People fast for many reasons. Some people for medical reasons, some for religious or spiritual reasons, and some people fast because they believe it is the best way to succeed at a new diet. No matter what the reason, there are certain rules for a proper fast that can make it safer and more likely to succeed.
If you are fasting for a medical reason you should follow all doctor’s instructions. Medical fasts are frequently ordered for twelve, twenty four, or sometimes thirty-six hours. If you are fasting by order of a doctor follow all food and water restrictions. Medical fasts are frequently ordered to obtain certain blood test results and any deviation from the fasting rules can cause inaccurate results.
A longer medical fast may be necessary before surgery or a medical procedure requiring anesthetic. Fasting is required so that if a medication makes a patient nauseous there is very little in the stomach to vomit. Unless otherwise ordered by a doctor, a proper medical fast should include eating lightly for at least one day before and one day after the ordered fasting period Eating lightly beforehand allows your body to prepare for the fast. Eating lightly afterward avoids a reaction to any lingering medication as well as giving your body a chance to adjust to a normal eating schedule.
Religious or spiritual fasts can take many forms and the proper fasting practice depends on the strictness and length of the fast. Generally the stricter and longer fast you plan to perform, the more time you should give your body to adjust both before and after the fasting period. For a very strict fast with little food you should begin by cutting your food intake for a few days to a week before you actually begin fasting. A sudden shift from eating normally to not eating is very hard on the whole system and not healthy, even for those who may be used to fasting.
While you are fasting you should continue to drink water and other liquids such as juice and broth and take a multivitamin. When you end the fasting period you should add solid food back to your diet very slowly. Starting with soup and slowly adding small amounts of fruit and vegetables. Depending on how long you fasted it may take several days before you are ready to resume eating regular meals.
Some people fast before starting a new diet in the mistaken belief that they can shrink their stomach and diet more successfully. Although fasting or dieting does not actually shrink the stomach, a few days of restricted food intake can reset the some of the brain signals about fullness and satisfaction. Just like religious fasts, a fast for dieting reasons should be started and ended gradually. The same rules about water, healthy drinks, and vitamins should also be followed. Also keep in mind that starving the body for an extended period of time can have a poor effect on metabolism and actually make it harder to diet and lose weight. So, while two or three days of fasting before a diet may help you succeed, a longer period will do more harm than good.
No matter what the reason for a fast keep in mind that the body was designed to have a steady supply of nutrients and depriving the body of that supply can have some dangerous side effects. If you experience any of the following serious symptoms you should seek medical attention; repeated bouts of dizziness, fainting, or heart palpitations. Also keep in mind that reactions differ and some people are more prone to the side effects of fasting than others.
Some people may not have the body chemistry that allows prolonged fasting and if you experience constant adverse symptoms you may be one of those people. Children should not be subjected to fasts except by doctor’s orders for specific medical reasons. Their systems are much more prone to dangerous side effects and they can more easily suffer permanent damage from fasting.
No matter what the reason is for fasting, proper techniques can ensure no lasting damage or health issues. Proper fasting includes drinking water and juices and taking vitamins when necessary. Although proper short-term voluntary fasting can accomplish some dietary or spiritual goals and medical fasting may be necessary in some instances, prolonged strict fasting can lead to permanent organ damage or even death. Fasting should only be practiced in moderation while keeping in mind the signs that a fast has become dangerous.