How intermittent fasting harms your body? Read on to find out

Intermittent Fasting is strongly discouraged in children, adolescents, older adults, pregnant women, breastfeeding women, those suffering from diseases such as type 1 diabetes, chronic liver disease, and post-weight loss surgery

Intermittent Fasting, Diet, weight loss, weight loss regime, health news, lifestyle news,
It's important to follow a healthy diet after the fasting period. (Image Credits: Pixabay)

A successful weight loss journey includes commitment and a well-thought-out plan. When you decide to shed those extra kilos, you need to change your lifestyle. In order to do that you also need immense commitment and a well-thought-out plan.

However, people often rely on ‘quick fixes’ without realising its implications on their health. In recent years, diet methods like intermittent fasting have gained popularity. But does it actually helps?

What is Intermittent Fasting (IF)?

Intermittent Fasting (IF) is a type of diet in which the eating pattern involves alternate eating and fasting periods. According to a study published in Cureus, IF has shown many benefits for people who are obese and are trying to lose weight and attain a healthy lifestyle.

Certain benefits like time-restricted feeding (TRF), alternate-day fasting (ADF), and periodic fasting. Studies suggest that although IF is safe for most people, it can also lead to certain side effects.

“Intermittent fasting(IF) induces a shift in your metabolism, from glucose based to fat or ketone-based by utilizing your body fat stores, due to this change it has gained more popularity in the last few years as it has various benefits in improving one’s health especially your heart, gut, and brain. It supports weight loss, regulates blood glucose levels, and reduces inflammation. But the one who follows this confidently fails to understand that there are risks involved in IF as it is not meant for everyone,” Dr. Edwina Raj, Head – of Clinical Nutrition Dietetics, Aster CMI Hospital, Bangalore told Financial

According to Dr. Raj, intermittent fasting only teaches you when to eat but what to eat should be decided by a qualified dietitian for your health condition.

‘Self-administration of IF is more deleterious’

According to Dr. Raj, self-administration of IF is more deleterious as it comes with side effects that some of them experience within a short duration of time and others may have long-term complications.

“The most commonly observed side effects immediately after starting the IF regime are headache, tiredness, dizziness, nausea/vomiting, mood changes, sleep disturbance, poor level of concentration at work, a bad breath of acetone that causes unpleasant odour from your mouth, irritability and aggressive behaviour. These concerns can get worst in most individuals who are involved in fieldwork but mostly manageable in individuals who are in desk jobs. A dry fasting regime can lead to severe dehydration due to inadequate intake of water,” she added.

Long-term impact of Intermittent Fasting (IF)

Dr. Raj emphasises that the longer the duration of fasting beyond 14 hours then most of them experience discomfort initially. If the window for eating and fasting becomes shorter then there is intense hunger which leads to binge eating and uncontrolled craving for unhealthy food.

“There are other long-term impacts would be as malnutrition which can lead to severe nutritional deficiencies, hair fall, bone pain, constipation and chronic fatigue. Since the eating window is short the intake of nutrients gets imbalanced leading to muscle loss and dryness of the skin. Cheating while following IF can lead to repeated bloating, abdominal discomfort, and gastritis. If the fasting window is shorter then you can experience less side effects,” she side.

Every individual should first check with a healthcare professional before starting the regime and it is strongly discouraged in children, adolescents, older adults, pregnant women, breastfeeding women, those suffering from diseases such as type 1 diabetes, chronic liver disease, and post-weight loss surgery, Dr. Raj revealed.

‘Important to follow a healthy diet after the fasting period’

Dr. Moinoddin G, Consultant – Bariatric & Advanced Laparoscopic Surgery, Manipal Hospital, Millers Road, Bangalore told Financial that when we allow the body to enter into ketosis, we tend to lose body weight and it can include both water weight and fat loss.

“Intermittent fasting is a popular method where people fast for a specific period, such as 8, 12, or 16 hours per day, and which can further lead to weight loss. However, fasting for 24 hours is considered extreme, but it can result in a good amount of weight loss, along with improving blood sugar levels, controlling hypertension and cholesterol, reducing snoring and breathing difficulties,” Dr. Moinoddin said.

He also claimed that this can also potentially reverse the symptoms of PCOS.

“It’s important to follow a healthy diet after the fasting period. People should avoid too many carbohydrates, and consume a high protein diet, including protein powders. They should also limit their calorie intake throughout the day, even when not fasting, by restricting their daily calorie intake to 800-2000 calories, preferably focusing on protein. Intermittent fasting is sometimes a little scary because the patients are not cautious about what they are doing,” he added.

He emphasised that diabetic patients, who are on medication, should do intermittent fasting very carefully as there is a chance of developing hypoglycaemia and kidney problems. Thus, it should be done only under supervision to eliminate the possible side effects of aggressive intermittent fasting, he said.

Harmful effects of Intermittent Fasting (IF)

According to Dr. Shuchin Bajaj, Founder & Director Ujala Cygnus Group of Hospitals, here are some ways in which intermittent fasting could potentially harm the body:

Nutrient deficiencies: If not carefully planned, intermittent fasting can lead to inadequate nutrient intake, especially if the eating periods are not well-balanced. It may be challenging to consume all the necessary vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients within a restricted time frame, potentially leading to deficiencies over time.

Disordered eating patterns: For individuals with a history of disordered eating or those susceptible to developing such behaviors, intermittent fasting could potentially trigger or exacerbate unhealthy relationships with food. It may promote obsessive thoughts about eating, guilt or anxiety surrounding food, and a potential for binge eating during non-fasting periods.

Blood sugar imbalances: Intermittent fasting may cause blood sugar fluctuations, especially in individuals with diabetes or those prone to hypoglycemia. Skipping meals or extended fasting periods can lead to low blood sugar levels, resulting in symptoms such as dizziness, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating.

Adverse effects on metabolism: Some research suggests that prolonged fasting or severe calorie restriction, which can occur with certain types of intermittent fasting, may slow down metabolism as the body adapts to conserve energy. This can make it harder to maintain weight loss in the long term.

Negative effects on hormonal balance: Intermittent fasting can affect hormone levels, potentially disrupting the delicate balance required for proper bodily functions. Women, in particular, may experience menstrual irregularities or hormonal imbalances due to the stress of fasting.

Increased risk of disordered sleep patterns: Intermittent fasting has been associated with disrupted sleep patterns in some individuals. Hunger during fasting periods or large meals close to bedtime can interfere with sleep quality and duration.

Potential for overeating: Some individuals may compensate for fasting periods by consuming larger quantities of food during eating windows. This could lead to overeating and weight gain, counteracting the intended benefits of intermittent fasting.

“It’s important to note that the extent to which these potential harms manifest varies among individuals, and some people may not experience any negative effects from intermittent fasting. However, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian before adopting any new dietary approach, especially if you have pre-existing health conditions or concerns. They can provide personalized guidance based on your specific needs and help minimize potential risks,” Dr. Bajaj told Financial

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First published on: 03-05-2023 at 16:40 IST