Chaos to Calm

Intermittent Fasting and Perimenopause: Why It’s Not The Best Choice

May 14, 2023 Episode 9
Intermittent Fasting and Perimenopause: Why It’s Not The Best Choice
Chaos to Calm
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Chaos to Calm
Intermittent Fasting and Perimenopause: Why It’s Not The Best Choice
May 14, 2023 Episode 9

This week, Sarah speaks candidly about her views and the current studies on intermittent fasting and perimenopause, and the reasons why it isn’t the best choice for women, especially during the perimenopause. Tune in until the end for 5 delicious breakfast ideas for busy women!

Tune in to find out about:

  • What intermittent fasting involves
  • The current research
  • Why fasting is a stressor on our bodies
  • Health issues that fasting may exacerbate
  • Effects on hormonal and physiological factors
  • The domino effect of skipping meals
  • Listening to your body’s cues
  • Why breakfast is essential
  • 5 easy breakfast ideas

Send us a question for the FAQs segment or your feedback, we’d love to hear from you.

Find out more about Sarah, her services and the Freebies mentioned in this episode at https://www.ThePerimenopauseNaturopath.com.au

  • COMING SOON: Discover how to use food as your most powerful medicine, smoothing hormonal fluctuations and easing perimenopause symptoms naturally. (Yes, you have more options than hormone therapy!) Say goodbye to feeling out of control and hello to feeling more like your old self every day, with PerimenoPOWER (because who wants to pause anyway?!)
  • The Perimenopause Decoder is the ultimate guide to understanding if perimenopause hormone fluctuations are behind your changing mood, metabolism and energy after 40, what phase of perimenopause you're in and how much longer you may be on this roller coaster for.
  • Been told your blood test results are "normal" or "fine" while you feel far from your best? Discover the power of optimal blood test analysis with The Blood Test Decoder: Optimal Ranges for Women Over 40.
  • For more, follow on Instagram at @theperimenopausenaturopath.
Show Notes Transcript

This week, Sarah speaks candidly about her views and the current studies on intermittent fasting and perimenopause, and the reasons why it isn’t the best choice for women, especially during the perimenopause. Tune in until the end for 5 delicious breakfast ideas for busy women!

Tune in to find out about:

  • What intermittent fasting involves
  • The current research
  • Why fasting is a stressor on our bodies
  • Health issues that fasting may exacerbate
  • Effects on hormonal and physiological factors
  • The domino effect of skipping meals
  • Listening to your body’s cues
  • Why breakfast is essential
  • 5 easy breakfast ideas

Send us a question for the FAQs segment or your feedback, we’d love to hear from you.

Find out more about Sarah, her services and the Freebies mentioned in this episode at https://www.ThePerimenopauseNaturopath.com.au

  • COMING SOON: Discover how to use food as your most powerful medicine, smoothing hormonal fluctuations and easing perimenopause symptoms naturally. (Yes, you have more options than hormone therapy!) Say goodbye to feeling out of control and hello to feeling more like your old self every day, with PerimenoPOWER (because who wants to pause anyway?!)
  • The Perimenopause Decoder is the ultimate guide to understanding if perimenopause hormone fluctuations are behind your changing mood, metabolism and energy after 40, what phase of perimenopause you're in and how much longer you may be on this roller coaster for.
  • Been told your blood test results are "normal" or "fine" while you feel far from your best? Discover the power of optimal blood test analysis with The Blood Test Decoder: Optimal Ranges for Women Over 40.
  • For more, follow on Instagram at @theperimenopausenaturopath.

00:03

Hey there. I'm Sarah McLachlan. Thanks for joining me on the chaos to calm podcast, a podcast designed for women over 40 who think that changing hormones might be messing with their mood, metabolism and energy and want to change that in a healthy, sustainable and permanent way. Each episode we'll explore topics related to health and wellness for women in their 40s. Like what the heck is happening to your hormones, what to do about it with nutrition, lifestyle and stress management, and inspiring conversations with guests sharing their insights and tips on how to live your best life in your 40s and beyond. So if you're feeling like you're in the midst of a hormonal storm, and don't want perimenopause to be horrific, then join me on chaos to calm as I share with you how to make it to menopause without it wrecking your relationships and life.

 

01:01

Hello, and welcome to the chaos to calm podcast where we discuss how to master the chaos of changing hormones, mood, metabolism, energy and more after 40. I'm Sarah, the perimenopause naturopath, and I'm your host, casually welcoming you to episode number nine. And we are discussing intermittent fasting today. 

