Intermittent fasting is a transition from sugar burning to fat burning. This transition is massive and unlike you have witness in your whole life. This is modern times where we are feeding on carbs and sugars. Our bodies have become addictive to this poison. In this article we shall explore the various problems and side effects of intermittent fasting and low carb diet. Note – Many of the points also apply to Keto Diet too.
Lifestyle ailments due to excessive carbs consumption
Carbohydrates and Sugars covert to glucose and enter the blood stream through the small intestines. This glucose in first used up by the cells as energy and remaining is stored in the liver as glycogen. Due to excessive consumption of carbs, the extra glucose in the blood is converted to fat and stored around the body as visceral fat.
This condition is known as fatty liver (non alcoholic). The next stage is insulin resistance which leads to complete breakdown of pancreas and Type II Diabetes.
Understanding Intermittent Fasting
The aim of intermittent fasting is to starve the body of excessive glucose. This is achieved by giving sufficient gap between two meals so that there is no glucose from a food source. As the blood sugar levels drop, the body cells demand energy. The liver enters into a state called ketosis and starts burning stored glycogen for fuel. This is the start of fat burning. Sudden transition to fat burning introduces problems in body in different ways. Let us explore these in detail.
Group I – Mood Swings, Dizziness and headaches
Our brain is the largest consumer of energy. However there is not fat storage system for the brain. That means it has to entirely depend upon blood glucose for energy. This put the brain functioning in a tight spot when blood sugar goes low. Result we feel like fainting or have mood swings.
When the blood sugar goes low, liver starts manufacturing glucose from the glycogen that it has stored. This process is triggered by the pancreas releasing a hormone by the name Glucagon. Brain related effects in Group 1 is due to the transition from sugar burning to fat burning. Sudden changes in our diet is the main cause. These effects are usually visible from Day 1 to Day 3 of beginning of intermittent fasting. Sometimes it may persist till about a week.
Remedy is going gradually into fasting. There are two mistakes which people usually make while fasting.
- Eating too less – Our mind is designed to think that to lose weight we need to eat less. But that does not work. Even if you reduce carbs and sugars, your meal is still deficient of veggies. That means you are not getting sufficient nutrition. Have at least two vegetables per meal and keep a lot of variety daily. Also focus on other nutritious food like nuts, eggs, red meat, fish and so on.
- Correct way of fasting – If you are having five to six meals a day, do not suddenly shift to three or two meals. Gradually start reducing your meals. Consume more fat so that you feel full between meals. Animal and fish fat, or grass fed desi ghee is best choice. Once you are down to three meals, start delaying the time of your breakfast and at the same time advance the time of your lunch so that eventually you are able to merge the two meals.
Listen to your body and do not overload things in one go. Do it gradually. The transition to ketosis takes time because your body is so addicted to consuming carbs that once your brain is deficient, it will immediately talk back in the form of a headache.
Group II Increase in uric acid levels
Let us all agree to the fact that most of us do not like to eat vegetables. While being addicted to fast food and tasty street food, we have long forgotten to consume copious amounts of greens. Result we either eat too much of protein or fried food. When we switch to intermittent fasting combined with low carb and low sugar diet we inadvertently increase our protein consumption in the form of chicken or red meat. Even the consumption of paneer increases because that is the most easily available protein.
Remedy is that we have to increase our consumption of vegetables. Big salads lead to increase Potassium consumption.
Increase in uric acid is not exactly bad because body is using uric acid as an anti-oxidant. So even if your are not consuming too much of protein, there might be a spike in uric acid. This however is temporary and will pass. However if you have a problem with gout and had a gout attack earlier, you need to watch you uric acid levels.
Group III Fatigue while exercising & dizziness while eating
Many people will experience dizziness while eating a meal. So you have fasted for some time and now you are ready to eat. But as soon as you start taking in your bites, your head starts spinning. This is an adaptive process. There is no specific reason for this but again this is temporary and will pass once your body starts to get the new diet regime which does not trigger insulin and blood glucose levels do not rise dramatically as they used to earlier.
Many of us gain excess weight and develop insulin resistance due to lack of exercise. But there might be a few cases where despite regular exercise, your insulin is still in a bad shape due to consumption of excessive carbs and sugars. Usually in the first or second week you shall witness this fatigue while exercising.
Remedy. Your body is till now used to having abundant amount of energy in the form of blood glucose, constantly supplied by the carbs consumed. Once the glucose supply in the blood is exhausted, the pancreas trigger the liver to convert stored glycogen to glucose and release it into the blood. During the initial transition phase glucose is not available as instantly as it was earlier. This results in temporary shortage as your body is taking time to do the transition. This is again temporary and will gradually ease.
Group IV – Hair loss
Eating a carb rich diet also means that you are constantly hungry and eating something all the time. Being hungry also means that you will eat lots of different types of food, liquids and other foods. Many people make the mistake of eating less while on Intermittent Fasting. The natural response to a weight loss regime is to eat less. Hair loss is a response to inadequate nutrition entering the body.
Remedy – Eat a lot of nutrient dense vegetables. Make a list of to eat foods and make sure your plate is full with these. While avoiding over eating go for enough greens and veggies. Eggs, Garlic, Lemons, Turmeric are all super foods. Nuts like almond, cashew-nut and walnuts are nutritious. So is cheese and butter.
Group V – Scratching of skin or skin rashes
This is the most simple to understand problem. But scratching your skin is not such a pleasant experience. So here is what happens. Most of your body weight consists of water. Water retention leads to weight gain. Carb and sugar consumption contributes to water retention. This also means that your body cells are grown twice their size due to excess water. When you begin a low carb diet, the excess water is expelled from the cells and they shrink to half their size. But all this loss of water causes your skin to get dehydrated and dry. This furthers the increased tendency to scratch.
Remedy – This is one condition you cannot sail though by any remedy. You have to live through it. Eventually your older skin will peel away and the younger skin underneath will not have this problem.
Group VI – Stomach acid rising in the food tract
When you transition from eating regularly to eating after big intervals, the digestive system of the body takes time to adjust. But this adjustment will take time. Usually in the second and third week of intermittent fasting you may have the digestive juices slowly rising up your food tract. This will cause some discomfort during fasting periods.
Remedy – To get immediate relief sip some water to push the digestive juices back into the stomach. For the long term do not go into sudden fasting and cut down the eating window slowly. So first you may start will three meals and gradually delay the first meal as late as possible and take the second meal early. After a few days or a week as your body begins adjusting, combine the first and second meal to be consumed somewhere at 12 am.
Group VII – Elevated Cholestrol
Intermittent fasting combined with keto diet raises your cholesterol levels. Most of the cholesterol is produced by the body and some amount enters into your body as food. Cholesterol is used to make hormones and repair cell membranes. In fact the outer layer of your cells is made up of cholesterol.
Intermittent fasting helps you to burn fat for energy purpose. That is when you start losing visceral fat and belly fat. Fat stored in your body consists of triglycerides and cholesterol. Triglycerides is converted to energy or glucose. But the cholesterol usually floats around in the blood doing nothing. It takes time for the body to adjust to this new source of cholesterol because it is a transitional period. One the body realises that there is extra cholesterol available, it regulates the production of cholesterol to normal levels.
Remedy – Allow the body to regulate the cholesterol on its own. to measure the exact amount of cholesterol perform a detailed test and analyse the results with a doctor.
Any sudden transition in your body or metabolism mechanism will lead to problems. But doing it gradually and allowing your body to adjust to changes will help mitigate the problems. Most of the conditions will subside within a couple of weeks. However it is always safe to switch to intermittent fasting or keto diet under expert supervision so that you are safe.