The act of fasting is an age-old tradition and is commonly associated with religious beliefs. This time of the year, fasting is particularly important as Muslims participate in Ramadan.
Many other cultures use fasting as part of their worship, but that’s not its only purpose. People use fasting to lose weight, and we in the health industry, need people to fast in order to prevent problems in surgery.
So, fasting is important and in some cases, necessary – but, is it healthy? What effect does it have on the body?
What happens during fasting?
When you start to restrict the amount of calories you eat, your body needs to adjust and find new sources of energy to function. The first place your body turns to is your liver, which is where some sugars (called glycogen) are stored. Once all the sugar is used, it turns to all the fat found in your body and converts that into energy.
With Ramadan, people only fast in the daytime, so they aren’t in anyway depriving their bodies from important nutrients.
What are some of the minor health concerns?
Do you ever get hungry when you think about food? When this happens, your brain thinks you’re about to eat, so it tells the stomach to start preparing itself for digestion. If you suffer from heartburn, this could be a problem: Even if you’re not eating, thinking about food will cause your body to release stomach acid, which causes heartburn.
Headaches are also quite common during periods of fasting. One of the main causes of headaches is dehydration, so if you’re going to fast, make sure you drink plenty of water!
Constipation is also a big problem, especially if you’re not getting enough fibre when you’re not fasting. Make sure to eat fibre inbetween fasting.
Diabetics and fasting
While we would never stand between someone and their faith, those who are diabetic are strongly advised not to participate.
Fasting leads to very poor control of your sugar-level, which could be life-threatening. If you are a diabetic and would like to fast, it’s best to consult your doctor before the fast to get the OK.
It’s important for you to stay in touch with your doctor during the fast, to make sure your sugar is well-controlled.
Fasting has its place in the world and, if done properly, it won’t have any lasting effects on your body. Best wishes to all our Muslim readers during the month of Ramadan!
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