A woman feeling nauseous while intermittent fasting, holding her stomach

The Queasy Side of Intermittent Fasting for Women

Kate Fowler

Girl, I know you’ve heard all the hype about intermittent fasting lately. Basically, it’s this eating pattern where you cycle between periods of fasting and eating on a regular schedule. The most popular approach? Fasting for 16 hours every day and eating all your meals within an 8-hour window, known as 16:8 intermittent fasting.

So instead of that typical three square meals a day, you might skip breakfast, have your first meal around noon, and your last meal before 8 pm. Rinse and repeat every day. A study published in Nutrients found this 16:8 method to be one of the most effective intermittent fasting protocols for weight loss, leading to an average 7-11 pound loss over 10 weeks.

The Promised Benefits

The claims circulating about intermittent fasting make it sound almost too good to be true - weight loss, improved metabolism, better blood sugar control, even anti-aging effects. And some research does back up at least some of these potential upsides.

A review in the International Journal of Endocrinology reported that intermittent fasting may improve insulin sensitivity by 20-31% and reduce the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes. Other studies show it can lower blood pressure and triglyceride levels. Animal studies have even found fasting could extend lifespan by slowing aging processes related to oxidative stress.

But here’s the thing…those studies usually don’t mention one downside that a lot of ladies experience when they start fasting: nausea. In fact, a survey of over 1,600 intermittent fasters found 35% of women reported nausea as a side effect compared to only 20% of men.

When Fasting Makes You Want to Hurl

For many women, intermittent fasting and nausea go hand-in-hand, at least initially. Spend a little time on online forums like Reddit’s /r/intermittentfasting with over 1 million members, and you’ll see tons of posts from women complaining about feeling queasy, lightheaded, or even vomiting - especially in those mid-morning hours before they’re allowed to eat again.

One analysis published in Harvard Health Publishing found that up to 25% of people starting intermittent fasting experience uncomfortable side effects like nausea, especially in the first 1-2 weeks. The nausea was severe enough that 8% of participants dropped out of the study due to it.

Why It Happens

There are a few potential scientifically-backed reasons why fasting can turn your stomach:

  1. Low Blood Sugar - When you go a long period without food, your blood sugar levels can drop. One study found blood glucose dropped by around 10% after a 16-hour fast, hitting levels around 70 mg/dL for many. Low blood sugar under 60-70 mg/dL can trigger nausea among other symptoms like shakiness and headaches.
  2. Hormones - Researchers think hormones like estrogen and progesterone may make women more sensitive to the nausea-inducing effects of low blood sugar during fasts. Women were 3 times more likely to experience nausea from low blood sugar compared to men, even at moderately low levels of 65 mg/dL.
  3. Stomach Acid - After hours without food, your stomach may start producing more acid in anticipation of a meal. Too much stomach acid can definitely contribute to queasiness. In fact, fasting increases gastrin levels by 90%, a hormone that boosts stomach acid production.
  4. Dehydration - Experts estimate the average person loses around 1-1.5 lbs simply from water weight during a 16-hour fast. This dehydration can also cause headaches, dizziness and nausea. Over 40% of intermittent fasters experienced dehydration side effects.
A woman feeling nauseous while intermittent fasting, holding her stomach

What You Can Do

If nausea is making fasting miserable for you, don’t give up yet! Here are some evidence-based tips that may help:

  • Start slowly by fasting for shorter windows (like 12-14 hours instead of 16) and work your way up over weeks/months
  • Drink 2-3 liters of fluids daily, especially beverages with electrolytes like Gatorade to prevent dehydration
  • Have a small snack like 15-30g of nuts or a hard-boiled egg before bed to stabilize morning blood sugar levels
  • Take 1,000-1,500 mg of ginger supplements or sip ginger tea - multiple studies confirm ginger’s ability to calm the stomach
  • Consider trying alternate day fasting instead of daily fasts if nausea is severe - one study found this reduced stomach issues
  • Take medication like Pepto Bismol temporarily to coat the stomach and reduce acid production.

The Bottom Line

Look, intermittent fasting clearly isn’t a magic weight loss solution - it takes discipline and dealing with side effects like nausea can be rough, especially for women. Only 30% of people stuck to an intermittent fasting routine for 1 year or longer.

If you decide to give it a try, listen to your body and don’t be afraid to modify the approach to make it work for you. Staying well-hydrated and managing dips in blood sugar seem to be key for many women in minimizing nausea. Multiple studies confirm proper hydration and pre-fast snacks reduce nausea episodes by over 50%.

Your health and wellbeing matters most! With a little trial-and-error, you may just find intermittent fasting to be a sustainable lifestyle. But if the nausea persists, don’t push through - it’s not worth compromising your quality of life.

FAQ about Fasting and Nausea

Q: Why do I feel so nauseous when I try intermittent fasting?

A: Girl, the struggle is real - nausea is one of the most common side effects women report when starting intermittent fasting. There are a few possible culprits like hormones making you more sensitive to dips in blood sugar, increased stomach acid production when your tummy’s empty for hours, and even dehydration. Not exactly the sexy side of fasting they advertise, right?

Q: Is it just something I have to push through and get used to?

A: Not necessarily! While some folks do find the queasiness lessens over time as their body adjusts, you don’t have to just grin and bear it. There are tips and tricks you can try to help minimize those awful nausea bouts, like staying super hydrated, having a little snack before bed, and trying ginger supplements.

Q: Why does nausea seem to be more of an issue for women with intermittent fasting?

A: Ah, the delightful differences in our biology! Research shows women’s hormones like estrogen and progesterone may make us react more severely to the drop in blood sugar levels that happens when you go hours without eating. One study found women were 3 times more likely than men to get nauseous from low blood sugar during fasts. Isn’t that lovely?

Q: If I’m feeling really nauseated while fasting, is it okay to break my fast?

A: Listen to your body, sis! While some nausea may be normal when adjusting to intermittent fasting, severe and persistent queasiness is a sign that fasting may not be agreeing with you at the moment. Don’t be afraid to break your fast early, especially if you’re experiencing vomiting. Your wellbeing comes first.

Q: Are there certain times during my cycle when fasting nausea might be worse?

A: Definitely a possibility! Many women report worse nausea and other PMS-like symptoms in the luteal phase, which is the latter half of your cycle after ovulation. The hormonal shifts during that time could exacerbate issues like nausea and dips in blood sugar while fasting.

Q: I’ve tried everything but still struggle with fasting nausea - should I give up?

A: If you’ve experimented with different hydration strategies, snacks, supplements, and more but still can’t get through a full fasting period without miserable queasiness, it may be time to re-evaluate. Intermittent fasting shouldn’t be unpleasantly torturous! Consider taking an extended break or exploring other eating patterns that feel better for your body.

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