#48 Intermittent Fasting for Women & What You Need to Know

The Holistic Nutritionists Podcast


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"Intermittent fasting for women is one of the 'hot' health topics out there right now. So, it's important to recognize that most of the research and health benefits to date have been proven for men, but it's much more complicated for women. It's not an ideal approach for supporting optimal fertility, if you have Thyroid issues, or if you're somebody who's already under a lot of lifestyle stress."

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In Episode 48 of The Holistic Nutritionists Podcast, Natalie Douglas and Kate Callaghan discuss intermittent fasting for weight loss and the effects of intermittent fasting for women.

  • What intermittent fasting (IF) is
  • What happens when you fast
  • The benefits and drawbacks of IF
  • The lack of research on IF for healthy women and why this is important
  • IF and your female hormones
  • What can happen to your cycle in IF
  • How does IF affect your thyroid and should you fast if you have Hashimoto’s or an underactive thyroid?
  • Best fasting regime for someone wanting to give it a go
  • Breaking your fast; how important is what you eat first

Intro 0:00
Hello and welcome to The Holistic Nutritionists Podcast, with your hosts Natalie K. Douglas, Thyroid Healer, and Kate Callaghan, The Holistic Nutritionist. Nat and Kate are degree-qualified dietitians and nutritionists, certified fitness instructors, speakers, and authors. If you love unfiltered banter, unedited bloopers, and authentic heart-sharing, then we are your ladies! Now it’s time to sit back, relax, and get ready for our latest tips on living your healthiest life possible.

Natalie K. Douglas 0:40
Hey, guys, welcome back to another episode. I’ve given up counting because I’m really nervous I’ll get it wrong. So welcome back. Kate, what’s happening this morning?

Kate Callaghan 0:51
Not much. I’ve just got the kids already after a 4:15 AM start with Ed which is super fun.

Natalie K. Douglas
That’s what you want.

Kate Callaghan
Yeah, thankfully, you know, we go back and have a little nap before getting up. So I’m standing. That’s all right. Well, now I’m sitting.

Natalie K. Douglas 1:09
I’m standing in case you’re wondering.

Kate Callaghan
Well, I should be standing with all that, yeah, no, I’m sitting.

Natalie K. Douglas
Yeah, that’s fair.

Kate Callaghan
How’s your morning there?

Natalie K. Douglas 1:18
Yeah, pretty good. It’s earlier than where it is where you are. I’ve just been for a walk and listening to podcasts. I’m all into Lewis Howes Podcast at the moment, School of Greatness. I’m really liking it. I don’t tend to listen to a lot of nutrition podcasts these days, I tend to listen to more mindset ones just because the rest of my day is filled with nutrition and that related stuff. I also went to a Mandala workshop on the weekend and it was really cool. So, Mandala, it’s just like, you know, those little drawings and you, they’re really pretty just google them, everybody.

Kate Callaghan
I know, I know Mandala.

Natalie K. Douglas
Yeah, my, my friend from yoga, did a workshop on them. And I went with my mom for her birthday. And I, it was really, really cool because you kind of did this meditation beforehand, you set your intention and then you would do your Mandala. And my intention was to create more flow and lightness in my life. And then when I was doing my Mandala, I finished, and we all kind of showed each other our Mandala’s, and I held mine up and tell them my intention. And it was like the complete opposite. My Mandala was like, a four-year-old child with all of the colors. Every little single thing was filled in and none of the colors made any sense, there was no flow whatsoever.

Kate Callaghan 2:42
Sure, would make sense to you though.

Natalie K. Douglas 2:44
I was like, maybe this reflects my current state of mind to my life it’s very full and colorful.

Kate Callaghan

Natalie K. Douglas
But there is no flow. And everyone else’s was so beautiful. And it was, I didn’t mind. I mean, I was quite amused, but I thought mine was pretty good and then I looked over at my mom’s and she’s quite crafty. And I was like, damn, that’s, that is good. And then I was like, that’s probably just mom. She’s crafty and then when we’re going around the circle. Everyone’s holding theirs up. And I was like, oh, that’s, that’s everyone. Never mind.

