Posted on Nov 16, 2019, 7 p.m.
Intermittent fasting is one of the most popular ways to lose weight and improve overall health; this involves skipping food for the majority of the day and eating all meals within a shortened time frame.
Benefits of intermittent fasting go beyond weight loss and range from healthy aging to increased mental clarity, all with some science to back it up. This way of eating may be great for many people, but what about for those of us who are menopausal or perimenopausal?
During menopause sex hormones naturally decline when a women reaches her 40s and 50s as the ovaries begin to stop producing estrogen and progesterone, which in turn stops menstruation. Once a woman hasn’t had a period for 12 consecutive months she is said to have reached menopause, but amenorrhea is far from being the only symptom of menopause.
Menopause has a variety of symptoms which can vary from person to person including hot flashes, vaginal dryness, anxiety, decreased libido, brain fog, depression, chills, night sweats, mood changes, and an increased risk for heart disease. For many there is also a notable change in metabolism which typically slows down as estrogen and progesterone levels fall out of balance, the sudden hormonal changes often cause women to gain weight.
As if the other symptoms were not enough, during menopause women may also become less sensitive to insulin, and they may have issues processing sugar and refined carbohydrates; this metabolic change is called insulin resistance which often comes with fatigue and sleeping issues.
For many women menopause is a scary time in their lives, they may not feel like they understand their body any more, and symptoms such as sudden weight gain and brain fog can create feelings of anxiousness, confusion, anger, stress, and depression.
Luckily intermittent fasting can be used as a tool to help women traverse the sloping roller coaster of menopause. For those struggling with fatigue, weight gain, or insulin resistance during the menopause journey you may want to consider giving it a try.
Intermittent fasting has been shown to help with weight gain. Fasting increases insulin sensitivity which helps the body become better at processing sugar and carbs to decrease the risk of heart attack, diabetes, and other metabolic disease. Fasting has been found to improve self esteem, ease depression and stress levels, as well as encouraging overall positive psychological shifts. Fasting may even help to protect brain cells from stress, clear out waste materials, repair, and make them more efficient as indicated in animal studies.
Intermittent fasting really isn’t all that difficult once you create a plan. Just set out an eating window that works for you such as from noon until 8PM and ensure that you eat all of you calories within that window. Outside of that window you fast, but you can still enjoy water and noncaloric drinks like coffee or tea. Basically you will be fasting for 16 hours a day while only eating for 8 hours a day; this is the 16:8 method of fasting and it is one of the more basic intermittent fasting structures to follow.
Intermittent fasting is easy and flexible, some start off with shorter fasting periods such as 14:10 which means 14 hours of fasting to a 10 hour eating window, and then they will gradually increase the fasting time until they reach the goal of 16:8. Due to the ease and flexibility you can try different fasting schedules to see what works and feels best for you.
While intermittent fasting is a great tool for most women to help manage the symptoms of menopause, there are some that may not want to try it because it can put some mild stress on the body, those who have adrenal fatigue or a chronic illness may not want to incorporate an intermittent fasting pattern into their routines.
For those who do follow intermittent fasting pay attention to how you feel; if you become stressed, feel weak, or feel ill during fasting it may be best to either shorten the fasting period or skip trying intermittent fasting completely. Additionally you don’t have to fast every day either, you can fast every other day or even just a few times a week. It is also recommended to consult with a trained and certified medical professional before beginning any diet or lifestyle change to avoid any complications and ensure it is best for you.
For most women menopause is a challenging time, but by making the right changes in your diet and lifestyle you can take steps to help manage the symptoms to keep you fit, happy, and healthy, even as your hormones decide to change it up and eventually leave the building.
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This article is not intended to provide medical diagnosis, advice, treatment, or endorsement.