Intermittent Fasting for Diabetes: Pros and Cons
January 27, 2023
In 2021, the International Diabetes Federation estimated that across the world, over 537 million adults aged 20-79, are living with diabetes (1). And with the topic of intermittent fasting being at the tip of many health-seeker’s tongues, perhaps you’ve asked yourself the question, “Can intermittent fasting help diabetics too?”
Intermittent fasting is an increasingly popular lifestyle that focuses on when you eat, rather than what you eat. Essentially, when practicing intermittent fasting, you alternate intentional periods of eating and fasting, limiting ingestion to a planned window. It has been linked to numerous health benefits from improved insulin sensitivity (2) to weight management (3), so it's no mystery as to why so many, diabetics included, may be looking to implement fasting into their lifestyle!
We’d like to help you to understand fasting a little better, giving you the tools you need to make informed decisions towards better health. And so, in this guide, we’ll discuss the benefits of intermittent fasting, whether fasting is right for you and how to get started on your journey.
We know what you’re thinking…
“Is intermittent fasting safe for diabetes?”
Of course, intermittent fasting can be incredibly beneficial for people with diabetes, but as with many of life’s important questions, it’s not always as simple as that. We’re all totally unique, and while fasting may feel fantastic for one, it may actually be dangerous for another.
We all have contraindications that impact how our bodies react to medicines, supplements and even lifestyle changes like fasting. This is why it’s important to talk to your doctor before you start. Your healthcare provider will have a full understanding of your medical history and will be able to help tailor your lifestyle, based on your existing conditions and circumstances, ensuring that this is the best option for you.
Can intermittent fasting cause diabetes?
No, Não, Nein: Intermittent fasting cannot cause diabetes. While fasting can cause your blood sugar levels to drop, this is not the same as having diabetes. Diabetes is a chronic condition where your body is unable to produce enough insulin to regulate your blood sugar levels.
The direct cause(s) of diabetes differs between Type 1 and Type 2, but both types of diabetes are linked to environmental factors, such as diet or obesity, that then triggers a genetic trait.
While the exact cause of most types of diabetes is hard to specify, in all cases, sugar (glucose) builds up in the bloodstream. This is because a diabetic pancreas doesn't produce enough insulin.
Glucose is a source of energy for your muscular and soft tissue cells and comes from two main sources: the food you eat and your liver, where it is stored.
- Once you have eaten, sugar is absorbed into your bloodstream, where it enters the cells with the help of insulin.
- It flows into your tissues, including the liver where it is stored and turned into glucose.
- When your glucose levels are low, your liver breaks down stored glycogen and converts it into glucose, ready to be used as energy! This process keeps your glucose level (blood sugar) in a healthy range.
The liver starts the process of utilizing stored sugar when energy sources run low, for example, when you have been fasting and your body has used up the energy from its last meal.
However, when we continue to eat large quantities of sugary foods, the body does not get the chance to process the glucose we ingest, leading to a build up of sugar in the bloodstream, and the potential of type 2 diabetes increases.
By bringing intermittent fasting into your routine, you provide an opportunity for the body to naturally process sugars, fueling your body for longevity - Woohoo!
Benefits of Fasting for Diabetes
When used mindfully, intermittent fasting can help to improve the immediate effects of diabetes, as well as longer term implications, aiding in weight loss, heart health and the reduction of medications (yippee!)
In fact, a case report completed in 2018 reported that subjects with type 2 diabetes no longer needed to use insulin after just one month of fasting 3 days a week.
Immediate benefits (5) for people with type 2 diabetes include:
- More control over blood sugar levels
- Improved insulin sensitivity
- Weight loss
- Lowered blood pressure
- Increased fat-metabolism
Oh, but there’s more good news! Intermittent fasting has been shown to reduce the risk of complications from diabetes, such as heart disease (6), stroke (7), and kidney disease (8) as well as improving overall health factors like digestive health and cellular function.
Sounds pretty positive, right? We think so too!
“Are there any risks?”
Yes - If you or a loved one are living with diabetes, you may well know the very real risk of hypoglycemia (9), when the blood sugar drops dangerously low. If left unmanaged, hypoglycemia can be life threatening, so when making any changes in your lifestyle as a diabetic, ensure you’re taking the right precautions to ensure your safety.
While intermittent fasting may increase your risk of hypoglycemia, because you do not eat for longer periods of time, this does not mean that you cannot benefit from this eating pattern.
