Dangers of Intermittent Fasting: Cortisol and Low Blood Sugar
Edit (Nov 12, 2018): Intermittent fasting is meant to be a stressor to our system in order for it to induce phagocytosis and regenerate our immune system. This can be a great thing when used in appropriate situations (under supervision of a trained professional, and while fat-adapted/keto). It's bound to worsen your symptoms if you are already stressed, anxious and eating a fair amount of carbohydrates. Intermittent fasting does have some benefits but just like any other therapeutic modality, should be done with proper guidance from a medical professional. If that medical professional denies that there are any risks, including the ones I list below, you need to find a different medical professional to help you through it. Rhonda Patrick mentions that our bodies were meant to be challenged and that's why IF helps, but in our current society our systems are already being challenged (stress, anxiety, external factors, insomnia, carbs, sugar, etc...) It's common for Intermittent Fasting to be a bit too much stress for an already over-stressed system. Please read some of the comments below for personal stories if you don't believe me.
Check out how similar the symptoms of low blood sugar are to stress symptoms.
Symptoms of Low Blood Sugar (Hypoglycemia)
- Flushed cheeks or ears
- Shaky hands
- Headaches and migraines can be triggered
- Nausea, pit in the stomach, acid reflux, lack of appetite
- Dry mouth
- Sweaty palms
- Hot flashes
- Increased perception of pain
- Low libido and sexual difficulties
- Craving sugar, carbs or caffeine
Cortisol: Our brains don't know if we're stressed or low in blood sugar
I usually spend my second visit teaching this stuff to every patient because once they start eating adequate protein every 4 hours most of the symptoms mentioned above completely go away. It’s often the main cause of headaches, anxiety, nausea and sugar/carb cravings in most of my patients.
Interfittent Fasting: Possible complications due to long-term excess cortisol
- Increased fat around the abdomen
- Hormonal imbalances
- Weakened immune system
- Cardiovascular disease
- Weight gain
- Sleep issues
- Blood sugar issues and diabetes
- Thyroid issues
- Digestive issues
- Chronic fatigue
- Fertility issues
Healthy weight loss without intermittent fasting
There are some populations who might benefit from IF but anyone considering it should be sure to work with a professional to guide them through it. There are a lot of important details that must be accounted for, in order to benefit. Intermittent fasting can be very effective or very detrimental. This article is intended to shine light on the possible pitfalls of intermittent fasting so it is used responsibly, I don't mean to totally discount it as an effective treatment. There are so many factors (personal health, frequency, duration, exercise, etc...), that I don't think it is a safe thing to do on your own without being properly assessed and guided. I also believe intermittent fasting is better-suited for those who are consistently doing the keto diet, compared to those who are eating whatever the heck they want and then fasting to make up for it. The former won't have as much blood sugar fluctuations and cortisol spikes as the latter.
Be sure to comment below, I’d like to hear your stories, opinions, etc… It’s a great thing to discuss right now.
Here are some other articles discussing the negative effects of fasting (Be sure to read both sides of the story):
- Intermittent Fasting: The science of going without
- The Fast Diet: A fast route to disordered eating
- A personal account of intermittent fasting leading to an eating disorder
Dr. Justin Gallant ND
Be sure to subscribe to my newsletter if you'd like to receive article like this whenever I publish them.