When it comes to fasting, people often mistake it as a weight-loss trend. Although viewed as a product of diet culture, fasting can offer excellent health benefits. So, what does fasting mean? It gets defined as the willing abstinence from food, drink, or both, for a while.
You must’ve likely fasted before since blood tests, surgery, and other medical procedures are often required. But not all fasting are the same. There are multiple versions of fasting, and one of them is intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting or IF has been around for a long time. Some might call it as old as humankind. In previous years, IF has received criticism concerning its safety. However, intermittent fasting is now a means of controlling chronic illnesses, including diabetes.
A detailed study concludes that intermittent fasting induces weight loss and reduces insulin requirements for type 1 and 2 diabetes. However, it is only encouraged with proper medication adjustment and continuous glucose level monitoring. Since people with diabetes are not average healthy individuals, they should do a detailed background check before getting into an intermittent fasting plan.
How Exactly Does Intermittent Fasting Work?
Intermittent fasting is not a diet. Instead, it is an eating pattern. When you fast intermittently, you’ll be eating within a shortened time window and fast the rest of the time. In other words, if you’re not eating anything right now, then you’re fasting. Thus, intermittent fasting is an eating schedule where people go long periods without eating. Don’t worry; it does not push the body into starvation mode.
Given below are some of the many ways to follow Intermittent Fasting.
Intermittent Fasting – 16:8
The 16:8 or 16/8 is one of the most popular intermittent fasting schedules. People on a 16/8 intermittent fasting schedule will not eat for 16 hours, most likely overnight, followed by 2-3 meals during the remaining eight hours. For example, eat dinner at 6 pm, and have breakfast after 10 am the next day. 16:8 intermittent fasting protocol is very manageable, and you can easily incorporate it into your daily schedule.
Intermittent Fasting – 12:12
The 12:12 protocol involves fasting for 12 hours a day. So you’ll also have 12 hours to eat. It is an equally distributed schedule, an excellent option for beginners. You can generally follow a 12:12 intermittent fasting schedule daily because it’s less restrictive than other eating patterns.
Intermittent Fasting – 20:4
The 20:4 intermittent fasting plan is suitable for those who don’t feel hungry during the day or busy daytime workers who don’t have time to eat. It is a restrictive eating pattern with a four-hour eating window and a twenty-hour fasting period. For example, you can eat two meals between 1 pm and 5 pm and fast for the remaining 20 hours. During the four hours, people can eat as much as they want. But it’s challenging to consume adequate nutrients and calories during a short time frame.
Intermittent Fasting – 5:2
The 5:2 plan or fast diet encourages normal eating for five days and fasting for two days a week. You can only consume around 500–600 calories per day during these two days. However, for the remaining five days, there are no eating restrictions. For example, you can fast for Tuesday and Saturday and normally eat throughout the other days. Remember that it is essential to ensure that you fast on non-consecutive days.
Intermittent Fasting – 24 Hours
As the name suggests, a 24 hours intermittent fasting protocol is based on fasting for 24 hours between each meal. For example, eat at 8 pm and fast till 8 pm on the next day. The aim is to eat one meal a day and fast for extended periods. It is mostly not recommended by nutritionist.
Intermittent Fasting – 36 Hours
The 36 hours fast is a more intensive and extended version of the 24 hours fasting plan. To follow 36-hour intermittent fasting, you can start by eating dinner on day one, fast for the entirety of day two, and eat breakfast on day three. However, please remember that you should not do it frequently, especially if you have diabetes.
Intermittent Fasting – Alternate Day Fasting
Under alternate day fasting, you’ll be fasting every other day. It involves eating normally on day one, with day two restricted to one meal of 500 calories. It is a highly unsustainable form of intermittent fasting in the long run.
How Does Intermittent Fasting Work for Diabetes?
