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Intermittent Fasting And Hormones: For A Better Balance

Intermittent fasting is a great tool for naturally balancing many hormones. Have a look in our article how it works
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Summary

A woman’s endocrine system is a complicated “machine” that releases many types of hormones under different circumstances. Hormones are in charge of a variety of the body's functions- metabolism, growth, fertility, stress response, and many others. If this system is interrupted, you will develop hormonal disbalance, which leads to many health complications.

Intermittent fasting can be a solution for health issues caused by high or low hormone levels. It has a great impact on hormones if you do it correctly. Read our article to see how it works.


Written by
Vera Bokor
Health and Wellbeing Coach

There are many reasons which cause an imbalance in our hormones. They are in the environment such as toxins and chemicals in food and building materials, polluted water and air, personal causes like poor diet, inactive lifestyle, chronic stress and so on. You can make a tangible step by practising intermittent fasting to prevent and reverse health complications caused by hormonal disbalance.

What hormones can intermittent fasting help with?

There are a few main hormones, which you can “fix” with intermittent fasting and help yourself to achieve better health conditions:

  • Insulin
  • Leptin
  • Growth hormone
  • Ghrelin
  • Sex hormones
  • Thyroid hormones

Insulin and intermittent fasting 

Syringe and a blood sugar measuring device.

Insulin is “the key”, insulin is “the curse”. We can’t live without this hormone, but elevated levels of insulin lead to many health complications and chronic conditions such as obesity, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and others. 

Insulin is necessary for glucose (blood sugar) metabolism. It is produced by our pancreas and lets glucose and essential nutrients get into a cell. When we have a bad diet insulin levels tend to be too high.

High levels of insulin are also called hyperinsulinemia. When you develop such a condition, your body becomes insensitive to the hormone and leads to resistance and in the end, your cells are not able to get needed energy and essential nutrients and you starve from inside. At the same time, your body tries to “fix” the situation by releasing more insulin that worsens the resistance even more (1).

Intermittent fasting shows great results in improving insulin sensitivity and decreasing insulin levels (2, 3). In our article “How does intermittent fasting help with insulin resistance?” you can read about that in more detail.

Insulin is one of the main players of our endocrine system, it affects the secretion of other hormones. If you take insulin levels under control, you can also balance those hormones, which are affected by hyperinsulinemia.

Leptin and intermittent fasting 

You can call leptin the main satiety hormone. It is mostly secreted by fat cells (adipocytes) and gives the signal to our brain that there is enough “potential energy” (read fat) to survive, so we don’t need to consume more food (4). 

When we keep eating, we store food for later use as fat and our adipocytes get enlarged and they “scream” STOP EATING by producing a lot of leptin. Similarly to insulin, constantly high leptin levels lead to leptin resistance. As a result, our brain stops reacting to the signals and instead of feeling satiated, we feel hungry all the time, we eat more, we store more fat and we develop even stronger resistance to leptin (5).

Intermittent fasting helps with fat loss and improves leptin sensitivity by decreasing the size of adipocytes (6). 

Leptin and insulin directly regulate each other. Leptin counter regulates insulin by suppressing its fat storage effect and other anabolic actions. Leptin inhibits insulin secretion and increases insulin sensitivity (7). You can decrease hyperinsulinemia by balancing your leptin levels.

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Ghrelin and intermittent fasting 

Hungry birds in a nest.

Opposite to satiety hormone leptin, our body releases the “hunger hormone”-ghrelin at certain times and the level of this hormone drops down after a meal. Imbalance in this hormone is associated with increased food intake, which leads to obesity (8).

Studies show that overweight and obese people have just a slight drop in ghrelin levels after a meal, which means that they are still hungry even if they’ve eaten (9).

Intermittent fasting can help you to take this hormone under control. First of all, you can play around with the time you usually eat, which helps you to change the frequency of eating. Secondly, fasting decreases ghrelin production in general, which leads to the smaller amount of food you consume (10).

Growth hormone and intermittent fasting 

Human growth hormone (HGH) is essential for cell regeneration and reproduction, bone density, strong immune system and speed of metabolism. We lose the ability to produce this hormone with ageing, but studies show that intermittent fasting dramatically triggers an increase in HGH as a protective mechanism for bone and tissue (11).

HGH is tightly related to insulin. As insulin levels increase, HGH secretion decreases and vice versa. HGH is only released when there is no insulin in the bloodstream, and this happens in a fasted state. Your body is most sensitive to insulin following a period of fasting. The more sensitive you are to insulin, the more growth hormone you will secrete (12,13). 

Female hormones and intermittent fasting 

Insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia provoke increased androgen (male hormones) synthesis and decreased estrogen production (14,15). In our article “How intermittent fasting can cure Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)”, we discuss how it causes such an unpleasant health issue as PCOS and how you can treat it with intermittent fasting. 

