Can Probiotic Supplements Make or Break Your Fast?
Intermittent fasting (IF) may have started as a fitness trend for weight loss, but today it's a go-to lifestyle choice for many.
Practicing intermittent fasting has been linked with health benefits such as lowering blood sugar and insulin, preventing heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. Research also suggests intermittent fasting can have a possible therapeutic effect on neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's.
There’s much to love about IF, from increased energy to mental clarity, but going without your favorite foods or ignoring hunger pangs can be a tough challenge! If you're considering trying out intermittent fasting for yourself, don't forget to get answers to essential questions such as:
What is intermittent fasting?
What are the different types of intermittent fasting?
How does fasting affect your digestive system?
Should you take probiotic supplements while fasting?
Will taking probiotic supplements break a fast?
Let's go ahead and find some answers!
Why practice intermittent fasting?
Accidentally missing a meal or two, especially with a deadline approaching or when you're feeling stressed or sick, is not uncommon. Not wanting to eat during sickness is your body's natural response to conserve energy and heal itself.
Intermittent fasting follows a deliberate schedule of alternating fasting and eating periods. The practice of intermittent fasting is associated with cell repair, low insulin levels, which leads to fat burning rather than fat storage, increased human growth hormones (HGH), reduced inflammation, and healthy gene expression.
When you eat three meals a day as well as snacks, your body has a constant source of ready carbohydrates. Intermittent fasting works by increasing the time you go without a ready energy source and utilizing stored resources such as fat.
Your digestive process is energy-intensive, and voluntarily avoiding food intake for scheduled periods gives your body a break from digestion. Intermittent fasting helps increase the level of human growth hormones (HGH), allowing the body to focus on repairing damaged cells, combating oxidative stress and having a healthy gene expression.
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is intentionally going without food for a fixed amount of time, followed by a dedicated eating window. Typically this involves restricting your eating window to 4-8-10 hour windows in a 24 hour period.
If done right, intermittent fasting can be one of the most valuable tools in your health tool kit, but remember to stay hydrated and to eat plenty of nutrient-dense calories during your eating period to maintain your energy levels during the day.
Will intermittent fasting cause malnourishment?
The risk of malnutrition is ever present if you aren't mindful of how you approach and practice intermittent fasting. Skimping on nutrient dense foods during the eating window can cause you to falter and affect your health adversely.
How does intermittent fasting work?
The health benefits of fasting are a result of metabolic switching. Your body primarily uses blood glucose for energy. As you fast, your blood glucose levels decline, and your body starts breaking down glycogen (a form of glucose) stored in the liver and skeletal muscle.
At 24 hours, your body uses up roughly all the glucose and glycogen. At this time in your fast, the body switches to triglycerides (fat) stored in the adipose tissue for fuel. Your liver breaks down triglycerides into short-chain fatty acids and glycerol, which get converted into ketone bodies and glucose.
As the ketone bodies travel through the body, they're used by tissues as a fuel source. The benefit of fasting is not limited to Ketogenesis (the process of fat breakdown) and fat loss. It's the overall effect of fighting against oxidative stress, repairing damaged cells, and autophagy.
What are the health benefits of intermittent fasting?
Studies have found many health benefits of intermittent fasting. IF can:
- Lead to weight loss and less inflammation
- Reduce oxidative stress
- Enhance insulin sensitivity
- Increase high-density lipoprotein (good cholesterol) and decrease low-density lipoprotein (bad cholesterol)
- Stabilize circadian rhythm that leads to healthy gene expression, etc.
Intermittent fasting helps stabilize your circadian rhythm, which supports metabolic health.
Dr. Andrew Huberman, in his podcast, Effects of Fasting and Time Restricted Feeding on Fat loss & Health, states that "it is very important that the feeding window fall during the more active phase of one's day. . . that's typically in the early part of the day or the later part of the day, but not at night. . . eating during the nocturnal phase of the 24-hour cycle is very detrimental to one's health. In fact, when we eat we can either enhance our health or can diminish our health.” Typically, you should eat your last meal at least 3 hours before going to bed.
Is Intermittent fasting good for your digestive system?
Your gut microbiota plays a significant role in maintaining the balance between health and disease. Studies have found that intermittent fasting promotes a positive change in your gut bacteria.
A healthy gut microbiome can support the prevention of health conditions such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
Changes in gut microbiota due to fasting can promote the adaptation of white adipose tissue (WAT) to brown adipose tissue (BAT). While white adipose tissue is a fat storage site, brown adipose tissue generates heat when you’re cold. Beiging or browning of WAT has been shown to suppress obesity and metabolic disease.
IF also leads to increased bacterial fermentation, positively affecting insulin resistance and obesity. This meta-analysis found that an IF regime decreased fasting glucose levels, insulin levels, and BMI. It also improved insulin sensitivity and blood pressure and reduced inflammation.
What are the different ways of intermittent fasting (IF)?
The ease and flexibility of adopting IF into your life versus a calorie-restrictive diet are one of the main attractions of this health trend. There are several ways to practice intermittent fasting, such as:
- Everyday time-restricted eating (18:6) - An eighteen-hour fasting period led by a six-hour eating period.
- Alternate day fasting.
- 5:2 week - Fasting for two days a week.
- B2 regimen (14- 10) - Only two meals a day between the ten-hour eating period.
- Intermittent VLCD Therapy - A variable fasting method that can range from a day a week to a five-day fasting period every five weeks.
Will taking supplements break a fast?
Fasting not only restricts calories but also restricts the intake of nutrients. Understanding which supplements and probiotics can support your nutritional and gut needs is essential and can help you maintain your fast.
