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Ulcerative Colitis and Intermittent Fasting: A Match Made In Heaven

Plate of food showing time frame for eating during intermittent fasting.
What’s your instant reaction when you hear the word fasting?
Does it conjure up thoughts of struggling without food, being absolutely starving, and getting ‘hangry’?
Well, no need to stress about any of that stuff today because this article is going to be focusing on ulcerative colitis and intermittent fasting.
I’m going to highlight the health benefits of this dietary approach – and how science shows that it can actually reduce your ulcerative colitis symptoms.

So, in this article we'll cover:
#1 How intermittent fasting works and its various health benefits. #2 Why it’s a really powerful tool for people with ulcerative colitis and helps stimulate gut healing. #3 The science behind intermittent fasting for ulcerative colitis. #4 The way I implement intermittent fasting and how I've managed to maintain it for years.

How Intermittent Fasting Works

You might already have heard about intermittent fasting because it’s quite popular in the fitness world as it can help people to burn fat more easily.
But what’s not properly recognised about it is how it actually helps people with IBD.
And here’s the best part: it’s actually pretty easy to implement into your life.
Okay, so how does intermittent fasting work? With intermittent fasting, you’re focusing on when you’re eating rather than just on what you’re eating.
When it comes to trying to figure out the best diet for ulcerative colitis, and chronic conditions in general, there are countless diet trends which focus on what foods to eat, and what not to eat.

I discovered that there are various different approaches to follow, but that the most popular was the 16:8 Method.

What people don’t really pay much attention to is actually the timing of their meals – which significantly affects the functioning of the gut and inflammation levels in your body.
With intermittent fasting, we emphasise eating during a specific window of time during the day.
This is generally in an eight-hour period, as part of what’s known as the 16:8 Method.

A Health Hack For Fat Loss & Gut Health Improvement

Confession time: I’ve been everything diet-wise as I tried to figure out ways to fix my broken belly.
Vegan, vegetarian, an alkaline foods enthusiast, a raw foods only nutter, you get the idea…
One thing I noticed when my gut issues were at their worst was that I was really struggling to digest red meat and dairy.
I cut these food groups out, but I’d already lost a fair bit of weight and was worried I’d end up shopping in the kiddies clothes section if I dropped any more clothes sizes!
Anyway, I started researching various different health influencers who didn’t eat meat but were still big and in good shape.
That’s when I came across a guy called Mike Mahler. He’s an American health and fitness guru, he’s the size of a truck…and he’s a vegan.
It just proved to me back then that you don’t need to eat loads of meat and eat tons of protein in order to still be strong and in good shape.
It was through Mike Mahler’s website and podcast that I first came across this concept of intermittent fasting.
I discovered that there are various different approaches to follow, but that the most popular was the 16:8 Method.
* (This means fasting for 16 hours and eating during the remaining eight hour window in a day).

The 16:8 Intermittent Fasting Method: The Easy Way

“How the hellllllll am I supposed to fast for 16 HOURSSSSS?” I hear you screaming at me through your screen right now.
I get it. It sounds extremely difficult – but it’s much easier than you think.
That’s because the fasting period also takes in when you’re sleeping.
So, you’re really only going without food for eight hours during daytime…which is pretty straightforward.
My simple way of implementing this into my life: skipping breakfast.
By missing out on your usual breakfast at 8am or 9am, delaying your first of the day until around noon, and then having your last meal by no later than 8pm, then you’ve managed it.
That’s eating within an eight-hour window and fasting for the remaining 16 hours in the day.
Job done.

Ulcerative Colitis and Intermittent Fasting: The Key Gut Healing Benefits

The biggest benefit to following an intermittent fasting practice is that it reduces inflammation in the body.
For anyone with ulcerative colitis, we know that this is an inflammatory bowel disorder that we’re dealing with.
The flare-ups. The burning sensations in the intestines. The painful reactions to foods. All underpinned by inflamed tissues.
So, the name of the game is to reduce inflammation in the body.

