For about a year, I have been practicing intermittent fasting. I naturally have practiced parts of it my whole life. Even as a child, I could not get up and eat breakfast right away; however, I would eat late at night.
I knew my digestive system was unhappy. I suspected gluten, dairy, almonds, etc. as the cause. I tried eliminating foods, taking probiotics, and digestive enzymes to no avail. Some days were good, and some days were bad.
When I read about Dr. Mercola’s advice on intermittent fasting, it made sense. I don’t believe everything Dr. Mercola says, but I decided to give it a try. I set an intention to not eat after 7:00pm and before 11:00am the next day.
Aside from removing your cravings for sugar and snack foods, melting the pounds of excess fat away, and making it far easier to maintain a healthy body weight, modern science has also confirmed there are many other good reasons to fast intermittently, such as:
Normalizing your insulin and leptin sensitivity, which is key for optimal health as insulin resistance (which is what you get when your insulin sensitivity plummets) is a primary contributing factor to nearly all chronic disease, from diabetes to heart disease and even cancer
Normalizing ghrelin levels, also known as “the hunger hormone”
Promoting human growth hormone (HGH) production, which plays an important part in health, fitness and slowing the aging process
Lowering triglyceride levels
Reducing inflammation and lessening free radical damage
I rarely eat organic “junk” food, and I mostly eat whole foods. I didn’t change what or the way I ate, just the time frame. I immediately felt better!
This is why I practice intermittent fasting:
- I can eat foods I thought I was sensitive to
- I have more energy
- My weight doesn’t fluctuate
- I sleep better
- My digestive system works!
Sometimes I slip up. Last night was one of those nights. At about 9:00pm, I became ravenous. I ate some almonds and dates and a slice of cheese. I paid for it throughout the night and this morning.
I don’t sleep well if my digestive system is working hard. Eating after 7:00pm is the cause of this tossing and turning and insomnia. In the morning, my stomach does not feel well. I feel bloated, and there is some pain and discomfort. I am reminded of my commitment to intermittent fasting.
Why do I eat late? Last night, I was watching the premier of Downton Abbey and was tired. I often eat after dinner only to stay up. I knew I shouldn’t do it, but I caved into my cravings. A better choice would be a cup of tea.
According to LiveScience, there are many proven benefits to intermittent fasting:
However, mounting evidence reveals that other key aspects of diet — when and how often people eat — can also play a major role in health. In fact, the most common eating pattern in modern societies of three meals daily, plus snacks, is abnormal from the perspective of human evolution, an international group of researchers wrote in an article published online Nov. 17 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences…
“Fasting alone is more powerful in preventing and reversing some diseases than drugs,” said Satchidananda Panda, an associate professor of regulatory biology at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego, California, and one of the co-authors of the article. [9 Meal Schedules: When to Eat to Lose Weight]
Ancient hunter-gatherers often ate only intermittently, the researchers noted in their article. This suggests that the ability to function at a high level both physically and mentally during extended periods without food may have been crucial in human evolution, and that the human body may have adapted to perform at its best with intermittent fasting.
Such intermittent fasting could consist of eating 500 calories or less either two days each week, or every other day, or not eating breakfast and lunch several days each week, the researchers said.
Prior research suggests that in animals, intermittent fasting can fend off or even reverse such illnesses as cancer, diabetes, heart disease and neurodegenerative disorders. Animal studies suggest that intermittent fasting provides these benefits by allowing the body to respond better to stress that might otherwise damage it. For example, fasting could starve tumors, reduce inflammation, or improve the removal of damaged molecules and other components of cells, the researchers said.
What I like about intermittent fasting is it is doable! It’s like setting a daily intention. If you mess up, like I did last night, you start again in the morning. I often will add a couple hours to make up for my late night binge, i.e. not eat until 1:00pm today to make sure my body has enough time to process the food I ate late.
I trust the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences more than Dr. Mercola, where the subject has been peer-reviewed and published several times. An abstract from the 2003 article “Intermittent fasting dissociates beneficial effects of dietary restriction on glucose metabolism and neuronal resistance to injury from calorie intake” states:
Dietary restriction has been shown to have several health benefits including increased insulin sensitivity, stress resistance, reduced morbidity, and increased life span. The mechanism remains unknown, but the need for a long-term reduction in caloric intake to achieve these benefits has been assumed. We report that when C57BL/6 mice are maintained on an intermittent fasting (alternate-day fasting) dietary-restriction regimen their overall food intake is not decreased and their body weight is maintained. Nevertheless, intermittentfasting resulted in beneficial effects that met or exceeded those of caloric restriction including reduced serum glucose and insulin levels and increased resistance of neurons in the brain to excitotoxic stress. Intermittentfasting therefore has beneficial effects on glucose regulation and neuronal resistance to injury in these mice that are independent of caloric intake.
According to the abstract of the more recent 2014 article “Meal frequency and timing in health and disease” cited by LiveScience:
Although major research efforts have focused on how specific components of foodstuffs affect health, relatively little is known about a more fundamental aspect of diet, the frequency and circadian timing of meals, and potential benefits of intermittent periods with no or very low energy intakes. The most common eating pattern in modern societies, three meals plus snacks every day, is abnormal from an evolutionary perspective. Emerging findings from studies of animal models and human subjects suggest that intermittent energy restriction periods of as little as 16 h can improve health indicators and counteract disease processes. The mechanisms involve a metabolic shift to fat metabolism and ketone production, and stimulation of adaptive cellular stress responses that prevent and repair molecular damage. As data on the optimal frequency and timing of meals crystalizes, it will be critical to develop strategies to incorporate those eating patterns into health care policy and practice, and the lifestyles of the population.
16 hours of not eating! You can do it. Try it. See how you feel.
You might lose weight. You will at least maintain weight if you do not add exercise into the regime. In fact, Dr. Mercola recommends exercising during the end of the fast for optimum benefit.
Intermittent fasting has changed my life. When I follow it, I can eat foods I thought I was sensitive to, I have more energy, my weight doesn’t fluctuate, and I sleep better.
Hi Jennifer! Thank you for this wonderful post! I am educating the lipoma community on intermittent fasting and water fasting in general and reference you in the post I just made at http://www.lipoma.net/water-fasting-treat-lipoma.html Thank again! If you would like to guest post on my site please let me know! Chris.
Thanks for an absolutely wonderful article. I practice the 8 Hour Diet. In my case it took about 6 weeks for my body to adjust – horrible morning hypoglycemia and intense hunger – which all passed! I think too many people just don’t stick it out. Like fasting researcher Mark Mattson says, it takes a while for your body to adjust. More focus needs to be placed on that caveat.
I am a senior, but am more mentally sharp and clear headed than I was 25 years ago! Aside from weight loss, so many health benefits go along with fasting.
I agree about Dr. Mercola. Not crazy about a lot of his recommendations, but he truly nailed it about intermittent fasting. Thanks again for the article!