Intermittent Fasting

what is intermittent fast?

What is intermittent fasting and how can it help you reach your health goals? How do you do it and how does IF work? 

Intermittent fasting is a simple way to structure caloric intake to maximize metabolism. It can boost weight loss, mental focus and improve gastrointestinal disorders. 

There are many ways to support a healthy metabolism. Two major ones have recently gotten a lot of attention: Intermittent Fasting (IF) and High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). Both are relatively simple, can be free or cheap to implement, and can even be used together! Later this month, we will have an article about HIIT.

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting, or IF, is also referred to as “time-restricted eating.” It is a fasting system during certain hours of the day and eating during only a small window of time. There are many ways to structure IF, but the most common is 16:8. This means fasting for 16 hours and eating for 8 hours. Your eating window could be 10 am – 6 pm, 8 am – 4 pm, noon – 8 pm, etc. You can build your fasting and eating windows around your schedule and needs. Some proponents of IF recommend smaller eating windows, 6 hours or 4 hours, but 8 hours is generally regarded as an effective window.

How does IF work?

Our bodies have evolved amazing biological mechanisms to weather good and bad times. Our metabolism is such that we store excess calories during abundance and burn those stores to survive periods of famine. During feast times, due to insulin, we store extra sugar in the blood as fat. Many of our modern meals are carb-rich, essentially flooding the body with quick energy. When the body is overwhelmed with resources it cannot immediately use, it is smart and saves much of those calories for a rainy day. Insulin impairs cognitive function, which is why many people report feeling more mentally alert during intermittent fasting. During the 16-hour period of fasting, the body has to burn those stored calories as fuel.

Intermittent fasting can be effective even if only utilized 5 days a week. Many patients still have great results and can ease their time restrictions on weekends. It is still a good goal to eat during a 12-hour window on your “off” days. It is also helpful to ease into intermittent fasting. Start with a 12-hour fasting window, and every few days, add an hour to work up to a 16-hour window over the course of 1-2 weeks.

Who is IF good for?

 

Suppose it is good for most people, with a few exceptions. Pregnant women should avoid fasting as they have special metabolic needs. If you are a brittle diabetic, under 16, over 70, have chronic kidney disease, are dealing with cancer, have chronic heart disease, or a history of eating disorders, this may not be the best food strategy for you. These patients must be sure to consult a healthcare provider before starting IF. Over the course of thousands of years, humans never had ready access to food the way we do now. Even just 50 years ago, most people ate three square meals but did not snack throughout the day. Now we commonly eat three meals AND snacks throughout the day. We’ve increased our caloric intake in a time when most of us are more sedentary than ever. Suppose helps us restore the balance between caloric intake and activity level. One of its great benefits is that you do not need to count calories. You eat healthy food during the 8-hour window and then stop eating at the designated time.

 Intermittent fasting is a great way to support a healthy metabolism.

Will I be hungry?

This is the most common question I get about IF. The simple answer is, probably in the beginning. The body has to switch gears and adapt to the new schedule. It is likely used to a constant supply of energy, so there is an adjustment period. I typically find that after 3-7 days, your body gets into a new rhythm. Plus, you can consume calorie-free beverages like water, carbonated water, unsweetened green/black/herbal tea, or coffee whenever you feel hungry. Be careful not to overdo it on the coffee as it is acidic and has more caffeine than other drinks—one quick note about sweeteners. Digestion does not start in the stomach; it starts in the mouth. When we taste something sweet, our brain tells our stomach and pancreas to ramp up digestion. So whether it is honey, white sugar, turbinado sugar, coconut sugar, Stevia, monk fruit, sucralose, or aspartame, your body thinks it is consuming sugar (calories). For IF, during the fasting period, you should only drink plain fluids. As an aside, for this reason, consuming diet drinks on an empty stomach can play havoc with your blood sugar in general. Studies have shown that patients consuming diet beverages are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes!

What else is great about IF?

Another benefit of IF is giving your body digestive rest. If we eat all day long, the various digestion organs are busy for prolonged periods of time. When we fast, our stomach, intestines, pancreas, and liver get a break. This is particularly helpful for patients dealing with gastrointestinal disorders like irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers, Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, diverticulitis, GERD, etc. As with anything you read on the internet, be sure to speak to your doctor before making any radical lifestyle changes if you have a current health condition. 

Another benefit of IF is giving your body digestive rest.

Intermittent fasting is one of the easiest ways to boost metabolism. It is free, does not require any special equipment, and you do not need to count calories or follow any special diet. During IF, you simply eat healthy food during the eating window and do not consume calories during the fasting window. 

Eating a healthy diet is obviously better than an unhealthy diet, so be sure to continue to make good food choices during this time. When fasting, drink lots of water, but you can also drink black coffee or plain tea without sweeteners. Give IF a try, and you will be amazed at how it can help boost your health journey!

   

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Dr. Jessica Keating
Owner & Physician , Willow Clinic of Natural Medicine
Jessica Lodal Keating graduated with her doctorate in chiropractic medicine from National University of Health Sciences (NUHS) in Lombard, IL in December of 2016. She graduated summa cum laude and salutatorian of her class. She completed a primary care internship at the in-house clinic in the Salvation Army’s Adult Rehabilitation Center in downtown Chicago. There she was able to provide natural approaches to health and wellness to an under-served population. She also led efforts to solicit supplement donations from local doctors in order to provide these supplements to patients free of charge. During her time at NUHS, Dr. Keating also studied traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and became certified to perform acupuncture, moxabustion and fire cupping. She uses the wisdom of eastern medicine to complement her holistic approach to assessing each individual patient and treating the whole person. She participated in various other seminars and trainings over the course of her studies including MPI’s full-spine adjusting seminar and Apex’s Fundamentals of Functional Blood Chemistry. Dr. Keating also completed her Doctorate of Naturopathic medicine in 2018, graduating valedictorian and summa cum laude. Dr. Keating has worked in several natural primary care offices in the greater Chicagoland area. She is also a full-time naturopathic clinician at National University of Health Sciences. There she is able to help shape the next generation of naturopathic doctors. She has a home-call practice where she treats patients in the comfort of their own homes all around Chicagoland. Dr. Keating loves balancing private practice with teaching and clinical supervision. Dr. Jessica Keating received her bachelor’s degree in International Affairs from Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon before deciding to attend NUHS. After her undergrad degree, she grew frustrated with the field of political science and sought a new career path. Her own health had been dramatically improved through diet, yoga and herbal medicine. Because of these experiences, she decided to deepen her understanding of natural medicine by pursuing a higher degree. Dr. Keating remains committed to her own health journey on a personal and professional level. She aims to help others thrive and maintain optimal health by guiding them down the same path and educating her patients by empowering them to take their health into their own hands. Dr. Keating practices holistic, natural primary care. She treats GI conditions, autoimmune disorders, women’s health, sleep issues, heart disease, diabetes, anxiety, depression, back pain as well as working with patients on weight loss and general wellness promotion. She treats pediatric, adult and geriatric patients using diet, lifestyle modification, herbal medicine, physical medicine and acupuncture. In her free time, Dr. Keating loves reading, biking, cooking and playing with her cats. Dr. Keating also enjoys yoga, tennis, rollerblading, going to the movies and travelling with her husband. She has been to 28 different countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North and South America.
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