Intermittent fasting has become quite a trend in the last few years, especially for those who feel like they are overweight, but also those with general gastrointestinal or digestive challenges. In this article I will attempt to break it down and talk about the pros and cons so that one can make an educated decision about the suitability of this diet. As the name suggests, intermittent fasting involves fasting for a length of time on a daily basis, or not eating the regular three meals a day—instead, having a longer break in between one or two meals a day.
A common form is the 18- or 16-hour fast, meaning you are not eating anything for that number of hours after your last meal. If your last meal of the day is at 6pm, then your next would be 16 or 18 hours later the next day. You are then “allowed” to eat for a portion of the next day, say from 8 or 10am to around 6pm again. This often eliminates one meal daily but diehards sometimes eat only one big meal and a small snack during the time allotted to eat.
In essence, when food consumption decreases, calorie intake decreases, thereby helping us lose weight.
Pros & Cons
- This diet means that one becomes generally more aware of food consumption and the excesses of dietary habits in modern life. This can only be a good thing given the excessive nature of our lifestyles and dietary habits.
- For the vast majority of people who are doing a desk job or have a sedentary lifestyle, this is likely a suitable diet for their level of physical activity.
- Aside from the potential for weight loss and general food awareness, eating less frequently means that the digestive organs will have a chance to take a break from the constant work of digestion and assimilation.
- There is a chance for people on this diet to actually binge and go big on meal sizes during the time they are allowed to eat. This would wreak havoc on digestion, taking it from fasting to sudden feasting, which could overwhelm and, in the long run, weaken digestion.
- Those who are physically active or do jobs that are physical in nature could potentially short-change themselves on food calorie intake. This will stress their system as it may not have essential fuel it needs for physical activity.
- Some people suppress their hunger during the fasting time by drinking coffee, giving them a false sense of energy.
- Others tend to drink more liquids to suppress hunger by diluting stomach acid. This will affect digestion adversely and can potentially stress the kidneys/adrenal systems.
- There is the potential to graze and munch on things constantly during the allowed times to make up for the fasting time.
- Perhaps the main issue with this diet is that it is not based on the individual’s constitution. Different constitutions have different dietary needs; some need more regular meals in order to keep their blood sugar stable. Others can only eat once a day and still thrive. You need to know your constitution to see if this is for you.
- Being overweight or having digestive issues could have a variety of root causes and reasons. Cutting down on the number of meals and eating less only addresses one aspect.
Often the best measures to manage weight concerns or digestive issues can be approached without taking extreme measures, though there is a time and place for most things! The following are some general, basic measures:
- First and foremost, eat three regular daily meals but work on eating gradually smaller portions.
- Eat simple meals involving only a few ingredients. Minimalism in the digestive arena is no different than minimalism in our lifestyle. They both work wonders.
- Avoid stimulants: coffee, chocolate, spicy foods, sugar, and alcohol. Dark chocolate is still a stimulant! The use of spices in cooking is fundamental, just not hot spicy foods.
- Avoid rich, heavy foods. The use of oils and fats are fundamental, just not poor quality nor in excess.
- Establish regular meal times.
- Eat more hydrating foods to nourish and nurture your health on a deep level. Foods in this category include porridges, congees, soups, stews and generally slow-cooked meals.