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What is Intermittent Fasting?
Example: Eat from 12-8 (8 hour eating window) and fast from 8-12 the next day (16 hour fasting window)
It is NOT a diet, telling you what or how much to eat, but simply a tool for you to use. There are SO many benefits to intermittent fasting, which I cover in depth in this blog post. But in this specific post (that you’re reading now) we’re going to focus on how it can improve gut health, which has been directly linked to depression and other types of emotional disorders.
What is depression
“a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. Fortunately, it is also treatable. Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person’s ability to function at work and at home.
Depression symptoms can vary from mild to severe and can include:
Feeling sad or having a depressed mood
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
- Changes in appetite — weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
- Loss of energy or increased fatigue
- Increase in purposeless physical activity (e.g., hand-wringing or pacing) or slowed movements and speech (actions observable by others)
- Feeling worthless or guilty
- Difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions
- Thoughts of death or suicide
Symptoms must last at least two weeks for a diagnosis of depression.”
Gut Health and Depression
“The old story is that depression is caused by a deficiency of neurotransmitters like serotonin. This ‘serotonin model’ led to widespread treatment using selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as Zoloft and Prozac. If you’ve been diagnosed with depression, your doctor may have said that you’re “just born that way.” And you may worry that having a depressed family member means that you’ll get depression too.
However, gamechanging science is showing that our destinies are not written in our genes. Further, data revealing that SSRIs don’t work (and create dangerous side effects!), along with a mountain of research studies, have debunked the deterministic serotonin model of depression. Instead, we’re finding that depression is often a symptom of chronic inflammation.
We are all at risk for chronic, silent inflammation because we are living at a time of evolutionary mismatch. That is, our modern lifestyles create incompatibilities between what our genes expect of us and what our world demands. We eat foods that are processed beyond recognition, are sitting inside offices and cars most of the day, and are exposed to thousands of modern chemicals. Inflammation is the result of these types of conflicts.
Science is showing that chronic inflammation is at the root of nearly every disease (1). Inflammation is linked to everything from metabolic disorders, like obesity and diabetes, to neurodegenerative diseases and cancer (2-4). I’ve personally treated hundreds of patients diagnosed with depression whose bodies were on fire with chronic inflammation. My clinical success rates are so high because I recognize that depression is a symptom, not a disease, and I treat the cause: inflammation.”
The Gut-Brain Connection
Harvard Medical School goes onto explain the gut-brain connection even further.
“Given how closely the gut and brain interact, it becomes easier to understand why you might feel nauseated before giving a presentation, or feel intestinal pain during times of stress. That doesn't mean, however, that functional gastrointestinal conditions are imagined or “all in your head.” Psychology combines with physical factors to cause pain and other bowel symptoms. Psychosocial factors influence the actual physiology of the gut, as well as symptoms. In other words, stress (or depression or other psychological factors) can affect movement and contractions of the GI tract, make inflammation worse, or perhaps make you more susceptible to infection.”
Gut-Brain Connection #1:
Your gut-mind relationship goes two ways.
As we said above, when you feel anxious, you can feel it in your gut, and it can make you run to the bathroom, feel nauseous and stressed out. The other way around rings true as well; when you’re sad or depressed you can find yourself being constipated. So while anxiety and depression can affect our gut health, it’s also proven that our gut health affects and can be the root cause of our anxiety and depression.
Gut-Brain Connection #2
Your gut may affect your personality.
“in another mind-blowing (or should I say gut-blowing?) study, a group at McMaster University used two groups of experimental mice, each bred for certain behavioral characteristics. One strain was more timid and shy—you might even say they were introverts. The other was more sociable and bold—you might call them the extroverts. But not for long. The researchers wiped out all the gut bacteria of both strains of mice with antibiotics, then fed each group with the gut bacteria of the opposite mouse strain. What happened? Behaviorally, they swapped personalities. The shy mice became outgoing, the outgoing mice became shy.”
Gut-Brain Connection #3:
The gut may drive our food choices.
Another excuse to use when we have cravings and can’t seem to stop ourselves? YES PLEASE!!
According to this article, “There’s a theory that your cravings may actually be caused by your gut bacteria. The theory goes like this: when we eat the foods our bacteria want, they produce particles that are small enough to cross the blood-brain barrier, like tyrosine or tryptophan, which, as luck would have it, get converted into dopamine and serotonin in the brain, both of which impact mood and reinforce those food choices.”
How Can Intermittent Fasting Help Improve Gut Health?
We know from a variety of animal and human studies that what we eat, the amount of fats, carbohydrates and proteins, can remodel our guts.
But when we eat can also impact our gut microbiomes, and thus our overall metabolic health. Enter…intermittent fasting!
Studies show reducing or eliminating nighttime eating and prolonging nightly fasting intervals can improve various health parameters, including your gut microbiome.
Among its benefits, fasting gives your overworked gut a break from energy-intensive tasks like digesting and assimilating food.
“Fasting has a positive effect on your insulin levels, which can aid in muscle growth as well as “gut healing.” Emily shared, “Fasting gives your digestive system a break from digesting food, which I found helped me a lot with my sensitive tummy.” She said IF has improved her irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms.”–Emily’s experience with fasting from the article cited above.
Can Changing Your Eating Habits Improve Your Mood?
The reason I say that with confidence, is I’ve helped thousands of women improve their health, lose weight, and go onto become happier humans because of it. When they started taking care of their gut health, their mental health improved. They started looking at the glass half full instead of half empty, and started to LOOK for the positive in every situation.
When your head is clear, you’re having regular bowel movements (let’s be real here), and you have energy, YOU ARE HAPPIER. Will you be perfectly happy all the time? I highly doubt it, because shit happens and we’re bound to be annoyed once in awhile, but you’ll be a hell of a lot more happier than if you didn’t take care of your body.
So my urge to you when thinking about trying intermittent fasting or any type of diet is, do it to be HAPPIER and HEALTHIER. The weight loss will come as a side effect, and you’ll enjoy the journey SO much more if that’s your main reason for making lifestyle changes.
If you need help in this area, my Ditch the Diet course dives DEEP into how to be happier with tons of mindset tools and exercises, and provides applicable and practical tools on how to do intermittent fasting for women and implement tracking macros and flexible dieting. If you have any questions about it, simply email me at firstname.lastname@example.org <3
Megan Yelaney | Life + Business Coach
PS. Be sure to join my next how to do intermittent fasting workshop! Join here.
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