 

01:27

Wow, intermittent fasting isn't that popular. What you might not know is that my views on intermittent fasting up with the popular view. So I will give you a spoiler alert right now, I do not think intermittent fasting is the best option for women, especially women in perimenopause and menopause. And also, it's often done very poorly. We're going to unpack all of my views today, don't worry, you will learn more about it and I will freely rant about it here. So, intermittent fasting is the trend, it has become very popular. And intermittent fasting what it means for those of you who don't know is cycling between periods of eating and not eating. So the most common way to do it is being a 16:8. So you fast for 16 hours, you don't eat for 16 hours of every 24 and you eat your food for the day in an eight hour eating window. Some people really narrow that right down, maybe they only have like five hours or less or for eating in across the day. Another popular way to do it is the 5:2 method. So this is where you're eating normally, by normally assuming you're eating nourishing Whole Foods for five days of the week, and you restrict your calorie intake to 500 to 600 calories. It's about 2000 kilojoules for two days that aren't like you don't do two days in a row. 

 

03:18

So I've spoken about my opinion on calorie counting and calorie restriction before so already vision of doing things is not going to wash with me. So why do people want to do intermittent fasting? Well, you know, that potential lots of research has been done on men. Let's start with that. Not a lot on women, because we're complicated. We have more hormones, we have hormones fluctuate, or higher levels of many hormones, and they fluctuate across the month and it makes it difficult to standardize there. So lots of studies, especially on stuff like this keto, low carb as well are done on men. We are not just little men, though, I think that's really important to know, we are not just little men, you can't just extrapolate a finding that's in men and say, it'll be the same for us because it's not and I think intermittent fasting actually shows this really well. 

 

04:16

So potentially for men, the benefits include weight loss, improved body composition, so lower fat mass, increased insulin sensitivity, well, that is a good thing to have lower inflammation levels also great to have improved cardiovascular health and some say anti aging effects and it might also improve your cognitive function and protect against neurodegenerative diseases. So not everyone would experience all of those benefits and fasting. It's certainly not suitable for everyone. Especially if you have some health conditions. 

 

04:55

One thing that's really important to know with intermittent fasting it's really crucial to prioritize, healthy nutrient-dense foods during your eating periods, and not use fasting as an excuse to binge or indulge in lots of unhealthy foods. This is what most people miss. This is what most of those popular influence are people telling you to do intermittent fasting miss, it's key! J ust narrowing the window of when you eat crappy food that doesn't nourish and support your body, it's not going to make for health. The other way that that goes as well, getting my ranty voice on now is that many people then don't eat enough, they don't eat enough of the nutrients that their body needs for the day. So this is why it can be problematic. 

 

05:46

So and you know, like I was saying before, it may not be suitable for everyone. It certainly is not suitable for everyone and women in their 40s and perimenopause definitely are often not the best candidates for fasting. If you are stressed, busy overscheduled every woman in her 40s and 50s that I know, then it is not for you, your cortisol levels are already raised enough. Fasting. I've got inverted commas going yeah, in fasting is a stressor, especially for women's bodies. And I'll tell you a bit more about that in a minute. But also, if you've got nutritional deficiencies, it's you're not a good candidate, just the stress and busyness over scheduling that wipes out most of you. I know I can see you can do too much. What choice do you have? I know I get it. But it means that intermittent fasting is certainly probably going to be unsuitable for you. 

 

06:52

Now, the hormone fluctuations of perimenopause can also rule you out and the underlying health issues, maybe thyroid dysfunction, insulin resistance can make you not suited for intermittent fasting because it can cause stress on the body, particularly in women. And tell you the reason why it causes stress, whether we like it or not, our bodies are wired for reproduction, our primal bodies are wired for reproduction, it is the priority that our body always thinks about it always prioritizes, that there could be a little baby growing. And so when we don't when we go without food, and you know, in your fasting period, if you're doing intermittent fasting, well, you've got to feel hungry. And that stresses your body out and puts it into that fight or flight mode. So stress response mode, increasing your cortisol, increasing your adrenaline also triggers a hormonal cascade in your body because it thinks you're in a famine. And that makes you go into fat storage mode, too. This is why if you've been trying intermittent fasting, you might gain weight. I know it happens to many people. It just happened to my good self back in the day when I was experimenting with all the different things. 

