Tub Thoughts

Intermittent Fasting

1 year ago by

Intermittent Fasting

I’ve become slightly obsessed with intermittent fasting.

Ok before you start to freak out and get all crazy and tell me I have an eating disorder, let me explain.

For those of you who have been following the site for some time, you know I’ve got some stomach problems. For those of you who haven’t, Hi! My name is Emily and I have gastroparesis.

Ok so what the hell is that?! (Sorry to those of you who know what’s going on and here I go sounding like a broken record…but I promise there’s a point to this.)

Three years ago, after being so sick that I literally couldn’t leave my house for a week, I went through weeks and weeks of testing to see why I felt nauseous all the time and was throwing up regularly. I know, it’s gross. Turns out, my stomach muscles gave up on me and just straight up stopped working. It’s neurological, and has nothing to do with the muscles themselves, which basically means that there’s nothing you can do about it except for “a change in diet and lifestyle.” The funny part about that is I can’t really digest fiber, so my entire diet is now based around easily digestible foods, so basically I eat a ton of carbs, not really any fruit and vegetables and if my heart rate goes up I feel like I’m going to die. I’m pretty much the most un-healthy person on the planet. And unfortunately, probably the most constipated. (No fiber people, you know what that means.)

So for the last 3 years I’ve been experimenting with all kinds of different wellness techniques to help me feel better. I tried food combining (this made Josh miserable), I stopped eating gluten and dairy (which means I had nothing left to eat…I gave up after 1 week), saw a healer (still very into this) and I’ve tried every kind of supplement and vitamin combo under the sun. Nothing really worked, until recently when I decided to give intermittent fasting a try. There’s a lot of info out there about different ways to intermittently fast, but my version of it goes something like this: When I wake up in the morning, I take my vitamins with water, have a cup of black coffee, and then I don’t actually eat anything until around noon or so. Then, I try to stop eating around 8pm. In theory I’d like this to happen more regularly than it does and I’m often having dinner at 9:30 (not by choice, just life). At first I used an app called Zero to track when I started and stopped eating, but it just became pretty natural after the first few days. Having been a regular breakfast eater for a long time, I felt hungry for the first few days by 10am, but soon after I just started to feel normal.

And the biggest win, I started being able to go to the bathroom every. single. day. This is something I haven’t experienced in my life probably ever. I’ve always been envious of those who could go on a regular basis but felt like it was just going to be impossible for me. And not only am I able to poop regularly, but I’m craving much healthier foods when I eat. This is a challenge because I can’t digest the really good stuff, but it’s helped me cut down on the cooking fats and grease and sugary sweets.

When I told Josh I was fasting he started to get crazy. He was worried I was getting weight-loss obsessed for our wedding. And then I explained to him that I was basically just skipping breakfast and didn’t want to eat right before bed. His response: “Oh, that’s just normal for me.”

I’ve been intermittently fasting in this way (there are definitely more extreme ways of doing it, but they just didn’t feel healthy for me to even try) for about 3 months and I’m feeling so much better. I’ve been doing all of this with the support of my doctor and I know it’s not the right fit for everyone, but it’s been life changing for me.

I’d love to know what those of you with digestive problems out there have tried (I know there’s a lot of us! Seems like digestive issues are the new normal?) and what’s worked for you. Let’s talk about it in the comments!

30 comments

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  • I have read in many places that it’s healthier to not eat every day for a good 12 hours. I try, but it’s hard to pull off in late-dinner France, combined with early-morning school bus. Still, I pretty much avoid eating from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. I do it mostly for sleep–I sleep much better if I don’t eat before bed.
    Glad you found something to help you with your stomach woes, especially since it’s non-pharmaceutical.

  • Emily, I am so glad you wrote about this. Ever since the first podcast in which you mentioned gastroparesis, I hoped you would write or talk about it. I suffer from this too. Took years to diagnose, and over the past year, it has very, very slowly gotten a little better due to rules I’ve made — so good that I was able to travel solo for four months from the Middle East to Central Asia for photography (lots of pain, lots of immobility, but I did it and did it with success). I am not going to be trapped by this — and I imagine you and others feel the same. I’m 45, in otherwise exceptional shape, and have a lot to see and experience in the world.

    My thoughts:

    For me, yoga is absolutely critical, so much so that I travel(ed) with a yoga mat despite using only a small suitcase.

