Clean Intermittent Fasting Benefits for Menopause

Clean Intermittent Fasting Benefits for Menopause

Clean Intermittent Fasting Benefits for Menopause.

Menopause is a natural phase in every woman’s life, typically occurring in the late 40s to early 50s, marking the end of menstrual cycles. 

This transition, though a normal biological process, can bring about a variety of symptoms that impact a woman’s quality of life. 

Common symptoms include hot flushes, night sweats, mood swings, and weight gain, particularly around the abdominal area. 

These changes can be challenging and often lead women to seek ways to manage their health during this time.

The trouble is many women turn to calorie restriction and increased physical activity believing the lie that diet culture has instilled that energy in = energy out will solve all their health problems.

This couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Over the past 5 years, since becoming a nutrition therapist and experiencing my menopause transition I have improved my health enormously but was never able to reduce my growing waist circumference until now.

This blog post, explores how intermittent fasting can be particularly beneficial during menopause, addressing not only weight management but also various health markers such as insulin sensitivity, hormonal balance, and cellular health through the process of autophagy. 

I will discuss how intermittent fasting can be adapted to fit any dietary preference, whether you are vegetarian, vegan, omnivore, or anything in between. 

Additionally, I will highlight the cost benefits of intermittent fasting and how it can seamlessly integrate into your family life without the need for preparing multiple meals as well as dispel negative myths about intermittent fasting (IF), ones I used to have myself.

By the end of this post, you will have a comprehensive understanding of how to implement intermittent fasting correctly and effectively during menopause, helping you achieve better health and well-being during this transformative phase of life.

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting (IF) is an eating pattern that alternates between periods of fasting followed by periods of feasting, similar to Time-Restricted Eating. 

Unlike traditional diets that prescribe what foods to eat, IF focuses on when you eat. 

This approach allows for greater flexibility and can be adapted to suit various lifestyles and dietary preferences.

There are several popular methods of intermittent fasting, each with its unique schedule.

You may have heard of the 5:2 method where you eat normally for five days of the week and restrict your calorie intake to about 500-600 calories on the remaining two non-consecutive days or the Warrior Diet entails eating small amounts of raw fruits and vegetables during the day and having one large meal in the evening, typically within a 4-hour window.

I want to make this 100% clear right now, I am not talking about Intermittent Fasting in these ways, as a way to manipulate your food or as a restrictive plan to follow as a weight loss method.

I am talking about clean intermittent fasting as a way of life, to improve long-term health and well-being with the side effect of fat loss as your body learns to metabolically switch.

I think IF should be renamed Intermittent Feasting.

Whichever window you choose to feast in, I will discuss these windows in more detail below, the focus is on nourishing your body with the right amount of protein, fat and carbohydrate in the form of real whole foods.

During your fasting window, you drink only water or black tea and coffee, this is called clean fasting.  No flavoured water, fruit teas or zero-calorie drinks packed with artificial sweeteners.

Dirty intermittent fasting is a term used when people add bone broth, MCT oil or other high-fat ingredients during their fasting window.  It is thought that these foods don’t provoke an insulin response and therefore still provide the benefits of fasting, however, every body is unique and research shows that Clean fasting is where the magic happens.

The body isn’t run by calories, it is run by hormones.

One of the master hormones you are balancing while fasting is your fat-storing hormone, insulin.

How Intermittent Fasting Works

Intermittent fasting works by leveraging the body’s natural metabolic processes. 

During the fasting period, several things happen at the cellular and molecular levels:

  • Insulin Levels Decrease
    • Fasting periods lead to lower insulin levels, which facilitates fat burning. Insulin is a hormone that helps cells absorb glucose from the bloodstream. Lower insulin levels mean the body can more easily access stored fat for energy.
  • Human Growth Hormone (HGH) Increases
    • Fasting can cause an increase in HGH levels. Higher levels of HGH can aid in fat loss and muscle gain, and contribute to overall health.
  • Cellular Repair
    • When you fast, your body initiates important cellular repair processes, such as autophagy. Autophagy is the process by which cells remove and recycle damaged components, promoting cellular health and longevity.
  • Gene Expression
    • Fasting can also positively influence the expression of genes related to longevity and protection against disease.

Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

The unique mechanisms triggered during intermittent fasting contribute to a range of health benefits, especially for women undergoing menopause:

  • Improved Metabolic Health
    • Enhanced insulin sensitivity and better regulation of blood sugar levels reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and other metabolic disorders of insulin resistance.
  • Hormonal Harmony
    • Regular fasting periods can help stabilise hormone levels, which can alleviate some menopausal symptoms such as mood swings and hot flushes.
  • Enhanced Brain Function
    • IF promotes the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which supports brain health and cognitive function and may protect against Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Reduced Inflammation
    • Fasting periods can lower markers of inflammation, which is beneficial for overall health and can reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
  • Weight Loss and Management
    • By reducing insulin levels and increasing HGH, IF supports the body’s ability to burn fat more effectively.

