082 // Fasting and Hashimoto’s: Harmful or Helpful?

Health with Hashimoto’s is your free weekly podcast to discover true, simple, and sustainable tips to improve your energy and health.

Fasting can cause increased stress. The low blood sugar that happens during fasting can be a root cause for some people’s Hashimoto’s and thyroid problems. Other people say nearly the opposite. They claim that fasting can help the immune system and can help your body heal. Which is true? Find out in this episode.

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Fast Like a Girl by Dr. Mindy Pelz

Protandim Tri-Synergizer (to activate the power of fasting without actually fasting.)

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Exploring Fasting and Hashimoto’s

Is fasting a root cause of Hashimoto’s? Does it actually trigger Hashimoto’s thyroiditis? Or is fasting, like some people claim, even like a cure for Hashimoto’s? Well, the answer to both of those is yes.

Individualized Approach to Fasting and Hashimoto’s

And that’s what we’re going to talk about today because like so many different things in your life and in your health, the answer for you might not be the same as the answer for somebody else. So we’re going to talk all about fasting today and I’m going to help you figure out, is this something that you could pursue or is this not a good idea for you?

Welcome to Health with Hashimoto’s: Episode 82

Welcome to the Health with Hashimoto’s! Thank you so much for joining me. My name is Esther. I am a registered nurse. I’m a holistic health educator. I’m a mom. I have Hashimoto’s. And I have tried fasting several times and it has always been really bad for me, honestly.

As mid-fall approached, I found myself inundated with numerous ads and interviews featuring a particular doctor on social media. The focus? Fasting and its effects on hormones. Intrigued by the buzz, I explored the topic. My previous research and observations suggested that fasting, particularly for women, could be detrimental due to its impact on hormone cycles.

The Connection Between Fasting and Hormones

I’ve come across evidence indicating that fasting may pose risks for women due to its potential to disrupt hormone balance. We’ve previously discussed how low blood sugar can serve as a root cause for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. While both high and low blood sugar levels can be problematic, low blood sugar seems to exert more stress on the body, potentially triggering autoimmune issues.

What is Fasting?

First, let’s define fasting. Essentially, fasting entails abstaining from food or certain substances for a specified period. As I record this, we’re entering the season of Lent, during which many individuals in the church traditionally give up something, redirecting their focus towards prayer and spiritual reflection.

Historical Context of Fasting

Historically, fasting often involved abstaining from food, as in traditional cultures, where much of daily life revolved around gathering and preparing meals. With the absence of modern conveniences like refrigerators and supermarkets, food preparation consumed a significant portion of time and energy. Thus, fasting from food allowed individuals to devote ample time to prayer and spiritual practices.

Fasting has surged in popularity over the last decade, particularly intermittent fasting. In the past, it was customary for people to halt eating at suppertime and resume with breakfast. However, with the abundance of convenient food options today, such as microwave popcorn and bags of chips, the habit of constant snacking has become pervasive, which isn’t conducive to maintaining stable blood sugar levels or optimal health.

What About Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting revolves around the idea of taking breaks from eating daily. When discussing intermittent fasting, terms like “eating window” and “fasting window” come into play. For instance, if you stop eating every day by 7 p.m. and resume at 7 a.m., your fasting window spans 12 hours, while your eating window also covers 12 hours.

Gender Disparities in Fasting

While many have reported significant health benefits from intermittent fasting, especially men, the same cannot be said for women, particularly those who are premenopausal. Hormonal factors play a crucial role, and women must consider these aspects when contemplating fasting regimens.

Reflecting on my own experiences, I realized that my initial struggles with intermittent fasting stemmed from overlooking its impact on hormones. Despite following popular advice gleaned from blogs and the internet, I didn’t know anything about how to sync it with my hormones. Consequently, my attempts at intermittent fasting led to weight gain, increased fatigue, and possibly exacerbated Hashimoto’s symptoms.

Fasting Can Be Harmful

Have you encountered similar challenges with intermittent fasting? Perhaps it even triggered or worsened your Hashimoto’s symptoms, as I suspect it did for me. It’s essential to recognize that individual responses to fasting can vary greatly, and understanding the hormonal implications is key to navigating its potential pitfalls.

