Welcome to Episode 320 of The Intermittent Fasting Podcast, hosted by Melanie Avalon, author of What When Wine Diet: Lose Weight And Feel Great With Paleo-Style Meals, Intermittent Fasting, And Wine and Vanessa Spina, author of Keto Essentials: 150 Ketogenic Recipes to Revitalize, Heal, and Shed Weight.
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Listener Q&A: Nicole - is fasting good for your hormones. I am hearing that is extremely beneficial for woman nearing and in their 40s+
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Our content does not constitute an attempt to practice medicine and does not establish a doctor-patient relationship. Please consult a qualified healthcare provider for medical advice and answers to personal health questions.
Melanie Avalon: Welcome to Episode 320 of The Intermittent Fasting Podcast. If you want to burn fat, gain energy, and enhance your health by changing when you eat not what you eat, with no calorie counting, then this show is for you. I'm Melanie Avalon, biohacker, author of What When Wine, and creator of the supplement line AvalonX. And I'm here with my cohost, Vanessa Spina, sports nutrition specialist, author of Keto Essentials, and creator of the Tone breath ketone analyzer and Tone Lux red light therapy panels. For more on us, check out ifpodcast.com, melanieavalon.com, and ketogenicgirl.com. Please remember, the thoughts and opinions on this show do not constitute medical advice or treatment. To be featured on the show, email us your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to hear from you. So, pour yourself a mug of black coffee, a cup of tea, or even a glass of wine, if it's that time and get ready for The Intermittent Fasting Podcast.
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Hi, everybody, and welcome. This is Episode number 320 of The Intermittent Fasting Podcast. I'm Melanie Avalon and I'm here with Vanessa Spina.
Vanessa Spina: Hi, Melanie. Hi, everyone.
Melanie Avalon: How are you?
Vanessa Spina: Just ecstatic, full of gleed, the usual, every time we get to hang out.
Melanie Avalon: I know. I was just thinking about it. I don't know, I'm just so excited. [giggles] It's like going to a party.
Vanessa Spina: Yes. [laughs]
Melanie Avalon: Wait, speaking of, I want to hear about this. You went to a musical festival where you burned things?
Vanessa Spina: This is so funny. This is so funny. So, it's a tradition in certain parts of Europe, but especially in Switzerland, Austria, central Europe, and Czech to mark the end of winter by blowing up either a snowman, which is my favorite, because it's just absolutely hilarious. The first time we saw it happen was actually in Switzerland in that big town square. We were just there. We actually just missed it, unfortunately. But they just like to mark the end of winter. They create a big bonfire and they put a snowman on the top of it, and in check, a little bit awkwardly, it's called the witch burning, but it's a tradition of doing the similar thing to the snowman. It's just like marking the end of winter and the end of the spirits of the winter. But I was telling Pete this week, I'm like, "They really need to rebrand the one in Czech," because although it's quite cute, it's like their Halloween.
All the little kids, boys and girls dress up in witches' hats. They all do face painting. So, it's like their Halloween, where we kind of-- Halloween is like our thing with the witches, but they make it into a huge family day. So, on Sunday, we went up. It's a park just above us, at the top of Prague here, and it's all music festival all day with local artists. The kids just have everything, like, face painting, all kinds of activities. There was this one huge play area with just, like, Legos. Oh, there was a giant fire truck, which Luca was so excited about. An ambulance, a school bus, like all his favorite things. He loves service vehicles. So, just getting touch the wheels and do all that stuff was amazing. They had food trucks from everywhere. They had American barbecue, which is what we settled on because it's our favorite. But they had food from all over the world. So, it's like a huge, huge festival. It's like the size of several football fields. And then there's just like food stalls everywhere, music everywhere, and just fun balloons. And then at the end of the day, they do the big bonfire, and it just marks the end of winter and officially beginning of spring and the summer weather.
Melanie Avalon: That is so cool. Can I ask you some questions?
Vanessa Spina: Of course.
Melanie Avalon: Okay. Wait, first of all, how long have you lived in the Czech Republic?
Vanessa Spina: It's been about six, seven years now. We just came over here to do a year, but we just love it so much that we keep extending it.
Melanie Avalon: Wow. Okay. Now I want to interview about this for an hour, which I will not. I'm so intrigued. Okay, so, holidays, what holidays are the same as the US?
Vanessa Spina: Mostly Christmas and Easter. But Easter is huge here. It's two weeks long. It's as big as Christmas and New Year's. And then they actually had a holiday this week on Monday, the May 1st, so right after the Bonfire Day. And then next Monday, they have another holiday. So, it's like May Day. They have their own holidays. So, there's some that don't correlate at all, and then there are the big major Christian holidays, Catholic holidays, I guess that coincide. But yeah, they're all over the place. So, Pete and I like to celebrate the Canadian holidays, the American holidays, and any European holidays that we can get in, because May as well just [giggles] take advantage of living all over the place.
Melanie Avalon: Wow. Luca gets all the fun times. So, is that the most major holiday that we don't have here, probably? Is there another really big one like that?
