Intermittent Fasting and Chronic Illness

In the seven years since I’ve gotten sick, I’ve tried at least a few “diets” to improve my Chronic Illness: gluten free, the arthritis diet,
eliminating caffeine and salt, veganism (no flesh, dairy or refined sugar) and an ultimate return to eating meat. So it’s easy to see why I was resistant to agreeing to try Intermittent Fasting. My Husband has been throwing me educational tidbits about IF for about a year now, wanting to try it. How lucky am I to have a Husband who’s always trying to help?!

On Sunday, we sat down and watched the Netflix movie entitled “Fasting”. And after watching that, I finally relented; we began our customized fasting plan that same night. Now please don’t think that solely watching a Netflix movie convinced me to change my life. This is something that we have spoken about dozens of time and my Husband has studied very intently. But it was watching the improvements actual people made and listening to the Doctors presenting the statistics that finally drove it home.

For the most part, people in the movie were discussing days of fasting: five days, twenty one days, thirty days and one woman fasting for 41 days. That is a little too ambitious for me to consider right now. But lengthy fasting is not the only way to adopt such a lifestyle. Intermittent Fasting can also be about shortening the daytime window in which you eat. While it seems the most popular one is 6/18, my Husband, Bri and I have decided to start out with 10/14. This means that for 10 hours of the day, you consume your food and the remaining 14 you fast. Fasting means nothing but water, black tea or black coffee are consumed. As we get more used to this schedule, we will gradually work to shrink the window in which we do eat, eventually getting to the 6/18 point.

Intermittent Fasting is not new. It is mentioned in the Bible that Jesus fasted for 40 days. Hippocrates recommended fasting for patients with certain symptoms. Christianity, Judaism and Islam all emphasize fasting during certain times. Some Buddhist Monks fast as part of meditation. And perhaps most famous of all, for fasting, is Gandhi, who used it for political protest.

In the movie, fasting is used to fight high blood pressure, combat the horrific side effects from chemotherapy, lower cholesterol, fight chronic headaches, lessen or eliminate the need for insulin for Diabetics, weight loss and to combat depression. I have also read of people’s symptoms from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia significantly improving as a result of fasting; including Dr. Courtney Craig:

The basic tenet of fasting is this: the process of digestion consumes much of our body’s energy. By fasting, the body is not expending this energy, but more importantly, it diverts that energy to focus on renewal and healing of the body.

It has been five nights since we started fasting. For the most part, I am keeping to a schedule of 14/10. If my coffee with creamer didn’t count, it, would actually be more like 10/14.

So what have I found thus far?

  • Initially, not snacking at night is far more challenging than I considered.
  • While they say you don’t also need to cut calories when fasting, I have found that it simply isn’t possible to eat as much when you’re only eating during a certain window. So to that end, calories are being decreased.
  • Given that you are already taking such efforts to improve, there is a natural inclination to want to eat healthier, more nutrient dense foods.
  • As of this morning, I have lost 3 pounds
  • I woke up twice this week without being in immediate agony

Normally, I am in pain prior to even opening my eyes when I wake up each day. The simple act of not having that was a really beautiful thing. Our eventual goal, on top of shortening our “eating window” is to also incorporate a once a week full day fast. I can’t say when I will finally get to that point, or if I ever will. But for now, this is a life change that I plan to adopt permanently. I am eventually hoping for some symptom relief and as I go I will let you know of any progress updates. Until then, wish me luck with this endeavor!

If you would like to read more about Intermittent Fasting, here are some great articles!!

<3 Stace

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Fighting with Fibro and Living With Purpose. Mom, Wife, Blogger and animal lover. Fighting with Chronic Illness on a minute by minute basis; sometimes winning.

19 thoughts on “Intermittent Fasting and Chronic Illness

  1. Intriging concept! I will be looking forward to your updates as you progress along.

    I have gut issues and recently went through a 6 week period of an elimination diet – no sugar,
    gluten or dairy. I loosely followed the Whole 30 diet for guidance with the exception of my morning coffee which I did have sugar and half & half in. At the end of 6 wks, I felt alot better and was sleeping more during the night. Pain was also less. Also, I lost 10 lbs.

    Currently I am away from home house/pet sitting for a good friend in a beach resort area. I have gone back to eating more sugar and carbs and more symptoms are returning. I had broken the “ no snacking” in the evening, but here with so many food choices and restaurants,
    my eating plan has gone amuck! Not sleeping well again and pain is greater.