 

08:14

So because it does it because of that stress that it causes so then it can interfere with your thyroid. So you might end up with a longer term thyroid issue. If you've already got a thyroid issue it can exacerbate that. make it hard for you to regulate your metabolism and manage your weight. Now it can exacerbate insulin resistance in some people too. And a lot of people have insulin resistance but don't realize that they do. I will do a podcast episode on insulin resistance because it's really interesting. Something you can track and measure yourself at home and it's so influential to your overall health. 

 

08:48

Yeah, so it can exacerbate that insulin resistance and that can contribute to other health problems. I always say insulin is like one of the master hormones cortisol is the other cortisol insulin, we need to consider them first and foremost. And then because they have such a heavy impact on all of our other hormones, yes that other hormones feed back to them, but they influence and set the tone in your body for your health overall. 

 

09:14

So, a study published in the Journal of Women's Health found that women who practiced intermittent fasting had negative impacts on their cycle and hormone balance. Now, in perimenopause friend, we are already having hormonal fluctuations and funny cycles. So you can make this worse and potentially increase your perimenopause symptoms by doing intermittent fasting if it's not suited for you. Now another study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that intermittent fasting could lead to adverse effects on reproductive function in women, including changes in menstrual cycles and hormonal imbalances. So it's a bit of a thing in going here.

 

10:01

Another one in the Journal of Obesity found that women who practiced intermittent fasting had lower resting metabolic rates than men. So the study concluded that intermittent fasting may be less effective for weight loss in women. So a lower resting metabolic rate. Well, that can also leave you feeling really sluggish and tired. Brain foggy, hard to think. All of those perimenopause symptoms, those really common ones that I just talked about in episode eight, what a coincidence can be exacerbated by fasting, let alone if we're fasting, you know, if you're doing it and not focusing on prioritizing nourishing, wholesome foods. 

 

10:46

The two most studies to talk about one in the Journal of Nutrition found that women who fasted for 20 hours per day now remember I said some people do really narrow eating windows. I've heard of people doing like one or two hour eating window for a whole day. So anyway, women that fasted for 20 hours per day had higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol than men who followed the same fasting regimen. So the study suggests that intermittent fasting may lead to increased stress levels in women, well, yeah, increased cortisol, increased cortisol puts up blood glucose levels up, puts your insulin levels up, when your insulin level is up, you're in fat storage mode, we need to be in fat burning mode, we need to lower insulin state to burn fat and lose weight. So like I said to you, our bodies are wired for reproduction. They don't know that we're taking contraception or abstaining or using barrier methods to not get pregnant. They just always assume or work on the assumption that there could be a baby going there and any stress or perceived lack of food, especially if you're hungry, and you suppress your appetite with something else so that you can keep fasting, massive stressor, and it's probably going to work against you if your goal is weight loss or health generally.

 

12:13

Last study, and this is super important. It was published in the Journal Nutrients, and it found that intermittent fasting may have negative effects on bone health in women. It concluded that women who fasted regularly had lower bone mineral density than women who did not fast. Now, that could be because of the quality of the food that they're eating or not, maybe they're not eating enough of the nutrients because they're not giving themselves a big enough we know in the day, or it could be to do with stress. Again, cortisol is very catabolic, it's very nutrient demanding. And high cortisol levels can also increase the acidity in our blood. Now, one way our body works to reduce that acidity is to take calcium from bones. Now, our bone building time peaks before we're thirty and it starts with decline after that the mass and heaviness of our bones. And so it's important to hold on and keep what's in your bones in your bones for longer. That's why our risk of osteoporosis and fractures and breaks increases as we get older. So that's really significant finding there that intermittent fasting had a negative impact on bone health, we cannot afford to do that. Because when our estrogen is declining and diminished in menopause, we lose bone mass and bone density. And you don't want to you don't want to make that go quicker, but it's not good. 

 

13:47

Now, something I want to talk about is the domino effect of of skipping meals. And essentially that can be you know, you can think of intermittent fasting as skipping meals. It has an effect on your physiology. So when you skip a meal, your body's blood sugar levels drop, and they can cause you to feel really hungry hangry you know, you've you felt that way before you know what it's like irritated like you got to eat now your body it does this for a reason because it wants you to stop everything else that you're doing and go and get some food because it needs the nutrients it needs the energy. So in response to that, that feeling hangry and irritated, you know, you might feel sweaty, shaky all of those things, but in response to that your body releases more stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline. So it can raise your blood pressure and your heart rate and encourage your liver to make more glucose so that it can have some energy. So yeah, the triggers of that hormonal cascade there puts you into a fight or flight mode, which most of us don't need. Because you've got so much so many stressors in your day, triggering off that fight or flight mode that you're in the chronic stress state anyway. 

