What You Need To Know About Intermittent Fasting And Hypoglycemia

intermittent fasting and hypoglycemia

Last Updated on November 3, 2022 by Lori Geurin

A few years ago, I started having symptoms of hypoglycemia. I was always tired, had brain fog, and felt shaky if I didn’t eat every few hours. My doctor ran some tests, and I was diagnosed with severe reactive hypoglycemia. She told me to learn about intermittent fasting because she thought it could help me regulate my blood sugar levels.

I was initially hesitant, but after doing some research, I decided to try it. Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern where you cycle between periods of fasting and eating. It can be used for weight loss, health improvement, or simply as a way of life.

I soon discovered how much I loved living the intermittent fasting lifestyle. It has helped me regulate my blood sugars, get to a healthy weight, and feel more energized and clearheaded than ever before.

If you’re considering intermittent fasting but are worried about hypoglycemia, here’s what you need to know.

Since I wrote How Intermittent Fasting Cured My Hypoglycemia, I’ve received many emails and questions. There are so many people dealing with this issue right now. This article will hopefully help answer the top questions I get about intermittent fasting (IF) and reactive hypoglycemia:

  • Can you do intermittent fasting if you have reactive hypoglycemia?
  • If so, how do you do IF when you have hypoglycemia?

The short answer is very gradually and carefully, under the supervision of a healthcare professional.

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But joking aside, anyone with reactive hypoglycemia (low blood sugars that occur after a meal) will tell you that you cannot go long without food. If you do, you may have troublesome and severe symptoms like the ones listed below.

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Symptoms Of Reactive Hypoglycemia

  • Dizziness
  • Light-headedness
  • Blurry vision
  • Heart palpitations
  • Sweating
  • Confusion
  • Cravings for sweets
  • Insomnia
  • Vomiting
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Pale skin
  • Tremors
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Depression
  • Fainting spells
  • Irritability
  • Disorientation
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Coma, in severe untreated cases

If you’re dealing with any of the symptoms above, you’ll likely relate to this next section.


Why I Started Intermittent Fasting

Initially, my doctor recommended I try IF. Because I have chronic Lyme disease and other chronic health issues, my case is more complex than some. And less complex than others.

What’s great about this is that IF has helped improve my health, and I’ve seen it do the same for many others. Plus, it’s one of the most effective ways to lose weight and keep it off. So if you’re searching for a weight loss plan, I highly recommend it.

Related: How To Lose Weight Faster: 18 Proven Weight Loss Tips

After having four children within six years (and breastfeeding them all), I’m familiar with the weight loss yo-yo. IF has helped me lose 30 pounds and keep it off over the past few years.

But now, on to the question so many of you are asking about…

Can You Do Intermittent Fasting With Hypoglycemia?

My first suggestion is to make sure and talk to your doctor about whether IF is right for you. I’m not a doctor, and I don’t give medical advice. I only share what has worked for me based on my personal experience.

Note that if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, or have disordered eating, then IF is not advised.

In the beginning, I started very gradually stretching out the time between meals. 

Each day I’d try to go 15 to 30 minutes longer than the day before, and before I knew it, my body had adjusted, and I was fasting for 16 hours straight with minimal hunger.

There were a few days in the beginning when I didn’t feel great and was shaky. My approach was not to “tough it out” but eat a little healthy, whole food when I felt shaky.

Self-denial is not your friend here. I didn’t deprive myself, and I believe this helped me transition more smoothly.

I’m sure you’re aware that sugar is bad for your health. But when dealing with hypoglycemia, it’s crucial to eliminate sugar from your diet. In addition, it’s helpful to eat plenty of protein and healthy fats.

Now let’s take a look at how the timing played out.

Intermittent Fasting Schedule Example 16 8

Here is a rough example of my eating/fasting program in the beginning days:
Day 1: Breakfast at 8:30 am. Lunch at 12 pm. Dinner at 5 pm. Snack at 8 pm. 
Day 2: Breakfast at 9:00 am. Lunch at 12:30 pm. Dinner at 5 pm. Snack at 8 pm.
Day 3: Breakfast at 9:30 am. Lunch at 1:00 pm. Dinner at 5:30 pm. Snack at 8 pm.
Day 4: Breakfast at 10:00 am. Lunch at 1 pm. Dinner at 5:30 pm. Snack at 8 pm.
Day 5: Breakfast at 10:30 am. Lunch at 1 pm. Dinner at 5:30 pm. Snack at 8 pm. 
Day 6. Brunch at 11 am. Afternoon snack at 2 pm. Dinner at 5:30 pm. Snack at 8 pm.

