Fasting in the Menopause

I’m coming into the third of the monthly five day fasts with the prolonged fasting mimicking diet designed by Professor Valter Longo and distributed by L Nutra. As well as letting you know how I am getting on this time around, I thought I’d share some of the feedback that I’m getting.

Yesterday seemed very easy and after the breakfast bar and a cup of filtered coffee, I didn’t feel hungry despite swimming and working on the allotment. I’m going to do the next five days without the glycerol drink which may have caused mouth ulcers on my last fast, so I don’t know whether excluding that will make a difference but we’ll keep you posted. Day 1 doesn’t include the glycerol drink anyway and today has been straightforward with very little hunger. I have saved a few kale crackers and the rest of a nut bar to help me get over late evening hunger before I go to bed.

I am sure that my body is learning to be flexible because I can feel a good energy simmering under the surface and I slept well. Remember, I am someone who could not go more than a couple of hours without eating and was wedded to my snacks. So why am I writing about fasting as a means to finding greater health and wellbeing? How do I avoid putting people off because I have managed to do it and others think they can’t fast?

Everyone seems to agree that fasting is a good idea because our genetic makeup hasn’t changed much over the last 50,000 years and we are hardwired to fat burn when food is scarce and to build up fat when food is plentiful. Insulin is there to take any surplus of glucose out of the circulation and lay it down as fat and raised insulin levels may be an earlier marker than a raised HBA1C. For those of you who don’t know HBA1C is the marker used to measure free glucose in the blood stream and how it attaches to red blood cells. Many people in the UK are being told they are prediabetic if they get a result 42 and over. The good news is that people are now being offered lifestyle advice on the NHS such as dropping glucose levels which is a great change to see, but I am hearing there is a lack of support and follow up to see whether people have been able to make changes.  

The message about the benefits of fasting or calorie restriction is becoming mainstream and many have taken up intermittent fasting where we might stop eating at 7:00pm in the evening after an early evening meal and then maybe take our breakfast through to 9:00am or 10:00am. That gives us a good window of rest when we’re not eating and again encourages the body into fat burning. This feels acceptable to a lot of folks, but a few people I’ve spoken to recently, have really pushed back on the idea of a five day fast. I think many also disliked the fact that it’s a packaged product and that it costs a lot of money, all of which I agree to a point. I have been given these three five day fasts free of charge to experiment with and talk about the process and I do ask the question could they be less expensive and therefore more accessible? However, I don’t think it is the cost that was bothering some people, I think it is fear of hunger and of deprivation. Food can be so psychological and obviously I would always promote it as something to be enjoyed as well as fuel, but no one is suggesting we have to fast all the time. 

If I can hit some of my targets it might be that going forward intermittent fasting is enough to keep my body in metabolic balance. Some of the advantages of the five day fast are that it teaches your body flexibility and how to move from burning sugars to burning fat more easily. This means that hunger is not so stressful and the prolonged fast triggers a repair response. But the emotional and psychological response to depriving ourselves is important to discuss and of course for some people who are too good at controlling calories and may have an eating disorder fasting must be handled very carefully.

I am now drinking hibiscus tea which has various antioxidant and antihypertensive effects and is part of the Prolon pack teas. As well as supporting liver health, hibiscus is known for helping promote healthy blood pressure levels, maintaining healthy cholesterol levels and helping with weight loss – all things I am trying to acheive.


Dr Elizabeth Thompson