How to do Intermittent Fasting if you have Hypothyroidism?

You must have heard about one of the new trending diets recently, intermittent fasting. Some people are jumping on board for weight loss benefits while others are practicing it to maintain a healthy lifestyle by lowering their risk of developing chronic illness. What exactly is it and how does it work? This article gives you the full rundown and addresses how to get started, especially if you’re someone with hypothyroidism. 

woman holding her neck

What is intermittent fasting?

One of the world’s most popular trends, intermittent fasting, is an eating structure that restricts your consumption of food to particular times of the day. Essentially, you create a pattern of eating and fasting without limitations on food choices. It is more accurately described as an eating pattern versus a diet. 

Intermittent fasting offers many methods. Here are a few of the more common methods:

  • 16/8 or The Leangains Protocol – Skip breakfast, create an eight-hour eating gap, and, fast for sixteen hours.
  • Eat-stop-eat – Once or twice a week, fast for 24 hours.
  • 5:2 Diet – Twice a week (nonconsecutively), consume 500-600 calories. Eat regularly for the remaining days.

The Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

When we fast, our body undergoes changes on both a cellular and molecular level, allowing us to reap rewards, if done properly, of course. Here are some ways fasting initiates changes in our body:

  • Insulin – it improves our insulin responsiveness and lowers insulin levels which allows our body to easier access stored fat for energy. As a result, we lose weight faster.
  • Human Growth Hormone (HGH) – your growth hormones increase, prompting both weight loss and muscle gain. 
  • Cellular repair – fasting prompts autophagy, the process in which your body cleanses itself of aged cells and proteins. This increases cellular repair which benefits the body as a whole.

Intermittent fasting for Weight Loss

Statistics demonstrate that the majority of people try intermittent fasting for weight loss. Aside from the hormonal changes that facilitate accelerated weight loss, the body also undergoes caloric deficit. This is when we intake fewer calories than we burn.

Studies show that the hormonal changes combined with the caloric deficit we experience during intermittent fasting causes a shift in our metabolic rate. Reports state that some of us may observe between a 3% to 14% increase in metabolic rate and a 3% to 8% decrease in weight over a three-week to six-month time frame depending on the method of intermittent fasting and consistency. 

However, to achieve any weight loss benefits, you must be cautious of your eating gaps. Overcompensating for your fasting hours with tubs of ice cream and a large pizza might not work in your favor. A healthy well-balanced diet and exercise are always ideal. 

Intermittent fasting also boasts many other benefits including:

  • Reduction in inflammation 
  • Reduction in the risk of developing chronic illnesses, especially those linked to diets, for example, diabetes, hypertension, etc. 
  • Improvements to heart health by the reduction in bad cholesterol (LDL), blood sugar, inflammation, etc. 
  • Improved brain health by the increase in HGH (human growth hormones) and cell repair. 

Can we all do intermittent fasting?

While intermittent fasting has benefits that sound appealing, we certainly don’t recommend it for everyone. For instance, those with eating disorders, pregnant women, and underweight individuals should find a different alternative to fasting. Additionally, if you are diagnosed with any health conditions, consult a health professional for guidance. 

As we discussed, intermittent fasting heavily impacts our body’s hormones which is also common for the thyroid, the gland at the base of your neck that is responsible for metabolism, growth, and human development. So, when it comes to fasting and thyroid, here’s what to know.

The thyroid gland can undergo hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism. This article educates you on the latter. 

What is hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism, also known as an underactive thyroid, occurs when the thyroid gland fails to produce sufficient thyroid hormones. While this condition can often go unnoticed and is not life-threatening, hypothyroidism can cause uncomfortable symptoms in adults, children, and infants. 

These symptoms can include:

  • Tiredness
  • Sensitivity to weather, especially cold climates
  • Dry skin
  • Constipation 
  • Weight gain 
  • Muscle weakness
  • Bodily aches and pains 
  • Heart issues
  • Depression 
  • Memory loss

Hypothyroidism and Weight Gain

Hypothyroidism can often cause weight gain through multiple factors. These are the two most common ways:

  • Slowing down metabolism
  • Increasing water retention

Treatments for Hypothyroidism 

The most common way to treat hypothyroidism is by taking medications that replace the hormone that is lacking. Many health professionals also recommend changes in diet to improve the symptoms associated with hypothyroidism.

Because intermittent fasting involves hormones, the eating pattern can prove beneficial to those with hypothyroidism but must also be practiced mindfully and with balance.

Intermittent fasting and Hypothyroidism.

Intermittent fasting can easily stress your body especially if you have severe symptoms of hypothyroidism, such as muscle weakness, tiredness, and constipation. Here are some tips for easing your way into the eating pattern:

  • Gradually attempt intermittent fasting. You don’t have to go straight into a strict method, start simple and allow your body to acclimate to the pattern. 
  • Be strategic with your time gaps. Utilize your time asleep as fasting hours so it’s more convenient to facilitate in your life.
  • Monitor your thyroid levels. If your pattern isn’t working, adjust it to suit.
  • Prioritize eating balanced meals with lots of proteins, minerals, and vitamins to power you through your fasting hours. 
  • Stay hydrated. If you need a pick-me-up during your fasting hours, have some coffee or tea, just stay away from adding milk or sugars. 

Intermittent fasting has a lot of pros and can be done even if you are diagnosed with hypothyroidism. If you’re interested in the eating pattern but unsure of where to get started, consult your doctor to help you with a plan. Remember, results for any health or fitness-related concern will not take place overnight. You must be consistent and patient.