Research is increasingly showing the importance of considering the interconnectedness of the systems within the body – and recognising that chronic inflammation appears to play a role in many common health problems such as: chronic pain, back pain, migraines, fibromyalgia and inflammatory bowel disease (1).
There are many lifestyle strategies which can be put into place when considering how to reduce inflammation, one of the most effective ways seems to be Intermittent Fasting (IF).
In recent years it’s been promoted by celebrities and even considered “trendy” – but is intermittent fasting more than just a fad? Experts say it is. Intermittent fasting, which involves restricting the period of time in which you eat, has been found to provide at least as many health benefits as a diet involving calorie restriction, including weight loss and a decreased risk of disease.
Intermittent fasting (IF) involves limiting the time period in which you consume meals, in order to incorporate a period of fasting. The length of the fast should be 16 hours at minimum – which doesn’t seem too difficult when you factor in the time you are asleep overnight.
While IF is not a diet as such, experts warn that this style of eating won’t be effective if it’s teamed with binge eating during the non-fasting periods. It’s also far more beneficial when combined with a lower carbohydrate intake and a diet incorporating healthier plant and animal-sourced fats.
The most commonly known benefit of IF is fat loss because the fasting helps shift your body to burning fat as its primary fuel, rather than carbohydrates/sugars. However, there are many other health benefits to IF.
IF can improve brain function and protect against Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease because it increases production of a particular protein which activates brain cells. It also promotes insulin sensitivity which protects you from the harmful effects of insulin resistance, a contributor to many chronic diseases.
IF also boosts production of the human growth hormone, which is crucial in maintaining fitness, promoting muscle growth and improving metabolism. And it’s great for supporting a healthy gut, which also helps your immune system.
The following table lists the large range of potential health benefits of implementing IF (2-7).
At is simplest, intermittent fasting involves ensuring you have a period of at least 16 hours when you aren’t eating. Factoring in sleeping time, this could be as simple as skipping breakfast. Increasing the fasting time to more than 16 hours can be valuable, but most of the benefits of IF can be experienced by following the 16 hour fast.
Put simply, your body won’t switch to burning fat until it uses up its glycogen sources, which takes around six to eight hours. If you are continually eating – and therefore replenishing those sources – your body will have a harder time switching to fat burning.
It’s important to note that it can take a few weeks before your body switches to effectively burning fat. And while you may be concerned about hunger and cravings, if you’re eating a good quantity of healthy fats - such as butter, coconut oil, olive oil, nuts, eggs and avocadoes - combined with healthy proteins, and restricting your carbohydrate intake, you should notice that hunger and cravings disappear. This means avoiding foods such as bread, pasta, rice and potatoes, which are high in carbohydrates.
Whenever you’re considering a drastic change to your eating patterns, it’s important to consult a health practitioner, particularly if you have any health issues or are taking any medication. This is particularly important if you are diabetic, as this change in eating can affect blood sugar levels.
You may like to consider consulting our naturopath, who can guide you through the process of making valuable changes to your diet and lifestyle.
You’ll find lots more information about the science behind our important wellbeing and lifestyle strategies, including cutting edge developments, by coming along to our Adapt-ability Workshop (online during COVID-19).