Intermittent fasting can be a wonderful tool if you have Hashimoto’s disease or hypothyroidism. Fasting for periods of time lowers inflammation, gives your digestive system a much needed break, can reduce insulin levels, allows your body time to repair damaged cells and can aid in weight loss.
However, intermittent fasting for Hashimoto’s disease should be done in strategic stages depending on where you are in your healing journey. I recommend waiting or starting out slowly with a 12 hour fasting stretch if you are dealing with burnout, irregular sleeping patterns and/or adrenal fatigue. Intermittent fasting can be detrimental (as it was for me) if you have moderate to severe adrenal fatigue. The types of food you eat will also determine how effective intermittent fasting is for you.
Tips Before You Start intermittent Fasting with Hashimoto’s Disease
- It is paramount to address diet before starting intermittent fasting. You should aim for a whole foods diet because processed foods and sugar are going to interfere with your success. Processed foods contain ingredients that hijack the appetite and hunger switches in your brain. They don’t allow you to feel full because your body doesn’t recognize it as real food. Processed foods are devoid of real nutrients and vitamins even if the manufacturer has pumped them with synthetic ones. A whole foods diet will provide a feeling of fullness and help to avoid sugar and salt cravings at midnight.
- Following a no carb or very low carb diet can also hinder the benefits of intermittent fasting. Your body needs some complex carbohydrates, not too many, but some. And when I say carbs, not white rice, flour or french fries. Adding in a handful of blueberries in between breakfast and lunch or a half sweet potato at one meal in the day will prevent your adrenal glands from producing stress hormones, which trigger food cravings.
- Add fat. Good fat is your friend. The substitute used in low fats foods is sugar… that’s why no one loses weight with low fat foods. Good fats are avocado, olives, coconut milk, extra virgin olive oil … eat them all.
- Limit Caffeine and Alcohol. Both are responsible for ruining sleep and triggering food cravings, especially if you’re already burnt out and have adrenal fatigue. Read more about Adrenal Fatigue.
- Drink at least 6-8 glasses of water a day!
- Don’t think of this as calorie restriction or skipping meals. Not eating enough will lead to sabotage and crashing. We are moving the right amount of calories and meals into a specified timeframe.
- I do not recommend eliminating breakfast in your no eating window, especially if you have adrenal issues. We need energy in the morning to think and complete our tasks.
How to Start Intermittent Fasting
Week 1&2: 12 hour fasting stretches
Apart from moving away as much as possible from processed foods and excess sugars, the other thing to do these two weeks is cut off any eating (even a grape) after 7pm. You are allowed to drink water after your cutoff time. The cutoff should be at least 4 hours away from your bedtime. My bedtime is 11pm so I use 7pm as an example. So breakfast will be 7am. In fact, I recommend eating no later than 1 hour after you wake up so that your adrenals get nourishment quickly.
Week 3&4: 12 hour fasting stretches with light dinners
We continue with 12 hour fasting stretches but focus the majority of our food intake at breakfast and lunch. Dinners will have little to no carbohydrates. Fruit, sweet potato, any whole grains etc are excluded at the last meal. So your dinner might be a small piece of chicken or fish with green vegetables. Do not compromise/lower a healthy food intake at breakfast and lunch otherwise you’ll set yourself up for a setback.
Week 5&6: 12 hour fasting stretches with Broth/Soup dinners
Yup, we are still going to keep our 12 hour stretches. Continue on to this step only if you are free from major symptoms of hashimoto’s and adrenal fatigue. You should be enjoying uninterrupted sleep, at least 7 hours. Dinners can be lightened to bone broths, vegetable or meat broths, soups with a little protein and a few pieces of vegetables. Again, no carbohydrates at dinner. And again, more calories at breakfast and lunch or afternoon snacks to compensate.
If you need help keeping track of whether you’re consuming enough food earlier on in the day, MyFitnessPal is a wonderful free and easy to use app. It can also be used on desktop.
Week 7 and on: 14-16 hour fasting stretches
If at any point you feel agitated or have uncontrollable cravings, keep with the previous weeks’ steps for longer. I only started 16 hour intermittent fasting a few months after taking control of Hashimoto’s. And I always skip dinner, never breakfast. An example of my 16 hour stretch was having my last meal at 5pm and then not eating anything until 9am. My 5pm meal was not light or heavy, it was somewhere in between. And I always made sure it had good fat in it like half an avocado. If 16 hours seems too long, then start with 14 hours. Do that until you’re comfortable.
I find the 16/8 strategy effective for weight loss without compromising my sanity. I’m still eating three nutrient dense meals and the necessary intake of calories in my 8 hour window – usually 1,600 – 1,700 (more if a good workout is involved) But again, make sure your adrenals are in good shape first.
Advanced Intermittent Fasting Strategies
Disclaimer: I do not do these strategies, they send me into a tailspin. You might find that it works for you however.
5:2 Intermittent Fasting
Eat like you regularly do for 5 days (within reason) but cut calories drastically on 2 days. During these 2 days, should not be consecutive, consumption should be about 500-600 calories.
For example: Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday will be normal eating days. Tuesday and Friday will be restricted days.
Eat Stop Eat Method
24 hour fasting is done 1-2x per week. If you have dinner on a Tuesday evening at 6pm and don’t eat again until 6 pm on Wednesday, this counts as a 24 hour fasting window. Coffee and water are allowed during the fasting hours.
There are other fasting strategies out there but I don’t believe they are beneficial for people who actively suffer from Hashimoto’s. As always, consult your physician before embarking on any major dietary changes.
Please leave me a comment and let me know what works for you.