The Effects of Intermittent Fasting on Women’s Hormones

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Photo by Ben Kolde

"..while men can fast for longer stretches, women’s hormones require nourishment."

By Bootsy writer, Marissa Cohen 

Many of us grew up being told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Following the Frosted Mini Wheats “keeps them full, keeps them focused” tagline, my parents ensured that each day I went off to school with something in my system. As I became more interested in nutrition, I observed fitness and nutrition influencers sharing recipes for a morning meal guaranteed to “light your metabolism”. However, in the past few years, the concept of intermittent fasting has become more mainstream. Fasting is in no way new, but it is certainly trending in the health and wellness space. 

What is intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting doesn’t mean skipping breakfast. Instead, it means eating food within a 6-8-hour window. As a result, depending on when you start eating, there is an 8-15 hour fast in between your last meal of the day and your first meal of the next. Some people do skip breakfast and eat from 12 p.m.- 6 or 8 p.m., others eat breakfast at 8 a.m., but have their last meal at 4 p.m., and so on. 

Why fast?

There are many reasons people choose to fast. Some research provides evidence that it increases fat burning, can help with those who are highly insulin sensitive, can help hormone functions, and can improve sleep. All of these benefits result from the fact that resting and digesting are opposites in the body. When our body isn’t taxed with the task of digesting food, it is able to repair. This research that supports intermittent fasting is just as good as any research, in that it is limited by the participants who have been studied. These benefits may apply to many people: men, those with PCOS or extra estrogen, those with autoimmune diseases and neurological disorders, and more

… So, breakfast definitely is no longer the most important meal of the day, then?

Not exactly. While many people report feeling the initial benefits of intermittent fasting, they may run into some not-so-great effects if continued for prolonged periods of time. This is especially true for women. In simplistic terms, women’s hormones are more complicated than men’s. While men are designed to be able to hunt and gather and go without food, the female hormone system is designed to recreate life. 

As a result, while men can fast for longer stretches, women’s hormones require nourishment. Therefore, some women who have tried intermittent fasting experience amenorrhea, metabolic disruption, and the possibility of early-onset menopause. This is not to say that women can’t benefit from intermittent fasting at all and need to have a feast every morning. However, it is to say that trends and the research that supports it does not apply to everyone.

We here at Bootsy Health are all for learning what’s hot in the wellness world, but we cannot stress the importance of honoring your own body. While research and current fads may be supported with thorough evidence, allow your personal experience to make decisions. There is no “one size fits all” uniform when it comes to health and getting caught up in labels only leads to a restrictive relationship with food. Some mornings you may not be bothered to enter the kitchen, while on others you may need a brunch that is truly bottomless, and there’s nothing wrong with that.   

amenorrhea female hormones menopause

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