Vanessa Spina: I think this is probably the big one. But what's so cute, I'll have to tell you this is so May 1st on May Day, it's Lovers Day. And so, there's a hill, it's right where we live called Petrin Hill. And the whole hill gets covered in cherry blossoms. It's a tradition that you have to take your lover there and kiss them under the blossoms on May 1st. So, the whole hillside is just full of all these little sweet couples kissing. And Pete and I try to go. We walk through there all the time anyway to get a kiss. And on Monday, we couldn't go because of how the day worked out. And so, he went and brought me flowers home and held them above me and gave me a kiss. [laughs]
Melanie Avalon: Oh, my goodness, that's so cute.
Vanessa Spina: It's a really cute holiday, like, Lovers Day. I don't think we have anything like that in North America. So, I think it's pretty unique.
Melanie Avalon: Do you have Valentine's?
Vanessa Spina: Yeah. There's Valentine's Day here. They celebrate it like the Hallmark holiday kind of things are coming more, but this one's more pure. It's like, just go get a kiss under some flowers. That's very Czech. They're very boho bohemian, like, hippie style. It's very sweet and very Czech. I'm not Czech at all, but I just appreciate as many different cultures as possible. So, yeah, it's a really cute one where you just kiss the person you love.
Melanie Avalon: Oh, my goodness, that's so cute. I have one more question, especially because you mentioned the food. Last night, I was reading this really cool blog post about American restaurants and all these different countries, like, how countries view America and these American restaurants. It was pretty funny. They had one in the Czech Republic, actually. Is the food completely different?
Vanessa Spina: It's pretty different. So, the first time I went to Pete's house for Easter, like, a family dinner, they did duck, like, roast duck with cabbage. It's like a sweet-sour cabbage with dumplings and I was like, "What is this?" It was so foreign to me, but I'm so used to it now. There're a lot of dishes that are very Czech or Hungarian or German style. So, you probably are a little bit familiar with your German background, but there's a lot of goulash kind of meals that are really popular in Czech. A lot of sausages, like, sausages with sauerkraut is really big. Obviously, the duck one. Schnitzel is more like the Austrian side, but schnitzel is really big here, which is fried turkey or chicken or sometimes pork that's breaded. It's my husband's favorite meal. So, the food is pretty different. When you have an American style restaurant or an American style food truck, it definitely is a nice treat to get something like get some authentic Texas, like brisket which is really popular in Czech the last few years.
Melanie Avalon: Brisket. Oh, my goodness. It reminds me growing up, because you mentioned Germany, so I have family in Germany. I went over with my dad when I was five, and I just ate, basically bratwurst the whole time. I didn't super love it, but I liked it, because we went a lot. I remember I would go when I was a little bit older, like, eight or nine, and that's when I discovered schnitzel. I remember thinking, "Why did my dad not just get me schnitzel everywhere?" I don't know, I feel like it's much more comparable to American food than bratwurst. It's like fried chicken with cheese.
Vanessa Spina: It's hilarious. Okay, I'm dying to know how the Taylor Swift concert went, because I saw some of your pictures and posts and your messages about how it went, but I need to just know everything.
Melanie Avalon: It was the most amazing experience. I got into the Uber with my sister and almost started crying, like, before I was even there. [laughs] In the Uber, I was like, "Don't cry." But there were so many people. I realized I really like the Swifty audience. They're just all very nice. I was very surprised. I knew it would be very estrogen dominant. I knew it would be a lot of women. I thought there'd be more men, because I thought there'd be girls with their boyfriends. I could count how many men I saw. It was crazy. So, that was interesting. Had you been to a lot of concerts? I feel like I learned things.
Vanessa Spina: Yeah, we were actually supposed to go to a concert together this month here, but it got canceled. Yeah, I try to go whenever we can. It's something that I miss the most though. I think of having children is, it's just not as easy to go to concerts, because most of them are not child friendly. So, you have to get childcare. It just makes it not as easy. But I actually took Luca to his first classical concert last week, because they did one for babies, which was amazing. But unless it's specifically for kids or if it's outdoors and there's a lawn area, then you can do something like that, which is fun.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah, the reason I ask, I learned-- I've been to quite a few, but this one was loud, and I really wish--
Vanessa Spina: [laughs]
Melanie Avalon: I was googling this. Did I permanently damage my ears? The night before, I was like, "Oh, maybe I should order--" Did you know they make concert earplugs, like, specific for concerts?
Vanessa Spina: I would totally get some of those, because sometimes you go and the bass is so loud that it's painful. Or, the next day you really feel it.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah. No, and there were so many screaming girls. I was screaming. Okay. I had so many out of body experience moments where I watched myself screaming. I didn't [laughs] hear screaming. I was like, "Oh, that's me [laughs] singing along." But in any case, so friends, they make concert earplugs, and I ordered them the night before, and they didn't come in time. And then I brought normal earplugs, and I didn't put them in, and I really, really wish I had because my ears still feel numb, like, I'm a little bit worried. I'm a little bit concerned.
Vanessa Spina: Wait, how many people were there?
Melanie Avalon: The stadium fit 75,000, and I didn't see any open seats. [giggles] I heard this from a friend yesterday, apparently, what people would do-- I don't know if I would do this. This is too much energy for me. If they didn't have tickets, they would dress up, get ready, go and be on their phone on Ticketmaster, and wait for tickets to get released, and then buy them and go in and get them cheap. So, I really don't think there was any emptied seats. But that was a moment, because I know how many listeners we have for this show. So, I was looking at the stadium and I was like, "Oh, I can--" We don't have the whole stadium's worth, but I know a percentage of the stadium that we have. So, that was like a moment. I was like, "Oh, that's how many people listen to this show? It's a lot of people."
