In the past year, organic searches for the term "intermittent fasting" have grown by 315 percent. To say it's trending would be an understatement. But what's all the hype about? The eating plan is said to support weight loss, improve heart health, reduce the risk of developing diabetes and decrease insulin resistance. Because many of the benefits of fasting align with my health goals as a person with type 2 diabetes, I wondered: Would it work for me?
The World Journal of Diabetes notes that intermittent fasting short-term may be a safe and tolerable dietary intervention in people with type 2 diabetes. Research published by the National Institutes of Health points to the potential for the therapeutic use of intermittent fasting in type 2 diabetes as an alternative to insulin.
Since the benefits of fasting are well-known, I wanted to dig deeper and learn more about the actual experience.
Intermittent Fasting and Its Benefits
Intermittent fasting means abstaining from food and drink for specific periods of time, resulting in the following benefits, according to Time:
- Increased natural cellular detoxification
- Improved brain and heart health
- Improved metabolism and digestive health
- Lower risk of diabetes
- Improved lipid profile
This kind of fasting can follow several different protocols:
- Fast for 14 to 16 hours, and use the remaining eight to 10 hours as your eating window.
- The 5-2 plan: Eat as usual for five days a week, and in the remaining two eat one-quarter of your normal calorie consumption.
- Fast for 24 hours once or twice a week.
- Eat one meal a day, usually at dinner, and fast for the rest of the day.
- Eat only fruits, nuts and seeds during the day, and eat one large meal at night.
- Eschew scheduled meal times and eat only when you're hungry, fasting when you're not.
Since most of those options would interfere with my medication schedule and put me at risk for very low or very high blood sugar, I chose the 5-2 plan.
How I Got Started
I discussed my 30-day intermittent fasting challenge with my doctor. She advised that it was safe for me to try and suggested that I maintain a food journal and monitor my blood sugar at the end of each week. We devised the following plan:
- Monday through Friday, I'd follow my normal diet.
- Saturdays and Sundays would be my days for fasting, wherein I'd eat 25 percent of the calories I'd usually consume.
I devised a portion-controlled meal plan comprising foods rich in protein and fibre and low in carbohydrates and calories, including:
- Seasonal vegetables (cucumbers, cabbage, cauliflower, beets, carrots, peas, okra, eggplant, tomatoes, pumpkin, capsicum, beans, radish, snake gourd, bottle gourd, bitter gourd)
- Fruits (apples, papayas, pomegranates, lemons)
- Sprouts (green gram, chickpeas, fenugreek, black-eyed peas)
- Greens (spinach, amaranth, fenugreek, coriander, curry leaves, mint)
- Oils (olive oil, coconut oil, ghee)
- Nuts and seeds (almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, flax seeds)
- Beverages (tea and coffee, home-made yoghurt, water)
I also included oats, whole-wheat flour, millets, lentils and rice in my Monday-through-Friday diet.
My 30-Day Intermittent Fasting Experience
The fasting was not difficult, as my food choices stayed the same. Initially, I worried about the two low-calorie days, since I had to manage my blood sugar levels. But as it turned out, I had plenty of healthy food choices, which made the challenge a pleasant experience.
Exercise is already part of my diabetes management plan, and I stuck to my usual regimen during the fasting experience. Monday through Friday, I walked for 30 minutes in the mornings and one hour in the evenings. On Saturdays and Sundays, I walked only in the mornings.
As my experiment progressed, I experienced four prominent benefits of intermittent fasting.
1. A Healthier Gut
Before I started my fasting, I had been complaining about bloating. It all but disappeared after the first week. My stomach was happier, and I was too, as a result.
2. Better Sleep and Increased Energy
Before my fasting experiment, I was guilty of staying up far too late, which resulted in a lot of late-night snacking. And I'd often wake up exhausted the next morning. Once I started fasting, I started sleeping earlier. I woke up feeling refreshed and felt more focused and energetic during the day.
3. Improved Glucose Levels
Although I follow a reasonably strict diet to manage my blood sugar levels, there are days where I don't quite stick to it. The 30-day intermittent fasting challenge motivated me to stick to my diet and exercise plan. The result? Much better fasting and post-meal blood sugar levels.
4. Weight Loss
The fasting routine — combined with regular exercise and restful sleep — helped me lose two kilograms at the end of the 30 days. Good news, indeed!
Overall, I found the 30-day schedule fairly easy to follow, and didn't experience any incidence of low or high blood sugar.
In spite of its imminent benefits, intermittent fasting is not for everyone. Children, pregnant and lactating women and those with eating disorders, low blood sugar, a compromised immune system, chronic fatigue, a heart condition, a kidney or liver disease and those on medication for blood pressure should follow the specific eating plan recommended by their doctor. Anyone else should consult with a medical professional before beginning any eating or fasting plan.
Nutrition is an essential part of living your healthiest life, and the most important thing to remember is that your diet doesn't have to be right for everyone — just for you.
Disclaimer: This publication/article/editorial is meant for awareness/educational purposes and does not constitute or imply an endorsement, sponsorship or recommendation of any products. Please consult your doctor or healthcare practitioner before starting any diet, medication or exercise.