Women's bodies are quite sensitive to a lack of nutrients, which creates concern about the benefit of intermittent fasting for female sex hormones. If intermittent fasting is done correctly and supported by a nutritious diet, you don’t need to worry, it will not affect your menstrual cycle, fertility and overall health (16).

The bottom line 

Intermittent fasting shows great results in balancing hormones. The most important point, that it doesn’t require any medications, we can say that intermittent fasting is a natural remedy. 

You can significantly improve your whole endocrine system just by taking under control one hormone–insulin, which negatively influences many other hormones when its levels are elevated and there is no better way to improve it than doing intermittent fasting. 

Join our intermittent fasting community for women only to get more knowledge about intermittent fasting health benefits.


References:

  1. Thomas D. D., Corkey B. E., Istfan N. W., Apovian C. M. Hyperinsulinemia: An Early Indicator of Metabolic Dysfunction. J Endocr Soc. 2019 Sep 1; 3(9): 1727–1747. doi: 10.1210/js.2019-00065
  2. Bergman B. C., Cornier M. A., Horton T. J., Bessesen D. H. Effects of fasting on insulin action and glucose kinetics in lean and obese men and women. Randomized Controlled Trial. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab . 2007 Oct;293(4):E1103-11. doi:10.1152/ajpendo.00613.2006. 
  3. Cho  Y, Hong N, Kim K. W., Cho S. J., Lee M., Lee Y. H.,Lee Y. H, Kang E. S., Cha B. S., Lee B. W. The Effectiveness of Intermittent Fasting to Reduce Body Mass Index and Glucose Metabolism: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. J Clin Med. 2019 Oct; 8(10): 1645.doi: 10.3390/jcm8101645
  4. D'souza A. M., Neumann U. H., Glavas M. M., Kieffer T. J. The glucoregulatory actions of leptin. Molecular Metabolism. Volume 6, Issue 9, September 2017, Pages 1052-1065. doi.org/10.1016/j.molmet.2017.04.011
  5. Paz-Filho G., Mastronardi C., Wong M. L., Licinio J. Leptin therapy, insulin sensitivity, and glucose homeostasis. Indian J Endocrinol Metab. 2012 Dec; 16(Suppl 3): S549–S555. doi: 10.4103/2230-8210.105571
  6. Drop in both insulin and leptin needed for fat burning to occur. Diabetes.co.uk. 9th January 2018
  7. Borer KT. Counterregulation of insulin by leptin as key component of autonomic regulation of body weight. World J Diabetes 2014; 5(5): 606-629 [PMID: 25317239 DOI: 10.4239/wjd.v5.i5.606
  8. Moesgaard S. G., Ahrén B., Carr R. D., Gram D. X., Brand C. L., Sundler F. Effects of high-fat feeding and fasting on ghrelin expression in the mouse stomach. Regul Pept. 2004 Aug 15;120(1-3):261-7. doi: 10.1016/j.regpep.2004.03.018.
  9. Chabot F, Caron A., Laplante M., St-Pierre D. H. Interrelationships between ghrelin, insulin and glucose homeostasis: Physiological relevance. World J Diabetes. 2014 Jun 15; 5(3): 328–341. doi: 10.4239/wjd.v5.i3.328
  10. Fung J. How to not get hungry: Fasting and ghrelin. DietDoctor. April 20 2017
  11. Fung J. Fasting and Growth hormone. The Fasting Method.     
  12. Ho K. Y., Veldhuis J. D., Johnson M. L., Furlanetto R., Evans W. S., Alberti K. G., Thorner M. O. Fasting enhances growth hormone secretion and amplifies the complex rhythms of growth hormone secretion in man. J Clin Invest. 1988 Apr; 81(4): 968–975. doi: 10.1172/JCI113450
  13.  Huang Z., Huang L., Waters M. J., Chen C. Insulin and Growth Hormone Balance: Implications for Obesity. Trends in Endocrinology and metabolism. May 13, 2020DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tem.2020.04.005
  14.  Suba Z. Interplay between insulin resistance and estrogen deficiency as co- activators in carcinogenesis. Pathol Oncol Res. 2012 Apr;18(2):123-33. doi: 10.1007/s12253-011-9466-8. Epub 2011 Oct 9.
  15. Yeung E. H., Zhang C., Mumford S. L., Ye A., Trevisan M., Chen L., Browne R. W., Wactawski-Wende J., Schisterman E. F. Longitudinal Study of Insulin Resistance and Sex Hormones over the Menstrual Cycle: The BioCycle Study. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2010 Dec; 95(12): 5435–5442. doi: 10.1210/jc.2010-0702
  16. Berga S. L.,  Loucks T. L. , Cameron J. L. Endocrine and chronobiological effects of fasting in women. Clinical Trial . Fertil Steril. 2001 May;75(5):926-32. doi: 10.1016/s0015-0282(01)01686-7.


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