Intermittent fasting is regarded as one of the most promising diet plan for a better health and simpler life .
But there is a lot of confusion in general public regarding intermittent fasting and various aspects of women health.
Having studied intermittent fasting for 2 years, here we will look at various questions regarding intermittent fasting and women health.
But let’s find out whether effect of intermittent fasting is different for men and women or not.
Table Of Contents
- 1 Is intermittent fasting different for man and woman ?
- 2 Regulation Of Sex Hormones
- 3 Should women do intermittent fasting ?
- 4 Frequently Asked Questions :
- 4.1 Is intermittent fasting recommended for women?
- 4.2 Can intermittent fasting affect periods?
- 4.3 Should women do fasting during periods ?
- 4.4 Is fasting good when trying to conceive?
- 4.5 Is intermittent fasting harmful for fertility ?
- 4.6 Does intermittent fasting cause infertility?
- 4.7 Can intermittent fasting cause hormonal imbalance?
- 4.8 Can intermittent fasting cause hypothyroidism?
Is intermittent fasting different for man and woman ?
Intermittent fasting has similar benefits for male and female like cardiac protection, better brain health , reduce inflammation and weight loss.
But there is a difference in effect of fasting in reproductive health of men and women .Intermittent fasting may cause some change in sexual health of women during certain periods of her life . We will find out how this occurs.
Regulation Of Sex Hormones
This difference in effect of intermittent fasting can be understood by help of knowledge of hypothalamus-pituitary-gonad axis. You don’t need to worry about this .I will simplify it .
Remember that our body is similar to an company. In any company there are various level of managing committee. The top committee gives tasks to the immediate junior committee , the junior gives work to its own junior committee and finally service reaches to the general public .
There are parts in our brain that acts similar to these various committee of any company. I will list the parts and their respective hierarchy:
- Kisspeptin neuron – Top Manager
- Hypothalamus produces GnRH( Gonadotrophin Releasing Hormone) which stimulates Pituitary gland
- Pituitary Gland- Produces Luteinizing Hormone ( LH) and Follicle Stimulating Hormone ( FSH) which activates gonads
- Gonads( sex organs)- Produces estrogen and progesterone in female and testosterone in male
Here we can see that the sex hormones of our body like estrogen ,progesterone and testosterone are all controlled by kisspeptin neuron.
Kisspeptin neuron has the ability to detect calorie . If there is decrease in calorie ( which occurs during fasting) then kisspeptin neuron will be deactivated .
So this will deactivate the hypothalamus. It will further deactivate the pituitary gland . Pituitary gland deactivation will deactivate gonads and lead to reduced production of estrogen , progesterone in female and testosterone in male .
In female the number of kisspeptin neuron is very high. So during fasting , female are more likely to have reduced sex hormone production then male .
This reduction in sex hormone can lead to amenorrhea and other fertility issue. You may be wondering that it will be better if you have no mensuration but the function of estrogen and progesterone is not only mensuration.
To know the functions of the estrogen and progesterone , you can ask menopause woman about how she feels . She will say that she doesn’t have good sleep. She will complain of body pain , digestion issue and much more. So , progesterone and estrogen are essential for proper health . Estrogen even protects you from heart attack.
Nature may have designed more number of kisspeptin in female in order to prevent pregnancy during low nutrition state. Pregnancy is an energy requiring process. Male don’t require high amount of calories and nutrition for their reproductive role . So they have low level of kisspeptin .
Should women do intermittent fasting ?
As already stated, intermittent fasting in women may lead to some hormonal imbalance but their are several benefits of Intermittent Fasting to women .
Research has shown that intermittent fasting protects both men and women from severe cardiovascular disease.
Male and female both are protected from neurodegenerative diseases like parkinson and alzheimer’s by help of intermittent fasting .
Intermittent fasting helps to provide relief for women suffering from polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) .
In this century of stress and depression , fasting will help women to achieve better mental health as well.
So, whether a women should fast or not will depend more on her stage of life and her future goals. We will now analyze about fasting during various stage of women life.
|Women – age ,state||Is Intermittent fasting recommended|
|Puberty and adolescence||Not recommended|
|Reproductive age(20s, 30s and 40s)||Beneficial|
|Looking to conceive||Not recommended|
|Diabetic or High blood pressure||Strictly not recommended|
|During periods||It’s OK if you want to|
|After menopause||Highly beneficial|
Both male and female should prevent fasting during childhood.
Childhood is a time of active mental and physical growth . A lot of nutrition and calorie are required for growth of our brain and body throughout the day .
So, it will be unwise to ask your kid do fasting during childhood.
In Puberty and Adolescence
Massive physical, sexual ,mental , emotional and social changes are occurring in the body during puberty and adolescence.
Complex hormonal changes are occurring during puberty. A research on teenage Girls doing Fasting on Ramadan confirmed that fasting in teenage girls leads to disturbances in menstrual cycle.
A 5 year research published on 2010 shows that fasting during puberty and adolescence are associated with eating disorders like bulimia.
Puberty is one of the most critical phase of our life .Both female and male body require plentiful of calorie throughout the day in this phase. Thus fasting will be an unhealthy practice during puberty and adolescence.
Best diet practice during childhood ,puberty and adolescence will be :
- reduce intake of refined carbohydrates
- eat as much colorful fruits and vegetables as one can
- reduce junk foods
- reduce sugary beverages
Women in 20s, 30s and 40s
Fasting can be safely performed in women of this age group. They can try fasting which is beneficial to them in various aspects.
