What is the best diet? Everyone has an opinion on that question including myself. After all, I wrote The Paleo Cardiologist and believe that the hunter-gatherer lifestyle is the best plan for everyone. But nutrition controversy aside, can we eat what we want to and intermittent fast our way to health?
Intermittent fasting is a popular topic in health and wellness circles, but not so much in the mainstream medical community. Ancient religions are certainly in agreement with fasting as each one contains fasting days. But just because your typical MD doesn’t know much about this topic, doesn’t mean it is not beneficial. And the science proves it.
Intermittent fasting can:
- Improve blood pressure
- Lead to weight loss
- Lower inflammation
- Improve cholesterol
- Improve blood sugar control
Let’s talk more about blood pressure and intermittent fasting.
Studies conducted at the University at Buffalo in male rodents confirmed the beneficial effect of the diet on the cardiovascular system. The animals were subjected to intermittent fasting. After a few weeks of observation, a decrease in SBP and DBP blood pressure was noted, as well as a reduction in heart rate.
The effectiveness of the diet has also been confirmed in humans in studies conducted in Germany. The study group consisted of 1422 people who were subjected to one-year follow-up during the IF diet. The study proved the reduction of SBP and DBP in groups of people who fasted for a long period of time. The mechanism of the pressure drop may be associated with an increase in parasympathetic activity due to the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), increased norepinephrine excretion through the kidneys, and increased sensitivity of natriuretic peptides and insulin.
Women experienced blood pressure reduction in this study on intermittent fasting.
Here are several more studies on intermittent fasting that all found blood pressure reduction in fasting individuals.
There are many ways to intermittent fast and I believe all benefit the hypertensive person. They are:
- Time restricted feeding
- Alternate day
- Extended duration
Time restricted identifies a window of food consumption during the day such as 16/8, 18/6, and 20/4. The first number represents the number of hours each day that are fasting. The second number is the hours in the feeding window. Most people use the feeding window from noon to 6pm or some variation based on the number of hours. I think the main benefit of this form of fast is how you avoid late night food consumption. For me, this was cereal or ice cream before bed.
Alternate day fasting is a program where you either have a fast day (24 hours) followed by a feed day (eat as much as you want) OR limit calories on the famine day followed by a standard food consumption day. Both of these can be effective for the hypertensive person.
Extended duration fasts go 36 hours and longer. This is my favorite format and can be done weekly in the case of the 36 hour or monthly for 72-hour fasts. Have a meal on Saturday night and then nothing except water all day Sunday. Wake up Monday morning with a green drink.
What else you need to know
- Drink a lot of water. I love drinking mineral water during a fast along with plenty of our recommended under-the-counter system from Pristine Hydro.
- Start slowly with your fasting hours and increase as tolerated.
- Don’t stress. Spend time in relaxing activities and with people who support your positive mental health.
- Be active, but don’t overdo it. Walk, bike ride, and easy hikes. Some people after a while can get aggressive with exercise while fasting. There may be benefits to this approach. But again, slowly build up to it.
- Get rest. This includes 8 hours of sleep and a nap when needed.
- Get sunshine
- Go for a massage
What about your nutritional supplements or pharmaceuticals?
In general, I tell people to take their nutritional supplements when doing intermittent fasting. Same with their pharmaceuticals. Check with your doctor for more information or grab a free call with a Wolfson health coach to go over the options.
Can I drink coffee?
Remember, the fast is for you and it is your challenge. If you want to skip your morning coffee, go ahead. If coffee is part of your fast, I don’t think it will cause much of a disturbance since coffee does not have significant calories and can help with detoxification.
More questions? Schedule your free call with a Wolfson health coach here.