Vanessa Spina: I always think about that too when I'm at a big, like, a hockey game or a concert. And sometimes, I'll just google images of certain thousands of people, because it's so hard to visualize those kinds of numbers sometimes. So, I always think about that too. It's amazing how incredible these communities are, and this community is or other podcast communities, it's just so incredible. I think that's part of why I get so giddy, like, not just getting to interact with you, but the caliber of questions that are sent in and the caliber of people listening in this community are just so amazing. [giggles] That's what it made you think of.
Melanie Avalon: I know. I'm so grateful. An extension of that, I feel like Taylor Swift is very grateful. She's so nice [giggles] to the audience.
Vanessa Spina: Your dress was so exquisitely stunning.
Melanie Avalon: Thank you. It's so funny. So, for listeners, if you go on my Instagram, I posted pictures. I posted my tips for the concert, if you want to learn more. Oh, which really, speaking of-- Oh, wait. Yes, I know you have an iPhone, because we do iMessage. Do you know about AE lock on the iPhone?
Vanessa Spina: No. Is this some filming technique?
Melanie Avalon: Yes. Okay. So, friends, this is going to help you, if you ever go to a concert, game changer. I realize I might date myself, because stuff changes so fast. But as of right now, when you're having your iPhone, if you hold down, like, when you're taking the video, maybe a picture too, definitely a video. If you hold down where you want to focus, it locks. And then you put your finger to the right of the little box that pops up, and you just drag down or up, and you can change the exposure level, and then it locks that. So, if you want to get really crisp, because what you need to do for concerts, especially for people going to T Swift-- Actually, given how many listeners we have, probably are quite a few going. So, put your finger on Taylor, hold it down, it'll lock. Put your finger to the side, drag the exposure down, it'll be crystal clear, if you're close enough to zoom in like that.
Vanessa Spina: Yeah, you got a really clear video. So, that's a super helpful tip.
Melanie Avalon: That was the key. That was the key. Oh, but just really quick, and then we can get into questions. The dress, it's so funny. It was a really, really intense dress. It was a black corset with this huge tool red thing. So, many people stopped me. My sister and I started counting, but then we stopped counting. I felt famous, because people get me, like, stopping me. People would ask for pictures with me, and then multiple people said they were googling my dress, because they thought it was some secret Taylor Swift dress. "Where's your dress from? We were googling it." I was like, "It's just from Amazon. It's not a secret message." So, yeah.
Vanessa Spina: I know. She does those secret messages, and Easter eggs, and stuff, so that I can see how people would have thought that. But yeah, you guys have to go check out Melanie's dress, because it's just amazing.
Melanie Avalon: It was amazing. Wait, but do you like Taylor?
Vanessa Spina: I do. Yeah, I've always loved her music. I feel like I was someone who liked her for a long time. It's been maybe seven or eight years. I feel people now are like, "Oh, she's gotten--" Her popularity has surged recently. Definitely saw that with all the concert drama that happened. People were just trying to get tickets for hours and hours, and it just seems like-- Yeah, she's popped off in the last few years.
Melanie Avalon: Is she going in Europe? I feel like I heard that, but I might have dreamed that.
Vanessa Spina: [laughs] Maybe I dreamed that. I don't know. Maybe we both did.
Melanie Avalon: Wait. I'm just googling it really quickly.
Vanessa Spina: That would be exciting. I know we have listeners all over Europe too.
Melanie Avalon: I might be thinking of Trans-Siberian Orchestra. That's the other thing I always go to. But yes. So, it was amazing. Although, it would have been more amazing if I had been there with Peter Attia.
Vanessa Spina: Yeah, [laughs] that was so funny that he went with his daughter and the outfit that he wore. That was classic. That was classic.
Melanie Avalon: I further appreciate that now, especially going and not seeing any men.
Vanessa Spina: What's your Peter Attia origin story, just before we get into the first question?
Melanie Avalon: Oh, yes. Oh, my goodness, this is such a fun conversation.
Vanessa Spina: How did you first come across him?
Melanie Avalon: Such a good question, Vanessa. [laughs] What is your Peter Attia origin story? I don't know. Wait, I have to think about this. What is yours?
Vanessa Spina: I know. I can start. I heard him the first time on the Tim Ferriss podcast, and it was at the time when Tim Ferriss was geeking out with Peter Attia about ketones, and ketone esters and how he had been experimenting with them. They tasted like gasoline. And it was around the time that he interviewed Dr. Dom D'Agostino. That was the first time I ever heard him or heard him speak.
Melanie Avalon: Okay. What's very interesting about this is two things. One, I literally I don't remember. And two, I just feel like I've been listening to him for so long. But his podcast, The Drive is not relatively that old, because I've been listening to Robb Wolf since 2012, Dave Asprey since 2012, but The Drive, it's not that old. Yeah, I'm not sure when it started, but I know it's not-- Oh, maybe 2018, maybe?
