Will Fasting Help Control Your Blood Sugar?
Intermittent fasting is a dieting method restricting meals to specific times of the day. There are diverse forms of fasting to suit different medical needs. For instance, in one program, people fast for 16 hours every day while eating during the remaining 8 hours. Others choose to fast for 24 hours once or twice per week, or every other day.
The concept of intermittent fasting has started to gain popularity due to its possible benefits in causing weight loss, enhancing metabolism, and stopping diabetes. However, this method poses some concerns if you are a diabetic. What are the real effects of intermittent fasting on diabetes?
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Normally, after you eat a carbohydrate diet, such as bread and pasta, the pancreas secretes a hormone called insulin into the blood. This hormone decreases blood glucose levels by working on the body's cells. It increases glucose uptake from the blood and boosts its metabolism by the tissues.
In type 2 diabetes, the body's tissues show a condition called insulin resistance: a decreased sensitivity to the circulating insulin. This causes an elevated blood glucose level. This way, the body won't be able to utilize glucose as its primary source of energy. The body starts metabolizing fats and produces harmful keto-acids. Long-term hyperglycemia and acidosis can damage the kidneys and eyes while causing heart disease as well. Obesity is one of the major factors behind insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes. A minor element of type 2 is the decreased production of insulin by the B cells in the pancreas. Therefore, the basic management of this condition is healthy eating and exercise.
Some researchers presented evidence that intermittent fasting can potentially reverse or pause the progression of type 2 diabetes. This type is present in 90 percent of diabetic individuals. As intermittent fasting cuts the calorie intake in great amounts, the intake becomes less than the calorie consumption. As a result, the process effectively reduced the individual's weight. Additionally, they found that intermittent fasting helped type 2 diabetes by decreasing the body's insulin resistance and preserving the insulin-secreting cells of the pancreas. All of these effects enhanced the insulin's functions and improved the patients' glycemic control. The patients had reduced levels of glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c). This particular finding indicates good glycemic control as HbA1c is elevated in diabetic people.
Although some diabetic people in the studies were able to cut their external insulin requirements, other researchers still don't see intermittent fasting as a long-term therapy. They argue that this method still carries risks.
Risks of Intermittent Fasting
Researchers opposed to intermittent fasting say that stronger evidence is needed for safe use in type 2 diabetes. They point out the following major risks:
Hypoglycemia, or decreased blood sugar: Prolonged hours of fasting can drop the blood glucose levels to dangerous and life-threatening levels. This can cause loss of consciousness and even detrimental effects to the person's life. Therefore, always consult your doctor before embarking on this dietary approach.
Fatigue and decreased vigor: Fasting, especially during the daytime, can affect a person's mental agility and physical activity.
Bad food choices: Generally, intermittent fasting diets put limitations on times of eating but not on the types of food consumption. Some people may make poorer food selection when hungry after a long fasting period.
Harming pregnant or lactating women: Doctors do not recommend fasting during times of increased calorie requirements, especially when a young fetus or lactating baby is involved. Some studies suggest that inappropriate fasting can affect fetal growth and cause premature labor.
Thyroid dysfunction: If the person has an increased thyroid activity, inappropriate fasting periods can lead to a life-threatening surge of thyroid hormones known as a thyroid storm.
Relapses and weight gain: Many people may find it difficult to maintain a fasting diet for a long time. This can cause reactionary gains of weight during relapses of will power. This makes it important to consult your doctor before choosing intermittent fasting as a long-term dietary strategy.
A Few More Words
It is important to consult your doctor before any diet plan to choose the safest and most sustainable approach that suits your medical needs, especially when using intermittent fasting for type 2 diabetes. Different plans are available and the doctor will assign a method that doesn't have negative effects on your working habits or your health. In general, always have an adequate energy-boosting breakfast and healthy unprocessed meals full of vegetables, proteins, minerals, and vitamins. More importantly, look at the bigger picture, and know when to stop the dietary plan if it isn't suitable for your condition.
For more information regarding the benefits and effects of intermittent fasting, enjoy the following video: