Striking the delicate balance between health and weight management can be challenging, especially for those with hypothyroidism.
This article delves deep into the intricacies of this topic, exploring the potential benefits, potential risks, and the truth behind the intersection of intermittent fasting and hypothyroidism.
The Thyroid Gland And Hypothyroidism: An Overview
The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped organ in the front of the neck.
It secretes hormones necessary for normal metabolism and the functioning of the body.
The pituitary gland secretes the thyroid-stimulating hormone.
This hormone regulates normal thyroid functioning.
Hypothyroidism is when the thyroid gland malfunctions, secreting less than the required hormone levels.
People who suffer from hypothyroidism feel sluggish and lack energy.
Since in hypothyroidism, the metabolism slows down, and there is little energy expenditure, those suffering from it often experience weight gain.
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is a specific time-bound eating pattern.
Unlike diets where certain foods are eliminated or restricted from consumption, intermittent fasting emphasizes the time between meals.
There are different ways to do intermittent fasting.
Types of Intermittent Fasting
- The 5:2 diet: In this type of intermittent fasting, you usually eat five days a week and completely restrict yourself from eating on the remaining two days.
Alternatively, you can also severely restrict calories on those two days.
- Alternate day fasting: This implies fasting every other day.
It means eating normally one day and restricting calories the next day.
- The 16/8 diet: You usually fast for 16 hours, followed by 8 hours of eating time.
Low-calorie beverages can be consumed to combat hunger pangs.
- Overnight fasting: This is one of the most convenient types of intermittent fasting, as it comes naturally to most people.
This type of fasting also cuts down on late-night snacking, which is overall beneficial for the body.
- Whole-day fasting: In this type of intermittent fasting, you typically eat one large meal at one particular time and do not eat anything for the rest of the day.
Health Benefits Of Intermittent Fasting
There are many benefits of intermittent fasting.
Adequate fasting helps restore the body's blood glucose to normal levels.
Thus, it also helps keep the body's insulin level regular.
Eating without fasting will result in an elevated blood sugar level.
It, in turn, will cause inflammation, thus increasing insulin resistance.
Insulin is also involved in fat storage, and insulin resistance is associated with increased body fat.
The most common benefit of intermittent fasting is weight loss.
Without food consumption, the body uses stored fat for energy.
Intermittent fasting can also boost your metabolism and correct unhealthy eating habits.
Over time, it can also lower your blood pressure.
Intermittent fasting can reduce inflammation that can potentially cause cancer.
Who Should Not Do Intermittent Fasting
Although intermittent fasting has a lot of benefits, it should only be done with the guidance of a medical professional.
People who have diabetes can experience a sudden drop in their blood sugar levels while fasting.
Hypoglycemia can be life-threatening for such patients.
Children, pregnant or breastfeeding women, athletes, and underweight people should avoid intermittent fasting.
People who suffer from certain nutritional deficiencies, such as vitamin deficiency, should also avoid fasting.
Intermittent fasting can trigger disordered eating in some people who already suffer from diseases like anorexia or bulimia.
Intermittent Fasting And Hypothyroidism: Yay or Nay?
The thyroid gland is the main organ for metabolism.
It secretes hormones essential for the body's normal functioning.
Thus, any fasting affects this organ directly.
While some people may benefit from intermittent fasting, others may not have the same experience.
The benefits of intermittent fasting for hypothyroidism include improved insulin resistance, reduced inflammation, and weight loss.
However, when not done correctly, skipping meals or fasting for multiple days may lead to nutrient deficiencies that may worsen hypothyroidism.
How Does Fasting Affect Thyroid Function?
Some studies report intermittent fasting affects thyroid function and lowers T3 and T4 hormone levels. This can worsen hypothyroidism.
However, a whole other body of research reports that intermittent fasting can help alleviate hypothyroidism symptoms by decreasing body weight and improving insulin resistance without affecting the thyroid hormones.
How to Do Intermittent Fasting If You Have Hypothyroidism?
Intermittent fasting can help you manage hypothyroidism and Hashimoto's disease.
But you must be sure that your adrenal glands are functioning decently and that you don't have diabetes.
Fasting can do more harm than good if you have diabetes.
However, intermittent fasting may be beneficial for hypothyroidism if done correctly.
- Do not start with strict time or calorie restrictions. You can begin with 2-3 meals per day.
- Planning your fasting around your bedtime can make it easier. Fasting for two hours before and after bedtime can help you achieve 12 hours of fasting. If you’re comfortable with it, you can push it to 3 hours before bedtime and 2 hours after you wake up and gradually progress.
- Make sure all your meals are well-balanced with adequate macros and micros.
- When you increase your fasting time, periodically get your thyroid hormone levels checked. *
*Intermittent fasting affects different people differently. If you have any health issues, including hypothyroidism, consult a doctor for the optimal diet plan.
When Should I Take Thyroid Medication When Intermittent Fasting?
Many factors are responsible for the proper absorption of thyroid medications, food being one.
If you are on medications such as Synthroid, levothyroxine, or armor, fasting can help you absorb them better.
Taking these medicines first thing in the morning on an empty stomach is advisable for better results.**
** The article is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for professional medical advice. If you are on any medication, talk to your doctor before changing the timings, dosage, or diet.
Summary: Intermittent Fasting and Hypothyroidism
Intermittent fasting is a type of fasting where you fast for a specific time of the day, followed by an eating window.
Studies have shown that intermittent fasting can benefit those struggling with calorie-restricted diets.
Hypothyroidism patients often experience weight gain as a result of slow metabolism.
Cutting out certain foods from their diet can be counterproductive.
Thus, intermittent fasting may help those with hypothyroidism manage their weight without restricting their diet.
Some research also shows that fasting can help thyroid medications absorb better.
However, there is also concern about the impact of intermittent fasting on thyroid hormone levels.
If starting intermittent fasting, it is important to do it gradually under the guidance of a qualified medical practitioner.