As you can see, a sort of transition happened around here. I eventually phased out breakfast completely (except for my healthy coffee. In the beginning, I was dirty fasting, but have transitioned to doing more clean fasting because it’s much more effective. You can read about that in What Is Clean Fasting And How Does It Work?).

I would have a light lunch, dinner, and light snack before bed or dinner and a snack before bed…depending on the day.

After setting this 16:8 schedule, I stayed with it for months. (A16:8 is when you fast for 16 hours and eat for 8 hours.)

Don’t forget that fasting is highly individualized. My schedule works great for me but might not for you. So adjust the timing to fit your lifestyle and your body’s needs.

RELATED: Intermittent Fasting Plateau: 9 Tips To Boost Your Weight Loss

Feeling Better With Fasting

It has been exciting realizing the gradual improvements in how I’ve felt and my leaner body composition.

In truth, I didn’t feel great for the first week or so of fasting. But I didn’t feel worse than usual, and I could tell my body was adjusting to the new eating schedule.

I had fewer weak spells and hypoglycemic symptoms by the end of the first week, which encouraged me to continue.

After the first couple of weeks, I saw sustained improvements. Then as the months went by, I continued to feel better until I wasn’t having any hypoglycemia symptoms and rarely felt hungry because I became fat-adapted (keto helped with this), and my body composition had changed.

Eventually, the relentless cravings for sweets and the disturbing symptoms of hypoglycemia became a thing of the past.

Related: Keto Diet Basics: What To Eat And What Not To Eat

IF Progress Update

Most days, I do 16:8 or 18:6, and often alternate fasting days. (There are occasional acceptions.) The 18:6, as I’m sure you can guess, is when you fast for 18 hours and eat for 6 hours.

Some weeks (especially following a holiday or vacation when I’ve indulged in rich foods), I do a 24-hour fast. So these days might look something like this: 

Day 7: Lunch at 2 pm. Dinner at 6 pm. Snack at 8 pm. or 
Day 8: Dinner at 5 pm. Snack at 8 pm. 

I’ve also done some extended 36-hour fasts for the added autophagy benefits, like improved immune health.

Low Blood Sugar and Intermittent Fasting Interventions

The biggest concern with IF and hypoglycemia is that blood sugar may drop too low during the fasting periods. For some people with hypoglycemia, this can trigger symptoms like fatigue, brain fog, shakiness, and irritability.

To avoid this, it’s essential to take things slowly at first and closely monitor blood glucose sugar levels. I recommend working with a healthcare professional familiar with IF and hypoglycemia to help you customize an approach that works for you.

Here are some general tips to get started:

1. Start with shorter fasting periods.

If you’re new to IF, start with shorter fasting periods and gradually increase the time you fast as you become more comfortable with it. For example, start with 12 hours of fasting (circadian rhythm fasting) followed by 12 hours of feeding (or eating). Then, you can increase the fasting period to 16 hours after a few weeks or months.

2. Eat low-glycemic foods.

When you do eat, focus on low-glycemic foods that won’t spike blood sugar levels. This includes plenty of non-starchy vegetables, high-fiber fruits, high-quality protein sources, and healthy fats.

3. Avoid processed foods.

Processed foods are high in sugar and other ingredients that can trigger reactive hypoglycemia. So, it’s best to avoid them altogether.

4. Monitor blood sugar levels.

It’s essential to monitor blood sugar levels closely when doing IF, especially in the beginning. This can help you gauge how your body responds and make necessary adjustments.

5. Drink plenty of water.

Staying hydrated is vital for everyone, but it’s imperative when doing IF. This helps to prevent dehydration, which can make hypoglycemia symptoms worse.

RELATED: Intermittent Fasting and Fatigue

6. Get enough sleep.

Exercise can help to regulate blood sugar levels, improve cardiovascular health and boost energy levels. When you first start fasting, you may find it helpful to eat a small snack before exercising. This can help to prevent blood sugar from dropping dangerously low during or after your workout. Later on, you may discover that you feel incredible working out in a fasting state (not to mention the benefits!).