Kate Callaghan
You’re funny. You’re funny.

Natalie K. Douglas
Could be worst. It was fun anyway and now I’m like, on a Mandala like a mission. I keep doing them before bed. I find it really therapeutic. It’s just nice to like, doodle and draw and yeah.

Kate Callaghan 3:29
Coloring I mean or actually drawing itself.

Natalie K. Douglas
Actually drawing them myself.

Kate Callaghan
How long does that take?

Natalie K. Douglas 3:35
About 30 minutes, you just have to make make it small otherwise. I mean, I mean, if you weren’t so detailed, and didn’t want to color and fill every single spot, and I’m sure it would take less but apparently that’s not my style so takes a little bit longer. Anyway, try it. It’s really great. First, before we get started, though, I do want to make sure that I quickly ask you about any updates in relation to your HA course, because I know you mentioned last time that you were running another round. Where is that out?

Kate Callaghan 4:09
Yes. So we are going to be kicking things off on the 22nd of October. So in a little over a week. So if people want to sign up that’s an eight-week course to help you get your period back using mindset, food, movement. Yes, we are allowed to move a little bit you don’t have to sit on the couch and eat Twinkies to get your period back.

Natalie K. Douglas 4:31
Sounds all right.

Kate Callaghan 4:34
Well, sometimes some people think that, because like other doctors or they might go to someone else and they just say look, just go and eat whatever you want. Go and eat some pies, and pizzas, and Twinkies, and just don’t do any exercise, sit on the couch. And as someone who’s been through hypothalamic amenorrhea, myself, I know that I would not have stayed the course probably if I had to do that because I just feel horrible mentally, physically, emotionally, in myself.

Natalie K. Douglas

Kate Callaghan
Because we know the benefits of movement, it’s just about using that appropriate movement for your current situation. So we talked all about that and go through blood and everything. So on that note, if anyone wants to sign up, I would encourage you to sign up before the 22nd as in not, not just the 21st because I’d like to get blood and everything organized and get a bit of a snapshot of your food diary before we get started. Obviously, you can start just before but it’s going to be probably better for you if you start a little bit prior.

Natalie K. Douglas 5:32
Awesome. And where do they go? Just to your website to sign up?

Kate Callaghan 5:36
Yeah, to my website, if you never get to the shop tab then you’ll find a little link to your hypothalamic amenorrhea e-course or you can go to bit.ly/P.health.

Natalie K. Douglas 5:51
Awesome. Alright, cool. Well, head there everybody if you have a MIA period.

Kate Callaghan

Natalie K. Douglas
Cool. So in terms of announcements for May, the only thing I have to remind people of is that there is still the free thyroid symptom checker quiz up on my website. When you go to the homepage, it will pop up there down the bottom. I think down the bottom, if it’s not down the bottom, it’s at the top.

Kate Callaghan
Somewhere there.

Natalie K. Douglas
Yeah, it’s somewhere on the page. And yeah, make sure you do that and you will get a score sent to you. And I can see that a lot of people have really bad scores. So if you do get a bad score, please make sure you do something about it, whether it’s with me or someone else. Don’t just let it sit there because it’s kind of a big red flag that you should be looking into your thyroid health so just a friendly reminder.

Kate Callaghan 6:41
Do you see the results of people’s quizzes?

Natalie K. Douglas 6:44
Yeah, they’re anonymous, but I can see I can see the like, like the kind of like each person’s result.

Kate Callaghan
Do you know just the things.

Natalie K. Douglas
Yeah, yeah, and a lot like, I’m like, whoa, like you guys must be feeling really bad or just I think we just normalize how tired we feel these days, though, which is half the half the issue like being tired, being stressed, having sleep issues, being a bit brain foggy is kind of just oh, we’re just tired, we’re just stressed, we’re just run down but you know, sometimes it’s actually a sign of a deeper problem.

Kate Callaghan

Natalie K. Douglas
Say yes, please.

Kate Callaghan 7:23
You know I get I get all the time from the moms especially to sign up because they’re tired but you know, that’s just part of being a mom. I kind of feel pretty good.

