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Why intermittent fasting isn't ideal for women...

When it comes to the female body and how to fuel ourselves, we all need to realise we are different than men. Quite a lot of the advice out there really only educates or benefits the male system. Only very recently new research has come out to why women do better in a fed state rather than a fasted. Let's read on....

What is intermittent fasting?

Many diets focus on what to eat, but intermittent fasting is all about when you eat. There are multiple methods on how to intermittently fast. None of which I'll go into details about as I'm not here to promote I/F in women.

So happens to Men v Women when we fast?

For men, to intermittently fast, helps and aids the male systems to have better cognitive focus and clarity of mind. This is a benefit to the male system as men have a strong parasympathetic response. What does that mean? Well, the parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for the body's rest and digestion response when the body is relaxed, resting, or feeding. It basically undoes the work of sympathetic division after a stressful situation. The parasympathetic nervous system decreases respiration and heart rate and increases digestion. However, in women, we don't have a parasympathetic response when we fast, we have a sympathetic response. The sympathetic nervous system makes up part of the autonomic nervous system, also known as the involuntary nervous system. Without conscious direction, the autonomic nervous system regulates important bodily functions such as heart rate, blood pressure, pupil dilation, body temperature, sweating and digestion.

What effects does I/F have on women?

So in simple terms when woman are in a fasted state, they are ;

  • Anxious

  • Experience brain-fog

  • Feel a little depressed

  • Experience an elevated heart rate

  • May experience issues in their menstrual cycle. Some women reporting in their periods stopping altogether.

And...its all due to the body responding to fasting in such a high sympathetic drive. Why this happens is, when it a fasted state, there are reported spikes in your cortisol level. This promotes fat storage and with long term elevation levels cortisol can become adrenal fatigue. Albeit, adrenal fatigue is argued within the medical community a truthful response to long-term stress upon the obdy either psychologically or physically. Read further here. Furthermore, there is an increase in visceral fat in a woman's body due to intermittent fasting. As a result, it is hard to mobilise and it increases cardiovascular risk. To top it off, there is no improvement in blood glucose control, where as in men, there is.

What does your gut tell you?

Your gut bacteria amongst other amazing benefits helps in the production of hormones, the manipulation of your mood and even the regulation of your immunity. This is more apparent when you are lacking certain key microbes. Starving any of your important gut flora through fasting , limits the nutrients the bacteria needs to grow and thrive. As a result, your pain reception increases as your gut sends the message that you're not in the condition to work very hard until you get the nourishment you need. This is super significant as, for example if you look at the lack of gut flora for example the "Lacobacilli" strain, you can experience various symptoms such as; psychological distress, anxiety, poor sleep, high heart rate. However, research has shown that your mood will significantly improve when you have healthy levels of Lactobacilli in your gut.

What to do now?

How you fuel and how you live your day to day is entirely up to you. It's a healthy approach to try educate yourself into what new or different methods are out there that may benefit you (or in this case may not). This article isn't here to tell you to stop what may work for you and it isn't a medical journal to suggest this otherwise. It is advised for women who are breastfeeding or trying to conceive to not to I/F. It's truly up to your to empower yourself with the knowledge you seek out.

As a side note, I love to learn more and I've taken this information from a highly decorated female physician in female health, especially when it comes to female athletes and female fitness enthusiasts. This woman is Dr Stacy Sims. If you'd like to learn in further detail about I/F and the female body, please check out her work. In the meantime, I'll be enjoying my favourite meal of the day, brekkie!


Have your say....

  • Have you I/F before?

  • Has it worked /not worked for you?

  • Have you noticed a difference with the method compared to a male in your life?

Let us know in your comments below on your thoughts and experiences.

Ashley x

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