By: Kelly Gilthorpe Burkenstock, M.D.
Religions have long maintained that fasting is good for the soul, but its health benefits were not widely recognized until doctors began using various fasting diets to treat many issues such as diabetes, obesity and epilepsy. Interestingly, fasting as a treatment for epilepsy dates back to the Roman Era where people with epilepsy were caged and starved to rid them of their demons.
Whether an individual practices fasting for spiritual, health or medical reasons, most people will fast at some point in life.
Intermittent Fasting is a regimen that cycles between periods of fasting, with either no food or significant calorie reduction, followed by periods of unrestricted eating. It changes the body’s composition through loss of fat and weight, while also improving many health parameters associated with disease such as: blood pressure, cholesterol, inflammation, obesity, brain health, heart health, aging, andropause and menopause and possibly cancer. Intermittent Fasting drains the body of one’s glucose (sugar) reserves – the main energy source from the foods we eat. Without this glucose reserve, an individual’s body switches to burning fat as fuel – known as ketosis. There are many different versions of Intermittent Fasting; some notable examples include:
5:2 Fast, consisting of eating normally for five days every week and fasting for two days. On the two fasting days the client restricts their calorie intake to 500-600 calories per day. The other five days the client eats normally and unrestricted.
16:8 Fast, clients eat normally and unrestricted for eight hours and fast for the remaining 16 hours- drinking only water and calorie free drinks.
18:6 Fast, clients eat normally and unrestricted for six hours and fast for the remaining 18 hours – drinking only water and calorie-free drinks.
2:5 Juice Cleanse Fast, a quality juice cleanse is used for 48-72 hours, (two or three days), and then clients eats nutritious meals after the cleanse is complete. A low sugar, low salt, all natural juice cleanse, enriched with vitamins, minerals, fiber and PREBIOTICS is best. Clients eat normally (but nutritiously) for four or five days, then fast with a quality juice cleanse for two to three days.
When an individual switches to an Intermittent Fasting diet plan, they upgrade their body’s performance in a number of ways. Their body initiates a number of important hormonal changes which make fat more accessible to burn. There are diverse and powerful benefits thought to occur due to intermittent fasting such as: weight loss, cancer treatment, disease prevention, improved memory, brain restoration, heart health, mood improvement, decrease in insulin resistance, increase in lifespan (Anti-Aging), enhancement in stress tolerance and an upgrade to the immune system. Several trials have shown significant weight loss, without an overall increase in appetite. Though these benefits are proven in animal trials, we await final confirmation from ongoing human trials.
Part 8 Menopause with Intermittent Fasting
Menopause and perimenopause cause hot flashes, incontinence, vaginal dryness, moodiness, hair loss, decrease libido, weight gain and more secondary to declining hormones.
Unfortunately, weight gain is noticed even while maintaining the same diet and exercise routine — especially around the abdomen- belly fat. Dangerous belly fat leads to: heart diseases, dementia, asthma, diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, and cancer.
Menopause Weight gain is common, though not unbeatable!
Mayo Clinic compared fat tissue in pre-menopausal and post-menopausal women and found that fat enzymes which make, store and release new fat cells are more active in postmenopausal women. Fat, is an active endocrine organ and not a sleepy blob of tissue. It produces hormones and regulates glucose, cholesterol, and blood pressure.
Decreasing hormones cause a decrease of lean body mass. Muscles burn calories while we exercise and while we are not moving, so losing muscle mass means we are burning less fat.
Menopause And Insulin Resistance
An ongoig diet high in refined junk carbohydrates (white flour, white bread, white rice, pastries, sodas, snacks, pasta, sweets, breakfast cereals, processed foods, grains and meats, sugar, and alcohol leads to insulin resistance and high blood sugar.
The theory of eat less and workout more doesn’t address the underlying problem of unbalanced hormones. Once hormones are balanced, blood sugar is controlled and you are eating the proper macronutrients, you lose fat, and build muscle quickly.
The proper macronutrient diet- high fat, or high protein, or high carbohydrates- is unique to your DNA (Archives of Internal Medicine). Each person is different, I recommend obtaining your Macronutrient DNA profile via a simple cheek swab. Your macronutrient DNA results determine what percentage of fats, proteins and carbohydrates are correct for uniquely You!
Optimal Urine pH- above 7.0 is great for enhancing weight loss. Avoid acidic foods like fatty meats and alcohol, while increasing vegetables, alkaline water, good fats, lemon water and apple cider vinegar water.
Anti-Inflammatory Diet: Good fats, anti-oxidants and clean proteins such as coconut oil, free-range butter, dairy and meat products; avocados, olives, olive oil and fish oil. Also, eat organic foods: fruit, vegetables, fish, nuts and seeds. Beverages such as ginger and green teas assist in detoxification. Use Herbs such as cinnamon, oregano. tumeric, ginger, garlic, and rosemary.
