By now, most of us heard about intermittent fasting (IF) and all of the great benefits it can provide, like weight-loss and fat burning. But, some women worry about trying this protocol due to mis-information about hormone imbalance, infertility and so forth.

In this blog post, we’ll review the details of IF and “how-to” intermittent fast in an incremental manner to see desired benefits while steering clear of potential side-effects.

[This article is written by a woman (Dupi, a mother of 2 in her 40s) for women. Dupi has been fasting since 2013 gradually moving to a 16 by 8 routine. Since 2019, Dupi has extended her fasting periods to 18 by 6 schedule. That being said, it is sound advise to consult a medical professional before making any diet changes.]

Throughout this post, we have provided useful links to our line of  IF-friendly Wellness Teas—feel free to visit our shop page.

Table Of Content

Intermittent Fasting (IF) Basics

IF and Weight-loss (simple-explanation)

Intermittent Fasting | Woman and Hormone Imbalance

3 Facts that Debunk IF & Hormone Imbalance

Overweight and Infertility

Cultural Fasting vs. Modern Day

IF and Menopause

Be Mindful with IF

Women (should not) IF in these situations

Best Tips for Women when Starting IF

Dupi’s 7+ years of IF lessons

Final Thoughts

dupis chai elevate

The Fear Us Woman Face

A woman’s body is biologically different than a man’s, designed for fertility and reproduction with numerous hormones controlling many of the metabolic processes including pregnancy.

Imbalances within endocrine pathways may cause adverse effects that include low energy, weight gain and in rare cases infertility. Such issues make some women apprehensive about trying IF, dwelling on available research and how it affects female’s unique biochemistry.

Confidence that comes with Knowledge

If you’re one of these women, then you came to the right place. In this blog post, I’ll review the details of IF and “how-to” intermittently fast in an incremental manner to see desired benefits while steering clear of potential side-effects.

Intermittent Fasting (IF) Basics

Click here for: Intermittent fasting beginner’s guide

Intermittent fasting is not really a diet but rather an eating schedule, switching between periods of eating (feeding) and not-eating (fasting). It’s like a coin having two sides where we either consume calories and store them predominantly as fat or, fast and burn fat stores to fuel all of the body’s actions and reactions.

The fasting periods are flexible and can be adapted to any lifestyle. Some people prefer fasting at the end of the week (like a 5:2 protocol), others do a 24-hour fast every other day, and some fast specific times each day (also called time-restricted eating). There are strict fasters consuming nothing but water while others allow minimal caloric intake (up to 500 or so). [1]

Fasting is different from starvation. With starvation, we don’t control when we eat, as there’s no food in sight and the next meal is unknown. Fasting is strategically withholding food for specific time—we’re in control of the next meal.

IF and Weight-loss (simple-explanation)

Throughout evolution, our body evolved remarkable ability to produce, maintain and store various forms of energy.

When we eat, the body breaks down food into energy, building materials and other nutrients. The excess calories are stored as body fat (triglycerides) and sugar (glycogen). [3]

Eating food releases insulin hormone into the blood stream. Insulin is the body’s switch that triggers calorie storage—glucose in form of glycogen and triglycerides into fat. [4]

During fasting, insulin levels drop and the process is reversed. The stored calories (fat and glycogen) are broken down to fuel metabolism. [1,3-4]

Glycogen storage is limited and requires water (three parts water for each part of glycogen) making it big and heavy. [5] Thus, much of our energy is stored as fat. Fat is stable, holds twice the energy of sugar, low maintenance and stores easily throughout the body. [6]

Fasting simply triggers the breakdown of energy stores to run body’s activities by predominantly burning fat. [7]

ARISE Chai (Focus & Energy)

Arise Brain Boost Tea box

Flavour: Classic Masala Chai (prominent Cinnamon and Ginger Tea)

Function:  7-Spice Brain Support Blend (1,250 mg spices / teabag)

  • Black Tea promotes blood flow, cognition, focus and attention.
  • Cinnamon improves brain nourishment, boosts cognition.
  • Ginger improves focus, memory, mood and response times.
  • Cardamom reduces anxiety, enhances nerve cell growth and development.
  • Cloves fights brain inflammation, elevates memory and learning.
  • Fennel Seeds decreases oxidative stress, enhances memory and brain function.
  • Black Pepper increases brain cell communication, antidepressant agent.
  • Coriander Seeds calms the brain, improves memory, natural headache remedy.

Intermittent Fasting | Woman and Hormone Imbalance

One of the revolving concerns is how IF can mess up women’s hormones causing all kinds of issues from altered menses, mood swings, low energy, and even possible difficulties in conceiving.

Backstory: our reproductive system is controlled by hypothalamic pituitary gonadal axis (HPG axis), where hypothalamus (in the brain) releases series of hormones creating ovulation conditions including pregnancy. [8,9] The concern is that women’s hormonal pathways are more sensitive to environmental factors which can be negatively impacted during IF.

Facts: to tackle this important subject, we’ve extensively searched the medical research data bases, and found NO HUMAN studies that backed up this concern.

Majority of sites and people take information from two animal papers regarding female’s hormonal imbalances using IF protocols. These studies discuss negative effects on rats that were exposed to every other day of fasting for 12 weeks [10]; and sheep that fasted for 5 days during their reproductive (estrous) cycle [11].

3 Facts that Debunk IF & Hormone Imbalance

1. IF and Calorie-restriction

The first thing we want to mention is that there is a difference between IF and calorie restriction diets. Intermittent fasting can inherently reduce calories, but that is not the goal of these protocols, as meals during an eating window should make you full and satisfied. [12]

Studies that withheld a full day or 5-days worth of nutrients [10,11] likely moved those animals into a calorie restriction territory. Both papers even explain how food restriction can cause fertility issues. Restricting calories can produce semi-starvation states which diverts energy from processes like reproduction to essential functions for survival. [48]

2. The type of Fasting also matters

It’s hard to communicate to an animal, to not worry about food, as it will be available tomorrow or in 5 days time. Not knowing, creates that calorie restriction / semi-starvation environment. By placing animals on a 24-hour and 120-hour fasts likely produced a greater stress response, more than just nutrient restriction. [10,11]

This would not be the case with people, in terms of knowing meal times and fasting protocols. Majority of women often choose a gradual adaptation of a 10-14 hour fasting windows. Such windows remain flexible and adjusted based on personal life schedule and factors, thus reducing stress level on the body, the mind and the endocrine system.

3. Rats and Sheep are not Human

By the end of each experiment, rats ovaries shrunk a bit and sheep had a decrease in ovarian follicles. Like humans, sheep are few of the animals that have a luteal phase. Fasted sheep maintained follicle amounts for majority of the protocol including days 3 and 4. [11] The estrogen levels also varied between studies, increasing in rats, [10] but reducing in sheep. [11]

Another big difference is that many mammals can pause pregnancy due to environmental factors such as extreme temperatures, or scarcity of food. [13] Human females don’t have that option, thus producing a different hormonal response and moving forward with pregnancy.

The exact reproductive mechanism is still unknown, but scientists believe that overall energy balance is an important indicator. Burning more energy than consumed creates a negative energy balance, and vice versa. [14] The energy balance influences HPG axis which coordinates same series of hormones that part take in pregnancy (like: GnRH, LH, FSH, and Kisspeptin). [14]

Energy balance also affects metabolic hormones such as insulin, insulin-like growth factors (IGF-I, and IGF-II), leptin, ghrelin, neuropeptide Y (NPY) and growth hormone (GH)—all important in various reproductive stages. [14]

FORTIFY Chai (Anti-inflammatory)

Fortify Immunity Restore Tea

Flavour: Green Chai (prominent herbal with touch of green tea)

Function:  5-Spice Immunity Support Blend (1,250 mg spices / teabag)

  • Green Tea supports immunity and restorative processes.
  • Tulsi (Holy Basil) fights chronic-inflammation and reduces stress.
  • Turmeric reduces inflammation, improves immune response.
  • Ginger combats oxidative stress, elevates organ and detox systems.
  • Cinnamon reduces allergic reactions, combats inflammation, and boosts immunity.
  • Fennel Seeds decreases allergies and inflammation, reduces infectious bacteria.
  • Black Pepper improves immune system, helps absorption of other powerful ingredients.

