Expert Opinion: Intermittent Fasting (IF) and Gut Health


What is Intermittent Fasting (IF)?

Eating and Fasting at a specific window/period/interval of time. Allowing yourself to eat during a specified window of the day. Intermittent fasting is gaining popularity with celebrities and weight watchers because it allows you to increase or decrease the window gradually according to what is comfortable for you, at your own pace. The fasting window could be a certain number of hours in the day to start off with or full 1-2 days of fasting, spaced out within the week. The most important change I have experienced in my body and the feedback from my clients is how their gut feels whilst on IF. Inflammation in the gut lining and the microbes helping heal- that just does not depend on the type of food we eat. It also depends on the amount of food we eat and at what intervals. When at rest, the body heals the fastest. Similarly when we rest the digestive system, the Enteric Nervous System also rests and heals the gut and brain axis (GBA).

  • Most popular and easy to do is the 16:8, eating for 8 hours of the day and fasting for the remaining 16 hours (most hours you would be sleeping and not thinking about food).
  • 24- hour fast or complete day fasting, with water/without water once or twice a week.
  • Allows your digestive system to take a break from working hard all day and night.
  • Reduces inflammation in the gut and other parts of the body.
  • Helps multipy the good microbes needed for digestion, satiety and weight loss.
  • Hormone centric theory – it controls your insulin levels helping you control weight and future obesity related problems.
  • Over production of insulin due to eating constantly is the root cause of obesity-related illnesses including type 2 diabetes.
  • No counting calories, but wait, that does not mean you can eat cakes, cookies and guzzle sodas. That is not how it will work.
  • Doesn’t take a lot of thought and time on what food groups to overeat and what to skip.
  • Doesn’t require measuring ketones. Phew!
  • Improved gut health and mental wellness.
  • Can be maintained during long distance travel, international travel, just almost anywhere.
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Fasting in not new to humans. As cavemen we were hunters and walked for hours to hunt and slept hungry if we were out of luck. Eating natural foods that kept us fuller and being active was our basic way of living.

What’s new is our sedentary lifestyle and fussing and overdoing the fad diets. Indians have been fasting for centuries – traditional cultural fasts, fasting for the rain gods or for the spouse’s longer life, it’s in our DNA!

But the way we are going about it today is where forced fasting is making the person obese. Fasting reluctantly and then binging ravenously the next couple of days beats the purpose of fasting completely. It confuses the body and your mind and is more damaging than regular eating. So if you plan to try IF make sure you go about it sensibly. Eat plant-based, colourful vegetables and hydrate well. Skip fast food, sodas and alcohol.

Note: This article has been contributed by Payal Kothari, a leading, dynamic and highly energetic Integrative Nutritionist & Gut Health Coach. 


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