Is Intermittent Fasting Safe? Should You Try Or Avoid It

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Is Intermittent Fasting Safe | Is it Safe for Diabetics | Is it Safe for Seniors | Is it Safe for Teens | Tips for Safe Fasting

Intermittent fasting has gained a lot of attention lately for its effective weight loss, anti-aging properties, and other positive health impacts. But is intermittent fasting safe to follow?

Despite all the excellent results of this diet strategy, there is still debate going on about its safety. There are various types of intermittent fasting, and these fasting regimens improve cardiovascular health, metabolic health, and focus. But the long-term sustainability of this diet and its effects are still being studied. 

Though a lot of people have found intermittent fasting as an effective eating pattern, it may not work for everyone. In fact, it is not recommended during certain health conditions.

So, is intermittent fasting safe? Should you try it or avoid it? Let us discuss…

how safe is intermittent fasting

Is Intermittent Fasting Safe?

Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that gives your body a regular break from processing food. It is a time-restricted feeding pattern where you limit your food intake for 8 hours or less on your fasting days. This fasting aims to achieve a metabolic switch so that your body will start burning fat instead of glucose for energy. 

But is it safe to do fasting for long hours? 

The truth is, unlike other fad diets, there are numerous research studies backing intermittent fasting. Generally, intermittent fasting is safe for many and, when followed rightly, can bring excellent health benefits. However, intermittent fasting is not recommended for people who have an eating disorder or any underlying medical condition. If you have any health concerns, you should consult your physician. 

Is Intermittent Fasting Safe for Diabetics?

Intermittent fasting is considered a non-medical treatment approach to treat diabetes. Intermittent fasting activates the metabolic switch in your body which generally happens when you fast for 12 hours or more. During this metabolic switch your body shifts from using glucose to using ketones for energy. This reduces your blood glucose level and reduces the risk of high blood sugar.

A case report published in BMJ revealed that intermittent fasting can completely reverse diabetes by eliminating the need for insulin. 

However, there is a risk of experiencing hypoglycemia when you follow long fasting hours during diabetes. If you are on antidiabetic drugs, the risk of hypoglycemia increases. Hence it is essential to consult your doctor if you are planning to try intermittent fasting. 

Also, binge eating during your eating window, making unhealthy food choices can result in hyperglycemia. Periods of fasting and eating should not greatly alter your blood sugar level. Eating low-calorie foods, and mindful eating can help to prevent such risks.

To know more about practicing intermittent fasting during diabetes, read Intermittent Fasting And Diabetes: Benefits And Risks.

 is intermittent fasting safe for diabetics

Is Intermittent Fasting Safe for Seniors?

Intermittent fasting is an excellent way to lose fat, improve health, and reduce the risk of chronic diseases. Time-restricted feeding is considered feasible and acceptable in sedentary older adults. 

A study has revealed that intermittent fasting can be a practical strategy for older adults to maintain better health. In fact, the participants of this study had significant improvement in walking speed, on the six-minute walking test. By enhancing the mobility and physical performance of older adults, intermittent fasting can improve their quality of life. 

Altogether studies indicate that calorie restriction combined with exercise is effective for weight loss in older adults. However, there is a mixed opinion regarding other outcomes. The various health risks of calorie restriction in the long term in older adults remain uncertain.

Most studies related to intermittent fasting are done on young and middle-aged people. If your weight range is ideal, intermittent fasting may make you lose too much weight and can also cause nutritional deficiency. In older adults, this may lead to loss of energy, low immunity, and weak bones. 

Also, in old age, you may have to take certain medications and it may not be ideal to take medications during fasting. If you have any medical conditions like diabetes, blood pressure, or cardiac disorders, skipping meals and limiting your calorie intake can be harmful. Discussing with your doctor about your health concerns before planning to start intermittent fasting can help you avoid the side effects and fast safely.

Is Intermittent Fasting Safe for Teens?

Children or teenagers are under the rapid growth phase and need more nutrients each day. Any restrictive diet like intermittent fasting can cause a deficiency of nutrients in teens. Also, eating disorders and unhealthy eating habits are commonly seen in teens and following diet regimes can cause more of such habits. 

