Gwyneth Paltrow is using an ‘intuitive fasting’ diet to treat lingering COVID-19 symptoms

Gwyneth paltrow
Gwyneth Paltrow founded Goop. Randy Holmes / Getty Images
  • Gwyneth Paltrow said she’s using keto and intermittent fasting to treat lingering COVID-19 symptoms.
  • The “Intuitive Fasting” plan comes from her health advisor Will Cole to improve metabolism.
  • Experts say Cole’s claims go beyond what evidence shows, despite some supporting research.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

In a recent blog post, Goop founder Gwyneth Paltrow said she used an intermittent fasting diet to shake off the long-term side effects of coronavirus infection, including fatigue, brain fog, and inflammation. Her health advisor, functional medicine practitioner Will Cole, details how to try a similar intermittent fasting technique for yourself in his new book “Intuitive Fasting.”

While experts don’t recommend fasting as a treatment for COVID-19 symptoms, Cole says the practice will help people develop metabolic flexibility, improving their ability to burn fat, maintain a stable blood sugar, and reduce inflammation.

“It’s a kind of yoga for your metabolism,” Cole told Insider.

Intuitive fasting combines gradually longer periods of not eating with a high-fat, low-carb diet

In his book, Cole said people who are new to intermittent fasting can benefit from a gradual approach to the practice by starting with shorter fasting periods. For the first week, he recommends a 12-hour fasting window, increasing to an 18 hour fast in week two, and then incorporating 20-22 hour fasts every other day.

Cole combines this with a high-fat, low-carb eating style rich in plant-based foods, based on his previous book about vegan and vegetarian ketogenic diets. This includes foods like avocados, olives, coconut, leafy greens, and nuts and seeds, along with the option of having eggs, butter from grass-fed cows, and wild-caught seafood.

Keto diet

Neither of these strategies are specifically advertised to treat any disease. Both the fasting and the high-fat diet are intended to help stabilize blood sugar and reduce cravings, allowing allow people to cut back on processed foods like refined carbohydrates.

The end goal, Cole said, is for people to naturally develop habits of healthy eating without having to force them.

“I wanted a conversation about authentic, intuitive wellness but you have to have metabolic flexibility to truly have that,” he said. “If you’re bound by cravings, struggle with inflammation, food doesn’t make you feel good, there’s no way to intuitively eat your way out of that.”

He encourages people to alternate between eating fewer carbohydrates on some dates, and a moderate amount on other days. This technique, known as carb cycling, is meant to stabilize blood sugar and insulin in the way that a low-carb keto diet does, but in a less restrictive way, and with fewer side effects like fatigue and fogginess. There’s not much evidence on whether carb-cycling works.

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Doctors don’t endorse diets to treat COVID-19

There’s evidence fasting and low carb diets strategies can be helpful for some chronic conditions, such as diabetes. But experts are skeptical about whether they can treat or prevent coronavirus infection.

Both can be counterproductive, particularly at first, since major dietary changes can increase levels of the stress hormone cortisol in your body, dampening the immune system.

Professor Stephen Powis, national medical director for NHS England, has called out Paltrow’s plan for promoting medical misinformation, Insider’s Zac Ntim previously reported.

Experts question intuitive fasting in particular because some of the claims Cole makes go beyond what evidence shows.

For one thing, there’s no clear evidence that intermittent fasting can reduce cravings or hunger in the long-term, according to Dr. Krista Varady, a professor of nutrition at the University of Illinois Chicago who has done extensive research on fasting.

Many of the purported benefits are also shown in animal studies, and it’s too early to know the effects on people.