Why fasting is a great idea + how to do it well
Updated: Apr 7, 2021
It's long been thought that eating 'little and often' is best, to keep blood sugar levels stable and to support a stronger running metabolism and fuel weight loss. BUT, whilst there may be a place for eating little and often for SOME women, for the most part it's not the best idea. Have you heard the term ‘leaky gut’? It’s also referred to as ‘intestinal permeability’ and it basically refers to the lining of the gut having become damaged over time resulting in a weaker lining where large gaps have developed, allowing compounds to get through into the bloodstream that normally shouldn’t, such as undigested food particles, toxins. This 'leakiness' creates an inflammatory response in the body and over time, when left unaddressed can result in symptoms that no one wants. It's natural for our gut lining to open it's (otherwise very tight) junctions (gaps) to allow nutrients from a meal to pass through into the body and reach our cells, but once that's happened we want the gaps to close again and remain tight, until we next eat a nutritious meal. The trouble is that many people are eating too often and for too long of a period each day and this intricate process is happing way too often, and over time the gut lining can be come chronically 'leaky'. Plus the standard Western diet (and lifestyle) is full of factors that impact the integrity of your gut lining causing it to weaken and become more and more 'leaky' (widening the gaps and keeping them open). These factors include refined wheat, processed foods, sugar, caffeine, alcohol, eating too often, eating too quickly & not chewing properly, and stress! What you need to know..
Your gut lining, or gut 'wall', serves as a protective barrier of the intestines, guarding anything other than nutrients absorbed from the breakdown of your food in the gut, from getting into the blood stream. This is a HUGELY important aspect of day to day health & wellbeing, as well as guarding against diseases later in life. It plays a particularly significant role in autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and Hashimoto's Thyroiditis. A 'leaky gut' means that unwanted substance and particles are now passing into the blood stream that SHOULD NOT. This results in the immune system responding to the foreign invaders by releasing inflammatory cytokines (chemical messengers) throughout your body. This lower grade inflammatory response becomes chronic, known in the functional medicine world as ‘chronic low grade inflammation’. Symptoms of low grade chronic inflammation
Low energy & fatigue
Digestive issues e.g. IBS, bloating, gas, flatulence
Rarely wake up feeling refreshed
Stubborn belly fat and trouble losing weight
Muscle aches and pains
Slow to recover after exercise
Low grade nausea
Why eating little and often is unhelpful.. Eating a meal naturally triggers a ‘leaky’ gut lining for about 4 hours after eating. This allows the nutrients from the food to pass into the bloodstream and act on various body cells and systems that need them. Once this has happened the holes in the gut lining will close again, forming nice tight junctions again that keep everything IN the gut that should stay there. Your gut lining uses the times we are not eating to repair itself which helps to keep the lining strong and tight at all other times other than when it is allowing nutrients to pass into the body. Without this time of respite (when we're not eating) the lining misses out on that all important repair and regeneration time, which over time results in a chronically 'leaky' gut lining, and therefore a chronic inflammatory response => chronic inflammation & the issues and symptoms that come with that, mentioned above. Fasting basically means when we are not eating....and the best way to integrate fasting into our daily life is by sticking to eating 3 nutritiously balanced meals a day, no snacking, and all done in a maximum 12 hour eating 'window'. You can work towards extending your 'eating window' to 16 hours over time (known as 16:8 or 'time restricted feeding'), but anywhere between 12 and 16 hours is good. I personally eat in a 10 hour window (9.30am - 7.30pm) daily which means I am fasting for 14 hours between dinner and breakfast the next day. Plus I am mini 'fasting' between each meal because I don't snack but just eat my 3 square meals with a 3-5 hour gap between each one. Some people need 4 meals a day, or 3 main meals and 1 snack, say between lunch & dinner if that gap is going to be longer than 5 hours, and that's fine because we also want to be mindful of keeping blood sugar levels stable throughout the day - but this ideally shouldn't be by eating 5 - 6 times a day aka grazing! Take the pressure off your gut (and your other digestive organs) and allow it to rest and repair between meals by not snacking! Alongside the above here are some additional habits to help your gut lining heal and repair: Fill half your plate with all the colours Eating a diversity of colours and types of plants is the best way to feed the beneficial bacteria in your gut. Having good amounts fo friendly bacteria in your gut helps to protect your gut lining and support its integrity, so up the colourful veg! Think dark green leafy veg, the reds, oranges, yellows, purples, and white/browns. Berries such as blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries are great, plus bell peppers, chard, kale, spinach, broccoli, red & green cabbage, beetroot, aubergine, green beans, leeks, red & white onions, garlic, herbs & spices, and so on. You'll also find lots of great fibre in nuts, seeds, beans, and pulses. Not only are they a great source of fibre they also include lots of different 'phyto' (plant) chemicals & compounds that exert protective and antioxidant effects on all your body systems. Up the good fats The only type of fat we should avoid are trans fats; found in processed vegetable cooking oils such as rapeseed, canola, sunflower and vegetable oils, cooking sprays, margarines and spreadable, deep-fried foods, crisps, popcorn, and all other processed foods. The GOOD fats however are all the others! Oily fish, nuts, seeds, extra virgin olive oil, olives, avocado, coconut and butter. Lay off sugar + processed foods Your delicate overworked gut lining can be weakened by sugar and processed wheat such as white flour foods like wraps, bagels, breads, pizza, crackers, pastries, cakes, biscuits etc. Plus these foods are food for the unfriendly bacteria allowing naughty strains of bacteria to thrive and pushing out the good bacteria. I really hope this has benefitted you in some way! I'd love to hear from you.
With love, Francesca xx
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