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  • Writer's pictureBrian Dooreck MD

Is Intermittent Fasting Healthy?—Part 2

Updated: Jul 27, 2023


Intermittent Fasting (IF), health, microbiome, gastrointestinal gi system for you and the gastroenterology doctor

What is "Fasting?"


When you hear the word "fasting" plus "diet" in the same sentence, you probably think of a "fad" diet.


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However, more and more research suggests that mixing "super low-calorie days," or "fasting," into your regular eating plan could improve your health.


The focus of Intermittent Fasting is on "when" to eat, not so much "what" to eat. That can be a problem depending on "what" you eat.

What is Intermittent Fasting (IF)?


Intermittent Fasting (IF) is a strategically planned and occasional "starvation." If you cycle periods of regular eating with fasting, you will severely restrict your calorie intake.


There isn't a "one size fits all" approach to fasting. People will fast for hours. Some may choose to fast for a full day or even longer.

How come Intermittent Fasting (IF) is in the news so much?


There is a lot of "star ⭐️ power" to this diet, from Hugh Jackman to Jimmy Kimmel, Beyoncé, Justin Theroux, Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Lopez, and more.


What are the types of Intermittent Fasting (IF), and how long do they last?


One of the more commonly known fasting systems is the 5:2 diet. This means restricting calories for two non-consecutive days a week and eating without calorie restraints on the other five days. Jimmy Kimmel did the 5:2 diet.


5:2 means restricting calories for two non-consecutive days a week and eating without calorie restraints on the other five days

To get in shape for his role as Wolverine in 2013, Hugh Jackman did a 16:8 diet. So he fasted for 16 hours and only ate within an 8-hour window.


16:8 means restricting calories for 16 hours a day and eating without calorie restraints during the other 8 hours

Healthy foods help your gut diversity, health, microbiome, gastrointestinal gi system for you and the gastroenterology doctor

Does Intermittent Fasting (IF) improve overall health?


Fasting can affect cell and hormone function. Several studies and evolving research suggest that this may improve your overall health and extend your life.


Periodic or "intermittent" fasting was linked to lower risks of the following in a published study in 2019 in Cell Metabolism.


  • Heart disease

  • Diabetes

  • Cancer

  • Aging


Healthy foods help your gut diversity, health, microbiome, gastrointestinal gi system for you and the gastroenterology doctor

What happens to cells with Intermittent Fasting (IF)?


Many cells "die," and stem cells become "activated," which starts a process of "regeneration."


This "regeneration" process leads to new, younger cells, or "autophagy."




Autophagy allows the "orderly degradation and recycling of cellular components."


"Autophagy is the natural, regulated mechanism of the cell that removes unnecessary or dysfunctional components. It allows the orderly degradation and recycling of cellular components." —Wikipedia

What else happens within cells with Intermittent Fasting (IF)?


Furthermore, "metabolic switching" occurs within cells when you are alternating between fasting and eating.


This is where cells use fuel stores and convert fat to energy. It has been referred to as "flipping a switch" from fat-storing.


"Metabolic switching" has been referred to as "flipping a switch" from fat-storing

Healthy foods help your gut diversity, health, microbiome, gastrointestinal gi system for you and the gastroenterology doctor

Does Intermittent Fasting (IF) help certain medical conditions?


Abstaining from food for many hours "could" aid in treating specific health conditions. The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) has published that Intermittent Fasting (IF) can help with the following.


Health is very individualized. So what helps one person may not have the same effect on your health.

  • Reduce blood pressure

  • Weight loss for obesity

  • Improve longevity

  • Cancer

  • Diabetes

  • Improve insulin resistance

  • Improve and stabilize blood sugar levels

  • Heart disease

  • Decrease the "bad" cholesterol or low-density lipoprotein (LDL)

  • Decrease inflammation


These are all good things to aim for and can also be achieved with many balanced approaches to diet.


Diets and food choices are highly individualized.


What about weight loss and Intermittent Fasting (IF)?


It can help with weight loss. However, the results will differ for everyone.


An intermittent fasting program may lead to weight loss. ⚠️ However, intermittent fasting is not a practical or sustainable long-term solution for everyone.


Healthy foods help your gut diversity, health, microbiome, gastrointestinal gi system for you and the gastroenterology doctor

Should I get guidance on Intermittent Fasting (IF)?