Vanessa Spina: Yeah, that's what I was thinking. I guess, three, four years. Maybe it's in its fifth year or something like that. Definitely around the time that we both started podcasting, because we were all so in sync.
Melanie Avalon: True. It's crazy how much we've been in sync with everything and didn't even realize. It might come to me. But I'm going to think about that, because I-- [crosstalk]
Vanessa Spina: Let's put a pin in it.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah. Okay. [laughs] Moving on. Oh, okay. Shall we answer some listener questions? It's going to come to me in the middle of the night. I'm going to be like, "Eureka."
Oh, man. Okay.
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So, to start things off, okay. So, this first question, I'm super excited about this and I picked it for two reasons. Would you like to know what the two reasons are?
Vanessa Spina: Yes, of course.
Melanie Avalon: One, I'm actually interviewing-- Have you interviewed Izabella Wentz?
Vanessa Spina: No, but she sounds like an actress, but she probably isn't.
Melanie Avalon: She has quite a few really big books on Hashimoto's. She wrote Hashimoto's Protocol and she wrote Root Cause, and they're both New York Times bestsellers. So, I've been really familiar with that work for a while. But she has a new book that just came out called Adrenal Transformation Protocol, and it's all about adrenal fatigue, which is, something people debate about whether it exists or not, which I find so interesting.
Vanessa Spina: It's fascinating.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah, it's really interesting. So, I'm interviewing her tomorrow actually. And so, I've been thinking a lot about fasting and hormones. So, I was like, "Oh, this will be a good thing to dive into a little bit more." And then two more of the reason I put this in here was, you had an excellent interview or episode recently on Optimal Protein Podcast where you talked all about. Was it a new study with women's hormones that came out?
Vanessa Spina: It's a 2022 review and it has some incredible researchers in it, including Krista Varady, who was one of the original researchers that did all the research with Dr. Mark Mattson that first really sparked people's attention when it comes to intermittent fasting. If you heard of 5:2 and all that, she was one of the lead researchers there. So, yeah, it's 2022. So, relatively recent.
Melanie Avalon: Because I was researching it some more last night, and I was looking at another recent Krista Varady's study, but this was one where they found nothing really changed, but DHA was reduced. That's a different study, right?
Vanessa Spina: Yeah. So, with this one and we can obviously link it in the show notes. But this was last summer of 2022, mid-June, it was called the effect of intermittent fasting on reproductive hormone levels in females and males, a review of human trials. They found that there's, one, so little research done on fasting and hormones, and two, that there's a really big gap like, knowledge gap, research gap in this space. And so, they wanted to do a review of human trials on intermittent fasting and find all the studies that have been done on intermittent fasting, and what happened to women's hormones and also to men's hormones. That's one of the reasons I really like it. Not only is it recent, but it's a review of human trials. Not rodent trials or animal studies, just human trials.
Melanie Avalon: Okay. Which month did you say it was?
Vanessa Spina: June 2022.
Melanie Avalon: Oh, okay. Yes. So, the study I was looking at last night was October 2022. I have a question for you about reviews. Okay. Because I feel like when people see reviews and I love reviews, and I felt your love of reviews just now in the energy in your voice, they're really a nice way to get a comprehensive picture and look at a lot of studies all at once and see what the trends are actually showing. Because I think we can get caught up in the minutiae of a single study and use it to try to either learn something or maybe prove a point, even. It's hard to see a broader picture. As they say, can't see the forest for the trees type situation. How do you feel though? I always wonder about with reviews, if there's a potential for bias. Because when you read the beginning, they always say what they chose to include and what they didn't include. And so, I feel like if you wanted to make a review and prove a point, all you have to do is decide your criteria to include to go that direction, if you would, maybe. What are your thoughts?
Vanessa Spina: Absolutely. I'm a big fan of reviews, but I do think that they can be manipulated, and that's one thing that a lot of people don't realize. So, sometimes people will-- I think it was earlier this year, I remember one of my listeners of the Optimal Protein Podcast was like, "What do you think of this review on intermittent fasting?" It was a negative on intermittent fasting. I actually interviewed Dr. Mark Mattson specifically about that review, and he really opened my eyes, because he said, "Well, you're already familiar with all the intermittent fasting studies that we've talked about." We had already talked about on that interview, and all the beneficial effects they'd had. He's like, "They excluded all of those from this review." So, they took only the studies that had negative results with intermittent fasting and did a review of those basically.
So, I think they definitely can be problematic and they definitely can be used to, like you said, reinforce or make a point. But I do think they can also provide a lot of insight, because like you said, you're aggregating a lot of different studies together. I think you have to look through the ones that they picked, and what they chose to exclude, and why in this review, because there are so few human trials on intermittent fasting, and especially reproductive hormone levels in females and males. I think they included everything that they could find, but I'm probably biased as well towards intermittent fasting. But it's just such an awesome review. I can't wait to dig into it more.
