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Intermittent Fasting and Mental Health | The Good and The Bad

Intermittent Fasting, or IF, has come into popularity over the past few years as the latest diet craze. But what exactly is it?

IF is an umbrella term for various meal timing schedules that cycle between periods of consuming calories and not consuming calories.

Three types of IF:

Alternate-day - fast for 24 hours, then consume calories for 24 hours

Periodic - whole day fasting for more than 24 hours, such as the 5:2 plan - you consume calories for 5 days then fast for 2 days

Time-restricted feeding - eating during a certain amount of time during the day, such as the 16:8 plan - you fast for 16 hours then consume calories during an 8 hour window The

American Heart Association recognizes IF as a way to

Produce weight loss

Reduce insulin resistance

Reduce the risk of cardiometabolic diseases

A 2019 review found that IF may help with:

Obesity - burns more fat Insulin resistance

High blood pressure Inflammation

It also helps to: Internal cleanup of the cells results in your mind performing better

Feel more energetic and clear-headed

Prevents the spread of some diseases and slows down aging

Improve quality of sleep

Less anxiety and depression

Fasting is also practiced in many religions such as Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, and Buddhism

Benefits of IF:

Improves memory - the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dieticians found that in a 4 week study, participants’ performance on working memory task and working memory capacity increased significantly and another study found that learning and memory were improved with animals.

Lifts mood - study found after 3 months of fasting improvements in mood and reduction in tension, anger, and confusion.

Has also been found to reduce anxiety and depression.

Increases blood flow to the brain - this reduces symptoms of depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, ADD/ADHD, traumatic brain injury, substance abuse, and suicidal thoughts. Poor blood flow is the #1 brain imaging predictor of Alzheimer’s disease.

Fat loss - having excess fat is associated with a greater risk for depression, bipolar disorder, panic disorder, agoraphobia (fear of going outside), and addictions

How to get started:

Check with your physician first to make sure it is appropriate and safe for you (those who are not candidates - women who are pregnant or nursing, diabetes, over the age of 65, and those with history of an eating disorder)

Choose a plan that works best for you - this may take several attempts

Consistency and patience - it takes about 3 months to see true results.

If you break your fast, forgive yourself, and simply start over the next day Meal prep helps you stay on track Accountability and support - join an IF group for added support and help you stay on track. It might also help to do some research of your own to get you started and keep you on track.

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Blue Sage Counseling and Wellness, and the information provided by Ashley Francis, is solely intended for informational and entertainment purposes and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis, or treatment regarding medical or mental health conditions. Although Ashley Francis is a licensed marriage and family therapist, the views expressed on this site or any related content should not be taken for medical or psychiatric advice. Always consult your physician before making any decisions related to your physical or mental health.

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