How Does Intermittent Fasting Impact Your Gut Health

Hey Angels and Alphas,

If you love reading about fitness and health, you’re probably no stranger to Intermittent Fasting (IF) – or in other words, the practice of restricting your eating to certain hours of the day.

Intermittent fasting has become very popular in recent times because of a variety of reasons from helping people lose weight to helping people control insulin and blood sugar.

But some people are saying that Intermittent fasting can also help you reduce inflammation, age better, live longer, and so much more, though the research on the
topic isn’t that conclusive.

Here’s another “buzzy” benefit of Intermittent fasting – improved gut health! Just like the many other proposed benefits of IF, research on the topic is limited at best. However, if you’re still interested in what intermittent fasting can do for your gut health, here’s what the experts are saying:

Gut health impacts your overall health, and it’s absolutely vital to your wellness.

Your gut microbiome is one of the foundational parts of your overall health. Though guthealth is usually a priority for people who have chronic digestive issues such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, it should also be prioritized by people who want to get or stay healthy. Improving your gut health means improving your digestion, absorption, immune system response, decreasing inflammation and stress, and more.

All of these benefits are undoubtedly vital to your overall health, however, they also give you a boost if you’re someone who wants to lose weight, gain muscle, or improve their athletic performance.

Let’s talk about your circadian rhythm and its role in your gut health.

Intermittent fasting seems to capitalize on your natural circadian rhythm. In other words, your natural sleep/wake cycles.

When the body follows its natural circadian rhythm, meaning you have a regular sleep schedule, the stress on the body is reduced. When that rhythm is broken or interrupted, this negatively impacts your energy, your appetite, and you guessed it, your gut health.

This is because it decreases the amount of healthy gut bacteria and increases your susceptibility to inflammation.

Interestingly enough, your gut has its own circadian rhythm. The different types of bacteria in your gut have, let’s say, different responsibilities, and when they’re faced with an obstacle, you can cause yourself growth of the dysfunctional bacteria in your gut.

When you’re sleeping, you’re fasting, and this helps your gut keep its own circadian rhythm going. That’s why some people believe that prolonging this fasting time window, like you normally do with intermittent fasting, can help you capitalize on its positive effects.

Even though intermittent fasting is not required for your body to follow its circadian rhythm, some people point to the fact that they feel better if they stop eating a few hours before bedtime. When you’re practicing intermittent fasting, you may decide to skip that pre-bedtime snack, which in turn gives your digestive system a break and helps you sleep better. This naturally leads to better gut health.

Let’s talk about “giving your digestive system a break.”

When it comes to gut health and intermittent fasting, one of the most talked-about benefits is that you won’t be overloading your digestive system. If you’re constantly eating and you’re not giving your digestive system a break, this can mess up its optimal functioning.

And while we can all agree it’s not healthy to be eating all day long, what you probably don’t know is that your digestive system needs a little time to carry out all its essential functions once you’ve eaten a meal or snack. Not to mention, if you want to keep your blood sugar levels optimal, you should definitely be taking breaks between meals.

However, scientists say that overloading your gut by eating too frequently doesn’t really happen. The problem arises when you’re constantly eating over the point of feeling full. This naturally results in bloating, fatigue, discomfort, and higher blood sugar.

While this isn’t dangerous for your gut health, it can lead to disruptions in digestion. And sure, your body can handle it once in a while, but overeating too frequently and you’ll cause yourself a heap of digestive problems.

So how do we improve gut health?

Let’s get one thing out of the way – you can improve your gut health without practicing intermittent fasting. That being said, intermittent fasting can have potential benefits for your gut health and overall health.

Here’s what experts recommend you focus on, some of which intertwines with intermittent fasting:

1. Improving diet quality. If you’re consuming a well-balanced diet, you’re doing more for your gut health than most people. Focus on consuming fermented foods such as kimchi or sauerkraut because they’re abundant in probiotics, which essentially feed good gut bacteria. Top that off with plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats, and you’ll be consuming just what your gut bacteria wants from you – rich, vibrant, healthy foods.

2. Getting more fiber. This is by far one of the most powerful ways to improve your gut health. And one of the most well-documented. Strive toward a daily goal of 25 grams every day (for women) and 40 grams every day (for men.) Through point number one, having a balanced diet, you’ll likely be consuming fiber-rich fruits, veggies, nuts, avocados, beans, chia, and more – all of which are great sources of fiber.

3. Think long-term. If you’re doing intermittent fasting and you prefer eating all your food in a small window of time, that’s great. That being said, your approach should be one of a healthy lifestyle, so the most important factor is making it sustainable and making it sensible and reasonable in the long-term.

To wrap it up…

Right now, even though there’s not enough research to say that intermittent fasting definitely improves gut health, there is some promising body of knowledge arising on the topic.

Ultimately, research is still in the works. If in the future, we see that people following an IF pattern show improved healthy bacteria in their microbiome, we’ll know for sure that IF is a great strategy. But for now, intermittent fasting, or more specifically, the lifestyle that comes with intermittent fasting, has shown to be promising in improving your overall health.

This is because people who practice IF end up practicing other healthy habits as well. You could attribute these habits to fasting, sure, but lifestyle changes that result in positive health outcomes are always welcome. The bottom line? Whatever eating pattern ends up helping you improve your health is an eating pattern worth sticking with.