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The best way to explain how I use intermittent fasting is to explain the difference between two very trendy words:
Fasting and Detoxifying
Detoxifying involves removing wastes, chemicals and other icky stuff from our bodies. We have a liver and kidneys to help us with this process but I won’t get into the scientific mumbo jumbo because it will put you to sleep.
Fasting is not eating food, or drastically restricting calories, for a specified length of time. When we fast our bodies are forced to use some of our fat stores for energy. Technically, we all fast every night when we sleep.
I have been using intermittent fasting for close to two years now.
Right about now you are thinking, “Does intermittent fasting help with ADHD symptoms?”
I promise I will get to the answer to that question, try to be patient with me.
My version of fasting is combined with detoxification because well…I am all about killing two birds with one stone.
The system I use for IF and detoxification is called Isagenix. At the center of the Isagenix program is a nutrient dense beverage called Cleanse for Life that is designed to aid your body in the detoxification process. Fans if Isagenix refer to fasting as “cleansing.” (Look at me throwing out another buzzword!)
In simple terms, I don’t eat for one day out of each week. I drink Cleanse for Life, and nibble on certain snacks throughout the day. My caloric intake is right around 500 calories on the days I am cleansing.
[bctt tweet=”For me IF not simply a means to control my weight. Intermittent fasting is my secret weapon for dealing with ADHD.” username=”HealthyADHD”]
Specifically, IF helps me to deal with symptoms such as binge eating, daydreaming, poor motivation, and brain fog. There is a growing body of evidence that my personal success is not an isolated example.
Scientific Research On Intermittent Fasting
If the research is any indication, IF is earning some respect in both the medical and fitness communities. I didn’t have to look far to find some promising articles.
An article in The British Journal of Diabetes and Vascular Disease reported “evidence that IF increases longevity, improves health and reduces diseases…including cancer, neurological disorders and sleep disorders.” Source
This same article noted that people who were trying to lose weight actually lost more weight with IF than with traditional calorie restriction diets.
There is also evidence that during Ramadan, when Muslims traditionally fast, fasting blood glucose decreases, as does blood pressure and blood lipids. This is a huge deal if we consider that a large portion of our population are living with chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
I found another interesting article Here
This study showed that prolonged fasting increased stem cell production while mitigating some of the negative toxic effects of chemotherapy in mice and humans.
There are a lot of big scary words in this second article, so I will refrain from posting any quotes.
Basically, the results indicate that fasting promotes the production of good cells in our bodies, the ones we want to reproduce. (Whereas with cancer we do not want them to reproduce.)
The Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
According to Prevention Magazine benefits to an intermittent fasting protocol include the ability to lose fat while keeping muscle, better sugar metabolism, and protection for your brain and your heart. Source
I can assure you that I have been able to maintain my muscle mass while practicing this type of lifestyle. This is important because women start to lose muscle and bone mass after age 30. Even more interesting is that I haven’t lost all that much weight on a scale.
But get this – my thighs are both roughly 2 inches smaller than when I started. My waist measurements have decreased by about an inch. Virtually every part of my body is measurably smaller, and I have muscle definition that I have never had before.
I am not a happy girl if I cannot wear my favorite jeans. That’s the truth.
I have had my blood work done once per year for the last several years because I have a family history of diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. My blood lipids and blood sugar have been excellent. For that reason my primary care physician has no complaints about intermittent fasting.
Another side effect I have enjoyed is a modified appetite. Actually, reduced is not completely accurate. My tastes and sense of satiety have changed since I started cleansing on a regular basis.
I went to a birthday party the other day and there was pizza. For some reason it just didn’t appeal to me. I ate a few strawberries and I was good to go. I didn’t eat the cake, either.
[bctt tweet=”Retraining my brain through IF didn’t happen all at once, but it did feel like a natural progression.” username=”HealthyADHD”]
These days I eat lean proteins and a ton of plant-based foods. I am more satisfied than I have ever been in my life. And yes, I still drink wine.
Intermittent Fasting For Attention and Concentration
I found an article on Collective Evolution that includes a video. Here
I was happy to find some information to back-up my own anecdotal evidence. While I do not necessarily buy into the idea that big pharma is hiding evidence, in the article there is an nice quote I thought I would include here:
“Challenges to your brain, whether it’s intermittent fasting [or] vigorous exercise . . . are cognitive challenges. When this happens neuro-circuits are activated, levels of neurotrophic factors increase, that promotes the growth of neurons [and] the formation and strengthening of synapses. . . .”
If something is good for my brain, and has the potential to improve my memory and cognition, I am all over it.
In my experience, these are the cognitive benefits of fasting (cleansing):
Improved oral and written communication
Decreased brain fog
Increased energy and motivation
Heightened creativity and “out of the box” thinking
The Bottom Line
Intermittent Fasting is certainly not for everyone. It is not easy, and it is not a quick fix for weight loss. This is a major lifestyle change and should be viewed as a commitment.
Any weight loss you experience is more of a pleasant side effect.
A large percentage of the research on IF has been conducted using animals. It’s not easy to get a bunch of people to volunteer to go without food so human studies are lacking. Source
The reality is, most of us eat too much anyway. So studying intermittent fasting is “comparing overeating and under eating.” Most calorie-controlled experiments, if done consistently, will show results. Not just intermittent fasting.
The problem for someone with ADHD is that any kind of traditional “diet” will not retrain your brain. If anything, traditional diets increase the likelihood of impulsive eating and black and white thinking.
So, does IF help with the symptoms of ADHD?
The simple answer is YES.
There documented changes in appetite, food preferences, and behaviors in those who use IF. Regular dieting does not appear to produce the same effect.
Interested in more detailed information about how I prefer to handle a cleanse day?
I have prepared a couple infographics for your reference. The first is my IF Fast Facts Sheet, the second is my Example Cleanse Day download. Click on the image below to get both.
Here are some Amazon links to the Isagenix products I use most often. I give you all the nitty gritty details about how much/how often in the downloads above. For my full disclosure policy Click Here
Have you ever tried intermittent fasting?
Would you try it if you thought it might improve your attention and concentration?