7. Exercise regularly.

Exercise can help to regulate blood sugar levels, improve cardiovascular health and boost energy levels. When you first start fasting, you may find it helpful to eat a small snack before exercising. This can help to prevent blood sugar from dropping dangerously low during or after your workout. Later on, you may discover that you feel incredible working out in a fasting state (not to mention the benefits!).

8. Stress less.

Stress can wreak havoc on blood sugar levels, so it’s crucial to find ways to manage stress effectively. This might include yoga, meditation, deep breathing, or other relaxation techniques.

These tips can help prevent blood sugar from dropping too low during fasting periods. As you become more comfortable with IF, you can slowly increase the length of your fasts.

If you feel lightheaded, shaky, or irritable at any point, stop fasting and eat a small snack or meal to raise blood sugar levels.

How Intermittent Fasting Helps With Basal Insulin Sensitivity

Insulin resistance is a big problem for many people today. It’s a major contributing factor to conditions like type 2 diabetes, PCOS, and metabolic syndrome.

Intermittent fasting can be a helpful tool for improving insulin sensitivity. By allowing the body to rest from digesting food, intermittent fasting gives the digestive system a much-needed break. This can help reduce inflammation and improve gut health, which are essential for proper insulin function.

In addition, intermittent fasting can help to promote weight loss. Carrying around excess weight is a significant contributor to insulin resistance. So, by losing weight, you can help to improve insulin sensitivity and lower your risk of developing diabetes or other conditions.

If you’re interested in trying intermittent fasting, talk to your doctor first, especially if you have hypoglycemia or any other medical condition. They can help you create a plan that’s safe and right for you.

Learn how to do intermittent fasting if you have reactive hypoglycemia. Find out how fasting cured my hypoglycemia and get healthy and lean.

Final Thoughts – Intermittent Fasting And Hypoglycemia

If you’re tired of dealing with hypoglycemia and your doctor believes you would benefit from intermittent fasting, I highly encourage you to try it.

If you decide to try it, my best advice is to be patient and give it time. Remember that your body is going through many changes. Be gentle and kind to yourself, and don’t force anything to happen before it’s time. IF is a process, and you’re most likely to have long-term success if you take it gradually.

The health benefits of fasting are certainly worth looking into. If you have questions, I’m here for you and happy to help!

Have you been diagnosed with reactive hypoglycemia? Have you tried intermittent fasting, and if so, what results have you noticed?

Get the conversation started below – I’d love to hear from you!

10 thoughts on “What You Need To Know About Intermittent Fasting And Hypoglycemia”

    1. Yes, the symptoms could be caused by something else but they definitely sound like they could be caused by hypoglycemia . Good call, Leigh! I’d love to know what you find out.

  1. I have hypoglycemia and have to snack a lot or I get so shaky and dizzy. I havent done intermittent fasting but I have done a month fast with just liquids. That was pretty rough! Maybe intermittent would be better for me and so hard on the body.

    1. Hey Amber, So sorry to hear that you’re dealing with hypoglycemia. I used to feel just like this several times a day and it is not fun.

      Wow, I can see how the liquid only fast would be rough, especially considering the hypoglycemia! I’m not sure I would have survived that – lol.

      IF is a gentle approach if you take it slow (like I mentioned in the post above). It’s helped me get back in touch with my body’s true hunger signals which has been a game changer.

      Before IF, my eating was very reactive. I was reacting to all the hypoglycemia symptoms and intense, constant cravings.

      Now that the symptoms have resolved I can focus more on what my body needs nutrition-wise. I actually have to remind myself to eat some days because I don’t feel hungry. I’m happy to go further in answering any questions you might have. Feel free to email me at healthylife@lorigeurin.com

      Hope to see you back here soon! X, Lori

  2. I get nervous when I hear people talking about IF because it can go wrong if you push your body too fast too hard but you are approaching it from a balanced perspective.

    1. Hi Tiffany! Yes, it’s definitely important to approach IF from the balanced perspective you mentioned. It’s not for everyone but many people are able to improve their health profiles with IF. Thanks so much for sharing your perspective here!

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