Intermittent fasting is popular among people in the Paleo world. It involves restricting yourself to eating two large meals a day, often substituting coffee made with butter or coconut oil for breakfast, and instead eating your first meal of the day around midday, and your last around 6 or 7. But, I don’t practice it for many reasons. I did try substituting coffee made with ghee and coconut oil last year, a.k.a, a “bulletproof” coffee, but I was ravenous around one hour after my coffee, so I had to eat my normal breakfast soup. So, that ended my brief experiment with intermittent fasting. I have, after reading the Paleo Approach, discovered that there’s so many reasons why I shouldn’t even think about trying it again.
There are two reasons why intermittent fasting has become popular. Studies have shown that regular, short-term fasts (between 16-24 hours) makes us cope better with stress. This means we release less cortisol when stressed. The other reason is connected to a process called autophagy. This process is essentially the body’s recycling system. When underway, our bodies recycle cell components.
Before I get into the health related reasons, one reason is my gender. Healthy women practising intermittent fasting are more likely manifest lower glucose tolerance when compared to healthy men. So, the evidence suggests that even healthy women shouldn’t practise intermittent fasting, let alone women with autoimmune conditions. And, people just consuming one meal a day, regardless of gender, are more likely to have lower glucose tolerance, in other words, higher insulin resistance. So, even men should eat more than one meal a day.
My reasons for not practising intermittent fasting is because people with autoimmune problems don’t get the beneficial experience of healthy people. The problem with not eating breakfast (and lunch) is that causes your body to raise cortisol levels in order to trigger gluconeogenesis or glycolysis to increase your blood sugar levels high enough to provide you enough energy for your day. If your cortisol levels and rhythm aren’t normal, this extra cortisol can promote cortisol resistance or dysregulation.
Moreover, there is evidence that the disease process causing the autoimmune condition stops autophagy from occurring. Thus, the implication is that people with autoimmune conditions are unlikely to have the positive adaptations that healthy people practising intermittent fasting have. In fact, in animal models regular intermittent fasts actually are a model of chronic stress. Studies in animals have shown intermittent fasting: raises fat accumulation in the liver; raises blood cholesterol; activates liver macrophages; and accelerates the DNA damage in the spleen and liver caused by a high fat diet.
So, while intermittent fasting is popular within the Paleo community, someone like me would not see the benefit of incorporating it into their life. Of course, as my health recovers, I may be able to contemplate occasionally practising intermittent fasting, but until I do, I’ll continue to eat breakfast, as I need it as a source of fuel and nutrients. Another reason why I won’t be trying it out anytime soon, is that dairy and coffee aren’t allowed on the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol, so there’s no way I can start the day with “bulletproof” coffee.
I am indebted to The Paleo Approach, by Sarah Ballantyne for the preparation of this blog post.