Dental trend spotlight: Is intermittent fasting right for you?

Have you heard about the intermittent fasting, the new diet trend that’s joined the ranks of keto and other diets? Intermittent fasting, or IF, has quickly become one of the most popular diets in the United States for managing weight and improving health. As many as 10% of Americans who diet practice IF.

A big part of IF’s popularity is its simplicity. What’s not appealing about the possibility of losing weight and getting healthier without having to prepare special meals or count calories? Instead of putting restrictions on what you eat, IF puts restrictions on when you eat. You eat your meals at designated intervals and enough time passes between meals that your body consumes all available calories and starts burning stored fat for energy.

OK, what are the benefits of intermittent fasting?

• If you reduce your calorie intake, you’ll likely lose weight.

• Early studies have shown that IF may reduce inflammation, which potentially decreases the risk of cancer, heart disease and gum disease.

• Some research suggests it may improve memory.

Taken altogether, intermittent fasting may lead to a leaner body, longer life and sharper mind!

Sounds great! Are there any issues to be aware of?

No matter what or when you’re eating, it’s important for both your oral and overall health to maintain a well-balanced diet. That means plenty of fruits, veggies and lean proteins. It’s easy to think, “I’m losing weight, so I can treat myself with some sweets,” but that can just lead to cavities.

Going for longer stretches of time without eating can have its own issues, as well. You may feel hungry or tired, but you may also experience insomnia, nausea, headaches, dry mouth or heartburn. Any of these symptoms can cause oral health issues:

• Insomnia can lead to late-night snacking on unhealthy treats.

• Headaches may be caused by teeth or jaw clenching, which can put pressure on teeth.

• Nausea may lead to throwing up, which can result in your enamel being damaged.

• Dry mouth can lead to greater susceptibility to cavities.

• Heartburn can be a sign of acid reflux, which can also cause enamel damage.

Not eating can also increase your body’s level of cortisol, which is a stress hormone, and may cause issues such as teeth grinding or mouth sores. Finally, fasting can cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), which can be dangerous for people with diabetes.

So is intermittent fasting right for me?

The verdict: Intermittent fasting seems to be an effective way to lose weight, but you should always consult with your physician before starting a new diet. Regardless, eating a well-balanced diet, exercising regularly and getting plenty of sleep are always great steps to take for your health.