Overweight and Infertility

Chronic negative energy balance leads to being underweight and can pose reproductive challenges for both women and men. [15] But, the same is true for being overweight, obese and having too much fat, which has been associated with infertility. [16] Excess weight negatively impacts hormonal balance and reproduction through insulin resistance that can result in polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). [16] PCOS patients produce more kisspeptin (triggering GnRH pulsing and other metabolic hormones). [17] Intermittent fasting balances hormones by lowering kisspeptin levels without compromising others like GABA. [18,22]

Cultural Fasting vs. Modern Day Fasting

Majority of HUMAN studies on female hormones come from the Ramadan style fasting. Ramadan is a holy month within Islamic culture, where Muslims worldwide take part in a spiritual reflection including daily fasts from dawn to sunset. [19] These Ramadan fasting trials shown no changes in women’s hormones—LH, FSH, estrogen (E2), testosterone, and prolactin (PRL). [20] The research also shown that fasting can improve PCOS disorders in women. [21,22]

Interesting Point: Ramadan fast involves night-time eating and day sleep patterns and is the reverse of many standard IF protocols. This opposing schedule can affect circadian rhythm and be an environmental stressor in itself. [21] Women being more sensitive to external factors and disruptions within circadian clock may display changes within their biochemistry including hormones. [23]

Circadian changes may lead to irregular periods, difficulty conceiving and even increased risk of a miscarriage. [23] However, regardless of this circadian awareness, research shows positive adaptation and resilience of women who fasted for 3-days during menstrual cycle and had no negative effects on reproductive hormones (LH, FSH, estrogen or progesterone). [24]

ELEVATE Chai (Digestion & Detox Tea)

Elevate Gut Power Tea

Flavour: Cafe Tea Latte (prominent Star Anise and Nutmeg Tea)

Function:  5-Spice Gut Support Blend (1,250 mg spices / teabag)

    • Black Tea helps weight-loss, improves good gut bacteria.
    • Ginger eases stomach pains, improves digestion.
    • Cinnamon balances blood sugar levels.
    • Cardamom combats harmful bacteria.
    • Nutmeg soothes the gut, enhances digestive processes.
    • Star Anise stops dangerous bacteria.

IF and Menopause

Intermittent fasting can help women who entered menopause and are experiencing symptoms including hot flashes, lower metabolism, changes in mood, muscle loss and weight gain. The weight gain often accumulates as fat around the belly and comes in an unhealthy variety (more bad (LDL) cholesterol and less good (HDL) cholesterol ratio). [22]

IF can effectively help post-menopausal women lose weight and keep it off. [39] Besides weight loss, IF protocols enhance insulin sensitivity leading to better body mass index and metabolism in a healthier way. [39]

Be Mindful with IF

As women, our metabolic and reproductive processes are interlinked making us more sensitive to life factors. This includes fasting, which may negatively impact hormones, creating alert signals that could lead to missed periods, or difficulty conceiving.

That being said, this does not mean that women should never IF. The data simply provides awareness of possible drawbacks that each woman may come across.

Women (should not) IF in these situations

  • Underweight (BMI less than 18.5) or have a history of eating disorders.
  • Pregnant, breastfeeding or struggling to conceive.
  • Have a sleeping disorder, or trouble falling asleep.
  • Dealing with serious medical condition, or taking prescription medication.
  • Dealing with a hormonal disorder.
  • Suffering from chronic stress or fatigue.