    Like you, I find intermittent fasting very useful. I wish I could eat just once a day—that’s the easiest on my body— but I try for 12 hours not eating. Yogurts are a staple.

    It’s best if I eat maybe 1/2cup of food every two hours or so. Life is too complex to keep that up as regularly as I desire, but I found it very helpful to solve constipation.

    I have been able to introduce celery after four years of avoiding fiber and salad (which I loved). It’s better than candy! A sign that something gets better. So, the rule: Test. Keep testing. But gently.

    I really should avoid wine, but it’s one of my great pleasures. I drink it only with my Frenchman, just enough to feel joy.

    I wish you continued advancement. And I would love, love, love, LOVE to hear more about the healer. To even get a name (private email is given). I want to explore more wholistic options.

  • Hi Catherine!

    I’m going to send you an email but thank you SO much for all of this. It’s the worst and I’m so glad to hear that you were able to travel! The travel part always messes me up and I find that I feel much worse after flying long distances and trying to regulate to a new time zone. And I absolutely feel the same. I’m 28 years old–I should be able to enjoy food and not have to obsess over it constantly! To me it’s the absolute worst. I also haven’t had a sip of alcohol in almost 3 years because it made me so sick. My doctor said I should try to reintroduce it, but I’m scared of how sick I’ll feel if it doesn’t go well.

    Going to send you a note and would love to keep talking with you about this! xx

  • So great to hear about it! I’ve been doing I.F quite for a while now and I have to admit that I feel excellent! I give more attention to the quality of my food and I’m being careful on keeping a good programming regarding my meals…. I am usually eating around 8 to 8.30 in the evening and never before 9.30 in the morning….it’s so useful for the digestion system!
    Keep up the good work!

  • Elizabeth May, 31 2018, 4:44 / Reply

    What you’re describing sounds like something I might have. I’ve been kind of experimenting with different foods to see what works best for me, and along with intermittent fasting, kefir and bone broth are daily staples in my diet now. They help a lot!

  • Hey Elizabeth!
    It took them a while to diagnose me. When the symptoms are nausea and vomiting it could be so many things. To get tested for gastroparesis they did a test called a gastric emptying study. May be worth looking into! x

  • Ashley May, 31 2018, 7:07 / Reply

    I’ve developed such terrible gastro issues – started with lactose intolerance and now gluten etc – I’m on the carnivore diet now which is basically just animal products (mostly ribeye steaks, eggs, goat cheese on occasion ) and I feel amazing! look it up- most people freak out because everyone assumes you need some carb for energy but it’s a high fat diet – your body adapts to running on fat- it’s amazing albeit a bit dull (but dull seems to be perfectly fine as long as your gut isn’t betraying you at every meal). I’ve really had so much success with it and not at all constipated! turns out you don’t really need fiber if you’re only eating meat and fats because the nutrients all get absorbed rather than excreted. and I end up naturally doing intermittent fasting because you get full quickly with a lot of fat and protein and it’s so lasting throughout the day :)

  • Super interesting! I will definitely look into it! Thanks for the tip Ashley. xx

  • Nancy V. June, 1 2018, 5:02 / Reply

    I have been doing intermittent fasting and it has helped a lot to many health problems I used to have like acne e.t.c.

  • Kirsty June, 1 2018, 5:38 / Reply

    I have gastroparesis and IF has helped with my symptoms too. I fast a little longer, for 15 to 16 hours per day. I eat between 7.30am and around 4pm each day. I go straight to the gym after work and not eating after the gym has helped a lot with reflux. Eating this way has also cut out snacking and after dinner chocolate, which has helped me manage my weight. I’m glad it’s working for you!

  • Glad to hear it’s helping someone else too! I found that if I did any sort of cardio (Even light cardio) and then tried to eat afterwards it was a disaster. Right now I’m sticking to pilates but am trying to find gradual ways of getting my heart rate up. Cutting out the late night sweets is also great and agree it’s helped with my weight too! x

  • Veronica June, 1 2018, 9:43 / Reply

    What a challenging condition to live with! Just wondering, have you tried acupuncture? My acupuncturist has a special interest in neurological conditions and gets great results for her patients, who have all kinds of problems. She says that acupuncture can help create new neurological pathways, so it might help get your system moving again. She uses a laser pen for an extra boost. I’d give you her details, but she’s in the UK so it’s a bit far to travel, but there must be specialist acupuncturists in NYC… Good luck.