Natalie K. Douglas

Kate Callaghan
That’s that’s even with regular legs throughout the night from my kids and early starts.

Natalie K. Douglas 7:36
Yeah, exactly.

Kate Callaghan
And not too caffeinated.

Natalie K. Douglas
Yeah. A little bit of caffeinated. All right, well, we better get started. So today, we’re actually talking about intermittent fasting for women because it was something that everyone was writing in about requesting us to talk about. And I do think it’s a really interesting and very necessary topic of conversation because I think that intermittent fasting is out there in the blogosphere, and in the wellness industry as the holy grail for solving all of your problems. And I think that there needs to be a deeper conversation about it, particularly relating to women’s health, and how fasting or intermittent fasting actually affects us as women. And given we have quite a big audience that is in I guess it’s in the space of having had or have hormonal issues, or issues issues with their cycle, issues with thyroid, or quote-unquote, adrenal fatigue, or just trying to be the healthiest versions of themselves. I think this conversation will be really beneficial for you guys. So the first thing that we should probably just touch on is what exactly is intermittent fasting, Kate?

Kate Callaghan 8:53
It’s so hot right now.

Natalie K. Douglas
It’s so hot right now.

Kate Callaghan
So basically, intermittent fasting involves going for an extended period of time, usually about 16 hours, that’s kind of the most popular time period. 16 hours without food, while keeping your food intake. So the time when you’re actually eating to the remaining time window of 8 hours. So you might hear this referred to as 16:8, that’s the most popular one. It’s kind of another way of mimicking the whole paleo lifestyle of you know, the famines followed by the feast, as back in the day they wouldn’t have been that constant supply of food around, you know, would be dependent on what’s going on around us and if we manage to catch that saber-toothed tiger or whatever it is that day. Yeah, in a nutshell.

Natalie K. Douglas 9:42
Yes. And I think that’s probably as deep as we need to go. I mean, there are lots of different types of fasting but for the purpose of the conversation, that’s exactly what it is. And that’s what we’re going to kind of kind of base our our podcast on. So what actually happens when you fast is something that I also want to address, because I think a lot of us do not understand what happens. And it is a little bit complex, because there are lots of things that happen in your body when you fast but we will focus on a few of the big ones like what happens to your cortisol or your stress hormone, your insulin levels, your immune system and this whole autophagy situation, which we’ll talk about the definition of that, but if anyone’s ready to be into order, ready to be into intermittent fasting, they will be aware of that. So we’ll start with cortisol and the easiest way to explain it is that when you fast, there isn’t any source of glucose coming in through your diet to balance or regulate your blood sugar, but your body still needs to regulate blood sugar, because it’s important to life. So it has backup, backup mechanisms if you like, one of which involves the release of cortisol, which is triggered to release basically when the blood sugar dips too low. So that means that fasting does often increased cortisol. And this happens, I would say more frequently or dramatically if someone already has dysregulated blood sugar, as in their blood sugar is going up and down for a number of reasons, or is under a lot of stress. And the other thing that also happens that a lot of people will probably aware of is that yes, you do the quote-unquote burn fat as fuel, but it doesn’t necessarily necessarily mean body fat. And I feel like a lot of people get caught up in that a lot that fasting automatically means that you’re tapping into your body fat stores. Yes, it does mean that in some situations, but not all situations. Sometimes you will be breaking down muscle tissue in order to get your glucose to come up. So there’s lots of different situations that kind of can manifest in in fasting. The next kind of thing that happens is or the next thing I want to touch on is what happens with insulin. So, insulin is that hormones that regulates your blood sugar as well. So, in a nutshell, generally when you fast insulin is going to be lower because insulin is released in response to the presence of food, particularly carbohydrates, but still in the response to food generally. And this is a good thing if you’ve got insulin resistance, and an eating increase your insulin sensitivity. But interestingly, interestingly, most of the research on this is done in men and when women are included in the research, several studies actually have shown that there’s no changes in women’s insulin sensitivity, whereas it changes in men’s insulin sensitivity. The exception to that is that it there is a change when a woman is overweight or obese or has existing insulin resistance or diabetes but for most of you that are listening, that’s probably not you. I mean if it is then great, maybe that is a good strategy for you but if you are not overweight or obese, and I I’m not talking, you’re in the category of you trying to lose the last five kilos, I’m talking significantly overweight. So, yes, that’s kind of that picture and we will go more into depth about who was it for and who’s it not for in a moment, but I just want to lay the foundations of what happens. So the last thing I want to explain is what happens in the immune system. So I think part of the way fasting is helping with regulating the immune system is via autophagy. So autophagy is basically just a fancy word for cellular cleaning, turning on this process helps to actually clear damaged cells up, which is which is great, because if we don’t then they can actually trigger inflammation, which is not what we want. And my favorite way to think of autophagy is like spring cleaning. So you’re chucking out the junk and rediscovering stuff you forgot you had that can be repurposed and used. And just so we’re clear, autophagy actually exists already in all living cells but there are certain things that increase it. And the two main ways are in response to stress or nutrient deprivation, hence why fasting turns it on because you are creating those two, two situations. And the other way is actually through exercise. And both of these have been linked with benefits like weight control, longevity, reduce risk of autoimmune conditions, etc. But in saying that, I don’t think it necessarily means that everyone who has immune system issues or even an autoimmune condition should definitely fast, it really depends on the whole picture of what’s going on for you. And we will get into who shouldn’t fast as I said in the moment, but just so you know, remember that you can still turn on autophagy and get those benefits through other names, like exercising that I just mentioned, and also through infrared saunas is another way. So just something to to note, because, yeah, I think we kind of get caught up in no, fasting is the only way. So now that we’ve kind of laid the foundations. What I want to talk a bit about now Kate, is what exactly are the benefits of, of intermittent fasting? So can you take us through a couple of the benefits that you believe there are to intermittent fasting?

