by georgia hartmann
Women’s Health Expert
Do you have insulin resistance? Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)? Or difficulty shifting weight?
Perhaps it’s time to consider intermittent fasting.
Think of Intermittent Fasting not as a diet, but rather a change in the timing of when you eat. This way of eating has been practiced since earliest antiquity by many people around the globe.
While there are many variations of intermittent fasting (alternating fasting days with eating days; and severely restricting energy for a certain amount of days per week), my favourite (and the easiest) form of intermittent fasting is time-restricted feeding. This is simply eating within a specific time window, such as 8 hours.
When you eat your meals within an 8-hour window, say 11am-7pm for example, your body is placed into a state of ketosis for the remaining 16 hours of the day. This is where the benefit lays. Research shows that eating this way supports healthy weight loss, and helps to lower total cholesterol, triglycerides, glucose, insulin, and inflammatory markers. [1-2]
For the many women I see in my clinic who have PCOS, I often consider time-restricted feeding. A recent study published in the Journal of Translational Medicine found that women who ate within an 8-hour window for 5 weeks had reduced body fat, improved ovulation and menstruation, and lowered androgen, insulin and inflammatory levels. This can be particularly beneficial for women with PCOS who are experiencing insulin resistance and difficulty conceiving.
Aside from its beneficial effect on metabolic health, time-restricted feeding also improves mood, energy, concentration, motivation, and long-term neurological health (including a reduced risk of Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease). [4-5]
So, where to start
If the research highlights benefits from eating within an 8-hour window, then start there. Take a look at your schedule and pick your eating window.
For some, skipping breakfast is near impossible so perhaps the eating window looks like 7am-3pm. However, for those who aren’t hungry in the morning, choosing an eating window such as 11am-7pm may be easy-done.
Once you have your eating window established, commit to one month. It takes time for your body to get used to fasting─sure, the first few times may be difficult, but it gets easier. See the tips below in preparation.
Top tips for time-restricted feeding
- Drink water. Start each morning with a full glass of water to set the tone for the day. Aim for a total of 3L water daily.
- Stay busy so that you have less time to think about food.
- Coffee/tea is a mild appetite suppressant. You can have one in the morning without milk. However, if you are currently stressed, anxious, or feel nauseous with caffeine on an empty stomach, avoid having it altogether.
- Ride the waves. Remember that hunger comes in waves, it’s not constant. When it hits, slowly drink a glass of water or a hot cup of herbal tea.
- Follow a nutritious diet. Enjoy your protein, carbs, and healthy fats in each meal. Seek guidance if you’re unsure.
- Fit fasting into your life. Don’t limit yourself socially or force fasting into celebrations. Relax, enjoy, and afterwards you can simply increase your fasting to compensate.
Side effects of time- restricted feeding
As with any change to your dietary regime, you may come across side effects. Here are common complaints to be aware of.
- Headaches or dizziness. These can be common the first few times you fast. They are believed to be caused by the transition from a high-salt diet to a very low salt diet. Ensure you are drinking 3L water daily and perhaps have 1 tsp of sea salt in water to replenish stores. Seek guidance if symptoms persist.
- Constipation. Bowel movements will typically decrease during a fast simply because there is less food intake. Increase fibre (chia seeds, flaxseeds, psyllium husk, slippery elm), fruits, and vegetables in your eating window. Also ensure you are drinking 3L water daily.
- Muscle cramps. This can indicate low magnesium. Enjoy an epsom salt bath or seek guidance from your naturopath on therapeutic magnesium supplementation.
- Heartburn. This is common if you are having large meals. Eat smaller portions and avoid lying down immediately after a meal (stay upright for at least 30 mins after meals).
Time-restricted feeding is not for everyone
It is to mention that time-restricted feeding is not for everyone. In my clinical practice, I find intermittent fasting to be counterproductive in those who are underweight, have lost their period due to undereating, or are highly stressed or burnt out. Those who are pregnant and breastfeeding may benefit from time-restricted feeding, however it is important to consult your health care professional in these scenarios.
 Patterson, R.E., et al. Intermittent Fasting and Human Metabolic Health. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2015.
115(8). PMID: 25857868.
 Moon, S., et al. Beneficial Effects of Time-Restricted Eating on Metabolic Diseases: A Systemic Review and Meta-Analysis. Nutrients, 2020. 12(15). PMID: 32365676.
 Li, C., et al. Eight-hour time-restricted feeding improves endocrine and metabolic profiles in women with anovulatory polycystic ovary syndrome. Journal of Translational Medicine, 2021. 19(1). PMID: 33849562.
 Currenti, W., et al. Association between Time Restricted Feeding and Cognitive Status in Older Italian Adults. Nutrients, 2021. 13(1). PMID: 33435416.
 Gudden, J., et al. The Effects of Intermittent Fasting on Brain and Cognitive Function. Nutrients, 2021. 13(9). PMID: 34579042.
women’s health expert
by georgia hartman
Women’s Health Expert