  • Hi Veronica!

    I have! And I loved it. My problem was that it was too expensive to keep up on a regular basis. Perhaps I need to find another one who’s a bit more affordable! Thanks for your well wishes.
    xx Emily

  • Sherine June, 1 2018, 12:06 / Reply

    This is why I love the Internet. It makes me super emotional reading about experiences similar to mine that, had it not been for the global village that is the World Wide Web, I would have thought was a problem only I had. I too have your exact same problem, Emily, and I too have been doing IF for the past YEAR now, and it has made me so much better. Not only am I able to digest my food better, and not only do I, like yourself, now crave healthier food and full meals (my digestion was so non-existent that I could not eat a full meal, just a bunch of small ones, but even that was a problem because then I didn’t give time to my already slow digestive system to do its turtle-paced job), but I now also have so much more energy due to what I believe is my body using itself for fuel, rather than relying on the incoming meals. Food is what I use to fill myself up with natural minerals and vitamins and all the good healthy stuff; I am building reserves of health rather than temporary fuel for my body. Does that make sense? I can also eat whatever I want, though now my body naturally eats in moderation, and due to that it has balanced my body to a very healthy weight. Giving your body the authority rather than being its master makes it work the way its supposed to. Whereas before I used to feed it three times a day just because that’s the way everyone ate even though it was begging me not to, now I feed it once very, very well, with a very light follow up salad and a yoghurt right before my cut-off time. It thanks me by digesting at its own pace and burning my reserve fats (which everyone has regardless of weight) for energy. The cycle of the body functions properly. I agree that it’s not for everyone because I belive that everyone’s body functions very, very differently, but I also agree that this was a heaven-sent solution for me and my body with all its problems. Thank you for sharing, Emily. Love from Egypt (where we are now, coincidentally, fasting ?).

  • Magali June, 1 2018, 12:30 / Reply

    J’ai testé il y a un an et je ne pourrais plus m en passer !

  • Hi!
    Glad to hear you feel better!
    I do this for around half a year now. Not super strict, but I basically try not to eat for at least 12h, preferable 15h.
    I have an illness as well, it’s called colitis ulcerosa, and comes with cramps and blood. It got really bad when I was 18, since then I am constantly looking to find ways of balancing life and stomach (it’s been 17 years now). This way of fasting helps me a lot. A doctor explained to me that only after taking care of food the body can really take care of the rest like healing etc…
    It’s only one part of my constant try to balance, but it became stable.

    All the best for your body, love & happiness!

  • Angela June, 1 2018, 2:34 / Reply

    I started to fast accidentally when I was at University, I realised that when I was short of cash, I would rather have one meal a day than worry about what I would eat throughout the day. Fast forward a few decades, I now feel and look fitter and look and am healthier than many of my peers. I have for a long time questioned why it is that so many go without while the rest if us have a surplus of food. Now I have a glass of hot water, raw organic cider vinegar & raw organic honey each morning. At 12.00 noon, I have a chopped cored apple, then a healthy meal in the evening, often soup. I avoid eating after 20:00 and have done so for years. I do a stretch yoga routine for ten minutes each morning and again before I go to bed at around 10:00 pm. I walk my dachshund Harry each day, through the woods in the park anywhere green and beautiful, and try to use my static bike each day. I never beat myself up if I skip any of this. Above all, I have a routine that fits into my life the results are life changing.

  • Hi Emily!
    Because your digestive issues are neurological, functional neurology could be really helpful. Functional neurologists are usually chiropractors trained to do a special assessment to see where your brain and nervous system aren’t working correctly (including brain-to-gut signaling) and they prescribe simple exercises that work on the areas you need help with. You can check the Institute for Functional Neurology’s website to find a practitioner. I don’t know if you’re in LA or NY, but Joe Smith at Atlas Health in LA is fab.

