Tips & Benefits of Intermittent Fasting for Diabetes
Intermittent fasting (IF), is a dietary approach that involves interspacing planned periods of fasting with regular eating. It has recently become a health trend and popular to lose weight, improve metabolic health, and perhaps even extend your lifespan.
What is Intermittent Fasting (IF)?
IF is a diet regimen that involves a cyclic pattern of unrestricted eating and fasting (no food at all or considerable calorie reduction) at brief intervals and involving limiting food intake into to 4-6 h and extends the overnight fast from 12 to 18 or 20 hours. Studies about IF have shown that it helps in significant weight loss, improved fasting glucose levels, more tolerance and no hypoglycemia. Hence it has been recommended as a beneficial additional dietary strategy for T2DM management.
What are the Types of Intermittent Fasting?
1. 16 : 8 Diet
The 16/8 method involves daily fasts of 14 to 16 hours a day, and limits your eating window to 8 to 10 hours. Within this time, you can consume two to three meals, as per preference. For example, if you eat your dinner at 8 pm and fast till noon the next day, your fasting window is 16 hours.
2. 5 : 2 Diet
Involves eating 500–600 calories for 2 days out of the week and eating normally the other 5 days. For example, you eat regular meals every day except Tuesday and Friday. On your fast days, you eat small meals twice a day and keep your calorie intake limited to 500 to 600.
3. Eat Stop Eat
Has one or two 24-hour fasts once or twice a week For example, if you eat your last meal at 8 PM on Monday and fast until your next meal at 8 PM on Tuesday, you have completed your fast for 24-hours.
4. Alternate-day Fasting
Fast every other day, either by not eating anything or only eating a few hundred calories. For example, you ate your last meal at 7 PM on Monday, did fast or limited calories on Tuesday, and again ate on Wednesday.
5. The Warrior Diet
You eat small quantities of raw veggies and fruits all day, followed by a large dinner at night.
6. Spontaneous Meal Skipping
You may skip your meals when you do not have time or are not hungry.
How does Intermittent Fasting Work?
Intermittent fasting is a popular diet plan chosen by many people. However, fasting should be done after you have consulted a doctor or a dietitian. It can be helpful and can be a successful part of a healthy lifestyle but get to know the pros and cons before you start intermittent fasting. To understand intermittent fasting better, it is essential to understand how your body assimilates glucose and insulin. Insulin is a hormone released by the pancreas to absorb sugar from the bloodstream and is vital to maintaining the blood sugar level. One of the goals of intermittent fasting is to get insulin levels low enough for your body to burn fat instead of sugar.
When carbohydrates are broken down to the simplest form they turn into glucose and are absorbed into the bloodstream. If you have more glucose in your body than required, then it gets stored as fat for future use. When you are fasting, your insulin levels drop which causes the stored fat to be used for energy as an alternative fuel for the body. There are many advantages of intermittent fasting when it is done right.
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting - General
Intermittent fasting can be done by people with diabetes as well without compromising their health. You can read the advantages of intermittent fasting here.
- One of the most notable advantages of intermittent fasting is weight loss. The correct diet and exercise can help you reduce weight instantly. After the initial water weight has been lost it becomes difficult as you reach the weight loss plateau. Intermittent fasting is one of the things that can help when you are looking for a change in your diet plan. It helps burn the excessive fat in your body when there is no additional nourishment to be given in the form of sugar and other carbohydrates.
- There have been many studies conducted on diabetes and intermittent fasting. Small studies have shown that the body requires less insulin when fasting. At the same time, lower levels of insulin are required to manage blood sugar levels and there are lesser spikes in the blood glucose levels.
- Intermittent fasting is a great way to get rid of damaged cells in the body. This reduces the risk of cancer and makes the body healthier by detoxifying it.
- Intermittent fasting is a great way to manage blood sugar which is often seen along with diabetes.
- It is easier to keep the bad cholesterol or LDL under control. A higher level of cholesterol can lead to serious heart ailments.
