Many people believe in the health benefits of intermittent fasting. Some studies claim it can help reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure, help with weight loss, and more. I decided to give intermittent fasting a try a few years ago. But unfortunately, I discovered the health benefits were a little too good to be true. Here’s why I stopped intermittent fasting.
Getting diagnosed with Hashimoto’s in 2018 was such a bittersweet moment. For years, I suffered from fatigue, insomnia, joint pain, anxiety, and so many other debilitating symptoms.
So, although officially being diagnosed was a little scary, it was also, in a way, a relief because, for ten years, doctors kept telling me there was nothing wrong with me.
It felt good to know I wasn’t crazy and that the symptoms I was experiencing had a name.
After my diagnosis, I decided I wasn’t comfortable taking medication immediately. I wanted to do some research to see if I had any natural options for treating Hashimoto’s.
And I ultimately ended up forgoing medication and opting for a more natural approach.
You can read this post – My Hashimoto’s Story: Symptoms, Diagnosis, & Healing Journey – to learn more about my experience with Hashimoto’s.
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Over the years, I’ve tried so many different diets, supplements, and healing modalities in hopes of feeling better. Some of the things I’ve tried have worked great, and some haven’t worked at all.
Some seemed like they were working and healing my body but ultimately had unintended consequences that actually did more harm to my body than good.
Intermittent fasting is definitely one of those healing modalities that had unintended consequences.
My Experience with Intermittent Fasting
When I first heard of intermittent fasting, I was very intrigued. Some health experts claimed it was especially helpful and healing for people with autoimmune diseases.
I really wanted to try it, but the thought of not eating for 14-18 hours straight sounded awful!
But in 2019, I hit a wall on my healing journey. I had dabbled in eating paleo for years. Actually, for many years, even prior to getting my diagnosis because I wasn’t getting any help from doctors, and I was desperate to feel better.
I felt so much better eating paleo, but eventually, I noticed some of my symptoms were beginning to resurface, and I wasn’t feeling as good as I had when I first started implementing a paleo diet.
Around 2016/2017, I had developed an extreme sensitivity to sugar. The smallest amount of sugar (even natural sugar from fruit) would give me massive anxiety and panic attacks.
So I was basically sugar-free, grain-free, and dairy-free. I started to develop more and more issues with food, and I noticed I felt so much better when I just didn’t eat at all.
So, out of desperation, I decided to give intermittent fasting a try.
I started with a 14-hour fasting window and a 10-hour eating window. So I would stop eating around 7 pm in the evening, and I would eat my first meal around 9 am.
Eventually, I increased my fasting window to 16 hours, and on some days, I would even fast for as long as 18 hours. I also switched from a mostly paleo diet to a keto diet.
During this time, I felt incredible. I was clear-headed, and I had tons of energy.
I was fully convinced of the healing power of intermittent fasting, and no one would have been able to convince me otherwise.
I was working out 5-6 days a week. Physically, I was in great shape, and all seemed right in the world………until it didn’t.
Why I Stopped Intermittent Fasting
Fast forward a year later, and I found myself not feeling so great. I wasn’t getting that massive boost of energy from fasting anymore. My libido began plummeting. My mood was terrible.
I was developing more and more issues with food. Foods I used to be able to eat without any issues were now making me feel terrible whenever I ate them.
It was so frustrating. I felt like I had come so far just to be right back where I was before I even began my healing journey, which is why I eventually stopped intermittent fasting.
So what happened?
Unintended Consequences of Intermittent Fasting
There are so many things that people do on a daily basis to feel better or to heal their bodies that have unintended consequences.
Like taking Tylenol for example, people will often take Tylenol to get rid of their headaches. Most of the time, Tylenol will, in fact, get rid of their headache.
But there are some very serious unintended consequences of taking Tylenol.
Tylenol actually suppresses the immune system. It also causes oxidative stress, which triggers inflammation. And this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to known side effects of taking Tylenol.
A headache is your body’s way of speaking to you and letting you know something is wrong.
The fact is – Tylenol is not healing your headache or getting to the root cause of why you have a headache in the first place; it’s simply suppressing your symptoms.