Supports The Immune System

Science has shown that it helps support the healthy functioning of your immune system.

Allows For Better Digestion

In many cases of ulcerative colitis, there are issues with low stomach acid, delayed food breakdown, and an unhealthy environment in the gut as a result.
By giving the digestive system a much-needed rest from food, it gives your intestinal tract breathing space to repair and recover.

Fights Oxidative Stress

The intermittent periods of fasting combats oxidative stress which contributes to ageing and chronic diseases like IBD.
This helps to kickstart restoration at a deep cellular level.

The Science Behind Intermittent Fasting For Ulcerative Colitis

If you Google, ‘intermittent fasting inflammation’, you’ll find a ton of scientific studies on the effectiveness of this dietary approach for reducing inflammation in the body.
But of course, we’re interested specifically in ulcerative colitis around here.
We want to know how it’s going to help us and calm down our symptoms.
So, I went digging and managed to uncover three studies that relate directly to ulcerative colitis and intermittent fasting.
The results are VERY interesting.

Study 1 – No gastrointestinal symptoms and a “significant reduction” in inflammatory markers

This was a study published in August 2023. It involved a 42 year old woman from Chile with ulcerative colitis, who did 8 weeks of intermittent fasting.
Scientists took blood tests and fecal tests before and after in order to record the woman’s levels of C-reactive protein and calprotectin (inflammatory markers).
Here’s what the scientists concluded: “The patient had no problems adhering to intermittent fasting, and after the two months of fasting, no appearance of gastrointestinal symptoms was reported.
“A significant reduction in CRP and fecal calprotectin was observed.”

Study 2 – Colitis symptoms score is HALVED after intermittent fasting

This one, published in 2008, involved a group of 60 patients who had IBD – and they were in remission at the time.
They undertook fasting during Ramadan and they agreed to have an assessment done of their health before and after the Ramadan fasting period.
The researchers referred to the Colitis Activity Index, which gives a score based on the severity of your IBD symptoms.
It looks at various factors including your bowel movement frequency, your urgency to go to the toilet, and blood in the stool etc.
The higher the number on this score in the colitis activity index, the worse the condition actually is.
At the end of this study with 60 patients, the men with ulcerative colitis saw their colitis activity index score halved from 3.5 to 1.7.

Study 3 – Decreased inflammatory markers and positive immune system response

The third study I found from 2017 was actually with mice, but it’s colitis specific.
The mice in the study were given chemicals which induced colitis symptoms within the digestive tract.
Scientists then put the rodents on a fasting protocol, and thereafter did a medical analysis of them nine days later.
And here’s what they found…
Decreased inflammatory markers and a positive immune system response had been stimulated.
They also wrote: “Our results have opened opportunities for a new therapeutic intervention for inflammatory diseases.”

This Ain’t Fasting Jesus Style…How I Maintain Intermittent Fasting

I’m a big fan of Jesus, but it doesn’t mean I’ll ever want to stroll about eating no food for 30 days straight.
And you don’t need to worry about any kind of taxing fasting approach that you’d struggle with.
The 16:8 Method I mentioned earlier is simple to implement, easy to maintain, and there are no negative side effects.
However, many health experts recommend having a couple of days where you eat within a normal schedule.
Personally, I follow intermittent fasting Monday-Friday, and then eat a breakfast normally at weekends.
It works beautifully and keeps my angry gut in check so that I don’t need to worry about any colitis flare-ups.
* Important note: pregnant women and people with Type I diabetes are advised not to follow intermittent fasting due to blood sugar issues.
Want to learn a bit more about intermittent fasting for ulcerative colitis? I also recorded a podcast episode on this very topic.
Check it out here.
Marc McLean

Marc McLean

Marc McLean is a 41-year-old health coach, journalist, and author based in Dumbarton, Scotland.

He is the founder of Mission: Colitis Remission, host of the podcast by the same name, and has been in clinical remission of ulcerative colitis since 2018.

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