Intermittent Fasting and Menopause: Does it Help?
Intermittent fasting has developed into a popular lifestyle choice in recent years and for good reason. Many studies have linked intermittent fasting to a range of health benefits, including weight loss, improved blood sugar levels, and better overall health.
But can intermittent fasting help with menopause? This blog post will answer that question and explore the potential benefits of intermittent fasting for menopause.
What is Intermittent Fasting (IF)?
Known also as IF, it’s an eating pattern that alternates between periods of eating and not eating. During the fasting period, people typically do not consume any food or beverages except for water, black coffee, and tea.
How Can Intermittent Fasting Help with Menopause?
Weight gain is one of the most common symptoms of menopause. Changes in hormone levels, lifestyle, and age can all contribute to weight gain. This can be a difficult and frustrating issue.
The good news? Research has shown that IF can be effective for weight loss.
The most obvious reason why people lose weight on IF is that they are eating fewer calories. People tend to especially cut out unhealthy night snacks, which are often consumed mindlessly.
Weight loss can also occur as a result of better insulin resistance and the regulation of hunger hormones.
In addition, IF is really easy to follow once you get used to the eating schedule.
Menopause causes fluctuations in hormone levels, which may impact how the body uses insulin.
During menopause, the decrease in estrogen levels can cause a decrease in insulin sensitivity, which is the cells’ ability to respond to insulin, leading to insulin resistance.
Insulin resistance can cause high blood sugar, which is linked to heart disease, diabetes, and other health issues.
Intermittent fasting can also lower the risk of diabetes and help manage blood glucose in those already diagnosed with type II diabetes.
Insulin resistance makes weight loss more difficult. Thus, lowering insulin resistance can lead to easier weight management.
Hunger Hormone Balance
A small but fascinating study suggests that time-restricted eating can help curb hunger and appetite.
In this study, participants ate for a period of 6 hours and fasted for the rest of the day. During the fasting periods, the hormone ghrelin decreased, making the study participants less hungry. This type of IF also improves metabolic flexibility, which is the ability of the body to switch from burning glucose to burning fat for energy.
According to a study conducted in 2022, a group of participants who followed intermittent fasting for 12 weeks showed improvements in gut health and weight loss.
This is important, as early research suggests that an unhealthy gut is associated with increased fat, decreased metabolic rate, and insulin resistance. All of these issues make weight loss difficult.
Moreover, a healthy gut can significantly improve menopause-related digestion issues, like diarrhea, constipation, bloating, gas, nausea, and indigestion.
Please note that more research is necessary to make a strong argument about using IF to improve gut health.
The transition to menopause can produce inflammation, which can worsen many menopause symptoms, including weight gain. Then weight gain can, in turn, increase inflammation.
New research indicates that intermittent fasting could help reduce inflammation, with fewer symptoms and improved overall health.
However, more research is necessary to make any conclusions.
Is Intermittent Fasting Safe?
Intermittent fasting is generally considered safe for healthy adults. However, fasting can:
- Make you feel dizzy and fatigued
- Cause too much weight loss in those who are already thin
- Lower blood glucose too much, resulting in a medical emergency
- Increase the risk of developing an eating disorder
Talk to your healthcare provider about whether or not intermittent fasting is right for you.
If you have diabetes and are taking insulin or any other glucose-lowering medication, you MUST talk to your physician to adjust your medications before starting this type of eating plan. Typically, medications are planned for a larger eating window. Thus, IF can lower blood glucose to a dangerous level.
Types of Intermittent Fasting
- Time-Restricted Eating -This method involves eating all your food within a specific time window and fasting for the rest of the day. The most common method is the 16:8 – in this method, you fast for 16 hours and eat during an 8-hour window.
- Alternate-Day Fasting -With this approach, you alternate between regular eating days and “fast” days, where you consume very few calories.
- 5:2 Diet – In this method, you eat five days a week and fast for 2. However, it is common to eat 500 calories during the fasting dates.
- The Warrior Diet As the name suggests, this method is for warriors. The goal is to eat only raw fruits and vegetables for 20 hours of the day. Then, during the eating window, you eat a well-balanced diet.
Tips for Intermittent Fasting During Menopause
Choose the Time Restricted Method
In my professional opinion, the best IF type for women in menopause is the TRE method. This protocol combines the benefits of caloric restriction and time-restricted eating without any disadvantages. Additionally, it is easy to incorporate into your daily routine.
A good example of this type is the Galveston diet, specifically designed for women in menopause.
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Drink Enough Liquids
Hydration is always important for good health, but It’s especially crucial to stay hydrated while fasting. Drinking plenty of water and other fluids can not only prevent dehydration but also improve mental functioning and help with the transition into fasting.
What to Eat on IF
There are no rules about what to eat on an intermittent fasting strategy. However, it works best when combined with an eating plan.
For women in menopause, this plan should support hormone balance by including enough protein, healthy fats, and plenty of vegetables and fruits. Carbohydrates should be carefully selected to add fiber and nutrients to the overall diet.
Of course, you will want to minimize sugar, fried food, junk food, and alcohol.
My Expert Opinion
Intermittent fasting can be beneficial for women going through menopause. To prevent any potential dangers, I suggest a moderate fast, like the 16:8 or 15:9 methods.
In practice, I often see that when patients follow IF, they naturally cut the unhealthy night snacks. In general, it’s much easier for people to maintain healthy eating during the daytime, and they find it harder to control their cravings at night.
Other good side effects of IF, such as reducing insulin resistance, can also be beneficial. Improving insulin resistance will help manage blood sugar levels, which in turn reduces the severity and intensity of hot flashes.
For the greatest success, combine intermittent fasting with a healthy diet to get the nutrients and balance needed to achieve your weight loss goals and to manage menopause symptoms.
Dr. Su-Nui Escobar, a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist in Miami, FL, is dedicated to empowering women in perimenopause and menopause to live healthier, more satisfying lives.
With a doctorate in clinical nutrition from the University of North Florida, she has expertise in menopause and weight loss, including the unique challenges faced by those on weight loss medications.
Su-Nui’s passion for her field is evident in her previous role as the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokesperson.