeine and coffee can cause cortisol to spike, which can imbalance hormones. I recommend that you focus on hydrating with water or herbal tea during your fasting period.
Ramp It Up- if you feel your hormones are sensitive, try fasting for 3 days a week instead of every day. Tune in to your body and allow your sensations to inform your decisions about intermittent fasting.
Exercise Mindfully- be careful about strenuous workouts before or during your fasting period. You may need to move your workout to coordinate with your eating period, or reducing the intensity. Again, listen to your body and don’t push yourself.
As you can see, intermittent fasting can be a valuable tool if you have symptoms related to insulin resistance. On the other hand, this eating pattern can be detrimental if you have a stress-related hormone imbalance. If you integrate intermittent fasting mindfully along with your other healthy lifestyle practices, it could be the perfect approach for you!
If you have any questions please comment below!