And the unfortunate truth is many diets, supplements, and even natural healing modalities also just suppress symptoms, and very few actually heal.
Which I’ve now learned is the case with intermittent fasting, and I’ll explain more about that in a bit.
But first, I want to quickly address a big issue within the “alternative” health community.
Over the past few years, my view on health, nutrition, and healing has completely changed. Things I once thought were benefiting my body I now realize were actually causing harm.
I’ve been able to realize this simply due to a better understanding of basic biology and human physiology.
Unfortunately, the “alternative” health community is filled with terrible advice due to a lack of knowledge concerning the human body.
I by no means have everything figured out. Far from it, actually. But I’m always trying to search for truth, even if it goes completely against everything I thought I knew about health.
So, instead of jumping from one health fad to another, it’s absolutely vital to understand the science behind certain diets, supplements, and healing modalities.
This brings me to the science behind intermittent fasting.
Science Behind Intermittent Fasting
There are a few reasons why many people believe intermittent fasting can heal the body and help with weight loss.
One of the reasons is quite obvious. When you intermittent fast, you tend to eat fewer calories even if you are not purposely trying to restrict calories.
This is because it can be difficult to eat an entire day’s worth of calories in a 4-8 hour window.
But the main science behind intermittent fasting that convinces many people to try it is this: once your body no longer has calories to burn, it will begin burning fat tissue.
It is also believed that intermittent fasting induces autophagy. Autophagy basically means “self-eating” and it refers to a natural cellular mechanism by which the cells in our body degrade unnecessary or damaged components within the cell.
This process helps to clean up harmful material that is inside the cell.
Some benefits of autophagy include getting rid of aging cells and decreasing inflammation in the body
Studies done on animals seem to indicate fasting can induce autophagy, but there have been no studies done on humans to confirm it induces autophagy in humans as well.
There may be some scientific studies seemingly proving the health benefits of intermittent fasting, but that’s not the full story. These studies never address the unintended consequences of intermittent fasting.
Intermittent Fasting Benefits for Men vs. Women
Another important thing to mention regarding the studies claiming the health benefits of intermittent fasting is that men typically experienced positive benefits while the women that were studied experienced negative benefits.
And that’s if the study included women at all. Many intermittent fasting studies are only conducted on men.
You can check out several of the studies I’m referring to below.
Men are very different than women in many ways, but especially when it comes to hormones and the way they process stress in the body.
I am very much into ancestral living. I think we can gain a lot of wisdom and knowledge by learning about how our ancestors lived hundreds of years ago.
Many intermittent fasting advocates will argue that our ancestors were inadvertently practicing intermittent fasting due to less access to food, and therefore, we can benefit from it.
But I personally don’t believe that.
Men may have gone for prolonged periods of time without eating due to the fact that they were typically hunter-gatherers. Men more than likely would spend long periods of time not eating while they were hunting and gathering food for their families.
Their bodies are built very differently from women’s, and their physiology would actually be able to handle that.
But women were typically at home caring for the children and home. I don’t believe for one second that women were purposely starving themselves unless they were actually in a time of famine and trying to ration food.
Women have a completely different physiology than men. Women’s bodies require much more mineral and nutritional support due to our monthly menstrual cycle and reproductive system.
And a woman who is pregnant or breastfeeding is going to require even more support.
So, realistically, I don’t think women inadvertently practiced intermittent fasting. Men possibly, but women, I highly doubt it.
So, although there may be potential benefits of intermittent fasting for men, it’s a completely different story for women.
Dangers of Intermittent Fasting
The human body does not run on air. The human body runs on glucose. When your cells don’t get the glucose they require, they’ll begin to break down other tissue. But they start with muscle tissue, ligament tissue, and eventually organ tissue.
The cells will eventually break down fat tissue as well, but only after the cells first break down muscle and ligament tissue.
These broken-down tissues then get transported to the liver, which converts them to blood sugar so the cells have fuel.
This process is called gluconeogenesis.
Cortisol and adrenaline are required for your cells to break down tissue for energy. Chronically elevated stress hormones are extremely damaging to the body.
