Naturopath & Hormone Health Expert Explains.
Intermittent fasting is rapidly becoming a popular way to lose weight and improve health. Though it has been around for a very long time, used by the ancients and reintroduced to the west back in the early 90’s. Which is when I first began using as a regular practice. But, is it suitable during menopause?
While there are a number of variations of the practice, it’s most simple explanation is a period of very low-calorie intake. That is not eating for an extended period of time. The most effective time span to fast varies from 12 to 48 hours.
During a fast the body goes through various changes, one of which is an increase in Human Growth Hormone. This really ramps up after 24 hours, which as you may know is central for fat burning.
As a Naturopath I have worked with thousands of women going through peri to post menopause, who experience symptoms of hormone disruptions such as:
Symptoms of Menopause
- Brain fog
- Weight gain
- Insulin resistance
- Poor Sleep
- Hot Flushes
- Low Libido
- Dry skin and hair
- Dry Vagina
- Stress Reactive
- Moods including depression and anxiety
- Increased heart disease risk
During Menopause Weight gain is the number one complaint. As women pass from Peri to Post menopause the sex hormone estrogen and progesterone begin to fluctuate and decline. Leaving the body insulin resistant and stress reactive.
Insulin resistance causes the body to store fat rather than burn fat for energy and cortisol from stress causes fat to store around the mid-section. Leading to the common term ‘middle aged spread’.
Stress effects of hormone decline.
Stress causes the adrenal gland to increase the production of cortisol, as I previously mentioned leads to fat being stored around the middle. Stress comes in many forms, including;
- Emotional Stress life/work/relationship dramas.
- Stress can be physical – pain, injuries, and inflammation.
- Lifestyle – overexercising, dehydration, over eating or eating the wrong food, or undereating.
Which brings us back to intermittent fasting, that is NOT EATING for a set period regularly, which in itself is actually another form of stress.
During menopause women are stress reactive, so how can you both gain the health and weight loss benefits and avoid the stress associated with under eating or fasting?
The key benefits can be gained during menopause (or at any time of adult life) from intermittent fast if 3 key factors are complied with:
- How you prepare for your fast
- How you execute your fast
- How you break your fast
Each of these elements are equally important as the other for the success of your fast.
Each of these elements will determine if during menopause Intermittent fasting aids fat loss OR causes stress and fat storing.
Intermittent fasting has some strong research into the benefits for improved health and weight loss during menopause, as long as the 3 keys are followed to avoid placing additional stress causing weight gain.
- Prepare: load the cells with high quality nutrient dense foods and drinks for a minimum of 4 days to one week prior to the fast day/s. Get adequate rest, relaxation, and movement.
- Fast: a maximum of 48 hours without food. Really boost the water or water and lemon juice intake. Balance blood sugars with supplements of chromium, also include herbal teas, additionally vegetable juice can be a good way to keep the blood sugars balanced.
- Breaking the fast is where it can all come undone if not done correctly. Always break your fast with a highly nutritious alkalizing shake or vegetable based meal.
Here is a healthy superfood Green shake which would be a great way to break your fast. I have some variations and additions within the Hormone Health Program, but this is a great place to start.
Peach and Pineapple Green Smoothie
Makes 1 serving
1 cup spinach, raw
1 cup peach
1 cup pineapple
1 tsp ground flax seeds
½ cup coconut milk, unsweetened
½ cup cold water
1. Place spinach in blender first, then cover with the rest of the ingredients.
2. Process at high speed until well combined (you may need to carefully stop and press the spinach down a few times).
3. You may want to add ice or more cold water, depending on how cold and thick you like your smoothie. Enjoy!