Melanie Avalon: Well, so speaking of, the reason we're talking about all of this is we got a really great question from Nicole and she wanted to know, "Is fasting good for your hormones? I am hearing that it is extremely beneficial for women nearing and in their 40s plus." I will say, before we answer this, so for the duration of the show, when Cynthia Thurlow was the cohost of this show, we did answer a lot of questions about women's hormones. So, actually, friends, listeners, if you go to ifpodcast.com, that's our website, and there is a search feature there. The reason I point this out is because I think people don't really take advantage of it. You can search. And because we have transcripts of all the episodes, it will find pretty much all the episodes where we talked about anything. It's a really comprehensive search. So, you can type in, like, hormones, and it'll come up with all the different episodes where we've talked about it. But in any case, we haven't talked about it yet with Vanessa. And then, like I mentioned, she talked about this really awesome study recently. That study was the takeaway, beneficial or not so beneficial for fasting and women's hormones?
Vanessa Spina: Okay. I loved so many things about it, but I have to start out by saying that it answers your question. It actually is directed to your question, because you're specifically asking about women's hormones and 40s and above. In this research review, they specifically focused on women who were around or nearing menopause, so perimenopausal women. They did specifically focus also on women who have some obesity, but that wasn't the case in every single study. But in general, it does fit the age range. I know perimenopause, it typically starts around 45. I'm not an expert on it like Cynthia was, and I loved all the episodes that you guys did on women, either peri or post menopause, I learned so much from listening to your episodes with Cynthia. It's something that I definitely have in mind for the future.
When it comes to, I think early 40s, in some cases, people go into perimenopause early, but typically the age is around mid-40s. I think it still covers around the age range that you're talking about. So, the review specifically wanted to address this question of whether intermittent fasting is beneficial for women in fasting. They also talked about males. I addressed that on my podcast episode and some issues that I had with it as well. If you want to listen to a full deep dive and breakdown, which is a whole episode just on this one review. But what they wanted to really assess and as I said, they determined that there was this research gap that they wanted to be able to further clarify what the effects are of intermittent fasting, specifically on sex hormones. They found that there's been more and more evidence showing that various intermittent fasting regimens are actually effective for decreasing body weight, improving insulin sensitivity, improving blood pressure, and markers of oxidative stress in adults with obesity, in addition to having a lot of beneficial effects on hormones. They went through every single hormone that is in some way related to female fertility or to even milk production with prolactin they went through, all the androgens.
They have really had two main findings. The first one I just want to mention, because there has been a lot of fear around intermittent fasting and fasting for women. A lot of it comes from one rat study that was done by Kumar et al. and it's one of the ones that a lot of the popular media sites all the time uses, like clickbaity titles and stuff. They did an experiment where they had very young rats, I think they were three months old that did 24 hours of water fasting every other day for 12 weeks. Now, if you extrapolate this to humans, it would be like fasting nine-year-olds for a month, every other month for a year. [giggles] It's such an extreme amount of fasting for rats, because they have such shorter lifespans than we do, and also because they were only three months old.
Fasting is not recommended for children because of all the growth that needs to happen during that time. So, it's a bizarre study. It did contribute to our scientific knowledge, but it's cited all the time, because in that study, it did have some negative effects on women's hormones. They had negative changes in the menstrual cycle, in the blood levels of estradiol, and in luteinizing hormone, which decreased compared to the other control group. So, I just want to mention that they call it out, let's say, in the review and say, this is the reason why there's been a lot of fear around fasting being associated with having negative effects on women's hormones.
Now, what they found in their review is that the opposite is actually true, that intermittent fasting is very beneficial for a lot of different hormones. So, they looked at all the reproductive hormones, they looked at estrogen, at testosterone in women, androgens, gonadotropins, which are all the hormones associated with reproduction, including LH, luteinizing hormone, and prolactin, which is the hormone associated with milk production. I don't want to take the entire episode to go through what they found, but with every single hormone in all of the trials that they looked at, they saw beneficial effects. So, what they found with estradiol that after 12 weeks, women who had PCOS, when their participants front loaded their calories to have more than half of their daily calories at breakfast and before dinner that it had a really beneficial effect for women who have PCOS where they have excess estrogen production in their adipose tissue and their fat tissue. This can actually impair the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis.
So, having too much estrogen and androgens, which are hormones that are more so male hormones, is the primary cause of not ovulating and having when you have PCOS. So, what they found a lot in the review as well is that eating before 04:00 PM had the most benefits, which I think is another big point, because they also brought up some circadian rhythm effects as well. So, they also looked at sex hormone binding globulin, which affects women's fertility, and they found positive results on that. They also looked at lowering androgens, which are the hormones that you don't want to have excess levels of in women, and it had beneficial effects on that. It also had beneficial effects on the gonadotropins, which are all the peptide hormones that regulate our ovarian function and are essential for normal growth, sexual development, and reproduction. So, like, follicle stimulating hormone, FSH, which is secreted right before you ovulate, and luteinizing hormone as well, which peaks on the day that you ovulate.
They found that in previous studies, weight loss reduced this LH and FSH ratio, they call it. But in this trial that they were looking at in this review, they found that young women with obesity and PCOS who did an eight-hour time-restricted eating regimen for five weeks, their LH and FSH levels were unchanged, even though participants lost a small amount of weight and fat mass from baseline. Finally, they found that intermittent fasting was safe, had no negative effects in another study on prolactin levels, which again are the hormones that affect breastfeeding and breast milk production.
