The Dangers of Intermittent Fasting: Is It Worth It for You?

If you’re trying to lose weight, perhaps you wondered if skipping a few meals could accelerate your efforts. Many online diet blogs recommend temporary fasts for this purpose, and doing so wisely has health benefits.

However, before you rule out “second breakfast” and make the hobbits sad, you should consider the health risks. What are the dangers of intermittent fasting, and how can you determine if you should give this weight loss method a hard pass?

What Is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting refers to a method of restricting your eating during specified hours or days. Instead of banning classes of food like many famous diet plans, it limits when you eat, but not what you put in your mouth.

Standard techniques include the 16/8 method, where you restrict eating to eight hours, preferably earlier in the day. However,  many folks who skip breakfast anyway choose to chow down between noon and 8 p.m. Unless you work the second or third shift, most nutritionists recommend not eating late at night.

The method does have health benefits. Research on obese men with Type 2 diabetes who followed this plan improved their blood sugar levels without significantly altering their lifestyles. For folks who need an easy-to-follow process for lowering their A1C, intermittent fasting may improve their outlook.

However, other health conditions may contraindicate using intermittent fasting as a weight or blood sugar control method. If you have a medical history, it’s vital to talk to your provider before beginning this technique. 

6 Health Conditions That Contraindicate Intermittent Fasting

If you have one of the following six conditions, please speak with your doctor before trying intermittent fasting. While you may reap some benefits, the adverse effects can outweigh them.

1. Type 1 Diabetes

You might have read that intermittent fasting can benefit blood sugar control. However, it’s critical to know what type of diabetes you have. While the method may help those with the Type 2 form of the disease, it can prove problematic for Type 1 individuals.

If you do have Type 1, you must take your blood sugar reading upon waking and adjust your dose. If your sugar is high upon awakening, your doctor can help you find a reduced correction dose that is right for you. Failing to consult with your provider could result in too much insulin and the resulting complications.

2. Hypoglycemia

Hypoglycemia is a fancy word for low blood sugar. This condition can cause nausea, weakness and dizziness, and may cause you to faint in severe cases, a considerable danger of intermittent fasting.

Some medications can cause hypoglycemia, as can severe medical disorders. If you often experience symptoms or take a prescription, please check with your doctor before changing your diet — lest you make matters worse and endanger your health.

3. Hypertension

Intermittent fasting appears to have a beneficial effect on blood pressure in many cases. However, if you take medication to manage your condition, you may be more prone to hypoglycemia. Touch base with your doctor and ask if they recommend intermittent fasting, along with any precautions.

4. Mood Disorders

Researchers continue to find a link between intestinal disorders and mood. While many factors influence this paradigm, embarking on intermittent fasting could upset your intestinal flora. When this occurs, you could experience increased mental health symptoms.

If you have anxiety or depression, monitor your mood. You might use a chart to track any changes you observe before deciding whether or not to continue.

5. Sleep Disorders

Do you fall asleep quickly after a Thanksgiving feast? What and when you eat can influence your ability to get your Zzzs. If you try a 16/8 method and start your window early, then notice that you toss and turn with an empty belly, try adjusting your eating time frame for later in the day.

6. Eating Disorders

If you have a history of anorexia, bulimia, compulsive overeating or non-specified eating disorders, intermittent fasting could trigger a relapse. Please work in close conjunction with your mental health provider if you decide to try.

Other Factors to Consider

Finally, lifestyle factors may render intermittent fasting dangerous or unwise. Consider the following two:

  • Your activity level: If you are training for a marathon, you may need to stop for a brief refueling after every eight miles or so. Likewise, if you are a competitive bodybuilder, your muscles may demand post-workout fuel, and you can’t squeeze vigorous training and eating sufficient calories into an eight-hour window.
  • Your lifestyle: You might be one of the millions of gig workers who has a crazy schedule of multiple responsibilities. In cases where your lifestyle demands short sleep periods interrupted by work, intermittent fasting might prove impossible.

The Dangers of Intermittent Fasting: Should You Still Try It for Weight Loss?

This eating plan does offer many benefits, but no diet is 100% safe. Now that you know the dangers of intermittent fasting, you can better determine whether it’s right for you.