Intermittent Fasting Is Good Stress for Diabetes Management

Patient Expert

Intermittent fasting is natural and healthful. Starvation may be natural, but it won’t make us healthier, wealthier, or wiser.

Source: Jean Fortunet

A lot of stress is bad for anyone and especially for those of us who have diabetes. But paradoxically some stress is healthful.

A high level of stress leads to a high level of blood sugar in the bodies of people with diabetes. There truly is a “stress-diabetes connection.”

The good stress

There is also a connection between low levels of stress and better health that most of us intuitively understand but seldom consciously appreciate. The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche captured the outline of this concept in 1888 when he wrote “What does not kill me makes me stronger.”

More recently the probability researcher Nassim Nicholas Taleb wrote in his 2012 book Antifragile that he wondered “how people can accept that stressors of exercise are good for you, but do not transfer to the point that food deprivation can have the same effect.” Exercise certainly stresses our bodies, and few of us doubt that we need it. Likewise, going without any food puts stress on our system. While going without food for too long will lead to starvation, which can kill us, not eating all of our three square meals a day can help us.

We need to know the difference. And the world’s greatest thinkers starting with the Buddha and Aristotle have always told us that the key is moderation. Too much of a good thing isn’t a good thing.

Bodies built to fast

Going without food for most or all of one day is actually what human bodies do best. The paleo diet people are certainly on to something when they emphasize that before the agriculture revolution, which genetically came just 500 generations ago, all of our ancestors were hunter-gatherers.

When our ancestors settled down and grew crops of grain and raised animals that we could usually rely on for our meals, we began to regularly eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Before that we relied much more on luck and certainly had to wait days between a kill. The food environment was, as Taleb writes, unplanned and haphazard. What our bodies most need now is “to remove a few meals at random, or at least avoid steadiness in food consumption.”

Fasting in practice

That, in essence is what intermittent fasting is all about. And it works. “I have been treating type 2 diabetes with intermittent fasting for over a year with 90 percent plus response rates,” Dr. Jason Fung wrote in 2013 as a comment on the website of the “Diet Doctor” Andreas Eenfeldt, M.D.

The “Four Simple Steps to a Healthier and Leaner Life” that Dr. Eenfeldt recommends are exercise, low-carb, sleep, and intermittent fasting. They lead to lower blood sugar and lower insulin.

Like Dr. Eenfeldt’s recommendation for his patients, for me as someone who has had type 2 diabetes for more than two decades, intermittent fasting is one of the most important arrows in my quiver. Do you fast?

See more of my articles about how to manage diabetes:

Intermittent Fasting for Diabetes Control

Hunger is Not the Enemy of Diabetes

Intermittent Fasting

Reducing the Mental Stress of Diabetes

Mindfulness and Meditation May Help Lower Your A1C

Easy Summer Living with Diabetes