Your doctor may recommend that you monitor your blood sugar levels more closely when starting an intermittent fasting plan, or that you carry a healthy snack as a ‘pick-me-up’ in case of emergencies.
When practiced mindfully, intermittent fasting can be a safe and effective form of eating for most people with diabetes, providing you with heaps of benefits for long-term health and happiness.
Intermittent Fasting and Type 2 Diabetes
In a press release, Dr Dongbo Liu, of Hunan Agricultural University, said, “Type 2 diabetes is not necessarily a permanent, lifelong disease, our research shows intermittent fasting, Chinese Medical Nutrition Therapy (CMNT), can lead to diabetes remission in people with type 2 diabetes,” after carrying out a 3-month study on intermittent fasting.
While intermittent fasting clearly has an abundance of benefits, it’s important to find the right method for you. You will need to take into account:
- Your medical history and any factors that may be affected when fasting for long periods of time
- Responsibilities and lifestyle factors that will be affected when implementing a new habitual lifestyle
- Your short and long term health goals and what you’d like to achieve
Assessing these factors will help you to decide which fasting method will suit your lifestyle best and help you to achieve healthy and sustainable results.
Types of Intermittent Fasting for Diabetes
There are several types of intermittent fasting that you can use to better your health. For the management of diabetes, the most commonly beneficial types of fasting are time-restricted feeding, periodic fasting and the fasting-mimicking diet.
Time-Restricted Feeding: Pros and Cons
Time-restricted feeding involves limiting your eating window to specific hours each day. For example, you may limit your eating window to 8 hours a day, breaking your fast at midday and starting your fast at 8pm. During your fasting window, you should only ingest water or unsweetened black tea or coffee to avoid any insulin response, breaking the fast.
Pros: Simple to implement, this daily fast can fit seamlessly around your lifestyle and does not necessarily heavily restrict your food intake. Because we all fast while we’re sleeping (easy-peasy!), much of this method is unconscious, making it very achievable for beginners and pros alike. Assign and adjust your eating window according to your needs and goals, slowly increasing your fasting window as you progress!
Cons: Like with any habitual change, commitment to specific windows can be tricky at the beginning, however with time, your body will adjust and cravings will settle into your new routine.
Periodic Fasting: Pros and Cons
Periodic fasting involves intentionally fasting for 24-48 hours several times a month, drinking only water or unsweetened black tea or coffee during the fasting window.
Pros: Excellent for those who are not looking for drastic change in their day-to-day life, this method can be incredibly effective for weight loss due to the large calorie deficit on fasting days, as well as deep cellular cleansing thanks to the 24-48 hours of digestive rest.
Cons: This method poses a greater risk to hypoglycemia due to the extended periods of food restriction. If you are looking to use this method, we recommend you consult a doctor first and alert your loved ones of any precautions you may need to assist you. Oh, and carry a snack just in case!
Whichever method you choose, we advise you to check in with your doctor beforehand, just to make sure you’re all set to success! If you’d like to learn more about the other types of fasting, check out our blog here.
Is Intermittent Fasting Right for Your Diabetes Management?
Your doctor can help you decide if this journey is right for you and which type of fasting plan will be best suited to your unique needs. We recommend that you keep your doctor informed of your plans, check in regularly along the way and follow any professional guidance.
Intermittent fasting can be beneficial for almost everyone, but it’s important to respect your individual journey and to listen to your body throughout the process.
At Fastic, we have helped thousands of people in managing or reversing their diabetes. It’s certainly not a quick fix, but WOW is it worth it?! If you’d like to gain the support of Fastic’s experts, buddies from across the globe and incredible features to empower your endeavors, we’re here for you every step of the way.
Should Anyone Avoid Fasting?
While we know it works wonders, unfortunately it’s not for everyone. Fastic does not recommend intermittent fasting to people with type 1 diabetes, due to its risk of hypoglycemia, or those who are pregnant, breastfeeding, severely underweight or have experienced an eating disorder.
If you are included in any of these brackets and would like to try intermittent fasting for health, we advise that you speak to your doctor to discuss any potential options or alternatives.
Intermittent fasting can be a truly powerful step towards better health for diabetics. From losing weight, to minimizing medications, and even reversing Type 2 diabetes altogether, this lifestyle can be a healthy method to help you achieve your goals.
No matter your goals and lifestyle, there’s an intermittent fasting plan that’s right for you. With Fastic, you will have the tools and support you need to make intermittent fasting simple and sustainable. Interested in giving it a go?
Download Fastic today to join the Fastic Family to start your intermittent fasting journey!
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