A thumb rule to remember while fasting is to consume no or negligible calories. So, if your supplements are calorie-dense, they'll most likely break a fast.
Commonly consumed supplements such as most probiotics (supplement form), water-soluble vitamins (whole foods, vitamin C, folic acid), fat-soluble vitamins (Vitamin D), collagen, or sugar-free electrolytes will not break a fast.
What will break a fast?
Taking gummy vitamins, sugary electrolytes, calorie-rich probiotic drinks such as Kombucha, bone broth, digestible carbohydrates mixed in with prebiotics, and protein powder break your fast as they contain small amounts of carbohydrates as filler.
Taking branched amino acids (BCAAs) such as leucine can break a fast, as they've been shown to produce an insulin response that can stop autophagy.
Probiotics and Fasting
Probiotics help support good bacteria and promote a healthy gut microbiome and immune system. A healthy gut is vital in producing vitamins and essential amino acids.
Practicing intermittent fasting can lead to positive changes in your gut microbiome. A systemic review of 11 studies on fasting and gut microbiota in humans found an increase in Actinobacteria such as the genus Bifidobacterium. Actinobacteria produce butyrate, an anti-inflammatory by-product, which can have a protective effect on the brain.
Gut populations of beneficial bacteria such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium increased significantly during fasting. It is best to support your fasting journey and enhance the benefits of IF with probiotic supplementation that contains Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains.
Should you take prebiotics and probiotics while fasting?
Supplementing with prebiotics (indigestible fiber such as inulin) and probiotics (helpful live bacteria such as Pediococcus acidilactici) during your fast can support your gut in maintaining a healthy microbiome.
By-products such as bacteriocin Pediocin A that result from indigestible fiber fermentation can support the growth of good bacteria in your gut. Bacteriocins prevent the development of pathogens, which helps prevent inflammation and maintains a healthy gut lining.
A probiotic supplement such as our Sugar Shift formula contains inulin and beneficial bacteria such as Bifidobacterium bifidum, Pediococcus acidilactici (TBC0068™), Lactobacillus plantarum (TBC0036™), Lactobacillus reuteri and Leuconostoc mesenteroides (TBC0037™). Sugar Shift has been designed to help you support a healthy mucosal gut lining, improve immune function and maintain a beneficial gut microbiome.
Can you take probiotics while intermittent fasting?
Yes, you can take probiotic supplements before breaking your fast, as probiotics like Sugar Shift can help you metabolize the glucose present in your meals and support gut health.
When to take probiotics while intermittent fasting?
Some bacterial strains' survival depends on the type of meal you're having. The bacterial survival rate can be higher when taken with meals or 30 mins before a meal versus when taken with only water, juice, or soda on an empty stomach.
According to this study, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, when taken with carbohydrates, survived for up to 90 mins in a simulated acidic gastric environment. L. rhamnosus GG depends on its ability to break down sugars (glucose) to ensure its survival through an acidic environment. Similar protective effects of glucose were found on other lactobacillus strains as well.
Another study suggests using probiotics such as Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Bifidobacterium longum, and Saccharomyces cerevisiae boulardii with meals containing fat to enhance their survival through the gut.
Fasting And Diabetes
Over 100 million Americans have prediabetes or diabetes. Lifestyle choices such as a poor diet or lack of physical activity can increase the risk of having higher than normal blood glucose levels.
Prediabetes means having a high fasting plasma glucose level, not high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes, also known as diabetes mellitus, but which can turn into type 2 diabetes without intervention.
This study of 9 and 11 randomized, controlled trials with prediabetes and diabetes patients found that lifestyle interventions decreased the risk of diabetes from the end of the intervention to up to 10 years after it.
Patients in the lifestyle intervention group showed significant results in weight loss and an increase in physical activity than the placebo group.
Some studies have found intermittent fasting effective in blood glucose control and better insulin response. This study found probiotics to improve glucose metabolism to some degree.
If you have prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, please consult a health professional before beginning intermittent fasting.
Will intermittent fasting benefit your gut health?
Intermittent fasting has many potential health benefits — possible benefits of IF range from reversing metabolic health conditions to preventing neurodegenerative health issues.
Your gut microbiome is essential in maintaining gut health and metabolic function. While fasting can lead to positive changes in your gut microbiome — such as promoting the growth of good gut bacteria, such as Actinobacteria and Firmicutes — it can also lead to a lack of diversity in and lack of proper nutrition (non-digestible carbohydrates) for beneficial bacteria.
Probiotic supplements such as Sugar Shift and Ideal Immunity can provide a host of beneficial bacteria and prebiotics that will support your gut health and immunity as your body gets used to fasting.
Want to learn more? Listen to Ken Kubota share his experience of getting into ketosis without being on a ketogenic diet after regularly taking Sugar Shift.
Martha Carlin, is a Citizen Scientist, systems thinker, wife of Parkinson’s warrior, John Carlin, and founder of The BioCollective, a microbiome company expanding the reach of science. Since John’s diagnosis in 2002, Martha began learning the science of agriculture, nutrition, environment, infectious disease, Parkinson’s pathology and much more. In 2014, when the first research was published showing a connection between the gut bacteria and the two phenotypes of Parkinson’s, Martha quit her former career as a business turnaround expert and founded The BioCollective to accelerate the discovery of the impact of gut health on all human health, including Parkinson’s. Martha was a speaker at the White House 2016 Microbiome Initiative launch, challenging the scientific community to “think in a broader context”. Her systems thinking background and experience has led to collaborations across the scientific spectrum from neuroscience to engineering to infectious disease. She is a respected out of the box problem solver in the microbiome field and brings a unique perspective to helping others understand the connections from the soil to the food to our guts and our brains.