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Intermittent Fasting for PCOS

Living with PCOS and its symptoms can be a daily struggle. One of the major setbacks of this condition is the unprecedented weight gain. Because of this, people with PCOS often look for faster alternatives to lose weight. Over the past couple of years, lots of new ways have started to trend that aid in abrupt weight loss. A majority of them are healthy and backed by research while others are unhealthy and should be avoided at all costs. These include healthier ideas like dietary restrictions, intermittent fasting, keto diets  and certain unhealthy ones like water fasting,etc.

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting (IF) is when a person goes a period of time without eating. Basically, you are giving your digestive system a rest. The amount of time for which you can fast is variable. Intermittent fasting is a way to schedule your eating. The whole premise of it involves not eating for an extended period of time and then eating your scheduled meals in a short and specific time window. It, therefore, does not dictate what foods to eat but instead when to eat them. Intermittent fasting is quite frequently talked about in the PCOS community as a healthy way to lose those extra pounds. But how healthy is it? Let's find out!

The Benefits of Intermittent Fasting 

There are a lot of benefits of Intermittent Fasting that help with PCOS symptoms including:

  • Reduces inflammation
  • Allows the body to rest, heal, and repair
  • Aids in stabilizing blood sugar levels
  • Promotes weight loss
  • Assists cell regeneration
  • Regulates your circadian rhythm
  • Increased energy
  • Lower cholesterol
  • Improved focus  

Types of Intermittent Fasting

There are several types of intermittent fasting routines that seem to be popular among people.

  • The 16/8 Intermittent Fasting Plan:

How it works: You would fast for 16 hours a day and only eat within an 8-hour window of time.

Example: Only eating from Noon- 8 PM. Essentially, you might be skipping breakfast.

  • 24 Hour Intermittent Fasting Plan:

How it works: Either one or two days a week you don’t eat anything for 24 hours from your last meal. This would usually be dinner.

Example: You will have dinner at 7 PM and you won't eat again until 7 PM the next day. You are fasting for 24 hours.

  • Time-Restricted Fasting Plan:

How it works: Eating is limited to a certain number of hours a day.

Example: Choosing a period of time between 6 to 10 hours to eat your meals. Eating from 9 AM to 7 PM.

How Can Intermittent Fasting Improve Your PCOS Symptoms?

Let’s take a look at some of the most common PCOS symptoms and how intermittent fasting may help prevent or reverse them.

  • Insulin resistance - Insulin resistance is a major factor in why you are experiencing weight gain, acne, irregular periods, hair loss, or excess hair, etc. Once you stabilize your blood sugar levels, you are less likely to develop these symptoms
  • Weight Loss - Women with PCOS struggle to lose weight  and doctors are quick to advise you to lose weight. Intermittent fasting can help your digestive system work in a steady manner to break down all the complex carbohydrates and in turn, boost your metabolism. The eight or six hour fasting especially proves to be beneficial as it helps the body utilize the stored fat, thus, proving to be a major aid in weight loss.
  • Improves Cardiovascular Health - Women with PCOS are more likely to have health complications including higher levels of cholesterol. Research has shown that intermittent fasting can improve cardiometabolic health. This also proves beneficial for people who are also struggling with high blood pressure or high blood sugar levels.

What type of intermittent fasting is best for PCOS?

Some of the different methods of intermittent fasting can be quite dangerous for women with PCOS. There is a difference between putting your body into starvation mode and actually managing your diet to create a healthy fat-burning mode. So, the majority of dieticians recommend doing the time-restricted intermittent fasting or the 16/8 intermittent fasting plan.

The best diet is one that is maintainable, otherwise, the pounds will just creep back.

How should you incorporate intermittent fasting into your routine?

As previously mentioned, time-restricted intermittent fasting can benefit women with PCOS.

So, it is essential to give your digestion system a rest for a minimum of twelve hours. The simplest way to do this is while you are sleeping. Thus, fasting for 12-14 hours overnight is considered healthy and helpful.

It is crucial to then start your day with a smart PCOS breakfast that is filled with protein and healthy fats. You will need the energy for the rest of the day.

You should however, avoid a breakfast high in carbs that will spike your blood sugar level. A consistent plan of eating helps with managing blood sugar levels.

How Does Intermittent Fasting Help?

Fasting for 24-36 hours has been shown to help lower insulin levels because during the fasting period our blood sugar levels are normal and insulin isn't being produced. In addition, Dr. Fung, a world-leading expert on intermittent fasting, says a combination of both regular fasting and a decrease in insulin levels can significantly increase insulin sensitivity and treat insulin resistance.

Who Should Not Do Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting is not the end-all-be-all. In fact, it is not for everyone. When in doubt, have an open and honest discussion with your doctor about your specific health and situation. The following groups of people should not partake in intermittent fasting:

  • Pregnant Women
  • People with eating disorders
  • People with prescription medication
  • People who are underweight

The Bottom- Line About Intermittent Fasting and PCOS

There are several different types of intermittent fasting and each one works differently. Some like the time-restricted and 16/8 are more beneficial than others. Studies show that intermittent fasting may improve insulin sensitivity, weight loss, and cardio health. If you don't suffer from an eating disorder, HPA Axis Dysfunction or lost your period, intermittent fasting may be a safe and healthy approach to follow for your PCOS. But always consult a medical professional before you change your diet. And remember, listen to your body!

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