Intermittent Fasting & COVID-19: An MD On Why Now May Be The Time To Try
As the coronavirus turns our world upside down, we're all looking for ways to support ourselves as we hunker down and keep our distance. And one practice we were curious about in the current climate is intermittent fasting (IF), an eating plan that incorporates periods of fasting during certain hours or days.
So to get some expert insight, we got in touch with Jaime Schehr N.D., R.D., an expert in integrative medicine and nutrition. She's a fan of IF herself, but we wanted to know whether now is a good time to try it (particularly if you're currently infected with the coronavirus or exhibiting symptoms).
And according to Schehr, "There are a lot of reasons to consider IF right now as a beneficial practice." Here's why.
It supports immunity.
"We know the research shows fasting actually supports the immune system," Schehr says. It lowers inflammation and gives your body more time to focus on healing rather than digestion.
"There's an old saying: 'Starve a cold, feed a fever,'" she adds, "and while that's not scientific, it's this idea that when we're fighting a cold or a virus, decreasing our intake of foods and increasing our fluids actually works to support the immune system."
Conveniently, there are various ways to do IF, so you can pick the method that works best for you. "Something like IF in a 16:8 plan (eight-hour window for eating with 16 hours of fasting per day) would really help you make better choices about nighttime eating and morning eating," Schehr says. "Additionally, the 5:2 plan (eating only 500 to 600 calories two days of the week) could also support keeping your diet in check while you're at home, make you feel a little better, more energetic."
It can help you manage habits.
Unless your job is still requiring you to go into work, there's a good chance you're spending a lot more time at home. As such, the temptation of the kitchen can be very real.
For that reason, Schehr says IF is a "lifestyle that can really help people pay attention to what they're eating and how much they're eating" and "help them not participate in eating when they're not hungry or when they're bored, stressed, or emotional." (Things we may all be feeling right now!)
Plus, with many of us experiencing reduced activity levels, Schehr adds, "This may actually be a time when fasting is supported because we're expending less energy."
What about those with the coronavirus?
If you're dealing with the coronavirus, keep your focus on staying healthy and strong. Your appetite may decrease, which is normal, but the key is hydration: "whether that's bone broth, or liquids with electrolytes, or water or teas," Schehr says.
Indeed, living under the coronavirus quarantine is uncharted territory for all of us, and the best we can do is try to take care of ourselves and one another during this time. If you've always wanted to try IF and you're feeling well, now could very well be a great opportunity to give it a go. And for more immunity tips, there are also these 12 ways to naturally support immunity.
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Writer, as well as a registered yoga instructor. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.