Intermittent fasting can produce amazing clinical results — especially if you create a step-by-step plan that is simple to stick to and fits in comfortably with your daily schedule and lifestyle.
In my clinical experience, I have consulted with many patients for whom the prospect of fasting holds the fear of excruciating hunger or near-starvation. I’m here to tell you that intermittent fasting is actually an easy approach to healthy eating that doesn’t require huge changes to your daily routine.
We’ll talk more about that process later on in this post.
What do you plan to achieve?
But first things first. Before I recommend such an approach to eating with any patient, there’s a little homework involved. First, I need to understand their current health status and what they personally hope to achieve with intermittent fasting. Next, I analyze the patient’s current eating habits and meal timing patterns. Specifically, here’s what I’m searching for:
- Some individuals are already practicing intermittent fasting, but they’re making the wrong food choices. They are eating foods that aren’t going to help with insulin responses, which in turn, undermines their results.
- Still others who are intermittently fasting are, in fact, hypoglycemic. And such a diet only further aggravates the problem.
- Happily, a third group is practicing this form of fasting and experiencing success.
There’s almost always a reason why patients who find themselves in the first two groups aren’t responding to intermittent fasting or are actually feeling worse after undergoing such a fast.
Who should and shouldn’t try intermittent fasting?
That’s why I insist on performing a personal health history on each patient, as well as a thorough examination and even more consultation. It is through this investigative process that we can determine if such fasting is ideal for the patient.
What patients are well-suited for intermittent fasting? Those with:
- Autoimmune disease
- Elevated liver enzymes
- Chronic inflammation
- Those in a weakened immune state
In some cases, I find patients who will require either ketones or MCT oils in the first stages of the fast as a support between meals. This can also go a long way toward reducing headaches, fatigue and cravings.
In addition, those who I believe should avoid intermittent fasting include people who are:
- Under stress
- Just beginning an exercise regimen
- Feeling worse after a few weeks of fasting
These conditions can be related to unbalanced insulin and cortisol levels, and those are important things to know prior to becoming immersed in a fasting program.
Intermittent fasting is all about timing meals
So, here’s where I describe how simple an intermittent fasting regimen can be. It’s eating at irregular intervals instead of the traditional three-square meals a day that are consumed at fairly specific times.
It’s all about the timing. Intermittent fasting changes when you eat, not what you eat. What I’m suggesting is that you adopt a program that adjusts your eating schedule in the least disruptive fashion possible. The problem for most people is they consume a meal pretty much every three to five hours. And when you’re eating that often, your insulin levels make it nearly impossible for your body to burn much fat.
Now think about your longest stretch between meals. For most of us, that’s eating dinner between 5:30 p.m. and 8 p.m., going to bed, and maybe eating breakfast between 5:30 a.m. and 8 a.m. the next morning. That’s 12 full hours between meals and you didn’t suffer a bit, did you? Coincidentally, fasting puts your body in a fat-burning state after a dozen or so hours.
Intermittent fasting is a scheduled eating plan that typically lasts from 14 to 18 hours. So, performing the math, all you need to do is skip breakfast after a long night’s sleep, and then eat both lunch and dinner between, say, 1 p.m. and 8 p.m. Just bypass the brownies and popcorn before bedtime and you’re good to go the next day.
What are the benefits of this easy-to-maintain fasting regimen? First off, you’ll likely experience a better night’s sleep, have more energy, lower your triglyceride level, burn fat, and eventually reduce those cravings for sugar.
Now that you’re on a roll — start exercising!
When you’re comfortable in this new fast-burning mode, you’ll find you can expand your fasting for up to 18 hours and not feel hungry between meals. It’s at this point that you might consider starting up or increasing an exercise program.
By increasing your exercise regimen, you’re increasing the fat-burning process — replacing fat with muscle, which is always a good thing.
However, as with any new or updated meal plan, diet or exercise regime, it’s always best to first consult a doctor or other medical professional familiar with you and your current health status before initiating such a plan. Same thing goes for intermittent fasting.
Disclaimer: The information in this blog post is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect current medical thinking or practices. No information contained in this post should be construed as medical advice from Dr. Matt Lewis, D.C., DACBN, CFMP®, nor is this post intended to be a substitute for medical counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this post without seeking the appropriate medical advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a licensed medical professional in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.
About the Author: Dr. Matt Lewis, D.C., DACBN, CFMP®, specializes in diagnosing and treating the underlying causes of the symptoms related to chronic and unexplained illness through nutrition, lifestyle, chiropractic, and other natural approaches to whole-health healing in Tampa, Florida. He earned his B.S. in Biology from Shenandoah University, his Doctorate in Chiropractic from Life University, his Diplomate status in Clinical Nutrition from the American Clinical Board of Nutrition, his CFMP® from Functional Medicine University, and his certification as a Digestive Health Specialist (DHS) through the Food Enzyme Institute. Dr. Lewis’ passion for health and wellness stems from his own personal experience. With a family history of autoimmune conditions and diabetes, and his own lab tests showing his genetic susceptibility to Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (autoimmune thyroid), he has learned how to restore his own health and vigor to prevent the onset of these and other illnesses and live an incredibly active life. Through this process, he acquired a deeper understanding of health and wellness, which he now offers his patients in Tampa.