    Side note: vagus nerve stimulating exercises might be helpful in your case. Things like deep diaphragm breathing, singing at the top of your lungs, gargling until your eyes water, and using a toothbrush or tongue depressor to gently induce eye-watering gagging (but NOT puking) all stimulate the vagus nerve, which carries signals from your brain down to your GI tract. It also induces a relaxing parasympathetic response, which can help with the high heart rate. When the heart rate shoots up, it’s usually a sympathetic fight-or-flight thing going on from the brain sending the wrong signals. :)

  • Johanna June, 2 2018, 6:51 / Reply

    Hi Emily, I’ve suffered from IBS for as long as I can remember and as anyone with a digestive disorder knows and no one else can ever really understand, it rules your life. I have never not experienced bloating, pain, nausea, cramps, constipation or varying degrees of diarrhoea. Like you I have tried everything under the sun. For me it’s carbs and dairy that seem to trigger it the most. So, I have largely cut those out and I now eat a mostly plant based diet and have introduced a lot of different fats for energy (avocado, oils, nuts, seeds, eggs), which are also very beneficial for your gut and digestive tract (as well as your brain, so win-win ;) And I eat small meals but often, rather than two or three big meals, so as to not overwhelm my stomach. This means I always have to carry food, as I need to eat every two to three hours, but it is really worth the extra effort!
    I have also introduced intermittent fasting a few months ago and I have to say it really changed my life. I do it over night and make sure not to eat for 12-15 hours between dinner and breakfast. The combination of all of this has had a really big impact and while I do still get symptoms from time to time, I am a lot more relaxed about it and just accept it as part of me and my make-up but I am not going to let it rule my life and I find that this attitude also makes a difference, as IBS is more of a mental than a physical disorder.
    I don’t know so much about gastroparesis and I am sure you have tried and heard this before, so sorry for another helpful tip from someone who doesn’t actually understand what you are dealing with, but have you tried raw juices? The majority of the fiber sits in the skin and flesh, so with slow juicing the juice is being released, while the skin and flesh are being discarded. This might be a way to still get the nutritional benefits from fruits and veg, without the fiber?

  • I’ve suffered with same for the past several years.
    Acupuncture for a year helped with headaches and allergies but my GI symptoms are another story.
    I don’t eat fiber either and would likely sell my soul for a salad at this point.
    Training my “gastrocolic reflex” took a few years but now I run straight to the bathroom after coffee and toast in the a.m. Every a.m.
    The life changer for me has been a product called “Oxy Powder,” available online. It has none of the side effects of the laxatives or constipation meds prescribed by my Gastroenterologist.
    The product contains ozonated magnesium and has allowed me to occasionally eat (almost) whatever I like, knowing I can gently flush my intestines as needed later. Knowing I have that tool has been a stress reliever, especially when travelling. No side effects and much of the time I don’t actually need to take the stuff. Great backstop, though. (Sorry for the pun!)
    Work on the neuro issues if you can and be patient. Some believe slowed GI function is the body’s way of conserving energy when it’s exhausted… are you?
    See “Adrenal Fatigue.”
    You might like Dr. Mark Pimental’s books and tips. He’s at Cedars-Sinai in CA Doesn’t Garance live out there? ;-)
    Get some Oxy Powder so you can eat and keep some baking soda tablets in your purse.
    Never give up.
    Wishing you well.
    C.

  • Does anyone else have lymphocytic colitis (or microscopic colitis)? It can be diagnosed only by biopsies taken during a colonoscopy. Its an autoimmune condition that attacks the lower bowel resulting in uncontrollable diarrhea. Low-dose corticosteroid (endocort) controls it for me and intermittent fasting (16/8), which I’ve been doing for several months, makes me feel so much better. So glad I discovered it.

  • Anonymous June, 8 2018, 7:21 / Reply

    Yes! I was diagnosed with lymphocytic colitis a couple of years ago, in my mid-50s. I got a prescription for the steroids and picked them up at the pharmacy but never used them – so can’t comment on that. I do believe probiotics (in the form of kombucha, kimchee, and natural sauerkraut) have helped me significantly. What seems to trigger terrible bouts for me is a period where I am not sleeping well – fewer than 6 hours. I will try the intermittent fasting to see if that’s the silver bullet.

  • Hi Emily, When I arrived at a commune in Berkeley California in 1969, fresh from the totally unconscious eating of being a college student willing to put anything in my mouth, one of the first things I learned is that “you are what you eat” – the people I was living with were all about fresh squoze juice (their spelling not mine) – sprouts, tofu, whole wheat etc. At first it blew my mind that they even cared. But I soon embraced this idea that how you feel is influenced by what you eat and drink. Perhaps I was more sensitive to the link between food and feeling because I grew up with dietary restrictions that stemmed from my religion. Even though we were following the rituals somewhat mindlessly, it planted the notion that there is a spiritual component to eating. Over the years I’ve tried a whole slew of variations, but the key principle of trying to maintain conscious awareness about the influence of what you put into your mouth has stayed with me ever since.