So, their overall conclusions were that fasting genuinely decreases the hormones that you don't want to have too high levels of the androgens so, for example, testosterone and FAI, and at the same time, increasing sex hormone binding globulin in premenopausal females with obesity. They really conclude that there's a lot of promise for the use of intermittent fasting in treating women who have hyperandrogenism, conditions like PCOS. They really want to note, especially that a lot of these findings were consistently found when people were eating most of their food at breakfast and lunch. And so, front loading the day is something that's really associated with the most benefits, I think, when it comes to intermittent fasting, or at least finishing eating by around 04:00 PM, especially when it comes to lowering the androgen markers. They also concluded that fasting does not appear to have any negative effect on the reproductive hormones like estrogen, gonadotropins, LH, FSH, and prolactin. And of course, more research is needed to confirm these findings, but I think it's a very extensive review and I thought it was so well done.
Melanie Avalon: That was so incredible. Thank you so much for doing that. How many studies was it a review of, did you say?
Vanessa Spina: So, they had five human trials of time-restricted eating, one human trial of the 5:2 diet, and one study that specifically examined the effects of meal timing on reproductive hormones. So, that's seven.
Melanie Avalon: So, there's about seven?
Vanessa Spina: They excluded cohort and observational studies, fasting performed as a religious practice or Ramadan or Seventh Day Adventist, trials that were less than one week, and studies that combined the data for men and women. They had five human trials of time-restricted eating, one human trial of the 5:2 diet, and one study that examined the effects of meal timing on reproductive hormones. So, that looks like seven. I thought it was eight, unless I'm missing one here.
Melanie Avalon: Does it say how many there originally were and then how many they ended up using?
Vanessa Spina: How many they excluded? Okay, yeah, so they had--
Melanie Avalon: I'm just curious.
Vanessa Spina: Okay. It says the number that they excluded, which was 3, 6, 10. So, there must have been 17 or 18 in total and they excluded 10 based on the fact that they were too short or they combined the data of men and women.
Melanie Avalon: Got you. Some things to emphasize from what you were talking about. I think we talked about this recently on another episode. I really just think it's a huge disservice how we use the rodent trials as not in general, because it's a great place to start to look at mechanisms for fasting. Well, women's hormones specifically, but just a lot of things, because I don't know what the equivalent-- What do you think the equivalent would be? I've thought about this a lot, and I don't know if there are any studies that have done this. I'd be really curious. Intermittent fasting, like the way we practice it. So, a 16:8 pattern or a one meal a day. I wonder what that would look like in a rat, like the equivalent?
Vanessa Spina: Yeah. It's so interesting because we've gotten, like you said, so much good data from rodent studies, especially when it comes to life extension and caloric restriction. That was the first big area of research where people started to get really fired up saying, "Well, if we calorically restrict rodents by 30%, they are living so much longer." I don't know if we would have had those findings if it weren't for rodent studies. There're so many other areas that they've contributed to. But again, that's a finding that, like you said, you could look into the mechanisms and also see, "Okay, well, life extensions happening from the 30% caloric restriction." But when it comes to their lifespans, I think it's pretty hard. I think you could probably ask Dr. Dom D'Agostino or some actual lab scientists their thoughts. They would probably have some ideas that they've formed on it.
I don't think I've formed any opinions on it, but I just know that with that Kumar et al. study that it is often used that-- it's not applicable to us at all. The only way it's applicable is, like I said, if you're starving children for a month, every other month for a year. Of course, that's going to negatively affect their reproductive hormones. So, I don't think anyone would ever do that kind of approach either. Not in a normal setting, unless they were morbidly obese or something and they were in a hospital, and you would never fast children. That's the main point. We can't extrapolate those results, because they were three months old. So, a scientist who actually does some of these studies, like even Dr. Mark Mattson, he would probably have some really good ideas on that.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah, I've talked about this before on the show. I remember I heard Dr. Rhonda Patrick talk about this, and then I did find the study that referenced it, but it was talking about how the amount of weight loss that a rodent can lose in that amount of time. It's a shocking percent. They can lose up to X amount of their body weight and it's a very, very high number. I think that really puts in perspective, because you realize, "Oh." So, these studies, the equivalent fasting is us losing-- I don't want to put the wrong number, but it was a very high, like, half their body weight or something. So, it's just not the same thing. I think it's done quite a disservice that we make these assumptions, because like you said, it's like the equivalent of a child. Of course, we're probably going to see negative effects on stress-related hormones if it's that extent of fasting, the analogy.
Vanessa Spina: Yes. One last point I wanted to make is something that I've been talking about a lot on my podcast recently is, there's been so much talk in the last year or two, negative talk about intermittent fasting, headlines especially saying, "Well, it turns out intermittent fasting is only as effective as caloric restriction." That is the takeaway that these articles and people are having. But everyone is forgetting that the whole reason intermittent fasting exploded when it did several years ago is because they found that intermittent fasting was as effective as caloric restriction. [laughs] That was the whole point. It was like, "Wait, you can get the same fat loss results as doing a chronic diet without having to chronically diet." Now it's being turned around and kind of used against it, which I find so funny, but people constantly message me like, "What do you think about this?" But this is the whole reason why we all got interested in it is because we could get great results without having to do the caloric restriction for prolonged period of time. So, you can get all those amazing effects from the metabolic switching, not feel hungry, not feel like you're chronically dieting, but get the same results. That's the whole point. So, I think it's humorous that it's being twisted around now as though it's some kind of new discovery.
