Inside – Answers to the question, what is intermittent fasting? Is it beneficial to thyroid patients or harmful? How Intermittent Fasting Benefits for thyroid.
Intermittent fasting is getting very popular for various health conditions. And I have been asked whether intermittent fasting is safe for thyroid patients or not.
In this article today I am going to answer this question for you with reasons and research.
Thyroid disorders come with a host of problems like weight issues, brain fog, and fatigue issues. And interestingly intermittent fasting can be the answer to all these issues for the majority of the thyroid patients.
Now, whether you are suffering from Hashimoto’s or hypothyroidism or Graves disease this can be something that can be helpful. But we have to be cautious as there is some research suggesting that fasting can be harmful to the thyroid.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting in simple terms means time-restricted eating and fasting.
Intermittent fasting meaning is very simple — you restrict your eating window in a day between certain hours only.
There are other ways of fasting also like you don’t eat for the whole day or something called water fast where a person just consumes water and no food.
But intermittent fasting is different from above as in this method we are focused on eating daily but in a time-restricted manner. The most popular way people do it is by keeping a window of 16 hours in a day where they don’t eat and the rest of the 8 hours left is the time where they will eat.
So for example, if you stop eating at 7 pm in the night and don’t eat till the next morning around 11 AM, this makes it 16 hours of a window where you have fasted. And then from 11 am to 7 pm is your time to eat.
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting has become popular recently in the wellness world because there was research showing its health benefits.
The various health benefits of intermittent fasting are :
- Reduces Inflammation
- It helps to lose fat and lose weight. Intermittent fasting reduces insulin levels in the body and improves other hormone levels like growth hormone and noradrenaline which facilitates weight loss.
- Improved Mitochondrial Function- This in turn helps with energy, mental clarity and reducing fatigue
- Better Cell Resilience- this means better cell functioning.
- Autophagy- Autophagy is the recycling of our cells in our body. There is research now which says that chronic diseases like thyroid, cancer and autoimmune diseases are a result of the breakdown of this process called autophagy.
- Helps with reducing blood pressure
So you can see there are several health benefits of intermittent fasting and we now have research that supports all of the above benefits.
Can Intermittent Fasting Mess up your Thyroid
So, this notion came into being where it has been seen that longer fasting leads to lower thyroid hormone levels in the body.
This is an old study where people who were literally starving or were doing long fast for days were included. This did show that their thyroid hormone levels were slightly low, but they also reported that as soon as people started eating their thyroid hormone became normal again.
Now when your body goes into a long fasting state or starvation state our thyroid hormone goes low because our body is trying to conserve energy.
As thyroid hormone controls how much energy your body is going to burn. So by reducing thyroid hormone levels, your body is trying to save itself from dying because of starvation.
Now intermittent fasting is different than this kind of fasting. Because in intermittent fasting we are fasting for a short time and not for days. So the body doesn’t go into starvation mode.
With this short fasting window, our body does get a lot of benefits as this helps in better functioning of our body. This short fast helps our body to start burning the stores’ fat and glucose in our body, and that in turn has several benefits like weight loss, mental clarity, and improving g energy levels.
So I feel that intermittent fasting can be very beneficial for thyroid patients, and can be included in their therapeutic plan.
Intermittent Fasting Benefits for Thyroid Patients
So now we know that intermittent fasting is beneficial for our body, but is intermittent fasting helpful for thyroid patients also?
Most of the thyroid patients suffer from issues with weight gain. And even after trying various diets, they are not able to lose weight.
But intermittent fasting can be helpful for thyroid patients with weight issues. Our body produces energy from two food sources; one is carbohydrates and the other is fats. When we have abundant food the excess glucose is converted to glycogen and fat and stored in the liver and muscles.
Now when there is a scarcity of food this glycogen and fat will be broken down to use for energy. Now in present-day life, we almost eat every few hours in a day so we never have a scarcity of food so we never burn fat.
Even in low-calorie diets we still eat on regular basis and thus most of the time will not enter the phase where they will burn fat. So that’s the reason most of the time the low-calorie diet doesn’t work for thyroid patients.
It has been shown that our body generally starts burning fat after about 8 to 12 hours of fasting, but can vary in different individuals.
So in intermittent fasting, we switch our body’s metabolism to start burning the stored sugar and fats and thus can be helpful in losing weight.
We know that inflammation plays an important role in causing thyroid disorders. Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disease, which means that inflammation is destroying the thyroid gland.
It has been shown that intermittent fasting reduces insulin levels. By reducing insulin levels it reduces inflammation. Intermittent fasting also works by reducing markers of inflammation.
It has effects on pathways like NRF2 and SIRT genes which are ultimately responsible for the production of downstream inflammatory markers in the system. So by positively influencing these genes, it reduces the production of these inflammatory cytokines.
Studies in MS and RA have shown a reduction in inflammatory markers and also show that intermittent fasting can help improve clinical symptoms.
So by reducing inflammation it can be very helpful for thyroid patients.
Improve Fatigue and Brain Fog
Intermittent fasting by various methods helps to improve mitochondrial function. Mitochondria is the powerhouse of your body and is responsible for energy production in your body.
It has been known for a long time now that in thyroid patients the main reason for fatigue and brain fog is mitochondrial dysfunction. So by improving mitochondrial dysfunction intermittent fasting helps with fatigue and brain fog.
Also, mitochondrial dysfunction is at the core of various autoimmune and chronic disease processes. Intermittent fasting helps with reducing oxidative stress burden on the mitochondria, by regulating cellular pathways.
This oxidative burden causes damage to mitochondria thus by reducing the oxidative stress, it prevents this damage. They also improve mitophagy and autophagy which is the process where our body gets rid of defective or damaged mitochondria.
Improves blood pressure
Most of the thyroid patients are at risk of developing blood pressure issues or already have them. Intermittent fasting has shown phenomenal results in improving blood pressure. And this way it can help present and also treat blood pressure issues in thyroid patients.
So we can see intermittent fasting can be very beneficial for thyroid patients. Several symptoms that thyroid patients go through can be addressed through intermittent fasting like weight issues, brain fog, fatigue. But intermittent fasting should not go beyond 14 or 16 hours in thyroid patients and I don’t feel longer fasts are a good choice. Because in longer fasts body goes into starvation mode and that can reduce the levels of thyroid hormones.
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