Diabetes can be a tough disease to manage. From doctor’s visits to medications to daily blood glucose checks, it can be a lot to juggle for anyone. Not only that, but having diabetes means diet changes that can make every meal or snack a challenge. Counting carbohydrates and reading labels can become a new task to take on every time you buy groceries. This can be time-consuming and can also make social events stressful.
But what if someone told you that by simply cutting back on the hours you eat, you could help control your diabetes better? A recent study shows that intermittent fasting may be a new treatment for type 2 diabetes control.
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting (IF) is a way of eating that involves extended periods of fasting coupled with periods of eating. The theory behind IF is that during fasting, your body will have time to heal. In any case, cutting back on the hours you eat during the day can help reduce snacking and in turn total calorie intake. This can help with controlling weight and any conditions related to weight like diabetes and heart disease.
There are several forms of intermittent fasting. All forms of IF are focused on helping your body adapt to less eating hours each day. The three major forms of IF include:
- Alternate day fasting: This type of fasting consists of one day of no food restriction followed by a day of only eating one meal equal to 25-percent of your daily calorie needs. Your daily calorie needs would be the number of calories your body needs to maintain your current weight.
- The 5:2 fasting regimen: This regimen involves 2 days of whole day fasting each week. On these non-consecutive fasting days, you would consume no more than 25-percent of daily calorie needs. The other five days would consist of no food restrictions. However, healthy eating within your daily calorie needs is suggested for the most benefit.
- Time-restricted feeding: This regimen is most common with those following an IF lifestyle. It involves setting a fasting period as part of your daily routine. When you are starting out on this regimen, you may have just 12 hours of fasting. Therefore, if you stopped eating at 9 pm every night, you wouldn’t eat again until 9 am the next morning. This 12:12 regimen of fasting would help your body used to the idea of not eating as long. Over time, you can extend your period of fasting as you choose. A popular form of this diet is the 16:8 diet, which involves 8 hours of eating and 16 hours of fasting.
When following an IF regimen, your eating hours should still consist of healthy eating. If you continue to consume lots of high sugar and highly processed foods, then you will not gain the most health benefit. Therefore, during eating hours you should consume mostly whole foods and a balanced diet low in sugar and refined carbohydrates.
Intermittent fasting and type 2 diabetes
A recent study looked at the effect of IF on type 2 diabetes control. This small study involved three patients observed over several months. Patients had six hours of diabetes education and insulin adjustments at the start of the study. They were then instructed to follow three 24-hour fasting periods each week. On fasting days the patients only consumed dinner. Then on non-fasting days they consumed lunch and dinner. A low-carbohydrate eating regimen was recommended for all meals during the study period.
Patients had an exam twice a month with labs, medication changes, and insulin adjustments completed as warranted. After several months, all of the patients were able to discontinue their insulin. Two of the patients were also able to discontinue their diabetes medication. Also, all three patients had improvements in their body mass index, waist circumference, and HgA1C levels. This study warrants further research on a larger scale to see if IF could help those with type 2 diabetes.
Other ways to control your type 2 diabetes
Besides changing your diet, there are other things you can do to help control your type 2 diabetes. Read below for some simple steps you can make in your lifestyle today. These small steps can make a big difference in helping to control your type 2 diabetes.
- Stay active: Moving more each day can help to keep your blood glucose levels stable and manage your weight. In turn, this can help you to better control your type 2 diabetes. Therefore, try to be active for 30 minutes total each day for most days of the week. This could involve walking, biking, aerobics, dancing, cleaning house, or swimming, among other things.
- Visit your doctor regularly: Visiting your doctor every 3 to 6 months can help you stay healthy. Your doctor can also check your labs and adjust your medication as needed to help you control your diabetes better.
- Take a daily diabetes-friendly supplement: Taking a daily supplement to help with blood sugar control may also be helpful. A supplement like Glucarex by Vita Sciences can naturally support metabolism, weight loss, and blood glucose control. It does this through natural ingredients like chromium, cinnamon, and alpha lipoic acid that have shown to help support healthy blood sugar levels.
-written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD
Furmli, S., Elmasry, R., Ramos, M., and Fung, J. (2018) “Therapeutic use of intermittent fasting for people with type 2 diabetes as an alternative to insulin.” BMJ Case Reports, doi:10.1136/bcr-2017-221854
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (accessed October 14, 2018) “The Nutrition Source: Diet Review: Intermittent Fasting for Weight Loss.”
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (May 2017) “Type 2 Diabetes: What is Type 2 Diabetes?”