Stress depletes minerals, and minerals are cofactors for enzymes. Enzymes speed up chemical reactions in the body. Enzymes have thousands of roles inside the body, some of which include digestion, respiration, and nerve function.
Without minerals, enzymes can’t function properly; without enzymes, the necessary chemical reactions inside the body can not occur. Lack of minerals leads to gut issues, disease, and illness.
Intermittent fasting puts your body in a chronically stressed state, which will completely wipe out your minerals (especially since you’re not eating enough to replenish your minerals).
This is why so many people crash and burn after a year or two of intermittent fasting.
A lack of minerals will absolutely destroy your metabolism over time. And your metabolism is about so much more than just burning calories efficiently.
Metabolism is the sum of every metabolic process in the body. When your metabolism is healthy, metabolic processes in the body will function properly.
Metabolism affects digestion, the immune system, sex drive, hormones, and basically every function that goes on inside the body.
Why Intermittent Fasting Feels Good (at first)
Intermittent fasting can definitely boost your energy and improve your focus when you first start to implement it. But that still doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good. Just because something feels good doesn’t mean it is good.
The so-called health benefits from intermittent fasting are often due to stress hormones kicking in.
One of the main purposes of stress hormones is to keep us alive. They are activated during times of actual famine to provide our cells with what they need to keep the body running.
When you are in an actual life-or-death situation, they kick in to help you make quick decisions and increase your strength and endurance.
They are there to help you when you are in survival mode. They are not meant to be used on a day-to-day basis.
There are very real unintended consequences to relying on stress hormones for energy and focus or to lose weight every single day.
Many women actually become addicted to stress hormones because they are in such a poor metabolic state that they depend on them for energy and don’t even know it.
Relying on stress hormones for energy will eventually lead to total burnout and a myriad of other symptoms, such as sleep issues, weight gain, digestive issues, mood swings, low libido, hair loss, and the list goes on and on.
Coming to terms with the damage intermittent fasting did to my body was really difficult.
But the good news is I found a better way.
How to Truly Heal
As I mentioned before, many diets, supplements, and healing modalities suppress symptoms rather than get to the root cause.
If you truly want to heal, then you need to quit trying to hack or manipulate your biology.
Instead, learn how the body works and nourish and support your body the way it was intended to be nourished.
In my opinion, this means lowering stress in the body, getting off of stress hormones, and fueling your body with mineral-rich foods.
When your body is getting the minerals it needs – enzymes can do their job, and proper function can be restored in the body.
Instead of being in constant fight or flight mode, we should be in rest and digest mode.
You can read the posts below to learn more about how to truly heal and support your body.
If you are a believer in intermittent fasting, please don’t shoot the messenger. I’m simply sharing why I stopped intermittent fasting. I had to figure it out the hard way, and I’m simply sharing what I wish someone would have shared with me.
Although to be honest, I don’t know if I would have listened anyway.
Another thing I want to mention is the fact that autophagy should occur naturally in the body. You shouldn’t have to force your body to stimulate autophagy by intermittent fasting.
If that is the only way autophagy can occur in your body, then you are suffering from major metabolic dysfunction.
Autophagy is naturally stimulated by retinol (vitamin A). So if you want to stimulate autophagy, be sure to get a lot of grass-fed beef liver, raw milk, fatty fish, and pastured eggs in your diet.
You can check out this study to learn more.
Also, too much iron will inhibit autophagy, and contrary to popular belief, many people are overloaded with iron, even people who have been diagnosed with anemia.
But that’s a whole other post for another day.
Autophagy also occurs during our natural fasting window called sleep. Unfortunately, many people have sleeping issues, so their body is unable to utilize this time efficiently.
If you need help with your sleep, check out this post – Sleep Better: Tips to Help You Fall Asleep, Stay Asleep, & Wake up Feeling Awesome.
But with all that being said, I’m not saying all fasting is bad. I think fasting can be beneficial when using it for spiritual purposes. But I don’t think it’s good for our bodies to fast for 16 hours a day or more on a daily basis.
Well, I hope this post isn’t too controversial. I just wanted to share my story and why I stopped intermittent fasting. I know people can become very passionate regarding their beliefs about health. But I am truly just trying to help.
Please let me know in the comment section below if you have any questions.