 

15:04

Skipping meals also can affect your metabolism. So when I say skipping meals, you know, fasting not eating enough, it's the same as skipping meals, your body goes into that starvation mode that I talked about that famine mode, and it begins to consume energy. And that means that it slows your metabolism, and it makes it harder for you to lose weight. But it makes it harder for you to do life because you're feeling fuzzy in the head or slow, in the head really tired, exhausted, you know, you might feel like you're moving through mud when you wake up in the morning. 

 

15:42

And the big thing with fasting, and what I noticed, as well as if you're under eating, or you get, you start trying to suppress that hunger, and move through to your eating window. But it can lead to overeating later in the day. Because by the time you get to finally eight, you're so hungry, that you just ate anything and everything, and you eat more than what you would have if you just ate three meals across the day. So that can lead to weight gain mess with your blood sugar levels, your insulin there as well. But also drive, it can drive you to eat stuff that you actually don't really want to eat, you know more of those refined carbs and sugar and things like that. So overall, skipping meals, and I'm including intermittent fasting in skipping meals, because most of the time people don't eat breakfast, or they'll wait, you know, they might only eat lunch and dinner or sometimes I need dinner, it has a negative effect on your body's physiological processes, it makes it harder for you to maintain a healthy weight and your overall well being. 

 

16:49

Now, I just touched on it here, how can make you over ate, but also that restrictive practice in fasting can feed into binge eating and other unhealthy eating patterns and how you feel about yourself and, and yourself, you can really be impacted by this. So it can trigger the, you know, this psychological phenomenon called the abstinence violation effect. I like to call it the all or nothing, or you could call it the whatever, whatever I've blown it now. So we're really describing that, that all or nothing approach to a situation or diet, you know, set diet mindset, trying to stick with something to do you know, eating a particular way or doing a particular thing and you slip up and then all right, whatever, I'm gonna abandon- I'm not going back to it because you think that you've failed, and you've fallen off the wagon, and something that a lot of people say. 

 

17:50

So, you know, you might say, Oh, well, I've already blown up blown the diet, you might have sort of like flipped the virtual table, so to speak, and just abandon everything and just eat all the things and get in that cycle of unhealthy eating patterns then, and continue to end up with weight gain, or other health consequences or issues. But the most important thing out of that I think is it can lead to a cycle of guilt and shame and then ultimately further indulgence in unhealthy behaviors. And then, you know, loss of control, you can feel out of control and relapse and further indulgence and just feel really stuck in that cycle there and not know how to get out of it. And it really reflects an imbalanced biochemistry, your neurotransmitters out of balance, your blood sugar's your insulin out of balance that's driving you to eat those things you don't want to eat. 

 

18:47

If you're trying to lose weight and and you're not getting enough protein and nutrients, you will lose muscle mass not just not fat mass, and that will trigger off binge eating as well. So aspects of fasting a good having a break between your meals excellent lets your digestive system rest and do its thing. Having a fast overnight when we sleep. Well, it's not really something we need to do. We don't need to get up and have a midnight feast. Unless your blood sugar levels are imbalanced and you wake up feeling really hungry. 

 

19:19

So yeah, it's nice to have a break between your meals. But you don't want to put yourself in a position where you're restricting yourself to just eating one or two meals a day in a small period of time and ignoring the cues are the signs that your body is giving you that it is hungry and I think that's really key here. And what a lot of people miss or or don't do is they don't actually listen to their bodies hunger and satiety cues, so your fullness cues and really, I recommend that you approach any food changes, including intermittent fasting or anything that you're going to do with a really balanced and flexible mindset and focusing on incorporating nutrient dense foods. Incorporating what you can rather than what you can't, and trying to replace foods over time, but crowd them out with those nutrient dense foods. But listening to your body's hunger, listening to it when it's full. Please tune in and do those things, and seek guidance from someone who can advise you or help you there as well. 

 

20:31

So one last thing I want to talk about before we finish up today, is coffee for breakfast or coffee is an appetite suppressant. I see this happen a lot with intermittent fasting. And you know, coffee actually stimulates the digestive response, just breaking it to you all, even black. It raises your blood sugar levels and insulin. And so it can lead to fat storage. They're also on an empty stomach, it can trigger the stress responses or stress or irritation in your body- so raise your cortisol and adrenaline and put a strain on your adrenals and your nervous system. 