Kate Callaghan 15:21
So you touched on quite a few of them through that very excellent explanation of the mechanisms of action. I think, as you mentioned, a lot of the research is done on men but the research itself does show some really clear, clear benefits for men such as, you know, improve fat burning and weight loss sometimes, decrease insulin levels, increase cellular repair, so that autophagy and that involves the whole apoptosis as well, which is cell suicide, timely cell suicide, which sounds fun.

Natalie K. Douglas 16:00
It sounds so morbid.

Kate Callaghan 16:01
It does sound morbid.

Natalie K. Douglas
My cells are dying.

Kate Callaghan
It’s like, it was programmed cell death. So they’re like, yeah, I’m planning to die. This is how I’m going to do it. No, it’s other things, actually, we shouldn’t joke about that.

Natalie K. Douglas 16:10
No, we shouldn’t, okay, move on.

Kate Callaghan 16:13
All right, moving on. Reduce oxidative stress and inflammation throughout the body and so you know that oxidative stress is is what damages our DNA and structures of the body. So reducing oxidative stress is obviously going to be a good thing. Improvements in heart disease risk factors such as blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides, prevention of cancer, although most of the studies to my knowledge have mostly been done on animals in this one, but if I had cancer, I would probably be looking into it. Improvement in brain health and possibly prevention of Alzheimer’s disease and again, more human research is required with that one. Any others that you found Nat?

Natalie K. Douglas 16:50
No, like they’re, most of them. The only other kind of, I guess, situation that I would kind of think of it in, is if someone has a small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. So SIBO and it’s not to say that there’s research specifically intermittent fasting in these but just from a mechanistic point of view, I do find that not like, I guess it’s not necessarily fasting. That is the like an extended fast, but leaving big gaps between meals can be helpful in someone with SIBO because basically, what happens in your gut is we have something called a migrating motor complex that is like a wave-like movement that moves undigested food along and it moves that and waste out of the small intestine, which prevents the overgrowth of bacteria there. And that whole process or switching on of the migrating motor complex only happens when you’re not eating and you need to not eat for, I would say a good four hours for that to turn on. So it’s not necessarily you have to fast for 16 hours but I do find it beneficial in some people, in some situations, but again, it also depends on the whole context of what’s going on for you because if I had someone that had SIBO, and thyroid issues, and adrenal issues, then you’d be weighing up the pros and cons of whether that’s more beneficial or less beneficial for that particular person. And then, I just also wanted to point out that I don’t know if I mentioned it before, but we obviously touched on the fact that most of the research and most of the benefits have been shown in men. And I also want to point out that when they’ve done studies on healthy women, healthy females, as in, they’re not overweight or obese, they actually in some studies have seen that there’s a worsening of blood glucose control. So there’s a detrimental effect in some people. And I would say that, I would say that I see that a lot clinically, Kate, I don’t know about you but I see a lot of people who it might work well for them for a period of time but then it starts to really throw hormones off, it starts to throw sleep out, and all these kind of things start to happen. And I guess from that, I think something we need to discuss is how does it actually affect your female hormones or your cycle and what have you seen, both from a scientific point of view, but more so from a clinical point of view because you deal a lot with people with hormonal issues? What actually can happen to our hormones or our cycle in this situation?