But there is a safety concern of disrupting the menstrual cycle . The research to date doesn’t provide proper evidence about fasting and menstrual cycle. However, animal studies and few human studies suggest that longer term fast that causes a large energy deficit may disrupt the menstrual cycle in women of reproductive years.
So, 12 to 16 hours fasting will be best for women of reproductive age. This fasting will help to keep your insulin and glucose to healthy low level. It will lead to overall weight loss and belly fat loss.
Research has shown that fasting is a safe practice for adult women of all ages . If you pair proper diet with intermittent fasting, then the results are enhanced.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Pregnancy and breastfeeding are one of the important journey of a woman’s life.
A lot of complex changes are going on during this phase. During pregnancy, the development of fetus depends on the continuous supply of essential nutrients from the mother’s body . Thus noone should try IF during pregnancy.
While talking about breastfeeding, babies get all the necessary nutrients during their first six months from mothers milk.. Fasting during breastfeeding can cause nutrients deficiency .
So , intermittent fasting should be avoided during pregnancy and breastfeeding .
Menopause woman should try intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting is safe and healthy for all menopause women irrespective of their age.
Study done in 2016 which analyzed almost all research on intermittent fasting and women concluded that intermittent fasting helps to maintain sound mental health status. It has shown that fasting reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression and improve social functioning.
Various changes during menopause like night sweats, loss of sleep and hot flashes are reduced by fasting.
Fasting also helps in maintaining proper bone and muscle health. By help of fasting, you can lose weight without reducing muscle mass. The risk of fractures and weak bone during osteoporosis is reduced by fasting.
Many women suffer from metabolic syndrome during menopause which increase the risks of heart attacks and diabetes. IF will help to maintain your insulin sensitivity, reduce belly fat, low heart rate which will ultimately protect you from heart attacks and diabetes.
Fasting also reduces inflammation which will provide relief from asthma , osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. So, menopause as well as reproductive women should try intermittent fasting with no fear.
Frequently Asked Questions :
Now let’s look at the most asked questions :
Is intermittent fasting recommended for women?
Yes, intermittent fasting is recommended to adult women . IF comes with several benefits like cardio-protection , loss of belly fat, weight loss, improved mental health, relief from asthma , arthritis and much more. So, intermittent fasting is recommended to adult women . But following groups of women should avoid intermittent fasting :
- puberty and adolescence
- pregnancy and breastfeeding
- woman who have suffered from eating disorders like bulimia, anorexia
- sick and in weak state
- diabetic, thyroid issue and high blood pressure
- over 65
Can intermittent fasting affect periods?
Yes intermittent fasting can affect your periods. We have seen that long fasting done during Ramadan causes disturbance in menstrual cycle .
Long term fasting may reduce kisspeptin which will reduce production of estrogen and progesterone . This hormone reduction can imbalance your periods.
Studies have shown that women suffer from menstrual cycle changes if they are in calorie strict diet.
So, you shouldn’t try long term intermittent fasting. I would recommend 14-10 fasting with proper diet for sound menstrual cycle.
Should women do fasting during periods ?
It’s OK to do intermittent fasting during periods if you want to. There are not enough research to suggest whether individual fasting is beneficial or helpful during periods.
If you have been doing intermittent fasting, then you can continue it during your periods if you want.
But it won’t be a good idea to start your first intermittent fasting during periods .
For some women, periods can be hard and it may be causing discomfort. During sch situation, it is not necessary for you to give extra burden on your body . You should listen to your body.
If it feels good or OK with intermittent fasting during periods then you can continue otherwise it’s better that you eat healthy food without restrictions. Don’t forget to take adequate amount of water and electrolytes.
Is fasting good when trying to conceive?
Progesterone and estrogen balance is required for conception. If you are planning to conceive in near future, then both long and short term intermittent fasting won’t be a good option.
Is intermittent fasting harmful for fertility ?
There isn’t enough research to suggest that intermittent fasting is harmful for fertility but theoretically long term intermittent fasting can have negative effects on fertility .
So it is better for women to try short term intermittent fasting.
Does intermittent fasting cause infertility?
No, intermittent fasting doesn’t cause infertility but long intermittent fasting may reduce your chances of conception by reducing production of estrogen and progesterone . So you shouldn’t try long term intermittent fasting .
Can intermittent fasting cause hormonal imbalance?
Yes long intermittent fasting can cause hormonal imbalance .Long term calorie deficit will lead to reduction in the production of kisspeptin this will cause reduced production of estrogen and progesterone . This has been explained earlier.
So women are recommended to have short term fasting . 14 – 10 intermittent fasting will be the best solution.
Can intermittent fasting cause hypothyroidism?
Calorie restriction can lead to hypothyroidism. If you are on low calorie, then your body will like to slow your metabolism . Thus, it will reduce thyroid hormone to slow the metabolism.
So if you are having calorie restriction along with intermittent fasting ,then it can cause hypothyroidism.
But you are doing intermittent fasting and eating a lot of fruits vegetables in your eating state then it will have a positive effect on your thyroid health. IF helps to change T4 into T3 in gall bladder which is good for thyroid health.
If I missed any of your query then please comment your questions below.
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Sachet Subedi is 3rd year medical student from Institute Of Medicine, Maharajgunj . He writes on health, diet, wellness and science. He likes cricket and loves to study books and research paper on productivity, diet , health and wellness.