Intermittent fasting is a versatile and effective approach to managing health during menopause. 

By understanding the different methods and how IF works, you can choose a fasting schedule that fits your lifestyle and dietary preferences, making it easier to reap the full range of benefits.

Everyone Fasts Naturally

It’s important to understand that everyone fasts naturally every day. 

The term “breakfast” literally means “breaking the fast.” Whether you have your first meal at 7 AM or noon, it’s the meal that ends your fasting period from the previous night. 

Even a simple 12-hour fast (e.g., eating from 7 AM to 7 PM) can provide health benefits, especially for the digestive system.

Intermittent fasting provides several benefits for the digestive system:

  1. Rest for the Digestive System
    • Fasting gives your digestive system a much-needed break. Continuous eating can overwork the digestive organs, but fasting periods allow them to rest and recover, improving overall efficiency.
  2. Improved Gut Health
    • Fasting can enhance the balance of gut bacteria. A healthy gut microbiome is crucial for digestion, nutrient absorption, and immune function.
  3. Reduced Inflammation
    • Chronic inflammation in the gut can lead to various digestive issues such as bloating, gas, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Fasting helps reduce inflammation, promoting a healthier digestive tract.
  4. Enhanced Nutrient Absorption
    • With improved gut health and a more efficient digestive system, your body can better absorb nutrients from the food you eat.

Extended Fasting Options

A moderate approach to IF could look like 12/12, where you fast for 12 hours and feast within a 12-hour window. 

For example, you might eat from 7 AM to 7 PM and fast from 7 PM to 7 AM.

For some women, especially during different stages of menopause, extended fasting periods like 24, 36, or even 72 hours can provide additional benefits. 

These extended fasts should be approached with caution and ideally under supervision:

  1. 24-Hour Fast
    • Provides deeper levels of autophagy and cellular repair. It’s a manageable way to reset the digestive system and improve metabolic health.  Using this approach would mean you fast on alternate days as you need to ensure you are balancing your fasting with feasting.
  2. 36-Hour Fast
    • Often referred to as a “one-and-a-half-day fast,” this method can significantly boost autophagy and fat burning. It can also help with hormone regulation and mental clarity.
  3. 72-Hour Fast
    • A three-day water fast can profoundly affect the body, including significant autophagy, improved immune function, and mental clarity. It can be particularly beneficial for resetting the body and improving overall health markers.

It’s essential to recognise that the best fasting regimen varies from person to person. 

Factors such as current stress levels, activity level, and the specific stage of menopause should be considered when choosing a fasting method. 

Some women may find that shorter fasting periods like 12/12 or 16/8 work best, while others may benefit from longer fasts. 

Consulting with an open-minded healthcare professional who understands IF is not a quick-fix approach can help determine the most suitable approach for individual needs.

Avoiding Common Pitfalls and Myths

Intermittent fasting (IF) offers numerous health benefits, but like any lifestyle change, it comes with potential pitfalls and myths that can mislead individuals. It’s important to approach IF with accurate information and a balanced mindset to reap its full benefits without falling into common traps.

  1. Fasting Means Extreme Calorie Restriction
    • One of the most prevalent myths is that intermittent fasting involves severe calorie restriction. However, IF focuses on when you eat rather than how much you eat. While it can naturally reduce calorie intake by shortening the eating window, it doesn’t require extreme calorie cutting. Instead, the emphasis is on eating nutrient-dense foods during the eating periods to support overall health.
  2. Intermittent Fasting Causes Nutrient Deficiencies
    • Another concern is that fasting might lead to nutrient deficiencies. In reality, if balanced, nutritious meals are consumed during the eating windows, IF should not cause deficiencies. Ensuring a diet rich in vitamins, minerals, protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates is key to maintaining proper nutrition.
  3. IF Is Only About Weight Loss
    • While weight loss can be a significant benefit of IF, it is not the sole advantage. IF also promotes body recomposition, improved insulin sensitivity, better metabolic health, enhanced brain function, and cellular repair through autophagy. Emphasising these broader health benefits can help maintain motivation and a positive approach to fasting.
  4. Women Should Not Practice Intermittent Fasting
    • There is a myth that intermittent fasting is not suitable for women, particularly during menopause. While it’s true that women might experience different responses to fasting due to hormonal fluctuations, many women can successfully and healthily practice IF by listening to their bodies and adjusting their fasting protocols as needed.  Leaning into the power of your cycle, or the moon cycle if you are not menstruating can provide a magical effect on the body, mind and spirit.