Potential Drawback: Stress

There are a couple of reasons why fasting can be detrimental to your health. First, when your blood sugar levels drop, it places significant stress on your body, leading to an increase in cortisol production. I’ve talked about the topic of cortisol extensively in previous episodes, discussing its impact on stress and how it can disrupt the immune system, potentially triggering autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Therefore, it’s crucial to avoid chronically elevating our stress levels.

Hormonal Considerations in Fasting

Moreover, in women, our hormonal fluctuations throughout the typical 28-day cycle make us more susceptible to stress during certain phases. Our bodies are intricately designed for reproduction and nurturing, with fasting potentially conflicting with our biological rhythms. Attempting to fast during these vulnerable periods can heighten stress levels and negatively impact our overall well-being. Fasting, particularly when not aligned with our hormonal cycles, can pose risks to our health and exacerbate existing conditions like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

4 Benefits of Fasting

Let’s examine the positive aspects of fasting. While I’m not making any claims or guarantees regarding its effects on Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, some individuals have reported significant improvements in their condition through fasting practices aligned with hormonal rhythms. It’s essential to recognize that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to health and wellness.

Amplifying the Healing Process

Fasting initiates an amplified healing state within the body. It activates various processes that facilitate improved healing. Among these processes, ketones play a crucial role. Ketones serve as an alternative fuel source when sugar is unavailable, supporting mitochondrial function and cellular health.

Autophagy: The Cell’s Self-Cleaning Mechanism

Autophagy, another key process activated during fasting, functions as the cell’s self-cleaning cycle. It identifies and removes unnecessary or damaged components, promoting cellular repair and regeneration. This process is essential for maintaining overall bodily health and functionality.

Gut Health Restoration

Extended fasting periods facilitate a reset of the gut, a crucial consideration for individuals with Hashimoto’s and autoimmune conditions. Given the significant impact of gut health on immune function, fasting can contribute to immune system repair and overall well-being.

Immune System Renewal

Studies, such as those conducted by Dr. Valter Longo, have demonstrated the potential of fasting to induce immune system repair. Three-day water fasts have been shown to reset the immune system, promoting the release of stem cells that target areas requiring healing. While these findings are promising, it’s important to approach fasting with caution and seek guidance when attempting more rigorous fasting protocols.

Fasting is Not a Cure-All

While fasting offers numerous benefits, it’s not a panacea for all health issues. The notion of a quick fix contradicts the complexities of health and wellness. Instead, it’s essential to view fasting as one component of a holistic approach to well-being, emphasizing personalized strategies tailored to individual needs.

Do You Get Hangry?

One reason fasting might not be the right choice for you is if you have difficulties regulating your blood sugar levels. If you’ve ever experienced getting “hangry,” especially if it’s a frequent occurrence, it indicates that your body may not handle low blood sugar well.

“Hangry” refers to that feeling of impatience and irritability when hungry, sometimes even before feeling hungry at all. This sensation is a clear indication that your body is struggling with low blood sugar levels. Feeling “hangry” is your body’s way of telling you that it’s not equipped to handle low blood sugar well.

If you often find yourself irritable and impatient when hungry, even before feeling hungry, it’s a sign that your body may not be ready for fasting. It’s essential to prioritize addressing your blood sugar management before considering any fasting regimens. Taking proactive steps to stabilize your blood sugar levels will set the stage for safer and more effective fasting practices in the future.

Different Fasting Times and Their Benefits

There are six different lengths of fasts outlined in the book “Fast Like a Girl” by Dr. Mindy Pelz. Each type of fast serves a unique purpose in promoting health and well-being.

1. Intermittent Fasting (12-16 Hours)

Intermittent fasting involves abstaining from food for 12 to 16 hours, allowing your body to experience periods of fasting and feeding.

2. Autophagy Fasting (17+ Hours)

Autophagy fasting activates the body’s clean-up process, facilitating cellular cleanup and renewal. This type of fasting begins after 17 hours and can promote overall cellular health.

Sidenote: since fasting has not worked for me in the past, I take the Protandim Tri-Synergizer each day. One of those three products activates autophagy within my cells. It’s like the benefits of fasting without the actual fasting! As with actual fasting and autophagy, the clean-up by your body can initially leave you feeling gross. I had to start with just the nrf2 and nrf1 activators for about six-months before my body was ready to add on the autophagy using the Protandim NAD+ product.

