By Alane Archer, ND, CNC
Intermittent fasting can improve your health. It is a practice that involves completely abstaining from eating or avoiding certain foods for a period. It has been practiced for centuries, primarily for religious purposes. In recent years, intermittent fasting has become increasingly popular with people looking to lose weight or improve their health.
There are various methods of intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting involves very low or no calorie intake for 1 to 4 days per week, then eating normally on non-fasting days. Supporters claim that this style of eating is more sustainable than traditional diets.
Hippocrates, Plato, and Aristotle each lauded the benefits of fasting. Moreover, virtually all religions, including Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Hinduism incorporate some element of fasting within their rituals. In this cultural context, the most comprehensive studies of IF are those investigating its physiological and biochemical effects observed by Muslims during the holy month of Ramadan, where practitioners follow IF by abstaining from food from sun up until sundown.
To reduce concern for adherence to intermittent fasting strategies, several researchers introduced low caloric intake on IF days. For example, in one eight-week ADF (alternate day fasting) study overweight subjects who consumed 320-380 calories every other day exhibited significant weight loss, burned more fat, and had improved quality of life measures, all while complying well with the dietary protocol. Similarly, Dr. Krista Varady and her colleagues at the University of Illinois at Chicago reported excellent adherence in two studies evaluating health and weight loss benefits of ADF.
There are a few ways to do intermittent fasting.
Daily fasting by restricting your eating time to an 8 hour period, for example, 2:00 pm is your first meal, and you stop eating at 10:00 pm.
Full day fasting where you consume little to no calories for a 24 hour period, one day a week.
Some studies have shown that intermittent fasting improves insulin sensitivity more than traditional diets. Researchers have also reported that intermittent fasting and traditional diets lead to comparable decreases in hemoglobin A1c. Some plans, such as the every-other-day diet, also include a weight maintenance phase, which involves increasing the number of calories consumed on fasting days from 500 to 1,000. Other plans recommend decreasing the number of fasting days each week.
Working together with your health practitioner and a health coach can support you in making a plan to execute IF properly. Check with your doctor to see if intermittent fasting is a safe approach for you.
Specific testing should be done to make sure your body is not struggling in an area that will prevent weight loss when intermittent fasting is done.
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Medical disclaimer: Our tests cannot be used to diagnose, treat or cure any disease. All test results are to be used as educational materials and as a guide to help support your overall health and wellness. Always discuss health concerns with your medical doctor.
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