Kate Callaghan 19:40
Good question. I think the reason why it’s not so good for our hormones and what actually happens is it all comes down to not so much the whole fasting side of things, but with that period of eating, you know, 16 hours of not eating and 8 hours of having your food in that window, women struggled to eat sufficient quantities in that window. So what eventually ends up happening is they are chronically under eating and not getting enough calories for their body’s requirements, when you chronically under-eating, then your brain is going to get that message that you’re in a famine constantly if it gets that message that you’re in a famine constantly, that’s kind of a stressed fight or flight situation forward. It’s going to communicate to the ovaries and or stop communicating to the ovaries, that it is in a state of famine, it’s not an ideal time for reproduction. So that’s going to throw off your menstrual cycle. So you’re going to most likely drop your sex hormone levels, which will result in amenorrhea which as we know, it’s going to have a flowing impact on your overall health, not just fertility but bone health, heart health, immune health, memory, all of those things. And, as you said before Nat, when we are under-eating and then our cortisol levels go up to kind of lift to those blood glucose levels, that’s going to end up disrupting our sleep as well. And then that in itself is going to have a negative flowing impact on everything because sleep is king as we’ve spoken about before, and we’re going to be speaking about in the future. Hint full podcast coming up. If you’re flattered about sleep like we are. And you know, with those low sex hormones that are happening as a result of not eating enough, mood disturbances, skin issues, gut issues, there’s pretty much nothing that won’t be affected by if you’re under-eating. If you have amenorrhea and you’re still going that if you still like yeah, I want to do that 16/8 even that extended period, even if you manage to eat enough in that window. I think even that extended period of not eating is going to be too stressful on your body during that healing process because we need to eat regularly kind of every three hours with three to four hours with hypothalamic amenorrhea to get that message to the brain that it’s kind of a feast. There’s energy abundance. There’s no sign of famine in so your brain can go. There’s a lot of food around here. There’s lots of energy, it’s a safe time to make a baby.

