How Intermittent Fasting Can Support Women’s Hormones, Health and Well-being


Read this before you embark on the IF journey.

Women who intermittently fast should experience different results compared to men.

I have been intermittently fasting for a very long time now, and I can see how much of a difference it makes to my health, weight loss and maintenance goals, and mental clarity.

But I’d be lying if I said there weren’t some underlying factors we women must consider before starting our journey. 

It is important to note that the body structures of women and men differ, as well as the way their hormonal systems function.

Hormones play a big part in our lives, and although there are many paths you can take, it’s best to start from the basics and then push along as you begin to understand your body.

Men can experience wonderful results with fasting – straight off the bat. But, women should take a relaxed approach to fasting as hormones have certain requirements for us.

Many people are drawn to intermittent fasting because of its potential advantages for overall health, shedding weight, and enhancing mental focus.

However, women must consider their unique hormonal differences before starting intermittent fasting. 

This article explores the specific factors women should consider and provides relevant research to guide their fasting practices. 

Women can maximise the benefits of intermittent fasting and prioritise their health and well-being by considering hormonal implications and personalised approaches.

Hormonal Differences and the Need for a Distinct Approach

It is essential to recognise that women’s bodies operate differently from men, and hormones play a crucial role in their well-being. Starting with the fundamentals and gradually discovering fasting techniques that suit each person’s unique body and hormone needs is crucial.

Estrogen Levels and Kisspeptin Disruption

Research has shown that fasting can impact estrogen levels in women, which may affect their menstrual cycles and fertility.

Kisspeptin, a hormone the hypothalamus produces, regulates sex hormones such as estrogen and testosterone in both men and women.

Intermittent fasting can lead to a decline in kisspeptin levels, disrupting the delicate balance of sex hormone production and potentially causing irregular periods and infertility in women [1].

A study conducted by Alzamil et al. (2019) examined the effects of intermittent fasting on sex hormones in healthy female subjects. 

The results showed that intermittent fasting significantly decreased estrogen levels compared to the control group. 

The researchers suggested that these hormonal changes could affect fertility and menstrual regularity in women.

Menstrual Cycle Fluctuations

Complex hormonal changes in women govern the menstrual cycle, and fasting can impact these fluctuations. 

When women begin intermittent fasting, it can cause changes in energy balance that may lead to a temporary disruption in menstrual cycles due to a stress response triggered in the body. 

However, as the body adapts to fasting, these fluctuations may stabilise.

A study by Bhutani et al. (2013) explored the effects of alternate-day fasting on menstrual cycle regularity in healthy women. 

The findings revealed that intermittent fasting led to temporary disruptions in menstrual cycles, including missed periods and changes in cycle length. 

However, these changes were transient and did not affect fertility or reproductive health long-term.

Research Supporting Different Approaches for Women

Studies have indicated that long-duration, restricted eating may not be suitable for women. For instance, a study showed that healthy women who engaged in alternate-day fasting (without weight issues) experienced impaired glucose response. 

Time-restricted eating could be safer and more beneficial for women who fast for eight to ten hours.

Cortisol and Stress Response

Fasting can induce a stress response in the body, and women already experience heightened stress levels during certain phases of their menstrual cycle. 

When combined with fasting, this can elevate cortisol levels, a hormone associated with stress. 

Excessive cortisol levels can further impact the delicate hormonal balance and potentially disrupt the menstrual cycle [3].

A study conducted by Rebuffé-Scrive et al. (1996) investigated the effects of fasting on cortisol levels in women. 

The results demonstrated that fasting increased cortisol secretion in women, indicating a stress response. 

Elevated cortisol levels can affect reproductive health and the overall hormonal milieu in women.

Effects on Menstrual Cycle and Fertility

Women who start intermittent fasting may experience changes in their menstrual cycle at the beginning.

These changes in energy balance can trigger a stress response in the body, leading to menstrual irregularities. 

However, the body may adapt to fasting with time, possibly positively affecting the menstrual cycle. 

Each woman must observe and understand her body’s response to intermittent fasting.

Tailoring Fasting Regimen to Individual Needs

Determining the most suitable fasting regimen is a highly personalised process. 

Hormonal implications vary among women, and it is essential to be mindful of these effects and adjust the fasting approach accordingly. 

Women aiming to conceive should avoid fasting, while those focusing on weight loss before pregnancy should prioritise balanced nutrition. Monitoring hormonal changes and individual results throughout the fasting journey is crucial.

Intermittent Fasting and PCOS

Some women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) have reported improved symptoms and fertility with intermittent fasting. 

One possible explanation is that fasting helps regulate blood sugar levels and improves insulin sensitivity, which can positively impact PCOS. However, it is important to approach fasting carefully and under medical supervision, as individual responses may vary.

Insulin Sensitivity and Blood Sugar Regulation

Intermittent fasting has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and regulate blood sugar levels in both men and women. 