- Intermittent fasting has proven that it is easier to manage symptoms of illnesses such as asthma and arthritis when choosing this option.
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting - Diabetes
- Type 2 diabetes - There has been a lot of talk about research on type 2 diabetes and intermittent fasting. There have been several studies that have shown that intermittent fasting can be an important factor in the reversal of type 2 diabetes. A person with type 2 diabetes doesn't respond to insulin the way a normal body would. Insulin controls the amount of sugar in the blood and there is a constant struggle to maintain the levels and ensure there are no health issues that follow. If intermittent fasting is done under the watchful eye of your doctor, then there is a good possibility that you may reduce the need for additional insulin. Intermittent fasting can help keep the blood glucose level steady without any additional help.
- Type 1 diabetes - People with Type 1 Diabetes who have chosen to follow intermittent fasting have reported an increased insulin sensitivity. This means over a period of time you may require a smaller dose of insulin to get by. Other benefits include improved blood pressure, lower oxidative stress, reduced appetite, and increased fat oxidation.
- Prediabetes - Studies on intermittent fasting have shown improvement in people with prediabetes. Intermittent fasting can manage blood sugar levels and is hence a useful tool while managing prediabetes.
Tips for Intermittent Fasting in Diabetes
- Get in touch with your doctor regarding if you are adopting an IF diet plan. Even if you can do it, stick to what your doctor recommends to you with food or medications.
- Make sure you eat a balanced diet during your fasting and non-fasting windows. Include food items for all groups of food.
- Avoid eating more than enough during your eating window.
- Include food items that have a low glycemic index because these get absorbed slowly.
- Make sure to eat fruits, veggies, and fresh salads during your fast window. These make you feel full while maintaining your blood glucose level.
- When you break the fast, avoid fried, fatty, and sugary food products. Try baked, boiled, or grilled items instead.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Do not forget to check your blood sugar levels frequently.
- If you see the signs of hypoglycemia, break your fast as soon as possible and get back to your usual diet.
Side Effects of Intermittent Fasting
Whenever you are looking to start intermittent fasting it is essential that you consult a doctor or a dietitian so you can come up with a meal plan that is suitable to your unique case. It is essential to know the risks or side effects of intermittent fasting as well. Here are some of the listed below.
- Bad breath is a result of a diet lower in carbohydrates.
- There may be low energy levels that cause lethargy and hamper your ability to exercise which is an important part of the routine for people with diabetes.
- Untimely and excessive hunger pangs may be one of the side effects when your body is adjusting to your new routine.
- You may have some trouble concentrating and experience irritability as well.
- Daytime sleepiness or insomnia along with dehydration are commonly observed in those going for intermittent fasting.
- It is essential to monitor your blood sugar level as there is a higher risk of a sudden drop or spike when your body is just getting used to intermittent fasting.
- You may have some trouble concentrating on the task at hand.
Intermittent Fasting should NOT be done by -
- Women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant (extended fasting periods may throw off your menstrual cycle)
- Those taking diabetes medication (blood sugar can drop too far in the absence of food)
- Anyone on multiple drugs (food, or lack of it, can affect absorption and dosage)
The Bottom Line
Medical guidelines on how to manage therapeutic intermittent fasting in patients with diabetes are far and few. However, when done under the supervision of the patient’s healthcare provider, and with appropriate personal glucose monitoring, intermittent fasting can be safely undertaken in patients with diabetes.
Can a diabetic fast for 24 hours?
The maximum number of hours a person with diabetes should fast is 16 and they cannot fast for 24 hours as it can be extremely dangerous.
Can I reverse diabetes with intermittent fasting?
It is possible for intermittent fasting to reverse diabetes into remission, depending on the case.
How can I lower my fasting blood sugar in the morning?
Exercise, additional insulin, increasing the morning dose of diabetes medication, eating a lighter breakfast, and reevaluating the timing of your diabetes medication are some of the ways that can be considered for lowering fasting blood sugar in the morning. The best way is to consult a doctor and act on their recommendation.