Natalie K. Douglas 22:17
Yeah, I think those are all really good points and kind of feeds a little bit into the next thing we wanted to touch on, which is how it actually affects your thyroid health. And and should you do intermittent fasting if you have hashimoto’s as well. So I think to address that, fasting or restricting food is a signal to your body that your safety or survival is under threat. And while there are some benefits to that are what we call positive stressors. To me, it just doesn’t make sense at all, to have someone with an underactive thyroid, send their body a message that would give their body more of a reason to slow down their metabolic rate, which is exactly what would happen. And even though in Hashimoto’s, the immune system is dysregulated and they are immune-modulating benefits to fasting. I would say in my clinical experience, in most cases, the cost of fasting for women with an underactive thyroid or Hashimoto’s doesn’t outweigh the benefits. And I’d rather them try doing something like Infrared Sauna therapy or sensible amounts of exercise in order to get those immune-modulating benefits. And the worst possible thing you could do is fast and follow a low-carb diet if you’ve got an underactive thyroid, yet, that’s exactly what a lot of people resort to when they have thyroid issues because they’re often desperate to lose weight and fasting and keto diets are touted as the magic bullet for weight loss, but I just don’t buy it, and I don’t see it work. And even if you see some short-term benefit from it, in my experience of treating a lot of women with thyroid issues, it does not last and you put yourself in a worse position than when you started. We really, in order like just on the context of weight loss in thyroid conditions, because I know that it’s something that a lot of people with an underactive thyroid struggle with, your body’s not going to be willing to let go of excess body fat which is x, which is safety to it, if it feels like its survival is on the threat. And as females, we are biologically wired to be hypersensitive to energy availability, because it’s crucial to our survival. And so you really need to work with your body, not against it, and not try and just, I guess, fooled into thinking that, you know, it’s, it’s safe, like, you’re not going to be able to do that. So it’s much better to use other strategies to help with weight loss if that’s a sensible goal for you and that’s what you’re trying to achieve and same on the immune regulation side of things. As we’ve kind of said throughout this podcast so far, it really is a cost-benefit analysis, and I get the intermittent fasting as sexy, and it’s cool, and it’s like, it’s even convenient sometimes to wake up and be like, oh, no, I’m just gonna run to work. I don’t really need to have breakfast. But and I think it’s also confusing, Kate, that there are a lot of people, even females that it seemingly does work well for. But there’s also for every person you see it work well for, I reckon there’s double the amount of women that it doesn’t work well for. It’s just that they’re not the ones being like, oh, here, I’m intermittent fasting, and this is how I feel I feel horrible and my hormones are dysregulated because, you know, it’s not quite as cool. So, I think let’s just do a quick summary of who we feel intermittent fasting is not suitable for. So, Kate, what would your top picks of who it’s not suitable for be?

Kate Callaghan 26:08
Most women.

Natalie K. Douglas
See you, bye-bye.

Kate Callaghan
Specifically, from my end, I will take pregnancy obviously, breastfeeding, definitely, women with hypothalamic amenorrhea or any adrenal issues, they would be my top picks.

Natalie K. Douglas 26:26
Yeah. And the only thing I’d add to that is people with an underactive thyroid because yeah, and we’ve pretty much covered most women so but in terms of, okay, who is useful for, I would say that it can be beneficial, if you are overweight, if you’re overweight, obese, or and, or you have insulin resistance, then it can be beneficial as a therapeutic intervention but there’s going to be a point where it’s not beneficial. And, you know, you can still have, like, if you’re relatively healthy, and your hormones are balanced, and you know, you’re doing fine, then there’s nothing to say that you can’t have three meals a day, instead of having constant meals throughout the day, like that is totally fine. But you and you’ll still get a lot of benefit from that in terms of giving your digestive system a rest and all these other benefits that are spoken about. But you don’t need to fit into this category of oh, yes, I do 16/8, it’s it’s okay not to. And I think a lot of the time, we need permission to be a bit vanilla without diet because you know. I think everyone wants to be like I’m keto, I’m intermittent fasting, I’m hardcore paleo and it’s like, it’s alright, to just be like, I kind of eat a lot of plants and sometimes I eat some grains and I eat a little bit of red meat. Sometimes I eat regularly and sometimes I don’t. I don’t really fast and you know, it’s a bit, it sounds a bit boring but honestly, balance and and flexibility in that way can sometimes be the the answer to a lot of these problems but obviously it’s.

Kate Callaghan

Natalie K. Douglas

Kate Callaghan
Are you saying it’s boring to listen to your body in your own individual requirements?

Natalie K. Douglas
Absolutely, you’re a boring person.

Kate Callaghan 28:16

Natalie K. Douglas 28:18
I honestly think like, people always say, oh, I guess there’s this idea out there that oh, you must be so determined in order to stick to this protocol of keto or intermittent fasting or whatever it is that you’re following. But in my personal experience, the hardest thing I’ve ever done is create balance in my diet and my exercise. And I think for people, a lot of people listening will resonate with that. It’s, I personally as a type-A person, and someone who struggled with over-exercising and under-eating and eating disorders, I have had to work really hard, harder than I’ve ever worked at finding balance compared to just following the extreme so, yes.

Kate Callaghan 28:58
I’m tuning out all the noise on social media or what other people are telling you you should do. I mean, I see a lot of people, a lot of women just starting their day with bulletproof coffee. And they’re like, I don’t eat until lunchtime. You’re missing out on a whole meal of nutrients. Not just about the calories here. There’s a whole lot of vitamins and minerals that you’re missing out on there.