Always speak with a doctor about your situation and when trying a new eating plan like IF.

chai teabags product photo

Not all IF-Teas are created equal as many companies shortchange their versions of this traditional drink using flavours and sprays to create the feel without substance.

Health benefits of chai come from wide range of active ingredients found within spices and herbs.

These ingredients possess compounds called polyphenols which are released during the brewing process.

A chai tea with purpose and more benefits must be:

  • High Quality and Quantity of Ingredients: no dust, presses or extracts.
  • More Spices: as most potent superfoods, spices are what give chai its benefits.  
  • No Sugar: #1 ingredient in most chai blends, sugar and/or substitutes have been linked to cascade of health issues and should be avoided.
  • No “natural” or artificial Flavours: majority of Chai tea brands spray their blends with spice essence, flavours and alike rather than adding real ingredients. Cost saving strategy for them and no health benefits for you. 

Best Tips for Women when Starting IF

  • Start small and advance slowly.
  • Keep a food journal and record eating times, food types and meal sizes. Snacks, fruits, veggies, sweets, sodas, alcohol—all go in the book.
  • Begin with a 12-hour fast. This can be structured by simply (1) delaying eating breakfast by about 30 minutes; and (2) eating dinner / last meal a bit earlier by about 30 minutes. So, if you eat breakfast at 7 am, and dinner at 8 pm (11 hour fast); taking 30 minutes off first and last meal seamlessly moves you into a 12 hour fasting window.
  • Soften your workouts while adapting to IF, ensuring gentle transition for your body into the new eating pattern.
  • Drink plenty of water. Teas and coffee are also good options.
  • Eat nutrient-dense meals during eating window.
  • Give it a few weeks, and if things are going well, take off another 30 minutes from each end, moving your fast to 13 hours.
  • Feel free to take a break from IF during menstrual cycle.

Dupi’s 7+ years of IF lessons

Many women worry about constantly being hungry, and the build up of this sensation. But the reality is that it rarely happens. Hunger is one of the mild symptoms of getting used to fasting which often subsides as the day goes on, and weakens as we keep adjusting to the protocol. [40] There are also good portion of people who simply do not feel hungry when fasting. [40]

Studies shown that fasting methods can decrease food cravings, essentially changing our preferences and palatability. [41] Consistent fasting can help us reduce bad eating habits and minimize sweets, treats and processed foods while improving diet quality. [41]

During fasting, many keep themselves busy while drinking zero (or very low) calorie beverages such as water, plain coffee or teas. [42] These drinks do not raise insulin to noticeable levels and keep us in a fat burning zone. [43]

Besides caffeine, coffee and teas further extend benefits with their active ingredients—polyphenols. [42] These natural plant-based ingredients are strong antioxidants that fight inflammation, protect tissues against oxidative stress and enhance body functions.

Like coffee and tea, spices also don’t noticeably increase blood sugar while improving fasting experience through limiting hunger, revving up metabolism and burning fat. [44] Often called superfoods, spices have the highest amount of polyphenols than any other natural product. [44]

At Dupi’s Chai, we combine specific spices with teas into superfood blends containing potent polyphenols that curb hunger and amplify fasting benefits. [44-47] These functional blends are convenient, tasty and diet-flexible.

Final Thoughts

Intermittent fasting is a flexible eating plan allowing periods of eating and resting-and-digesting. Many women of all age groups have successfully adopted IF into their lifestyles. However, being more sensitive to the environment some may experience hormonal changes in a negative way while intermittent fasting.

Each woman is unique, and knowing the information we shared earlier in this post will help you listen to your body and make appropriate decisions. If you’re considering IF, give it a try. Start slow, and allow the body to adjust before expanding the fasting window. Adjust as needed, and in case of any arising issues, take a break from IF or stop altogether.

Disclaimer: consult a medical practitioner before or during fasting protocols. 

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