Improve Gut Motility: Consuming an anti-inflammatory diet with fiber-chia seed and flax seed, bone broths, fermented foods, probiotics and prebiotics will improve bowel function.
Sleep produces healthy sex hormones. Inadequate sleep will elevate stress hormones, create sugar imbalances and decrease good hormones.
Nutrients for Menopuase: Vitamin B6, B9, B12, C, D3, DIM, Magnesium, and Zinc all detoxify bad xenoestrogens and enhance good hormones.
B vitamins are bountiful in Whole grains, organic red meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, cheese, legumes (beans, lentils), seeds and nuts, Dark, leafy vegetables, and Fruits.
Vitamin D3 is found in fatty fish- tuna, mackerel, salmon, egg yolks, and mushrooms.
DIM is teeming in broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, collard greens and kale.
Pumpkin seeds are rich in zinc and magnesium.
Avoid Xenoestrogen and synthetic estrogens: Use Natural Products like glass and stainless steel, Clean with vinegar or baking soda. Avoid all plastics containers, appliances, and storage bags. All plastic, not just BPA plastics, contain xenoestrogens. Also many deodorants, shampoos, household cleaning agents contain xenoestrogens.
While inflammation is a good and normal response to injury or trauma, chronic inflammation can lead to lifelong disease and perforations of the gut lining. Some scientific research has found relationships between chronic inflammation and cancers, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. As noted in nutrition research, people following Ramadan fasting for religious or cultural obligations have decreased inflammation markers during their Ramadan fasting. This concurs with other scientific research that found longer duration nighttime fasting was associated with decreased inflammation and oxidative stress. Lower levels of both chronic inflammation and oxidative stress may prove to improve gut health, fight off many diseases, including cancer, and offer the body Anti-aging, vitality and longevity.
As opposed to Intermittent Fasting, severe long term fasting results in a reduction in size in most organs, except the brain. The human body goes to great lengths to preserve the most important organ, the brain. Severe long-term fasting is harmful and not recommended.
Foolproof? Unfortunately not. The main reason for success with intermittent fasting is that there is less caloric intake overall, so if an individual binges on massive amounts of food, eats before bed or indulges in high fat, junk carbs and/or processed foods or consistently eats against their personal DNA macronutrient profile, they may not lose any weight at all. They may also not experience many of the other health benefits of Intermittent Fasting.
Some animal studies have shown that food is processed differently at different times of the day. This could be due to fluctuations in body temperature, biochemical reactions, hormone levels, physical activity and/or absorption and digestion of food. In addition, a person’s unique DNA macronutrient profile determines what percent of each macronutrient (proteins, fats, and carbohydrates) they are personally built to metabolize most efficiently due to their genetic makeup. This explains why an individual may begin a certain diet plan with a friend (Atkins, Keto-Diet, South Beach Diet, etc.), but the weight lost by each individual may differ.
In essence, I recommend that everyone incorporate a juice cleanse detox into their life with a quality grade juice cleanse product plus raw greens, or one salad per day for several days. This acts as a method of Intermittent Fasting to slow aging and prolong lifespan as an easier alternative to water fasting. Water fasting has a rapidly decreasing effect at removing toxins, as nutrients necessary for the removal also decrease as the water fast progresses. Electrolyte imbalances can also appear.
Juice cleanse fasting with a quality product enables clients to continue to work, and is safer than water fasting. Juice cleanse fasting prevents dehydration, loss of electrolytes and fainting.
A few days of juice cleansing can be a great way to reset an individual’s taste buds, and jump start a new, healthful diet. However, there is no health benefit of trying to use a juice cleanse as a temporary detox. This will inevitably lead the individual to return to their unhealthy diet practices. This Intermittent Fasting magic only works if you stick with a nutritious diet long-term; such as one that is congruent with your DNA macronutrients, and also incorporates some juice cleansing and occasional caloric restriction.
In conclusion, Intermittent Fasting shows promise in cancer treatment and prevention, according to multiple studies. More research is needed to conclude which fasting schedule will produce the best results.
As always, please consult a physician before starting any diet plan if you have any medical conditions, especially if you are a DIABETIC, pregnant or nursing.
Stay tuned for part 9- Andropause – Male Menopause and Intermittent Fasting
– Dr. Burkenstock’s articles can also be found on
– Dr. Kelly Gilthorpe Burkenstock is an internal medicine physician, and has studied abroad with several of the world’s foremost international luminaries. She has locations in Metairie and Mandeville.
For more information, please call 985-869-8400 or 504-502-7600.
Arch Intern Med. 2009 Replication of a Gene-Diet interaction
Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry. 23. Dietary Saturated Fat & Genetic Variation
Documentary Eat Fast and Live Longer
Dr. Krista Varady, University of Illinois
Dr. Mark Mattson, National Institute on Aging
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine’s Center for Weight and Eating Disorders.