Melanie Avalon: That's so ironic. You just can't win. That's the definition of you just can't win. Oh, my goodness.
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Another question about that study. Did they look at DHEA?
Vanessa Spina: Yeah, sorry, I talked about this in the podcast episode I did about it. And so, when they were looking at the androgens in women under hyperandrogenism, which is a medical condition when you have two high levels of androgens, they included testosterone, DHEAS, androstenedione, and FAI, which is the free androgen index. It's a ratio that you divide the total testosterone by sex hormone binding globulin and then multiply it by 100. So, they looked at DHEAS.
Melanie Avalon: There was not a change or--?
Vanessa Spina: In females, it was part of all the androgens that decreased. There were three studies that they looked at which had enough to determine the effect of intermittent fasting on the androgen markers in females. So, the first one with premenopausal women with obesity, they did a 5:2 diet and they fasted with 500 calories two days per week. And after 24 weeks, the free androgen index significantly decreased with a 7% weight loss versus baseline DHEAS, testosterone, and androstenedione on the other hand remained unchanged. Then there were two other studies where they were studying the effects of fasting on androgens in women with PCOS. They did an eight-hour time-restricted eating trial. Young women with PCOS and obesity had all their calories between 08:00 AM and 04:00 PM, and then fasted with water for the rest of the day for five weeks. It significantly decreased body weight by 2%, along with the free androgen index and total testosterone levels.
Then finally, Jakubowicz et al., which I hear the study cited all the time compared the effects of eating over 50% of your calories at dinner with eating over 50% of your calories at breakfast in females with PCOS and they found that the free androgen index, DHEAS, androstenedione decreased significantly in the breakfast group relative to the dinner group. So, they really emphasize for women with PCOS who want to lower those androgens that they try to eat all of their calories for the day by 04:00 PM and also to front load, especially the breakfast and lunch.
Melanie Avalon: So, that was still a fasting study, it was just loaded a certain direction?
Vanessa Spina: Yeah. It was called effects of caloric intake timing on insulin resistance and hyperandrogenism in lean women with PCOS. Yeah, they were front loading the calories early in the day versus backloading the calories later in the day.
Melanie Avalon: But they were still fasting or were they still eating all day?
Vanessa Spina: They were eating in an eight-hour eating window.
Melanie Avalon: Oh, okay. Cool.
Vanessa Spina: 08:00 AM to 04:00 PM.
Melanie Avalon: Oh, sorry. Oh, 08:00 to 04:00?
Vanessa Spina: Yeah, and then just water from 04:00 PM until 08:00 AM.
Melanie Avalon: Oh, okay. Got you. Yeah, the reason I was asking about the DHEA was the one I was looking at last night, which was also, like I said, Krista Varady, her people. So, it was called Effect of time-restricted eating on sex hormone levels in premenopausal and postmenopausal females. Again, it was October 2022. It's always interesting reading-- You can really tell what their goal is or what thesis they're trying to discuss because the objective, it says, is concerns have been raised regarding the impact of time-restricted eating on sex hormones in females. This study examined how TRE affects sex steroids and premenopausal and postmenopausal females. So, kind of speaking to what we were just talking about how there's this kind of fear out there. Even in the intro and discussion, they talk about the issues with that rodent study and they talk about how it's like the equivalent of a-- Was it a 12-year-old, a 9-year-old?
Vanessa Spina: A 9-year-old. Yeah.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah, 9-year-old. Although these findings are concerning because they're referencing the rat findings, they say the female rats were very young, i.e., three months old, which corresponds to human aged 9 years old. TRE is not recommended for children under the age of 12 because it has the potential to negatively impact growth. I would have thought they would have said older than 12 even. But in any case, so this study what I thought was really interesting. I think this is a good example going back to what we're talking about with the thesis that you're trying to champion. I feel like if somebody else had done this study, they could have made a completely different headline because basically what they found was that TRE in the study, so that the way it was setup, so, it was actually a secondary analysis of a trial. They basically went back and looked at another trial, which was eight weeks for four to six hours in adults with obesity and they reexamined the data specifically this issue of female hormones. They found, in general, it didn't really affect hormones. There wasn't really that effect that we would anticipate based on all the fear mongering that's been out there. They did find a drop in DHEA. What I was talking about was the headline, I feel like if somebody who, not that people want to demonize fasting. If the intention was to add to the fear, I feel like they would have made the headline, fasting negatively affects DHEA. Literally, that would have been the headline. That would have been the introduction. It's just so interesting how you can-- But the way they spin it is their conclusion is that the study suggests short-term TRE, which produces minimal weight loss, has little effect on sex steroid levels in premenopausal or postmenopausal females with obesity. These findings will undoubtedly require confirmation by well-powered RCTs.
They mentioned the DHEA a little bit earlier, but what's also interesting is when they talk about the DHEA, they talk about how reductions in DHEA actually may be advantageous in premenopausal females with obesity, because they can translate into a greater reduction in breast cancer risk. They do talk about the negatives though as well, but they do note that the DHEA was still in normal range in the study. So, it's not like it dropped to below normal range. Again, this is just one study, but I just find it really interesting. A nice takeaway about it is that they didn't really see a problematic effect on hormones, but they did see a drop in DHEA and just goes back to what I was saying earlier about how I feel you can spin anything anyway, because these are people who are clearly pro fasting, I mean, it's Krista Varady. So, yeah.