Natalie K. Douglas 29:12
Yeah, exactly and we’re not trying to completely bash intermittent fasting because as we said, there are there is good research out there, particularly in males, and also in certain female situations but we are trying to be the voice on the other side, that’s like, you don’t have to do this to get benefits and to be healthy. And the reality is that yes, we, like I guess historically, no, we did not eat frequently, no food was not always available to us. But historically, we didn’t, we weren’t chronically stressed. We didn’t have all of the modern-day stressors that we have now and now life’s look completely different to what they did back then and so there are certain things that are not going to work anymore because you have to realize that intermittent fasting like exercise is still a stress and too much of a good thing is not a good thing. And I try and phrase it in that way, as well because you are adding if you’re choosing to do intermittent fasting, you’re adding a stress on top of already a lot of a lot of stressors and that isn’t always a good thing so just keep that in mind. Now, I wanted to quickly go through a few additional questions that people wrote in because yeah, we really appreciate when you guys write questions in so we want to make sure we address them. Most of them we’ve actually covered throughout the podcast, but I’ll just read out a few and we’ll make sure that we’ve covered it all off. So the first one is Kate, how important is what you eat when you first break your fast if you are intermittent fasting?

Kate Callaghan 30:59
I think you should probably focus on something good quality.

Natalie K. Douglas 31:04
Yes, agreed. I honestly think that’s enough of it and so I don’t think it needs to be anything in particular, just eat real food.

Kate Callaghan

Natalie K. Douglas
It’s as important as what it would be when you’re not doing intermittent fasting. So it just comes down to eating real food and I would say a balanced meal. I don’t think that you should, I certainly don’t think you should be doing low carb on top of intermittent fasting like you’re asking for hormonal issues in that situation.

Kate Callaghan
Yeah, no Twinkies probably.

Natalie K. Douglas
No, no, no, be sensible. And okay, next question. What is the best protocol to start with? So say someone is insisting that they want to do intermittent fasting, what would you say is the best protocol to start with?Maybe in terms of like, should they do it every day of the week? How long should they start the fast with any advice around that.

Kate Callaghan 31:57
There’s a couple of options I usually go with. So, if I’m working with someone, let’s say who has polycystic ovarian syndrome, or an insulin-resistant other insulin resistance issues or obesity, then I might start with more of a 14/10 window. So just a fasting overnight for 14 hours and then keeping your food to 10 hours, which seems to work well for most people in that situation. Some people work better with the 5:2 diet. So, five days of the week, eating really well, good quality, enough calories, and then two days of the week, restricting to 500 calories. And again, they’re specific for people who need to lose a lot of weight or more therapeutic reasons not the general population.

Natalie K. Douglas 32:39
Awesome. Good. I conquer. Okay, the next one was, are there are there actually any benefits cell regeneration, etc or is it just a form of caloric restriction. We’ve already kind of touched on that but just to quickly address the caloric restriction point of it, it’s not supposed to be or intended to be a form of caloric restriction. Intermittent fasting, by definition, is not restricting calories. You can obviously intermittent fast and restrict calories but when you’re doing an intermittent fasting protocol, you’re eating, you’re supposed to be eating your required calorie amount within the restricted feeding window. So kind of not not quite the same thing. We’ve already, the next question was the optimal length to fast without disrupting hormonal balance? I don’t think that there is a length of intermittent fasting that is going to not disrupt your hormones, in terms of doing long periods of fasting. But, Kate, as you mentioned, that kind of that protocol that you said to start with, could be an option to try out if they don’t have existing hormonal issues, or if they do have PCOS as you mentioned, is there anything you wanted to add to that?

Kate Callaghan 33:53
Yeah, I think it’s going to be very individual with that one, everyone’s going to respond very differently. So it’s hard to answer that one for the general population, but I think your answer was good.

