Did you know that intermittent fasting benefits mental health? If you think about it, many religions advocate some form of fasting at certain times. It helps discipline the mind and enables you to go without food for a specific time frame as many foods are restricted during the eating periods. Some religions have even stricter fasts. Isn’t this similar to intermittent fasting?
Adapting to intermittent fasting can take some time. You may have to gradually increase your fasting periods and decrease your eating times so that your body and mind can get used to the new eating plan slowly and steadily. It will enable you to reap the positives and discard the adverse effects of fasting.
How Does Fasting Impact Your Mental State Positively?
Fasting has some incredible benefits beyond the weight loss you experience:
- Memory gets sharper – according to a study on fasting, memory gets sharper as intermittent fasting helps improve memory and cognition.
- Mood improves – often, eating is linked to mood, and some people eat more when they are stressed physically or mentally. Intermittent fasting actually improves mood, reduces tension, and you may be able to manage anger better.
- Mental problems reduce – as intermittent fasting reduces blood pressure, it helps improve mental issues like depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and even Alzheimer’s. This happens because lower blood pressure improves blood flow to the brain.
- Cognition improves – fasting helps grow more neurons in the brain. This helps the brain recover from trauma and decreases the risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, apart from other brain disorders.
- Happiness increases – as intermittent fasting has been linked to increased levels of neurotransmitters like serotonin, you will feel better and happier.
- Willpower emerges – this eating plan improves discipline and willpower. The very fact that you have control over the times you eat points to willpower. When you succeed in practicing intermittent fasting, you also feel more confident that you can adhere to this kind of eating schedule.
- Energy levels go up – your body is not busy digesting food every few hours. So you have more energy to direct to other activities. It may not happen instantaneously but may take time as you get used to intermittent fasting.
If you are successful in following this eating plan, you will feel mentally better in many ways.
How Does Fasting Impact Your Mental State Negatively?
This fasting-feeding schedule may help with many mild mental disorders. At the same time, in the initial stages, you may feel it is difficult to follow this reasonably strict routine. When you are used to eating at all times of the day and night, it can be tough to follow a more rigorous diet schedule.
Initially, you may feel that fasting is not helping you. Some research has shown that intermittent fasting may impact your mental health negatively. You may experience these effects:
- Mood swings – if hunger makes you feel cranky and angry at the same time, intermittent fasting may aggravate these feelings till you get used to fasting. This may be linked to reduced blood sugar levels when you have not eaten for a long time.
- Feeling tired constantly – physical and mental fatigue may be linked to diet. When you are fasting, the insulin and cortisol levels in the body increase, and these can cause you to feel more tired.
- Difficulty sleeping – whether or not you suffer from insomnia, you may feel hunger pangs if you sleep much later after you have eaten. Lack of enough or good quality sleep can also make you feel more tired and stressed.
While your body and mind may take time adapting to intermittent fasting, you have to be prepared to deal with the short-term adverse effects of this eating plan.
How to Adapt Your Body and Mind to Intermittent Fasting?
The mind and body connection is powerful. So what you eat and drink has specific effects on mental health and vice versa. Intermittent fasting is a time-based eating schedule that appears easy to follow. However, it can be a strict discipline to train your mind and your stomach to get used to eating at certain times only. And intermittent fasting is known to have many health benefits, including weight loss and improved mood and cognition.
When you find it difficult to get into a 16:8 intermittent fasting schedule, try to ease into it by gradually increasing the fasting times and decreasing the feeding periods.
You may want to start by adding and subtracting an hour each day to give your body and your mind time to adapt. Doing it slowly may enable you to reach the 14:10 schedule in a week or so.
Check out any of the different intermittent fasting schedules and try them out till you find one that your mind and body can adjust to over the long term. Just keep in mind that you may have to struggle for a month to get used to the new eating schedule.
You must stop eating junk and processed foods that cause sugar spikes. Low blood sugar quickly affects your mental well-being, and you may be unable to stop yourself from reaching for sugary sweet snacks or sodas to quell the hunger (even if it is within your feeding time).
When you opt for healthier food options at such times, you will be able to master your hunger. And if you have eaten high fiber foods to start your day, you may not experience the sugar spikes, to begin with. The same goes for night hunger pangs.
Don’t exercise when tired and hungry. While physical fitness is essential, you simply cannot expect your body to function optimally if you are feeling hungry and tired. It may be a good idea to go for a relaxing walk to take your mind off food. Or eat complex carbohydrates and protein foods just before exercising and also during recovery.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does intermittent fasting help with anxiety?
Research shows that fasting helps a great deal with anxiety issues. It does this on a physiological level by reducing inflammation in the central nervous system. And it does this on a psychological level because when you have more control over your eating and the discipline to stick to a fasting-feeding schedule, you are more mentally prepared to deal with anxiety.
Is fasting good for depression?
Conflicting evidence exists in this regard. Some studies show that fasting may help depression. Others show that fasting can increase the incidence of depression. As depression, particularly clinical depression, can have many causes, it comes under neuropsychiatry. And diet and fasting may or not affect it.
What is clear is that more research is needed to find if there is a cause and effect connection between diet and depression.
Does fasting increase mental focus?
Fasting increases alertness and mental focus. When you eat less, your body can get rid of toxins faster, which helps improve mental focus. The discipline that you adopt when following a strict eating routine is also helpful in this regard.
What is the connection between intermittent fasting and OCD?
If you are suffering from OCD, intermittent fasting may change it to an eating disorder like anorexia. On the other hand, if your OCD is related to diet, intermittent fasting or keto or both (or even just fasting) may help you overcome OCD.
However, research shows that you should not stop any medications you are taking for OCD. While intermittent fasting benefits mental health, you want to get benefits and not have another problem on your hands. If you have any questions or notice any signs of trouble, always consult your doctor.