  • Thank you for the great article! I would agree that one of the greatest benefits of intermittent fasting is how it helps your body self-regulate. Fasting helps your body run more efficiently, allowing you to gain more energy from your food, and make the most from your day!

  • Thanks for sharing the article. this article is very helpful.

  • Hi,
    Im so glad to have found your post about gastroparsis and IF. I have had gastroparsis for about 6 years and in the last two years I have been less chronically sick so I started to think I could eat more but that just led to a heap of different symptoms! I stopped being sick after every meal (I think due to anti anxiety Meds) but then I got terrible bloating, lethargy, gas, stomach pains etc it was just like a whole new set of problems! Anyway, I eventually started IF and i feel amazing. I am doing 16 hour fast with 8 hours eating window but sometimes I extend the fast depending on how I feel. I have so much more energy and clarity! I try not to eat after 5pm because I go to bed quite early and my digestion time is so slow. The only problem i face is a complete lack of understanding from friends and family. People have no idea what having gastroparsis feels like as it is such a hidden illness so people can’t understand why this is a sensible solution. It feels quite a lonley place to be! I hope posting this makes sense to someone else and validates your your journey! ??

  • I do 5/2 (500-600 calories on my 2 fast days).
    I’ve been in peri-menopause hitting menopause super strong about a year ago. Suddenly I gained about 10 pounds that I could not lose even with exercise. IM has helped me shed those extra lbs.

    Also, I have Gerd, a relaxed LES (which I’m using supps to strengthen), esophagitis (minor) and most recently was diagnosed with gasteroparesis. I think, I’ve had an issue with that my entire life. I’ve never liked meat because it would sit in my stomach for what felt like FOREVER.

    At any rate, I can’t say that IM has helped me with gasteroparesis. It has helped me actually get my stomach empty – which is a sort of painful pleasure – only because I feel constantly bloated.

    I think the real issues causing my gasteroparesis AND therefore GERD is that I have always held my stress (good and bad – anger/excitement) in my gut. And I have put my gut into perpetual fight/flight mode – so it has somewhat nearly shut down.

    I’m on my journey now back to health and wholeness.
    Denise

  • Suzzett May, 12 2019, 4:04 / Reply

    I just decided to go back on intermittent fasting. I lost 120 pounds last year on it but I still have 30 more to lose. I started wondering about my digestive issues and to my shock and delight I found this page. See, I have gastroparesis very severely and I usually feel like I’m the only one in the world with it. I tend to have a lot of nausea and pain when I eat so honestly this is the best eating option for me. Thanks for sharing your story.

  • Ivette May, 23 2019, 6:49 / Reply

    I have gasteoparisis, ibs and a few other health issues. I was eating healthy to loose weight and was doing well then kep getting sick and that’s when they identified I had gasteoparesis. Carbs are the things I process the easiest I can’t have fiber, wheat and I can’t have dairy daily either due to a dairy intolerance. Basically nothing healthy. I have to eat small meals or I won’t be able to hold it down. Intermittent fasting sounds like something I would like to try but what do you eat? And what has it done to your weight. I’m looking for a way to eat and not be sick or in pain from but also loose weight.

  • Michelle June, 25 2019, 10:57 / Reply

    I was diagnosed with GP about eight years ago which led to a ton of other issues. I do definitely prefer an IF approach to eating. Here are things that have been game changers for me. I drink a cup of hot lemon ginger water first thing. No caffeine in the mornings because it will have an adverse reaction to my stomach trying to wake up. Both lemon and ginger are excellent for digestion and hot beverages are more soothing to your stomach. I sometimes repeat this at lunch and bedtime (lemon only then). I take a micronutrient vitamin to replenish my nutrition and for brain health. I take full spectrum hemp oil which helps literally everything. I suffer from chronic fatigue with my GP so this really helps with the aches, pains and inflammation related to that. I take a probiotic that is double encapsulated so if (when) my stomach is slow to empty then it will not dissolve until it actually reaches the colon where the probiotic belongs. Though I do still struggle with GP, I have way more good days than bad days as long as I stick to this regimen. And I am off ten prescription medications, including the one for GP.

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