Natalie K. Douglas 34:03
Yeah, I really, I honestly would strongly recommend that if you’re confused by this, and you’re not sure if you’re a good candidate for it or you just need someone to tell you that you’re not because sometimes that’s, that’s really important to people then please like book in to see one of us or someone else that you trust in terms of a health professional, and get it personalized to you because it is so different for everyone. And last one before we wrap up is, how does fasting affect your hormones if you’re estrogen dominant?

Kate Callaghan 34:36
Again, it depends on your on your situation. It can help and depending on why your estrogen dominant. I would probably focus on more different things to relieve the estrogen dominance first, rather than intermittent fasting, such as getting all of the toxins out of your life in supporting liver function.

Natalie K. Douglas 34:54
Yeah, I’d agree. And I think maybe we can do a podcast on that or refer back to one that we’ve addressed that side of things because it’s kind of a whole another story in itself but I agree with you, Kate. I don’t think it’s necessarily that intermittent fasting is the cure for estrogen dominant. I think there’s much lower hanging fruit to address as you mentioned. So yes, we we will if there’s enough demand for a podcast on that, then we will do a an extended podcast on that. But hopefully, that’s addressed most of your questions around intermittent fasting for women, and I would really encourage you to share it with your female friends or male friends if they’re interested in female health because I personally think that the research and the understanding about how fasting affects women needs way more voice than it’s been given. And if you guys can share this podcast then that really helps that message get get out to the masses. So Kate, anything else you wanted to add before we wrap up?

Kate Callaghan 35:57
No, I think we’ve spoken about it. I’m just knowing that just because it’s working for the man in your life, it doesn’t mean it’s going to work for you.

Natalie K. Douglas 36:04
Yeah, and being okay with not having a sexy diet, it’s okay. Just steal someone else’s photo of their bulletproof coffee. I don’t know. All right, well, that is all from us. If you have any follow up questions or you feel like you need help on an individual basis, then please contact Kate or myself. If you are wanting to sign up to Kate’s HA course, then jump on over to her website and also don’t forget to jump onto my website and do that thyroid symptom checker quiz. All right, Kate, have a lovely day afternoon. I always forget what time it is and I will talk to you next time.

Kate Callaghan 36:43
Thanks, Nat. Have a good day.

Natalie K. Douglas 36:44

Kate Callaghan

Outro 36:46
Thanks for tuning in to The Holistic Nutritionists Podcast. Remember, we love to make the show relevant to you. If you have any questions or topics you’d like us to discuss, just submit them to [email protected] and we’ll get them answered for you. Also, don’t forget to subscribe, rate, and review the podcast on iTunes and share it with your friend. And if you’re looking for more info about how we can accelerate your journey to your optimal health, you can find me, Nat, over at NatalieKDouglas.com and Kate at TheHolisticNutritionist.com. See you next time!


The Holistic Nutritionists Podcast - with Natalie K. Douglas and Kate Callaghan

Welcome to The Holistic Nutritionists Podcast!

If a professional, polished, well-edited podcast is what you’re after…then we’re not for you!

But if you love unfiltered banter, unedited bloopers and authentic heart sharing then we are your ladies.

We also have the most practical tips on holistic and alternative health care too 😉

Have a question that you want answered on the podcast or want to be interviewed? Get in touch!


Natalie K. Douglas | Thyroid Healer

Natalie K. Douglas | Thyroid Healer

Natalie K. Douglas ("Nat") is a Holistic Dietitian and Nutritionist dedicated to Thyroid, gut and hormone healing.

Nat shows stressed, burnt out, overwhelmed women how to value their worth again, change their mindset habits, prioritize healing, and reclaim their vitality. Guaranteed.

Her clients say she’s the right girl to see if you’ve tried the conventional approach and nothing has worked.

Kate Callaghan | The Holistic Nutritionist

Kate Callaghan | The Holistic Nutritionist

Kate Callaghan is a Holistic Nutritionist, Personal Trainer and Lifestyle Coach who specializes in women's hormone healing.

She recognizes that there is no “one size fits all” diet or “magic bullet” which is going to cure all illnesses.

She focuses on having a thorough understanding of your personal goals, needs, likes/dislikes, support networks and lifestyle in order to create a food and lifestyle approach that suits YOU.


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