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fasting and women's hormones

How Intermittent Fasting Affects Women’s Hormones

Intermittent fasting can be healing for women, but it can also cause hormonal imbalance in some cases. In this post, we clarify as much as possible the topic of intermittent fasting and women’s hormones.

Can Intermittent Fasting Cause Hormonal Imbalance?

If you start researching the topic of intermittent fasting and women’s hormones, you will find information about how fasting can cause hormonal imbalance. It’s because it’s true! Intermittent fasting can be healing for women, but it can also cause hormonal imbalance in some cases.

Fasting and Estrogen Dominance

Women are more sensitive to intermittent fasting than men because they have more kisspeptin, which is associated with reproductive functions and creates a greater sensitivity to fasting. Women who suffer from estrogen imbalance may notice the following symptoms:

  • Low energy
  • Cravings
  • Weight gain
  • Reduced hair and skin health
  • Infertility

The hormones regulating reproductive functions are extremely sensitive to hunger hormones. An experiment done on female rats found that it took only 15 days of eating every second day to disrupt their reproductive hormones. The experiment went on for 2 weeks, which is the equivalent of 10 years for humans.

It is possible that fasting could have a similar effect on women. A female’s hormones and her metabolism are very closely intertwined.

How Fasting Affects Your Cortisol

The effect of fasting on women is not just about the fact that they have more kisspeptin. Women are also more sensitive to cortisol, which increases during fasting. Cortisol is a stress hormone that has desirable fat-burning properties, but that may also cause hormonal imbalances for women.

Image Credit: Hormone.org

Cortisol is released by your adrenal gland. It helps control blood sugar levels, regulate your metabolism, and reduce inflammation. However, for some women, it may cause symptoms like:

  • Weight gain
  • Acne
  • Thinning skin
  • Easy bruising
  • Muscle weakness
  • Severe fatigue
  • Flushed face
  • Irritability
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty concentrating

That’s why it’s so important that you listen to your body when you practice intermittent fasting. You may find that it has tremendous benefits or it may contribute to some severe health issues. Keep reading, we will talk about safe ways to start experimenting with intermittent fasting.

Fasting to Correct Hormones

Intermittent fasting and other methods of fasting are known to help correct hunger and blood sugar hormones. Fasting improves insulin sensitivity and increases your metabolism. Contrary to continuous calorie restriction, fasting will not make you feel hungrier in the long run. Instead, it increases leptin and adiponectin levels, which improves the feeling of satiety. Moreover, it affects the hunger hormone ghrelin and improves dopamine levels (the happy hormone).

Fasting and Your Thyroid

Fasting and intermittent fasting can cause a drop in your T3 thyroid hormone levels, which will resume to their normal level when you start eating normally again. When considering the impact of fasting on your thyroid health, you need to consider your whole HPA (Hypothalamic Pituitary Adrenal) axis. It’s the communication system between your brain, your thyroid, and your adrenal glands.

The hormonal changes that occur during fasting all work together as a whole in harmony. A drop in T3 hormone may not be such a bad thing considering that it’s simply compensating for the lack of glucose and to ketone production.

When you fast, your body heals itself as it starts producing ketones in the process of autophagy. Now, that’s how you get to correct your hormones.

intermittent fasting and women's hormones

Intermittent Fasting for the Aging Woman

What about the aging woman? Are there some factors to consider when practicing intermittent fasting? Well, for one thing, intermittent fasting slows down the aging process, which I am sure, most aging women will be happy to hear. Moreover, aging women tend to struggle with weight gain, and intermittent fasting will help maintain a healthy weight. Read more about the benefits of intermittent fasting for the aging woman in my post Fasting for Women over 40.

Intermittent Fasting and Hot Flashes

Insulin resistance is an important contributing factor when it comes to hot flashes. For the menopausal woman, intermittent fasting will help reduce hot flashes and many other uncomfortable symptoms. If you are an aging woman and suffer from hot flashes, also consider the following triggers:

  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Hot drinks (both heat and spicy)  
  • Spicy food
  • Warm or hot environments
  • Intense exercise  
  • Sugars

Experiment and see what you can do to improve your symptoms.

Intermittent Fasting Post-Menopause

After menopause, keeping your insulin level stable is just as essential. It may help keep you from gaining weight, decrease inflammation and improve your hormonal health. The improved insulin sensitivity that comes from intermittent fasting will help you:

  • Feel more energetic
  • Increase your longevity
  • Look younger longer
  • Improve your memory
  • Increase your stamina

What’s not to like? Women of all ages can benefit from intermittent fasting. However, it’s important to learn how to practice intermittent fasting safely.

How to Practice Intermittent Fasting Safely for Women

Intermittent fasting is not just about skipping breakfast. There are many approaches, some involve fasting for only 12 hours overnight. Some, like crescendo fasting, require 14-16 hour fast every second day. Other intermittent fasting approaches are about fasting for a whole day or reducing your calorie intake down to 500 for a day twice a week. Women who want to experiment with intermittent fasting should start slow with an approach like crescendo fasting.

I created a 7-day crescendo fasting meal plan you can use in my post Intermittent Fasting for Women: A Definitive Guide.

Otherwise, just get started but listen to your body.

intermittent fasting and women's hormones

When to Stop Intermittent Fasting

If you notice the following symptoms, it’s time to pull back or stop intermittent fasting:

  • Irregular menstrual cycles
  • Hair falling out
  • Poor sleep
  • Slow recovery from workouts
  • Mood swings
  • Decreased libido
  • Cold extremities

If that’s you, you may want to consider trying another fasting method, like the fasting mimicking diet. Moreover, you can simply focus, on eating whole foods mindfully. Stay consistent and exercise regularly.

Fasting and Women’s Hormones Video

In Summary

The topic of intermittent fasting and women’s hormones doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s all about experimenting to discover what works for you. Most women can benefit from fasting one way of the other. You simply need to find the right approach and keep in mind that something that works for a while, won’t always work. And if you try something and it doesn’t help, it may help later. Stay flexible, but always make sure you choose nutrient-dense foods during your eating window.