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All You Need To Know About Intermittent Fasting & Diabetes

Published On 28 Nov 2019
Food
Lifestyle
Written by
Team Setu
Written by
Team Setu

The latest trend in the world of diets and weight loss is intermittent fasting (IF). This method of fasting and eating periodically has attracted most people as it provides quick results in fat loss and muscle building. Furthermore, it promotes cellular repair, heart health, anti-aging, and even reduces inflammation. However, this may not be all it is touted to be, especially for diabetics. We’ll tell you the link between intermittent fasting and diabetes and if intermittent fasting is a safe weight loss diet option for diabetes patients. Keep reading to find out!

What Is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting is a pattern of eating and fasting for specific periods. It focuses more on ‘when’ to eat, than ‘what’ to eat. There are a few popular ways to follow this diet method, all of which include a combination of eating and fasting periods. Most popular forms of intermittent fasting include: 

16/8 Method: In this, you have to fast for 16 hours by skipping breakfast and eat only for 8 hours in the middle of the day, which is usually between 1 pm and 9 pm.

5:2 Diet: Here you consume only 500 to 600 calories, two days a week (non-consecutive days), and eat as per your regular diet the other days.

24-Hour Fasting: In this method, once or twice a week you have to fast for 24 hours on the clock.

While these methods have more to do with the timing of your meals, it is advised that you don’t binge when you do eat, and stick to clean foods.

Intermittent Fasting And Diabetes: What Works?

While there are no conclusive and peer-reviewed studies that prove that IF directly helps diabetes, there is a strong connection between weight loss/fat loss and diabetes, and fasting helps in weight loss. Canadian nephrologist, Dr Jason Fung [1], suggests that this diet (the 5:2 method) helps in the reversal of diabetes over a period of time, if done in the right manner. He states that fasting forces your body to convert sugar into energy, thus making the stored glucose in the blood available for the body functions. It is a fast and simple method. Additionally, it also gives a break to your liver and pancreas that work overtime to process the blood sugar.

Besides this, fasting has a host of health benefits like reducing inflammation, a common issue with diabetics, as well as lowers cholesterol levels [2].

Intermittent Fasting And Diabetes: What Doesn’t Work?

While Dr Fung’s findings do hold value and have helped people across the globe to reverse diabetes, intermittent fasting comes with its own set of risks for diabetics. Here’s intermittent fasting & diabetes may not work well.

Hypoglycemia: One of the top concerns for diabetics while fasting is dangerously low sugar levels. Especially if you are on medication to maintain your insulin levels, then lack of food may lead to dropping blood sugar levels, confusion, and dizziness. [3]

Fatigue: Another issue that patients could face is fatigue due to different meal timings. While your body may eventually get used to this diet, the resulting tiredness and lack of energy may take much longer to deal with. Additionally, you might injure your body while working out due to tired muscles. [4]

Fluctuating Sugar: This is an issue faced by even non-diabetics who follow the IF diets. Once the fast ends, you are free to eat what you want. However, it can be a real problem if diabetics binge on sweets and unhealthy food. This would spike the blood sugar levels post meals, and during the fast you might have low sugar. This sudden change may be extremely unhealthy in the long run. [3]

Ketoacidosis: Another complication that intermittent fasting brings to diabetics is ketoacidosis. The insulin gets glucose to the cells, but when you don’t have insulin (as you have no access to carbs during fasting) the body uses the current glucose in cells producing ketones. If these are produced in excess quantity it can cause swelling in the brain and could be fatal. While it is rare, it is a point of concern. [5]

Nutritional Deficiencies: Cutting down on meals, could lead to a deficiency in some people. Nutritional supplements help in filling the gap but need to be monitored closely.

Should Diabetics Try Intermittent Fasting?

The answer is both yes and no, depending on your body. You cannot simply switch over to intermittent fasting, you need expert advice. Talk to your nutritionist or your healthcare provider and come up with the exact method that works for you, and a safe plan that works with your current medication, body weight, etc. Report to the doctor if you experience hypoglycemia, distress or any other serious side effects.

Additionally, you need to be prepared for minor side effects too. You might experience headaches, stomach issues, and mild fatigue in the beginning. Give some time to your body to adjust, and keep in touch with your healthcare practitioner to be safe.

References:

  1. https://casereports.bmj.com/content/2018/bcr-2017-221854
  2. http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/2623528
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23391679
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6064586/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8496310
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