Intermittent fasting works by lowering insulin levels so that the body burns stored fat for energy. That results in weight loss. It, in turn, can put diabetes into remission. For instance, a study shows that people with type 2 diabetes achieved remission after weight loss and intensive weight management. When done safely and under medical supervision, intermittent fasting can reduce the dependence on diabetes medication.
People with diabetes tend to experience increased appetite, which leads to binge eating in one sitting. It makes the pancreas overwork to release the required amounts of insulin. Moreover, all the extra glucose from overeating will get stored as fat. Over time, it causes weight gain and insulin resistance, ultimately worsening diabetes. And that’s when intermittent fasting comes into the picture. Following intermittent fasting gives your body time to reset.
Since intermittent fasting gives a break between meals, your insulin levels drop, and glucose levels remain stable. In addition, it promotes detoxification. And all of these factors can support better diabetes management. But the effects of intermittent fasting are not the same for type 1 and type 2 diabetes. A study shows that people with type diabetes or borderline diabetes experienced weight loss and improved blood glucose levels after following the 5:2 intermittent fasting. However, it’s not feasible for people with type 1 diabetes. It could make diabetes management more difficult and elevate the risk of hypoglycemia.
Potential Benefits of Intermittent Fasting for Diabetes
Intermittent fasting works on the principle of calorie restriction. It controls the amount of food you eat and promotes an overall reduction in calorie intake. When you consume fewer calories and burn more, it causes a calorie deficit. As a result, your body starts utilising all the fat stored in the body. Thus, promoting weight loss. Plus, maintaining a healthy weight is crucial for diabetes.
Cellular damage is a common concern among people with diabetes as it increases the chances of cell death and tissue injuries. On the other hand, intermittent fasting promotes detoxification and allows the body to cleanse itself. Hence, it clears out the junk and waste components responsible for impaired cell function and damage.
Low Insulin Resistance
Implementing intermittent fasting can reduce fasting insulin and insulin resistance in obese diabetics. In addition, it can lower insulin resistance by a range of 3–6% in people with prediabetes. That’s because fasting every other day is the best way to improve your insulin sensitivity. Moreover, it can promote healthier insulin levels.
People with type 2 diabetes are prone to high heart disease risk. But intermittent fasting stabilises the blood sugar and eliminates harmful free radicals via detoxification. Thus, improving heart health. Moreover, alternate-day fasting reduced triglyceride levels by 32%, thereby lowering bad cholesterol in the body. So people who are looking to normalise their blood pressure must give it a try.
Potential Downsides of Intermittent Fasting for Diabetes
Diabetic women with a risk of polycystic ovarian syndrome or PCOS can experience hormonal imbalance from intermittent fasting. It also applies to those nearing menopause or who have reached menopause. Such hormonal imbalance from fasting can hamper fertility.
Not staying hydrated is one of the most common mistakes in intermittent fasting. People tend to skip water along with the food, thereby causing dehydration. For anyone, regardless of whether you have diabetes or not, staying hydrated is vital to prevent health complications. During your fasting window, make a conscious effort to drink water.
Fatigue and Irritability
It takes a couple of trials and errors to adjust to the intermittent fasting patterns. For a person with diabetes, it might take weeks to feel better. Till then, you may experience low energy or fatigue. In addition, due to sudden changes in eating schedules, some people may feel irritable.
People tend to much on unhealthy snacks and careless eating during the non-fasting period. For example, in a 20:4 plan, it’s most likely to fall into the temptation and excessively eat during the four hours. As a result, it defeats the purpose and becomes counterproductive.
The stomach secretes acidic gastric juice for smooth digestion, which happens whether you’re fasting or not. That is because when there’s no food to break down, the acidic gastric juice attacks and deteriorates the stomach lining. Thus, causing acidity and stomach ulcers.
What Can I Drink While Fasting?