Tips for Successful Intermittent Fasting

  1. Start Gradually
    • For those new to fasting, it’s advisable to start with shorter fasting periods, such as the 12/12 method, and gradually increase the fasting window as your body adjusts. This helps avoid stress to the system and makes the transition smoother.
  2. Stay Hydrated
    • Hydration is crucial during fasting periods. Drinking plenty of water, some herbal teas, black coffee or black tea.
  3. Focus on Balanced Nutrition
    • During eating periods, prioritise nutrient-dense foods. Include a variety of vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, healthy fats, and whole grains. Well-balanced meals provide sustained energy and essential nutrients, preventing deficiencies and promoting overall well-being.
  4. Listen to Your Body
    • Pay attention to how your body responds to different fasting schedules. If you feel fatigued, dizzy, or unwell, it may be necessary to adjust your fasting window or consult with a healthcare provider. Each person’s body is unique, and finding the right balance is key to long-term success.
  5. Avoid Obsessive Calorie Counting
    • One of the benefits of IF is the freedom from constant calorie counting. Focus on the quality of food rather than the quantity. Eating mindfully and intuitively can help you make healthier choices and enjoy your meals more fully.
  6. Integrate IF with Your Lifestyle
    • Ensure that your fasting schedule aligns with your daily routine and social commitments. Flexibility is one of IF’s strengths, allowing you to adjust your eating window to fit family meals, work schedules, and even holidays. IF is a lifestyle that adapts to your lifestyle long term, it is not something you start and stop, you just do it making adjustments as your life ebbs and flows.
  7. Cooking Multiple Meals
    • A common concern is that IF requires cooking separate meals for yourself and your family. However, IF can fit seamlessly into family life. You can eat the same meals as your family within your eating window, adjusting portions or meal timing as needed without the need to prepare different dishes.
  8. Social Isolation
    • Some believe that fasting may lead to social isolation or missing out on social events centred around food. With flexible fasting schedules, you can plan your eating windows to coincide with social gatherings, ensuring you can participate and enjoy meals with others.
  9. Consult with Healthcare Providers
    • Before starting any new dietary regimen, including intermittent fasting, it’s wise to consult with a healthcare provider, especially if you have underlying health conditions or are taking medication. Professional guidance can help tailor the fasting approach to your specific needs and ensure it is safe.

Don’t take my word for it, do your research into IF.

I highly recommend books by Dr Jason Fung, The Obesity Code and The Diabetes Code along with books by Gin Stephens.

If research isn’t your thing, then book a free call with me, you can pick my brains and share your unique lifestyle and we can discuss if IF could be the key to unlocking your path to menopause health.

I include IF in my SHIFT System whether you choose a 12/12 approach or want to push your fasting window further with support to unlock all the benefits of autophagy.

My Journey with Intermittent Fasting

As I have mentioned, increased menopause belly fat is something I have struggled with over the past five years. 

Despite my experience and success in supporting women through my programs, I faced imposter syndrome because I couldn’t shift my menopausal middle. I knew restrictive diets didn’t work—I’ve tried enough of them to know—but I also knew there had to be an answer.

The answer lies in understanding that hormones, not calories, run the body. 

Hormones control how our bodies use the types of energy we consume. 

The only weight we want to lose is fat, and the only way to access stored fat is to reduce insulin levels.

Intermittent fasting has been a game-changer for me and a great way to tap into my stored fat for energy. 

As a result, I experienced a noticeable reduction in belly fat. Beyond the physical changes, the benefits of IF extended to my mental clarity and overall health. I experienced reduced brain fog, making my days more productive and focused. Additionally, the decrease in inflammation has made me feel more vibrant and energetic.

Intermittent fasting is not just a method for weight management, it’s a comprehensive approach to health that aligns perfectly with the body’s natural rhythms. It’s flexible, sustainable, and adaptable to any lifestyle or dietary preference.  You can follow whatever style of eating you like such as a Mediterranean diet, or a diet for a special medical condition the bottom line is that IF can fit seamlessly into your life without the need for complex meal planning or restrictive eating.

Through my journey with intermittent fasting, I’ve discovered a sustainable way to manage my health and well-being during menopause and beyond. 

I encourage you to explore IF and see how it can benefit your unique situation. 

Remember, the key is to listen to your body and be patient with the process because it is a process, your body will be repairing on a cellular level.  Consider consulting with a healthcare provider to tailor the approach to your needs. 

Intermittent fasting has truly been the answer I was searching for, and it might just be the solution for you too.

If you would like to take part in the next stage of the beta trials for my Signature Program, The Menopause SHIFT Method, follow this link to learn more, I have 5 spaces from the 1st of July 2024.

If you would like to chat with me about your unique menopause transition, book a Wild Well-Being call and come away inspired and motivated to begin your journey to optimal health.