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Why intermittent fasting may not be beneficial for women?

IANS Mar 28, 2024

While intermittent fasting is known to help people lose weight, and have better health with good control of blood pressure and fats, the popular diet plan may not be good for women, according to an expert.

Edwina Raj, Head of Services, Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics, Aster CMI Hospital, Bengaluru said that the health impact of intermittent fasting in women may be different, compared to men.

“The female hormones oestrogen and progesterone are impacted; and may in turn affect your period and fertility,” Edwina said.

“During your periods, the rise and fall of hormones is controlled by another hormone called GnRH. When a woman fasts, the GnRH hormone is disturbed, hence affecting the balance of oestrogen and progesterone. Now, due to disruption in the oestrogen and progesterone, women may feel cranky, have headaches, get lower sex drive, and face trouble sleeping, among others,” the expert explained.

While intermittent fasting can cause disruption in any woman's health, it may spur more trouble for those who are trying to conceive, who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Women trying to conceive “should avoid fasting as it can lower the ovulation rate and make it harder to get pregnant,” said the dietician.

“It is advisable that those women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not indulge in fasting, because the body needs extra fuel for the baby or for milk production,” she added.

Further, the diet plan may also not help women with eating disorders as it can provoke unhealthy eating habits and also those on medications because fasting may interrupt certain drugs.

So, what can be the way out? The expert noted that “there is no such rule that women can never do intermittent fasting. With considerable precautions women, too, can benefit from it, without impacting their health.”

She suggested beginning with a 12-hour fast and gradually extending it by 2 hours a week.

Also, one must eat healthy during eating windows and include in their diet lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and avoid processed foods.

“The best time to fast during your menstrual cycle is a day or two after your period starts, or a week or so later. Make sure to break your fast with a high-protein or high-fibre meal. Take advice from a registered dietitian before proceeding with intermittent fasting,” said Edwina.

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