Always ask a health professional to help you safely plan. Ensure you are eating the right foods—on fasting and non-fasting days. Remember, the goal is good health. The goal is the "long game."


Remember the goal is good health.

⛔️ Any restrictive diet obviously should be under the guidance of a medical professional—especially if there are medical comorbidities or medications taken for a condition such as diabetes.


Should I talk to a doctor before trying a fasting diet?


Yes.


Determine with a trained healthcare professional in nutrition which approach system makes sense for you and your lifestyle.


⛔️ Any restrictive diet obviously should be under the guidance of a medical professional—especially if there are medical comorbidities or medications taken for a condition such as diabetes.

Is Intermittent Fasting (IF) healthy?

For some—maybe it is.


However, especially under the guidance and monitoring of your physician, if you have medical conditions, you are trying to manage with it, such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, or a supplement to controlling cancer.


What are the long-term effects of Intermittent Fasting (IF)?


Currently, the long-term effects of fasting diets aren't well understood. Research has been a short time and mostly from animal studies.


As of now, the long-term effects of fasting diets aren't well understood.

Is Intermittent Fasting (IF) hard?


Most Americans eat three meals a day plus snacks. So you will have to ask yourself that question.


Transitioning to Intermittent Fasting (IF) can be challenging, with the following early on.

  • Hunger

  • Headaches

  • Decreased energy

  • Irritability

  • Decreased concentration

  • Fatigue


For these reasons, many prop Intermittent Fasting (IF) early on.


Usually, after two weeks, or even a month, your body and brain will adapt and find a "new norm."


Should I be monitored if I choose Intermittent Fasting (IF)?


Since there is little human research, physicians should monitor their patients throughout the Intermittent Fasting (IF) process, especially at the beginning of the transition.


Healthy foods feed the gut-brain axis, health, microbiome, gastrointestinal gi system for you and the gastroenterology doctor

How should I start Intermittent Fasting (IF)?


If you were to start Intermittent Fasting (IF), consider gradually increasing the duration and frequency of fasting—not "jumping all in."

What are some pitfalls of Intermittent Fasting (IF)?

As above.


I am just getting started with the clinical symptoms of being hungry and irritable.

Also, the desire to "reward" yourself for fasting by binging or eating with poor dietary choices on non-fasting days. Not to mention a "loss" of sensible portion control.


Why do I get "super hungry" with Intermittent Fasting (IF)?

The brain stimulates more appetite hormones from the hypothalamus or the "hunger center" of your brain.


Healthy foods feed the gut-brain axis, health, microbiome, gastrointestinal gi system for you and the gastroenterology doctor

These hormones are released when your body is deprived of food, by choice or involuntarily.


This can trigger overeating.


How should I spend my "eating" time when I am not "fasting"?


Eating time does not mean bingeing. It does not mean consuming enough calories for a long winter hibernating. It means to think and make wise choices.


Here is a novel idea💡.

Instead of an "extreme" and "elimination-based" dietary approach, focus on eating more fruits and vegetables.


Here are some thoughts 💭 from a Gastroenterologist 🥼...choose healthy calories and add whole-food-based nutrients. Avoid an extreme, "all-or-nothing" approach to eating...or in life, for that matter.


Balance. Portion control. Keep nutrition simple. Eat Smart. Eat Healthy. 🌱 🌾 🌿


Personally


I eat a high-fiber, mostly plant-based 🌱 diet, no red meat, drink 4 liters of water a day, exercise, and am focused on keeping nutrition simple. I am sharing what works for me and what I routinely recommend to my patients.


"Balance. Portion control. Keep nutrition simple. Eat Smart. Eat Healthy. 🌱 🌾 🌿"

Gut Health ➕ Patient Advocacy with Navigation ➕ Life Balance


If you were looking for information about Private Healthcare Navigation and Patient Advocacy from Executive Health Navigation


Connect with Dr. Dooreck on LinkedIn, where he focuses his sharing on Health, Diet, Nutrition, Exercise, Lifestyle, and Balance.


 

gastroenterology | colonoscopy doctor | colonoscopy and gastroenterology services | gastro doctor | gi doctor | gastrointestinal diagnostic centers | public health

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