Intermittent fasting, the practice of reducing one’s food intake but not doing so on an occasional basis such as one would do during a fast, has become more and more popular in recent years. It has a number of proponents on the internet, and is used as a tool for managing several diseases including obesity and diabetes.
Obesity used to be considered a disease although now it is the norm rather than the exception, but given that the practice of eating has become so popular nowadays, it’s hardly a concern now, and certainly not one that we worry about too much. It’s more like some people are tall or short, fat or normal sized, and we tend to see it more as a matter of destiny now, as we have generally accepted it.
It is not so easy for people to eat less, and it’s really no secret that eating too much is behind this, although much of this is hormonally driven and we can get ourselves into such a state that it may prove very difficult to turn the ship around.
Our obsession with carbohydrates and the huge amount that we eat these days is a big part of the problem of course, and I’ve had a lot to say about this in other articles, but in this one I want to focus more on eating too often rather than eating too much.
It used to be that we would focus on getting three square meals a day, even though eating three times a day is eating too often, and we have been able to show this in studies. Our focus in recent years has been to eat even more often, 5 or 6 times a day, and we are even advised to eat this often, and we will even advise type 2 diabetics to eat this often.
What happens when we eat too often is that our pancreases do not have the ample opportunity to rest, nor do our bodies, especially our digestion, and this is the forgotten part of the equation actually. When we eat less, we adapt to that, needing to eat less, but when we eat more, we adapt to that, the feast phenomenon, and our hormones will up-regulate to condition us to keep the feast going.
With many people, this feasting never ends. They might try to eat less food but will still eat as often and this mostly ends in failure. Their hormones are still raging and eventually win out as they go back to their old routine of eating both more and often.
As a matter of illustration, if we customarily eat at a certain time of day, our bodies will react to make us hungry at that time each day, and this is why we become hungry for instance at lunch time. This is not because we need food, it is because our bodies are following a certain rhythm based upon our recent experiences.
I have observed this in myself at certain times in my life where I would eat lunch, and I would get hungry at lunch time and if I didn’t have lunch I would feel it. Other times, when I would be in a period where I didn’t eat lunch, I wouldn’t miss it and wouldn’t really get hungry either. This is because I have managed to regulate my hormones properly, and I understand that is not natural to become hungry several times a day, in spite of how ingrained this is in our present modern culture.
When I ate more often, my weight would go up, and when I controlled this better, my weight would normalize. I even managed to drive my weight well below normal in an effort to reduce my blood sugar when I first discovered I had diabetes, not by consuming different foods but by consuming less food period, and to me that is even more important.
I now eat whatever I want but I eat less food overall and this has worked fabulous for me as far as managing both my weight and controlling my blood sugar to my satisfaction, and this alone has produced better results than any other dietary regimen I’ve tried, and I’ve tried many, from near zero carb extreme ketogenic on up.
I can make myself any weight I want, from well underweight to overweight, depending on how I want to control my hormones, control them too much or not enough, and it then becomes a matter of controlling them appropriately in order to achieve the result you seek, the weight you want to be.
Dr. Jason Fung, a champion of both fasting and intermittent fasting in particular, believes that the main benefit of fasting is the reduction of insulin secretion that this produces, and there’s no doubt that this is a major benefit, especially with obese people or type 2 diabetics, two diseases where excess insulin is the primary driver.
If we’re a type 2 diabetic, if we want to improve and not see our disease worsen, seeking to normalize insulin levels isn’t optional. We will only get worse and worse over time if we do not lower our insulin to more normal levels. High insulin is itself a disease and is at least as worrisome as type 2 diabetes and in the opinion of some, including myself, is considerably more worrisome.
In addition, the oversecretion of incretin hormones, and GIP in particular, that overeating produces is another worry of eating too much, and is something that we can help ourselves with when we eat lest, when we practice intermittent fasting.
Few people are even aware that the levels of incretin hormones are excessively high with type 2 diabetes, and excess GIP in particular does us in because it increases the secretion of glucagon. Excess glucagon isn’t just a major factor in type 2 diabetes, it is the whole thing, it is what is wrong, period.
Even with GLP-1, we want to ensure that its levels are kept from going too high, and they are too high, not too low, in type 2 diabetics. The medical profession speculates that GLP-1 is too low in us because our blood sugar is too high, just like they speculate that our insulin levels may be too low, but in both cases, when we take the time to measure their levels, we see them both as too high, and we then see hormonal resistance where they both lose their effectiveness.
The only sane solution is to seek to normalize the hormones, and eating too often does the opposite, it keeps them too high and we then get the resistance as well as other negative effects of these excesses.
Eating too often raises both GIP and GLP-1, and while increasing resistance to GLP-1 is a bad idea, where over time you pay with higher blood sugar, you pay right away when you raise GIP, as this puts glucagon up straight away and raises blood sugar shortly thereafter.
The reason why excess insulin causes type 2 diabetes isn’t that it causes insulin resistance, it is because it causes insulin resistance in the alpha cells of the pancreas, which secrete glucagon, and they don’t know when to shut up. Excess GIP also riles them up, directly, and when the alpha cells are already damaged and insulin resistant, GIP gets them not just speaking but roaring, and this is the main reason why the blood sugar of type 2 diabetics goes up so much after meals.
The real trick to managing high blood sugar is to look to manage glucagon levels, and while we also need to manage insulin levels by looking to keep these levels in check, we need to manage both.
Eating too often raises both insulin and glucagon. As type 2 diabetics especially, the levels of both hormones are too high. Eating too often therefore worsens these problems, and eating less often, which is what intermittent fasting really means, is certainly a good idea and one that we should be at least willing to try.
It takes time to improve diabetes, so we’re going to need to both be patient as well as disciplined, keeping in mind the principle of no pain no gain, as adjusting to eating less is going to be uncomfortable at first. There are no short cuts here though, and there is no substitute for resolve.
If we are not at what we consider our ideal weight, there is work to do, whether or not we have diabetes, and intermittent fasting is simply the best way to look to help ourselves here.