By – Viveka kaul, Chief Diabetes Educator & Nutritionist, Apollo Center for obesity Diabetes & Endocrinology Apollo Hospital, New Delhi
1. A lot of people fast for religious purposes. What is the effect of fasting—both going without food and without food and water—on one’s health?
Religious fasting is a traditional and good practice, the believers learn to curb their desires and check them against transgression, extravagance, and the yielding to the lower desires, all of which degenerate man and bring him to the pit of self-destruction and annihilation. Fast fosters a strong will, teaches patience and self-discipline, the ability to bear hardship and tolerate hunger and thirst. The present-day transition in the diet post fasting is what makes it abusive. Fasting followed by feasting with unhealthy fried, processed and simple carbohydrates adds to bloating, craving and lethargy. But, as long as we follow a healthy regime and eat healthy food, fasting is beneficial.
2. What are the positive effects and negative effects of it?
a. Cleansing and detoxification of the body by giving a break to the digestive system
b. Emotionally good,
c. promotes mental clarity
d. Lead to a feeling of physical lightness, increasing energy level
e. Promote enhanced spiritual connection
a. It would increase the hormonal activity which may cause body odor, bad breathe and acne problem.
b. It makes certain medicines ineffective as there prescribed to have along, before or after food
c. It could cause headache, constipation, vomiting and other dangerous health problem
d. It would reduce your registration power and make you feel week, if person is dehydrated.
e. It would hamper your concentration power making you restless and irritable due to electrolyte imbalances.
Ill effects of feasting followed by fasting
a. Sudden food supply in the body will cause digestion problems
b. You would land up eating more and put on more weight
c. It would make your feel lethargic
3. Do you recommend people should fast at regular intervals? How often?
Fasting is healthy as long as a person is well hydrated and doesn’t end it with feasting.
Choosing the apt length
The length of time for a fast should always be the length that is right for you at the time. Remain flexible. Severe pain and discomfort may mean you have attempted too much, too soon. You can back off a bit, eating a small piece of fresh fruit.
Be careful not to fast too frequently; allow your body sufficient time to rebuild nutritional reserves. Two days per week is too frequent, as is one week every month.
Recommended fasting times for regular, occasional “maintenance” and rebalancing are one day per week and/or 3 days per month and/or 10 days yearly.
one week fast. Often used as a quarterly (seasonal) cleansing detox. Navratras- points to ensure are adequate hydration with fluids throughout the day including fruit juices, coconut water, milk and buttermilk which is also a source of sodium and potassium.
Avoid fatty meals, especially towards the evening.
10-day fast. This is the standard recommended length for a fast. Also, many use this length as a yearly maintenance detox and cleansing.
Several week fast. These are only for the seasoned or those under close professional supervision.You need to be familiar with your own body and it’s unique reactions to the fasting process.
4. Who do you recommend should not fast (age-wise or if someone suffers from some illness).
Fasting is not for everyone. Though some people describe feeling euphoric and energized, others feel cranky and sick. And if you’re pregnant, diabetic, severely underweight, recuperating from surgery, or have a serious medical condition, you really shouldn’t fast without close medical supervision. In fact, those with medical conditions are often exempted from religious fasting obligations.
5. Do you have patients in whose diet chart, you recommend fasting? And if yes, what specific health problem do they generally suffer from?
Ensure that you fast safely- If none of that applies to you and you think you’d like to try an occasional fast, here are some guidelines on how to do it safely.
1. Keep it short. Don’t fast for days at a time to get the metabolic or weight loss benefits. Fasting for as little as 20 hours at a time is enough to improve insulin sensitivity and other metabolic functions. Don’t go for longer than 36 hours.
2. Stay hydrated. Those fasting for Ramadan and Yom Kippur usually go without water throughout their fasts. Although no lasting harm appears to come from it, they do often end up somewhat dehydrated. Such feasts traditionally should begin with fruit, soups, and other hydrating foods. If you are not fasting for religious reasons, by all means drink plenty of water during your fast.
3. Avoid vigorous exercise while fasting. A brisk walk is fine but it’s not a good idea to run a marathon or swim on a day when you’re not eating as much as usual.
4. Optimize your nutrition. When you’re not fasting be sure to eat wholesome, nutritious foods. If you’re going to eat less, the nutritional quality of what you do eat becomes that much more important. Fasting for a day and then pigging out on junk food the next day is not a way to move your health agenda forward.
5. Don’t go too low. If your weight starts to dip below your healthy weight range, you’re fasting too often and may be at risk of nutritional deficiencies. Not sure what your healthy weight range is? I’ll put a link in the show notes to a calculator.
Sample menu plan-
7 am Water- 1 glass + few almonds
10 am 1 glass milk
2pm 1 glass buttermilk/ coconut water +fruit
5pm sabudaana papad/ fist full peanuts
8 pm Dinner- Falhaar- Fruits +sabudaana khichdi +curd / Sabudaana kheer
10 pm milk
Drink 8-10 glasses of water.