By Jason Fung, MD
Intermittent Fasting (IF) simply designates a period that you do not eat. The most popular fasts are 16, 24 and 36 hours. A 16-hour fast means fasting for 16 hours (eg. overnight from 7 pm to 11 am) and eating within 8 hours of the day (eg. 11am to 7 pm).
Why do IF for type 2 diabetes? When we eat, our bodies store food energy (calories). When we don’t eat (fast), our bodies use the stored food energy (glucose and body fat). Fasting allows your body to naturally burn blood sugar and body fat for energy.
Is IF safe? Yes. Fasting simply gives your body a natural break from eating, hence the English word ‘break-fast’. Fasting has been used for thousands of years throughout the world both safely and effectively. Check with your doctor if you are taking any medications, especially insulin.
Benefits: Fasting has many established health benefits including weight loss, improved blood glucose, reduced fatty liver, improved cholesterol, increased energy, improved concentration, less bloating.
Who should NOT fast? People who are pregnant, breast-feeding, underweight or suffer from eating disorders should speak to their physician first.
How do I get started? Start with a 12-hour fast by eating 3 meals per day and cutting out snacks. Gradually increase the fasting duration to 16 hours. During your fasting period, do not eat anything – no snacks, no fruit, no biscuits, no alcohol etc. You may take medications, vitamins and/or supplements.
Can I drink? Yes, but only if it has no calories. Water, tea, herbal tea, clear broth and coffee are OK. Avoid juice, pop, sugary drinks, and diet drinks.
Won’t I be hungry? Maybe. But it will pass as your body takes the energy it needs from your body stores (blood glucose and body fat). Slowly drink a cup of hot tea, and by the time you are done, it will mostly have passed.
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