Are you fasting 14-16 hours overnight? How about skipping calories two days a week?
Why do we ask?
Because we’re living in an era where intermittent fasting —a diet regimen that cycles between brief periods of fasting, with either no food or significant calorie reduction, and periods of unrestricted eating — is everywhere. And while some diet crazes come and go, it seems intermittent fasting might be here for the long run. The funny thing is, it’s not really a new diet craze at all… Humans have gone through periods of calorie restrictions since the beginning of time. And if giving your digestive system a break for extended periods of time is as powerful a health tool as it’s claimed to be, we want to know more.
In order to cut through the hyperbole and get down to the hard facts behind intermittent fasting, we sat down with Dr Chad Larson -- a doctor who is double board certified as a Naturopathic Medical Dr and a chiropractor. Dr Larson runs a natural medicine practice in Solana Beach, California, and uses intermittent fasting regularly in his practice. In other words...we trust his word!
You mentioned that you use Intermittent Fasting with patients in your clinic. Why do you feel it's such a powerful tool for health?
At the root of many of the conditions that people are suffering from today (obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, neurological degeneration), is excessive levels of glucose, insulin, and inflammation. Intermittent fasting addresses all of those things and more.
Many people are doing either daily 14-16 hour fasts or a 24 hour fast twice a week. Is one way is better than the other?
No, they are all useful in certain situations. Even doing a 12-hour fast is new for some. Some people eat right up to bedtime and then again first thing in the morning, only providing an 8 to 9 hour fasting window. We usually ramp up from 12- to 14- to 16-hour fasting windows over a week or two. Then, sometimes, if indicated for their health goals and needs, we start to incorporate 24-hour fasts.
When you guide someone through intermittent fasting in your clinic, are there any big Dos and Don'ts?
Not really. It's simple (but not easy). They just have to not eat. Although we do allow non-caloric beverages like coffee, tea, and water. Personally, I'd rather they have a little fat like coconut oil, MCT oil, etc. in the coffee, instead of milk.
For some people doing 24-hour fasts, we also allow a little bone broth for the first few times, because some people can extend their fasts longer with a cup of bone broth.
What are some of the most impressive health benefits you've seen in your clinic as a result of patients undertaking intermittent fasting?
Reversal of metabolic syndrome, significant weight loss, reversal of cardiovascular risk factor markers, and also things like improved energy, mood and sleep.
What are the benefits of exercising while in the fasting state?
The exercise extinguishes the excess glucose faster, leading to improved lipolysis (fat burning), and ketogenesis. Exercise while fasting can also boost growth hormone which helps with tissue repair and regeneration.
Is intermitten fasting something someone can continue long term or would there be any health benefits to it?
Long term intermittent fasting is built in to the very fabric of our DNA.
If someone is hoping to lose weight by doing it, how quickly do you tend to see weight loss?
Initially, there is a drop in weight with a diuretic effect of extinguishing excess glucose/insulin, and then, depending on multiple other factors, fat-burning starts 2-4 weeks later.
Is there anyone who shouldn't try intermittent fasting?
Pregnant/breast-feeding women and underweight individuals (BMI <20). We also have to be careful with people who have a history of eating disorders, and those on medications — especially diabetes and blood pressure medications. They will need to be monitored.
You can find Dr Chad Larson at Shine Natural Medicine in Solana Beach, California.