It’s easy to feel dehydrated after following intermittent fasting. Hydration is vital, but most people fail to include a drink in their fasting cycle. You should remain hydrated, especially if you have diabetes and other medical conditions. When you choose a drink, stay clear from those with sugar or carbs, for example, sweetened coffee, diet sodas, and flavoured drinks. Here are some diabetes-friendly beverages that don’t provoke the insulin response during intermittent fasting:
- Water/mineral water
- Herbal teas, oolong tea, black tea, and green tea
- Apple cider vinegar
Tips For Intermittent Fasting When You Have Diabetes
- Before starting an intermittent fasting plan, talk to your doctor and find an approach suitable for you. Moreover, the medication doses must get adjusted as well.
- Be prepared for the side effects. It will take some time to get adjusted to the fasting plan.
- Do not consume a heavy meal or high carbohydrate foods right away when you break the fast. It will rapidly raise blood sugar levels. Instead, be sure to eat fibre and protein-rich foods.
- Eat healthily and stay healthy. Even if you’re eating for a shorter period, choose the most nutritious options. Stick to diabetes-friendly foods and avoid processed ones.
- Monitor your blood sugar levels often. Long periods of fasting are bound to make it change. So, keep a check on it and look out for any abnormalities.
- Break the fast immediately if you experience extreme fatigue, dizziness, nausea, and frequent urination symptoms. Talk to your doctor before resuming the fast.
Intermittent fasting is an eating style that changes when you eat, not what you eat. It means that people follow a schedule, eat during a specific period and fast the rest of the time. Although intermittent fasting can be challenging, it offers multiple mental and physical benefits. Even so, the body requires adequate time to rest and recover from fasting.
No matter what type of intermittent fasting a diabetic person decides to follow, they should never neglect the food quality, nutritional profile, carbs value, calories, etc. Intermittent fasting can be a path to better health. However, choose the fasting protocol that’s best for you. Always consult with your healthcare practitioner before you try intermittent fasting. That is because it has pros and cons. It might not be as effective in the long and might as well leave an adverse effect on your health. Thus, following it for a short time is usually the best choice.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. Does intermittent fasting help with diabetes?
A. Yes, choosing the right type of intermittent fasting protocol helps with diabetes. It can stabilise blood sugar levels and reduce insulin resistance. Furthermore, it is highly beneficial for an obese diabetic who wants to lose weight.
Q. Why should diabetics not do intermittent fasting?
A. There’s no strict restriction for diabetic people to do intermittent fasting unless the healthcare advisor advises you. However, if you’re diabetic with other medical conditions, it might cause side effects like nausea, headache, and fatigue. For example, diabetic women with PCOS must not follow strict fasting as it can cause hormonal imbalance.
Q. How long does it take to reverse diabetes with intermittent fasting?
A. It takes about a month to see desirable effects. The blood sugar levels will improve within 2-4 weeks for some. Those who follow intermittent fasting and fast at least three times a week can also get into remission after a month.
Q. How long does it take for intermittent fasting to lower blood sugar?
A. Around 3-6% of fasting blood sugar is reduced after 8-12 weeks of intermittent fasting. However, after a month of intermittent fasting, you can notice a considerable improvement in blood sugar levels.
Q. Can a diabetic fast for 16 hours?
A. Yes, a person with diabetes can fast for 16 hours. It is also known as the 16:8 intermittent fasting protocol, where people fast for 16 hours and eat during the eight-hour time frame. Furthermore, fasting for 16 hours is compatible with the daily schedule for most diabetic people out there.
Q. How many hours should a diabetic fast?
A. There are multiple types of intermittent fasting plans suitable for diabetes. Some examples are 16:8, 12:12, and 20:4, where the fasting hours are 16, 12, and 20. However, a person with diabetes should not fast for more than 24 hours.
Q. Can fasting raise your blood sugar?
A. Although not common, some people might experience a rise in blood sugar. It happens when a fasting person experiences undue stress. A drastic rise in blood sugar can also arise from eating a high carbohydrate meal after fasting hours.