This can particularly benefit women with conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), where insulin resistance and hormonal imbalances are common. By enhancing insulin sensitivity, fasting may help restore hormonal balance and improve symptoms related to PCOS.

study by Mager et al. (2006) investigated the effects of intermittent fasting on insulin sensitivity in women with PCOS. 

The findings demonstrated that fasting improved insulin sensitivity, reduced insulin levels, and enhanced glucose tolerance. 

These changes were associated with improvements in PCOS symptoms and hormonal profiles in the participants.

Menopause and Fasting

Hormonal fluctuations during menopause can lead to increased abdominal fat and metabolic changes. 

While fasting can benefit weight management, its effects during menopause can vary among individuals. 

Some women may experience significant benefits by combining fasting with a suitable weight training program, while others might find their symptoms exacerbated. 

Experimenting and personalising the fasting approach is recommended to find what works best.

Women can make informed decisions about incorporating intermittent fasting into their lifestyle by learning about its positive impact on hormonal balance and the relief of menopausal symptoms.

Hormonal Balance and Hot Flashes

During menopause, hormonal fluctuations can increase hot flashes, significantly impacting daily life. 

Intermittent fasting has been shown to improve hormonal balance, potentially reducing the frequency and severity of hot flashes.

Research has demonstrated that intermittent fasting can enhance growth hormone and adiponectin production while reducing insulin levels. These hormonal changes improve metabolic function and potentially reduce hot flashes during menopause.

Bone Health and Estrogen

Estrogen decline during menopause can lead to an increased risk of osteoporosis and bone loss. 

Intermittent fasting may positively impact bone health by promoting autophagy, a cellular process that removes damaged cells and stimulates bone regeneration.

Research has indicated that intermittent fasting stimulates autophagy, which can enhance bone health and potentially mitigate the risk of osteoporosis. 

By supporting the natural rejuvenation of bone tissue, intermittent fasting may benefit women concerned about maintaining optimal bone health during menopause.

Cognitive Function and Brain Health

Menopause is associated with changes in cognitive function and an increased risk of cognitive decline. 

Intermittent fasting has shown promise in improving brain health and cognitive function through various mechanisms.

Research suggests that intermittent fasting promotes the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that supports the growth and survival of neurons. 

Increased BDNF levels have been linked to improved cognitive function and protection against neurodegenerative diseases, potentially offering women going through menopause a way to support their brain health.

Taking a Personalised Approach

Intermittent fasting is generally considered safe for women and has been shown to help with weight management and mental clarity. 

It is important to note that everyone’s journey will be unique, and hormonal shifts may occur initially but tend to balance out over time. 

Monitoring and understanding one’s body is key to successfully incorporating intermittent fasting into a healthy lifestyle.


Intermittent fasting can be a valuable tool for women seeking to improve their health, achieve weight loss goals, and enhance mental clarity. 

However, due to the distinct hormonal makeup of women’s bodies, it is crucial to approach fasting with a tailored and individualised mindset. 

Understanding the potential implications on the menstrual cycle, fertility, and overall well-being is essential for a positive fasting experience.

Research has indicated that long-duration, restricted eating may not be optimal for women. 

Time-restricted eating, with fasting durations of approximately eight to ten hours, has shown to be a safer and more beneficial option. 

Women may initially experience fluctuations in their menstrual cycles when they begin intermittent fasting due to changes in energy balance.

However, the body can adapt quickly, and fasting may positively affect menstrual regularity.

For women trying to conceive, it is important to be cautious with fasting as it can decrease estrogen levels, potentially affecting fertility. 

The hormone kisspeptin, responsible for sex hormone production, may decline with intermittent fasting, leading to disruptions in menstruation and potential infertility. 

Women with no intention of having children may not encounter these issues, but it is crucial to be aware of the initial adjustments that may occur.

Individualisation is key when determining the best fasting regimen for women. Observing hormonal responses and understanding personal results are vital for tailoring the fasting approach. Women aiming to get pregnant should focus on achieving a healthy weight before conception, prioritising balanced nutrition over fasting. Those with conditions like PCOS may find intermittent fasting beneficial, as it can regulate blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity.

During menopause, hormonal fluctuations can increase abdominal fat and metabolic changes. 

Fasting can aid in weight management, but experiences may vary. 

Some women may benefit greatly from integrating fasting with a suitable weight training program, while others may exacerbate their symptoms. 

Exploring different fasting methods and observing personal responses is the key to finding the optimal approach.

In conclusion, intermittent fasting can be a safe and effective strategy for women to support their health goals. By understanding the potential effects on hormones, menstrual cycles, fertility, and menopause, women can make informed decisions about incorporating fasting into their lives. It is essential to approach fasting patiently, listen to the body’s signals, and consult with healthcare professionals when needed. With a personalised approach, intermittent fasting can be a powerful tool for women to achieve a healthy, balanced, and fulfilling lifestyle.

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