Is intermittent fasting safe for seniors?
You might have heard about intermittent fasting by now. You might have heard it while someone discussed weight loss. While everyone talks about it, not many know about the actual health benefits of intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting is a diet regime that follows specific patterns of eating and fasting.
Indeed, we have seen how much of what our ancient culture practiced is being reinvented as healthy fads nowadays. In India, fasting has always been common among people across the region and religion. Fasting aids a natural cycle of detoxification in our bodies is the belief behind these practices. And this detoxification, in turn, aids the prevention of many diseases. We have already written in detail about what it does to our body and how it benefits our health. However, what interests us more is whether it suits seniors. Most things, especially concerning diet and exercise, may not work similarly in seniors as in youngsters. With age, people gain this wisdom and would like to know if something new suits them well. Therefore, here is decoding the intermittent fasting puzzle for you.
What does it entail?
To figure out if intermittent fasting suits you, let’s start with the process you need to follow. There are many dieting patterns suggested. Some common patterns are:
- Eating regular meals on alternate days and limiting what you eat on other days
- In a 5:2 pattern, you eat regularly for five days in a row and limit the calories on the other two days
- In a 16:8 pattern, you fast for 16 hours and eat regularly for 8 hours every day.
Herein lies the problem for those who have diabetes or any other chronic conditions. If regular food intake cannot be avoided, especially for taking medications, you should attempt intermittent fasting. Fasting can lead to blood sugar, Sodium, or Potassium imbalances for those taking blood pressure or heart medications. If you are over 60, it is best to consult your doctor and only then start intermittent fasting, even if you are fully healthy.
Which is the optimal option?
The most optimal option for intermittent fasting for seniors seems to be the 16:8 pattern. There will only be a small window that you must manage as it can coincide with the night sleep time. You can eat regularly between 9. a.m. to 5 p.m. window. You must then go through the three to four hours till bedtime by consuming only water, herbal teas, or zero-calorie beverages. Though tea or coffee is allowed, taking caffeine during this period can interfere with sleep.
How to start?
The first step to starting intermittent fasting is to discuss it with your doctor. A clearance from the doctor is a must. The next step is to slowly reduce the eating window and increase the fasting window to match the pattern of 16:8. Do not attempt it in one go. Gradually reduce and watch the difference in moods, energy levels, and other issues. Also, take a phased approach towards it. The first week, do it for one day, the second week for two days, and so on. You may take a while to know if it suits you. It may take a few months to find a final pattern. In any case, early dinner is a good habit.
The key here is to eat healthily and keep hydrating through the fasting window to avoid health issues. The goal of intermittent fasting is to help you stay healthy, and it should not become the cause of health issues. Also, it is good to consult a doctor through the phases to see if vital parameters are not undergoing any unknown changes. If you are healthy, the body may adjust to the new regime in a few weeks and not cause any adverse effects. If the phased approach works well, you could continue to work through it to arrive at an optimum intermittent fasting schedule.
Note: This is an educational article to create awareness and not a recommendation. As mentioned in the article, intermittent fasting must only be attempted after due consultation with your doctor.