Waiting till you complete 18 years of age is recommended to follow any diet restrictions. Even if you are having an obesity issue, instead of intermittent fasting follow healthy eating habits like;

  • Avoid frequent snacking
  • Make healthy and nutritious food choices
  • Reduce the intake of added sugar

To lose weight or for any other health concerns, consult your doctor and get a personalized diet guide. 

is intermittent fasting safe for seniors

Tips for Safe Fasting

In spite of all this, intermittent fasting may not work for everyone. Fasting for a long duration may make you feel tired, irritated, and unmotivated. Understand your body needs and follow a routine that is less stressful for you. A gradual approach towards fasting and eating healthy during your eating window can be a safe approach for intermittent fasting. 

1. Choose Short Fasting Period

When it comes to intermittent fasting, you have the flexibility to choose the best method that meets your needs. You can choose 16/8 intermittent fasting, 5/2 pattern, or just an overnight 12-hour fasting routine. Choosing a short fasting period and gradually increasing your fasting window can be the right approach that will help you avoid any side effects. 

Read- 10 Types Of Intermittent Fasting: The Best Schedule For You to know more about different types of intermittent fasting. 

Fasting for a longer duration is associated with extreme hunger, dehydration, irritability, mood swings, and weakness. If you are a beginner the best way to start intermittent fasting is to stick to short fasting periods. To follow extended fasting of more than 24 hours you must consult your doctor. 

2. Drink Enough Water

Our water requirement depends on several factors, such as health status, physical activity, and environmental conditions. Based on your body requirements for fluids, your water needs per day can be estimated. Even a moderate level of dehydration can have an impact on your mood and cognitive functioning. 

Especially in the very young, very old, those in hot climates, and those engaging in vigorous exercise, dehydration may cause serious health risks. It is a significant risk factor for delirium and for dementia in older adults. Moreover, older people have less thirst sensation and decreased fluid intake than younger people. Drinking enough water and staying hydrated is essential during intermittent fasting.

3. Fast Occasionally

If you are unable to follow a strict intermittent fasting routine, you can choose to fast occasionally. Skipping your meals on some days when you don’t feel hungry or you don’t feel like eating can also be done. 

Hitting a starvation mode even a few times in a month can benefit your health. According to studies, short-term fasting can promote autophagy

is intermittent fasting safe for teens

4. Don’t do Binge Eating

After a period of successful fasting, you may feel tempted to eat a huge meal. But, eating excess food after fasting may make you feel bloated. Also, if your goal is to lose weight, binge eating can slow down your journey. 

The best way to practice intermittent fasting is to eat normally during your eating window. Make sure to consume nutrient-rich food to meet your daily needs. 

Need help with your meal plans? We can provide all the nutritional guidelines for healthy intermittent fasting. Click here to get a customized meal plan.

5. Consult Your Doctor if you Face any Fasting Side-Effects

During intermittent fasting, if you are a beginner it is normal to feel tired, depressed, and hungry. Reducing your fasting period might help you overcome these issues. However, if you are experiencing extreme hunger, dizziness, or any other severe adverse effects, stop fasting and consult your doctor. 

Feeling severe discomfort and sickness during fasting is a sign that you need medical help. Though fasting is a healthy diet strategy, it may not be suitable for everyone. Some underlying medical conditions make it difficult to follow a fasting routine. Discuss with your doctor if you have any health concerns before following intermittent fasting. 

Final Words

Any diet strategy, including intermittent fasting, can work when you prioritize your health. Intermittent fasting is considered safe when you follow it wisely. This diet strategy can be followed safely by healthy adults. But, older adults or people with underlying conditions may need more personalized planning of eating and fasting window. 

The available evidence about intermittent fasting is promising. However, even if you can not follow intermittent fasting, being mindful about your eating can improve your health significantly. 

More on Intermittent Fasting

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Information on this document and our website is for educational and informational purposes only. You should not rely on this information as a substitute, nor does it replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a dietitian, physician or another health-care professional. Consult your physician before starting intermittent fasting, especially if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, have any medical condition, or are taking any medication. Read more here.