    I strongly believe nutrition plays a huge role in health. Breaking bad habits is hard and takes work to do and stick with. I am excited to read the articles you have linked and learn more about intermittent fasting and incorporate it in my nutrition plan. Thanks for posting this information and the topic!

    1. Hey Gail!! I’m so glad you like the post. I haven’t heard of the Whole 30, but I’m hoping to experience some of the relief you did with pain and sleeping. I completely agree, when your schedule gets thrown off, it’s hard to stay diligent. I know that’s when I struggle the most is when my circumstances change. Or even if I have a bunch of Doctor’s appointments. I agree too, that food is medicine. That’s one of the things I try to remind myself of, constantly, is that food is fuel and nutrition-it’s not supposed to be for joy or comfort. Last night was a real struggle after my schedule got thrown off. I’m very happy I was able to stay true and not break my progress. Aside from improving pain and sleep, I’m hoping to also lower my cholesterol which was just determined to be high. Stay tuned and let’s try to be strong together!! As always, thanks so much for commenting!! <3 Stace

  2. Really interesting, thank you for sharing. I have considered trying IF too, but I’m a bit averse to being held strictly to any regimen (such a rebel 😏), and I think I naturally do it to a certain extent anyway. Too many tummy issues and I’ve never been much of a snacker. But now I’ll look into it some more and I’ll be interested to hear more about your results. Thanks for the resources! 💕

    1. Thanks so much for reading. I’m thrilled you commented. HA! I love it!!! Life is short, embrace your rebellion 😍 I only find the IF restrictive when my schedule gets messed up. But I love still being able to eat whatever I want. And right, IF is sort of an old thing-not new. Haven’t we really always been told not to snack at night (at least I was)? You’re already off to a great start if you don’t snack!! It’s when you shrink the hours that it gets tricky. I’m hoping to see some improvements and it will be well worth it, I’m so sick of medicine. I’d really love to hear if you do it and how it goes for you, if you’re so willing! Thanks so much, Amanda!!!

      1. My pleasure, Stace! One question, you said only black tea or coffee. Is herbal tea not okay? That seems weird to me and I have to control my caffeine intake or my heart goes all weird. I live on herbal tea. Oh, to be able to eat whatever you want – I wish! I did a food sensitivity test when I was first diagnosed and there are quite a few things that I avoid. I get so annoyed by having to check ingredients all the time, I end up cheating. Yeast, or yeast extract is in almost everything! Especially all the non-dairy (another bad one for me) ‘cheeses’. Anyway, not sure why I told you all that. It’s early, haha! Look forward to hearing more about your journey and maybe I’ll take myself in hand and try this IF thing out seriously. Maybe. 😉 I’ll for sure keep you posted if I do, though. Have a great day! 💕

      2. No no. All tea is fine. I’m sorry, I should have been more explicit. It’s the cream and sugar that’s the problem. I need to get to where you are, with drinking herbal tea. I use *way* too much sugar and creamer!!
        LOL and once again, I wasn’t descript enough. I “say” eat whatever I want, but that’s actually within a very tightly controlled selection of food. There’s alot I don’t eat, but because I’ve become so accustomed to it, I don’t even think about what I don’t eat, anymore. I am actually seeing an Allergist/Immunologist today and we are assuming that my diet will become much more stringent as a result. Like you, I spend tons of time reading ingredients. We’re almost 100% positive I’m somehow developed an allergy or sensitivity to dairy. I’m glad you told me, there’s so many similarities we all share, I think sometimes we can help one another better than our Providers. I’ll continue to update-I plan to write one at the end of the two week mark. I haven’t had anything miraculous happen, as of yet, but I’m still hopeful for some measure of improvement! Yay! Thanks so much for reading and commenting!! Comments make my day! <3 Stace

      3. I love comments too, thanks for such a thoughtful reply. Dairy is a big one for sure. I suspect an undiagnosed sensitivity is what triggered my ms – just my own theory of course. But I had tons of tummy trouble and eczema as a kid, and the difference I felt in my body only days after eliminating it completely was unbelievable. This stiffness that I had just become accustomed to, disappeared within days. I never thought I could live without cheese, but there are so many alternatives now, and like you said, you just get used to it. I find Coconut milk an excellent non-dairy substitute. I absolutely think we help each other more by sharing than anything our health care providers can offer. We’re in it, and you don’t get it until you get it. Always blows my mind when my ms ‘specialist’ tells me certain symptoms ‘don’t sound like ms’ then I hear from other MSers that it’s exactly their experience. Sheesh! 🙄 Have a fantastic day, Stace! I hope the sun’s shining on you today and you can get out and soak up some vitamin d. 💕

