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Intermittent fasting can affect your mind too: Beware of the psychological effects

Intermittent fasting can affect your mind too: Beware of the psychological effects
Intermittent fasting involves cycling between periods of eating and fasting. ©Shutterstock

Thinking of giving intermittent fasting a try? Studies say it can affect not just the body but mind too. Read to know the psychological effects of this popular weight loss diet.

Written by Longjam Dineshwori |Updated : July 17, 2020 9:10 AM IST

Intermittent fasting has gained immense popularity as a dieting style in recent years. Some studies have also confirmed it is an effective weight-loss method. It is also one of the most popular diet trends among Hollywood and Bollywood stars. Celebrities like Jennifer Aniston, Scarlett Johansson, Kourtney Kardashian, Hugh Jackman, and Justin Theroux have revealed that they swear by intermittent fasting to lose weight and stay healthy.

The diet has been linked to several benefits from weight loss, increased energy levels, improved metabolism, reduced bloating, and better gut health to decreased inflammation.

Are you planning to give it a try? Wait. Before you decide to go on intermittent fasting, be aware of its side effects too.

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Psychological effects of intermittent fasting

Initially, your body may find it difficult to adjust to extreme changes. When you suddenly stop eating for long periods of time, you're likely to experience some common side effects like hunger, cravings, headaches, low energy, irritability, overeating, heartburn, etc. The proponents of the diet say these symptoms generally only last a week, and over time it becomes natural and healthy. But some argue that intermittent fasting not only affects the body but can mind too. They say intermittent fasting can cause psychological issues like -

Mood swings

People tend to become more aggressive when they are hungry, this is caused by a hormone called neuropeptide Y. So, if your stomach remains empty for hours, you're likely to feel irritated or angry. Mood swings may be common during the initial days of intermittent fasting.

Stress

Restricted dietary intake can cause your body to release more stress hormones called cortisol, which can make you feel anxious and stressed.

Tiredness

Some studies claim that intermittent fasting can cause problems with sleep. A study published in the Journal Nature and Science of Sleep suggested that the rise in cortisol and insulin levels while fasting can lead to a decrease in the amount of REM sleep (the deep sleep where the body recovers). An empty stomach can also make it difficult for you to sleep and insufficient sleep can take a toll on your mental health.

Loneliness

When you restrict your meal timings, you are likely to miss out on social gatherings that involve food. This can lead to a feeling of social isolation and loneliness, says the American Psychological Association.

Impulsive behaviors

Some research says staying away from food for a long period of time can make you more impulsive and take short-term decisions. Fasting for too long can lessen the amount of feel-good hormone in the brain and make you impulsive, say experts. But a study published in the Journal of Research Studies in Bioscience revealed that intermittent fasting increases the level of neurotransmitters and helps boost learning and memory.

Intermittent fasting is not for everyone

Intermittent fasting can be risky for people with diabetes, pregnant women, nursing mothers, pregnant, or anyone with a history of or risk for developing eating disorders. Fasting for too long can lead to a decrease in blood sugar levels, which is not good for diabetics. Children also should not practice intermittent fasting.

If you experience dizziness or you're not able to keep up with your responsibilities, or you develop an unhealthy obsession with food- It's time to reconsider your decision. You may need to cut your fast short or stop fasting altogether. But it's always a good idea to consult your doctor.