Intermittent Fasting for Health

Intermittent Fasting for Health

Hello! I hope everyone had an excellent Labor Day weekend!

I wanted to make good on my promise to write about intermittent fasting as I hope it’s something that will benefit at least a few of you out there! For the past 5-6 years, I’ve included some type of intermittent fasting (IF) in my routine. I can honestly say that I notice a huge difference in my energy levels and metabolism compared to periods when I don’t intentionally include IF in my regimen.

In the past few years, fasting has become rather trendy. However, IF has quite a bit of research behind it, which pulls it out of that “fad diet” category (not to mention many religious groups have practiced fasting over long periods for centuries and it’s working for them). IF changes the body’s metabolic processes on a cellular level and therefore has important effects for both the body and brain – cool!

Here’s how IF works:

Normally, when the body needs energy, it uses glucose first as a rapid energy source. Once the available glucose has been used up, the body begins to break down fat to fuel our metabolism. Protein is the last to be broken down and is usually not utilized unless the body is under extreme conditions (i.e. starvation).

During a period of fasting/caloric restriction, the body is able to use up it’s glucose stores and begins to break down fat for energy. We can use fat from any part of the body that has excess fat stores like subcutaneous fat (a.k.a. “that stubborn belly fat”), visceral fat (fat that builds up around your abdominal organs), and intramuscular fat.

By significantly reducing calorie intake during IF, our body is able to use the spare energy to boost its processes of detoxification in the liver and kidneys. Waste removal from our cells also increases, and our body as a whole is able to operate more efficiently.

Some of the many benefits of IF include1:

  • Optimized cell functioning and cellular repair (this is called “autophagy” which literally means “self-eating” – eating the bad stuff, anyway)
  • Decreased insulin resistance = lower risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus
  • Reduced oxidative stress and inflammation in the body
  • Increased fat loss while maintaining lean body mass
  • Improved brain function and neuroprotective effects

Types of intermittent fasting include:

  • Weekly fasting (5:2)
    • Limit calorie intake to 500-600 calories for 2 days out of the week.
  • Daily fasting (16:8)
    • Eat all of your normal daily calories within an 8-10 hour window and fast (0 calories) for the other 14-16 hours. 16:8 is the most common, but for females and those with difficulty regulating blood sugar, a 14-hour fast can be more ideal.
  • 24-hour fast
    • Only 0-calorie liquids allowed for a 24-hour period. Can be done several days per week, but best to alternate fasting days with healthy eating days.

With all of that being said, IF is appropriate for most people. Be sure to consult your doctor, registered dietitian, or physical therapist before trying intermittent fasting. It is important to eat an adequate amount of calories in a balanced diet for all of your meals. It’s also extremely important to maintain proper hydration (water & electrolytes), especially with longer fasts.

I have continued to do 14:10 fasting during my chemotherapy, most days of the week. There is some research that IF can reduce chemo side effects2 and I continue to feel very strongly about making sure my insulin/blood sugar regulation is under control to prevent this tumor from taking advantage of any opportunity to grow! I am very aware of my overall calorie intake as my body needs plenty of nutrients to stay strong during treatment. This is NOT a time for me (or any cancer thriver) to be in a calorie deficit!

Please feel free to leave questions about IF in the comments section below! Stay tuned for more updates on my personal journey later this week as I complete taxol/carbo #6!


Warning Signs of Cancer

Warning Signs of Cancer

It’s September 1, everyone! Time to do your preventative screening!
I encourage you all to perform your breast self-exam or schedule your annual mammogram, pap smear, skin check, colonoscopy, PSA test, or whatever it is you’ve been meaning to do!

Early in my cancer diagnosis, I would often be asked “How did you know to go to the doctor?” or “Did you have any other symptoms besides finding a lump?” Because early detection is of utmost importance with a cancer diagnosis, I wanted to point out a few of the warning signs I recognized as well as a few others that might warrant getting things checked out by your physician.

In December 2019, I had my annual OB/GYN appointment with a new doctor. She did a thorough breast exam as part of the usual routine and all of my test results came back normal otherwise. At that time, there was no palpable lump in my left breast.

In early February, I took a quick weekend trip to Seattle to see my bestie. I had worn a mask on the plane because the first whisperings of COVID were happening, but on my first night there I still had some mild flu-like symptoms. I took my temperature and had a low-grade fever. The fever broke by the next morning, but the rest of the day I had an annoying nausea – enough that it convinced me to buy a pregnancy test! Turns out, I wasn’t pregnant, thankfully!

Over the next several weeks, I would leave work and continue to have these feverish symptoms, but they would come and go. At one point, there had been a small rash over the area of my unknown tumor but that disappeared, too. It wasn’t until mid March that I felt the lump. To be honest, I was not a regimented self-checker, but I couldn’t miss it, and I didn’t wait long before making an appointment with my OB/GYN to get it checked out.

I want to emphasize here that when I got into my OB/GYN (who squeezed me in her usually packed schedule), she sent me for imaging and biopsy immediately. Not every woman under 40 with breast cancer has been this lucky, and many are told “you’re too young to have cancer” or “let’s just watch it.” I can’t stress enough that if you feel like something’s not right, you must be your own advocate. YOU have to be responsible for your own health. Get 10 other opinions if you have to, but find a provider who listens to you!

So, yes, looking back there were other signs that should have alerted me even sooner, but it was actually the cumulative symptoms (& my own intuition) that made me seek an appointment so quickly.

Here are a few cancer red flags you should be aware of:

Systemic Changes:

  • Unexplained weight loss (>10 pounds in a short period of time)
  • Extreme fatigue that doesn’t improve with rest
  • Fever (especially if worsens at night) or night sweats with no other sign of infection
  • Pain that does not resolve with repositioning or medications, ALSO pain that wakes you up at night

Localized changes:

  • Skin changes (check out the ABCDE method to monitor your skin)
  • Lumps, bumps, or thickening of the skin
  • Unusual bleeding or slow-healing wounds
  • Changes in bowel or bladder habits (slowed urine flow, blood in urine/stool, etc.)
  • Difficulty swallowing or persistent indigestion
  • Persistent cough or hoarseness

I’m not posting these warning signs to create panic, but to bring awareness. Many of the signs and symptoms listed above relate to other, more benign conditions too, so don’t freak out! I truly believe that the more we know our bodies, the sooner we’ll be able to recognize when something’s off.

Hope you’re all having a great week & taking care of yourselves!