3. Gut Reset (24 Hours)

After 24 hours of fasting, the gut undergoes a reset, benefiting from the elimination of toxins and the promotion of microbial balance.

4. Fat Burning (36 Hours)

At the 36-hour mark of fasting, the body enters a state where it begins to burn more fat for fuel, aiding in weight loss and metabolic health.

5. Dopamine Reset (48 Hours)

After 48 hours of fasting, dopamine levels are reset, which can be beneficial for individuals struggling with depression or addiction, such as excessive phone usage.

6. Immune System Reset (72 Hours)

Finally, after 72 hours of fasting, the body initiates an immune system reset, releasing stem cells and promoting immune system rejuvenation.

Fasting in Sync with Your Hormonal Cycles

Dr. Mindy Pelz’s book provides a helpful chart outlining a 30-day menstrual cycle, offering guidance on when to fast and when to eat in alignment with hormonal fluctuations.

1. Menstruation Phase (Power Phase)

The first week of your cycle corresponds to menstruation, characterized by bleeding. Day one of your cycle marks the beginning of this phase, termed the “power phase,” during which fasting is permissible.

2. Ovulation Phase

The week of ovulation follows, during which fasting is discouraged. Your body directs its resources towards the possibility of conception during this time, and fasting may disrupt hormonal balance, potentially affecting fertility and overall well-being.

3. Post-Ovulation (Another Power Phase)

Following ovulation, another “power phase” emerges, during which fasting is deemed suitable. This phase allows for flexibility in fasting practices without compromising hormonal health.

4. Nurture Phase

The time until the next menstrual cycle, termed the “nurture phase,” involves nurturing your body and may vary in duration. This phase emphasizes honoring hormonal fluctuations and may not always align with standard seven-day intervals.

Honoring Hormonal Cycles for Optimal Health

It’s essential to recognize the significance of hormonal fluctuations and their impact on overall health and well-being. While fasting can be beneficial during certain phases, such as the power phases, it’s crucial to avoid fasting, especially for extended periods, during ovulation.

It’s important to recognize and work with your hormones rather than against them. Failing to do so can lead to disruptions in bodily functions, which may explain why fasting may not always be effective for women.

Fasting and Female Hormones

Unlike men, whose hormones follow a consistent 24-hour cycle, women experience constant hormonal fluctuations. These fluctuations involve multiple hormones, each influencing the others in a delicate dance of rise and fall. The intricacy of female hormones is a testament to the remarkable complexity of the female body.

Women’s bodies are truly incredible, navigating a range of experiences throughout the menstrual cycle. Despite this, many of us grow up feeling ashamed of our bodies, particularly during puberty and menstruation. However, these experiences are not something to be ashamed of; they are a testament to the beauty and resilience of the female body.

Harnessing the Power of Hormonal Cycles

Learning to work with your hormones can unlock a world of benefits. Throughout your menstrual cycle, you may notice fluctuations in energy, mood, and even physical appearance. By understanding and embracing these changes, you can optimize your productivity, enhance your well-being, and truly appreciate the wonders of your body.

Reclaiming Your Narrative

It’s time to rewrite the narrative surrounding women’s bodies and menstruation. Instead of viewing them as sources of shame, let’s celebrate them as symbols of strength and resilience. Your body is perfectly designed, and by respecting and nurturing it, you can unlock its full potential and achieve optimal health and vitality.

Is Fasting for You if You Have Hashimoto’s?

So in summary, fasting can be bad and it can be good.

If you’re just going to fly into it and try it, then it’s probably going to be bad especially if you have Hashimoto’s. However, by taking the time to ready your body for fasting, focusing on blood sugar stability, and breaking free from the “hangry” cycle, you can improve your fasting experience. Moreover, aligning your fasting practices with your hormonal fluctuations can lead to better outcomes. Following a structured plan, such as “Fast Like a Girl,” or exploring other programs designed to sync with your hormones, can enhance the benefits of fasting.

 

Images used in this post by Kim Cruickshanks and Jonathan Pielmayer on Unsplash. The Bing AI Designer powered by DALL-E 3 generated the image of the clock-plate with healthy food.

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