      4. Wow, thanks for the tips. I was a Vegan for some time, so while it was hard, I did adjust. After a three hour appointment, yesterday, all the food allergies were negative. He said that what I describe certainly sounds like an allergy, plus Benadryl stops it, just he tests didn’t support it. He did a blood test after the standard allergy test and said if that still doesn’t turn anything up, then he may want me to wear patches with allergens on them for 3 days as another way to test. Yay-that makes me itchy just hearing about it! LOL While it seems crazy to want things to be wrong, it’s SO frustrating when all the tests always come back as negative. It makes me crazy and makes me feel like a hypochondriac. Wow. You think food allergies contributed to developing MS?? Gosh. I’m sorry. I can kind of see it though, allergies and sensitivities cause inflammation in the body. Who knows what other damage they’re doing. I’m glad you’ve gotten them under control!! You’re so right that people can’t get it, until they get it. I wouldn’t wish “this” on anybody, but as you said, until you know what it’s like, you just can’t know. I think that’s true for Doctors as well. They have limited time to see us, formulate an opinion and follow up. But we have countless hours to spend researching for ourselves. So it isn’t necessarily the case of having bad Doctors (though I’ve certainly had some doozies) just that their time and knowledge of such complexities is limited. I’ve had the same thing as you to where I’m told it isn’t the Fibro or that isn’t possible……but find a forum and I find the answer.
        SO great to talk with you <3 Thanks so much for commenting! I hope you have a wonderful and comfortable day!!

      5. Thanks for another thoughtful comment, Stace. I know what you mean about the relief when you find something wrong, so many times you do get treated like a hysterical woman, looking for attention. At least that’s how I felt while I searched for a diagnosis for 23 years. Hard not feel disenchanted with the whole medical community. I did my sensitivity test through my naturopath. She pricked my finger and filled a small vial with blood then sent it off to be tested for over 200 sensitivities. You might look into it as it could pick up things that aren’t allergens but that your body still reacts to. Happy day my friend!💕

      6. Great advice on the Naturopath, Amanda. Thank you. Eventually, I plan to get to a Functional Medicine Doctor, but that always seems to get bumped in importance due to all the other appointments. I guess we’ll see where the Allergist/Immunologist gets and then go from there. Wow, 23 years!!! Goodness, you are a fighter! That’s an incredibly, incredibly long time. Your determination is something to be very proud of! I hope you get to enjoy your weekend! <3 Stace

  3. Thank you for a very thought provoking post Stacey. I have had fibromyalgia since 2003, had a positive dsDNA test in 2010 and rheumatoid arthritis was also suggested. I have been very proactive and I am now much better on all levels. IF is something I have been doing without thinking about it so it is hard to know if it has been key or not. Good luck on your journey.

    1. Wow! That’s really great that you’ve improved!! Congratulations! I think hearing that gives some of us hope. May I ask what else you have done that you think has caused the improvement? Even if the IF doesn’t directly translate to symptom improvement, it’s just a much healthier way to live. I’m hoping to get to the point where I don’t even think about it-it’s about breaking old habits and adopting new ones, like you. Thanks so much for reading and sharing your opinion! ~Stace

      1. Lots of things have helped Stacey but it has been a slow process. If you check out my self healing posts. I have also written about it in my book “Watching the Daisies.”

  4. Hi Stacey! Just saw that you have joined the Fibro Directory. Your blog looks wonderful! I haven’t heard of this intermittent fasting before. I’ll have to research more. I’ve been fighting Fibro and sometimes winning for 8 years now. My blog offers “Letters to Friends” where we give answers to friends and family of Fibro Warriors. If you would like to write a letter about IF. give me a shout. God bless.

    1. Hi Amanda, thank you so much!!. I’m excited to be part of them! I included a couple of articles on IF, in my post, that are a great source of info. I also like watching videos from Dr. Eric Berg. While I don’t agree with everything he says, I do like his YouTube videos on Intermittent Fasting. I look forward to checking out your blog and will absolutely consider writing a letter. Thanks so much for the invitation to do so!! Thanks for stopping by my blog and welcoming me 🙂

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