Vanessa Spina: Yeah. So, going back to the original question, which was from Nicole, she's hearing that fasting is extremely beneficial for women, especially nearing their 40s. What I find is a common theme throughout a lot of these reviews is that, if you have something that's out of whack from baseline, which so many of us do these days from our modern lifestyles, whether you're having too high androgens, too high estrogen, obesity linked with PCOS, or infertility from too high levels of androgens which is also related to PCOS or you're having insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome from obesity and poor body composition. Intermittent fasting can really help correct those situations. I think that most of the studies that examine that find that to be true. If something's out of whack, intermittent fasting can really help correct it.
I think a question that is probably not so much examined is, in average people who are normal and healthy and don't have anything, that's out of alignment, is fasting still beneficial for hormones. I think that for the most part, seeing that people who come to intermittent fasting usually have something that they're trying to sort out or fix or improve. The people that I know who everything is functioning perfectly for them, they're not really interested in this stuff. So, that's why these studies are done, these reviews are done, is to try and help people who are facing issues like this. There's just so many people who are unnecessarily suffering from some of the symptoms that can be related to having your hormones out of whack. So, it's really encouraging at least in a lot of these reviews, they're seeing overall positive results.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah. And to that point, I agree so much. I would love to see more studies in-- I don't want to say normal people, but people without obesity, normal weights, that would be really, really amazing. Going back to what I was talking about when I was cohosting with Cynthia, she's definitely very pro fasting for women's hormones. A huge takeaway I just took away from that chapter of the show was the profound beneficial effects that, if implemented correctly, fasting can have on women's hormones. I think something to probably end with about this whole topic is, I think people confuse oftentimes fasting with over restriction in that fasting by itself-- In my opinion, fasting by itself does not mandate or necessitate an overly restrictive state for the body, but it can become overly restrictive if done that way, and you can stack it on top of other stressors. So, if you're overexercising, undereating, and fasting, that might just be a perfect storm of hormonal issues. It's not necessarily the fasting per se. It's the over restriction of everything. I think that's important to keep in mind.
Vanessa Spina: Yes, absolutely. Well, are you ready for next question?
Melanie Avalon: Well, I think we're probably out of time.
Vanessa Spina: Oh, you're right. Next episode. Are you ready for the next episode?
Melanie Avalon: Yes.
Vanessa Spina: I'm still getting used to how this works.
Melanie Avalon: I know. Wow. Time flies by when you're having fun. [giggles] Well, this has been absolutely wonderful. So, for listeners who would like to dive deeper into all of this, we will put links to everything in the show notes. The show notes are at ifpodcast.com/episode320. Again, they will have a transcript and links to everything that we talked about. If you would like to submit your own questions for the show, you can directly email email@example.com or you can go to ifpodcast.com and you can submit questions there. Oh, I do want to mention, because I haven't picked the winner yet. Although, by the time this comes out, I'll have to make note of when this comes out, you can still enter our giveaway. I'm giving away over $500 worth of Beautycounter products which is Clean Beauty and Safe Skincare, free of endocrine disruptors which can be messing with your hormones. Speaking of, it can be messing of your hormones and actually can be a big crutch in weight loss actually. So, you can win over $500 worth of Beautycounter products, if you go to Apple Podcasts and write a new review for the show and/or update your old review. So, everybody can enter to win. Just make sure that it includes what you're enjoying having Vanessa on the show or what you're looking forward to having Vanessa on the show, just a way to help welcome her. And then send a screenshot of that to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will submit you to enter to win. I guess, now I can mention because Vanessa, you have Beautycounter link now, right?
Vanessa Spina: I do, I am official. You've converted me to the Beautycounter life and I'm so excited about it. [laughs]
Melanie Avalon: I am too. So, now friends, you can shop with both of us. We both have links. So, beautycounter.com/melanieavalon or beautycounter.com/vanessaspina. So, that is super awesome. Just to wrap everything up, you can submit your own questions to the show by emailing that email email@example.com or you can go to ifppodcast.com and you can submit questions directly on the site. And lastly, you can follow us on Instagram. We are @ifpodcast. I am @melanieavalon and Vanessa is @ketogenicgirl. I think that's all the things. So, anything from you Vanessa before we go?
Vanessa Spina: As always, I can't wait to get into the next episode with you and just continuing to answer these wonderful questions.
Melanie Avalon: I know. I'm just so happy. I just love that I get to talk about these fasting studies with somebody who cares, and [giggles] hopefully, people like listening. But yeah, no, I had a great time and I look forward to talking to you next week.
Vanessa Spina: I can't wait. See you then.
Melanie Avalon: Bye.
Thank you so much for listening to the Intermittent Fasting Podcast. Please remember, everything we discussed on this show does not constitute medical advice and no patient-doctor relationship is formed. If you enjoyed the show, please consider writing a review on iTunes. We couldn't do this without our amazing team, administration by Sharon Merriman, editing by Podcast Doctors, show notes and artwork by Brianna Joyner, transcripts by SpeechDocs, and original theme composed by Leland Cox and recomposed by Steve Saunders. See you next week.
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