 

21:10

So let's talk about having some brekkie. Some quick, easy bricky options because, okay, you might want to have your coffee in the morning. That's cool. But what about if we switch and have food first, I can tell you just that simple thing will make a massive difference to how you feel across the day, including mid afternoon. So starting the day off with breakfast will really help study your energy flow across the day and really works well for hormone balance as well. I have a freebie on my website and we'll link will be in the show notes as well for the balanced meal formula that can be really helpful in helping you understand how to eat and how to balance your plate and how to make up a nourishing breakfast. 

 

21:54

So just quickly before we finish up this Five Easy Breakfast Recipe Ideas for Busy Women to try something new and have breakfast. So I suggest you have three meals a day. And so when I get my clients to do we don't do snacking, we just do three balanced meals and then that's all you need and your body will be happy because it's supported and nourished and has the nutrients it needs. So you might try and make something like a you're a Greek yogurt parfait. Layer the yogurt with some fruits or fruit and seeds like pumpkin, sunflower flax or chia. You can make it the night before if you want or make it in the morning for a quick brekkie fo toes can't go past it. Choose right or gluten free if you need to be but right over wheat is great. Mash it avocado, add protein, maybe a poached egg or some sheets feta cheese or goat's cheese on top. 

 

22:50

Another great one you could use bake beans, homemade is ideal. But if you don't have time to make your own, there's some great tinned ones on the available that are lower in sugar. That's because here they do add lots of sugar to baked beans. So choose one that is lower in sugar. Again, choose the right toast. Have some veg with it, you know, put some spinach in the bottom of your bowl, baby spinach leaves wacky beans on top when they're hot that will help with the spinach and go for it that way and have you know enjoy some fruit as a dessert afterwards as well.

 

23:25

Scrambled tofu, it is delicious. So don't let the tofu name put you up. Enjoy that with some rye toast or a nice wrap and some veggies and fruit. overnight oats is popular. I'm a celiac I don't eat oats, but you could combine some oats some goat milk or some yogurt and your favorite fruit in a jar put cinnamon in. Cardamom's delicious with mango and yogurt and oats and let it sit in the fridge overnight and that's really quick and easy to keep and to take with you. 

 

24:02

Breakfast burrito is my other favorite so you could use a scrambled tofu or some beans baked beans or other beans and warm them up with some herbs and spices, like a Mexican blend. Yum! And some veggies if you chuck it all in the one pan together, wrap it up in a tortilla and there's a quick and easy brekkie for you to enjoy there. 

 

24:26

You could do smoothies. Smoothies, go like ghee go easy on the fruit and make sure it's got plenty of protein in it if you are a smoothie lover. 

 

24:35

All right. So we've talked all about intermittent fasting today. You've heard me rant on why I don't think it's great for women. And yeah, it's just a you know, we'll boil it right down to for busy and stressed and overscheduled women who already have higher cortisol adding more cortisol from the stress of not eating when you might feel hungry, and not eating enough nutrients in the day is just something you don't need to do, it's just going to mess further with your hormones. So we really want to have a nice balanced breakfast. It doesn't have to be a huge meal. Let me just say that like 175-200 grams of yogurt with 100 grams of berries, a couple of tablespoons of flax seeds. It's a great breakfast beautiful for your hormones there as well. You can make it an advance and then just eat it or chuck it in and make a smoothie from it. 

 

25:31

So don't, don't forget, you can download the Balanced Meal Formula that is in the show notes for you there as well. And try the breakfast recipes that I've suggested. I'd love to know what you think or what your favorite easy brekkie recipe is, please do share it tag me in your socials so that other listeners can see what you are doing, what one does you're creating, and be inspired by your food and what you're doing to help support your health. 

 

26:00

So that is all for today, until our next podcast episode. I'm Sarah, The Perimenopause Naturopath, reminding you it is possible to master the chaos of changing hormones mood, metabolism and energy and make it to menopause without it wrecking your life and relationships.

 

26:26

It's really common for women over 40 to experience the chaos of changing hormones, mood, metabolism and energy. But I hope you know now that common doesn't have to equal normal for you or them. You can help others understand that aren't alone in feeling this way. And that perimenopause doesn't have to be horrific by subscribing, leaving a review and sharing this podcast with other women in their 40s and beyond. Thanks so much for listening and sharing your time with me today in this chaos to calm conversation.