Nutrition, Wellness
Is Fasting when Sick Safe?

Is Fasting when Sick Safe?

Fasting entails abstinence from food, beverages or both for a certain period of time. It is mainly done for dietary and religious purposes.

While fasting for religious reasons merely entails refraining from food for a certain period of time, fasting for dietary reasons is bit more complicated.

The main purpose for dietary fasting is to lose weight. Several studies endorse fasting as a tool for weight loss.

Some of the most common types of fasting are intermittent fasting, absolute fasting, water fasting and juice fasting.

Apart from helping with weight loss, fasting also helps control the blood sugar level, fights inflammation, enhances heart health, boosts brain function, among many other health benefits.

It is generally recommended that fasting should be done by healthy people whose immune systems aren’t compromised but recently allegations have arisen that fasting when sick may be beneficial to invalids.

This article seeks to discuss at length the issue of fasting when sick in an attempt to answer the question of whether or not it is safe.

WHO SHOULD AVOID FASTING?

If you have diabetes, you should avoid fasting because it can lead to dips and spikes in your blood sugar level which can be detrimental to your health.

It is generally not advisable for people with chronic conditions to fast since most of them have certain nutritional needs that would be compromised by fasting.

Other people who should avoid fasting are women who are trying to conceive, pregnant women, lactating mothers, elderly people, children, underweight people, people who have (had) eating disorders, people with low blood pressure, those taking prescription medications and women with a history of amenorrhea.

SHOULD I STOP FASTING IF I FEEL SICK ?

During fasting, you may feel a bit fatigued, irritable and hungry. These side effects are totally normal considering they may be a manifestation of the body’s withdrawal from some of the essential nutrients it gets from food regularly.

However, what you shouldn’t feel is unwell. That’s not a good sign.

One of the most common signs of ill health during fasting is feeling fatigued to the extent that you are unable to carry out your daily tasks.

If you actually become ill or have serious concerns about our health, stop the fast immediately.

To prevent feeling overly fatigued especially when you’re still new to fasting, it is advisable to limit your fasting period to 24 hours or fewer.

You can also keep a snack on hand just in case you feel ill or faint.

P.S: This only applies to feeling unwell as a consequence of fasting.

WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU FAST WHEN SICK?

There is a lot of controversy surrounding the issue of fasting when sick.

While some people think it is fasting when sick is an absolute no-no, some think it can actually help fight infections.

Proponents of fasting during illness claim that it can help fight off bacterial infections.

Unsubstantiated as these claims may sound, they are actually backed by scientific research on fasting when sick.

The scientific research on this issue is premised on the fact that most people lose their appetite during illness.

When you get sick and lose your appetite, you are likely to eat less or not eat at all. This could be a natural response of your body to illness.

The moment you cut down the amount of food you eat, your body will use up stored glucose. Once it runs out of glucose, it begins using fat and amino acids as sources of energy.

According to research, using fat as an energy source causes your body to produce ketones, certain types of which may enhance your body’s  disease-fighting ability.

A 2016 study in mice discovered that certain ketones produced as a result of the body using fat as a fuel source protected mice from bacterial infections.

Fasting may also boost your body’s ability to regenerate healthy immune cells that will help fight the disease-causing organisms that cause the infection, according to research.

Despite the evidence presented by research, fasting when sick can be a bit dangerous if it becomes an overbearing stressor to your body thereby weakening your immune system.

Because of the vulnerable state of your body during illness, make sure you seek advice from your doctor  before you begin fasting amid sickness to avoid further compromising your immunity.

HOW TO FAST SAFELY

Fasting may be good for you but if you don’t do it properly you may end up experiencing undesirable side effects such as extreme fatigue and hunger.

Here are some tips on how you can fast in a safe manner;

STAY HYDRATED

One of the risks of fasting is that it can dehydrate your body.

The body meets about 20% to 30% of its fluid requirements through food and fasting can alter this.

Hence, it is important that you drink a lot of water throughout your fasting period to prevent dehydration.

DON’T OVEREAT WHEN YOU BREAK THE FAST

You’re likely to be tempted to feast on all your favourite foods when your fasting period ends. By all means, try and resist this temptation.

Overeating will leave you feeling bloated and fatigued.

Research also suggests that feasting on a lot of food while breaking your fast can slow down the weight loss process by reducing the calorie deficit. This would not be good for you if you’re fasting to lose weight.

SLOW DOWN ON THE EXERCISES

When you’re fasting, your body generally runs on low energy.

For this reason, you should keep exercises (if any) at a minimum. Indulge in high intensity exercises only on the days you aren’t fasting.

TAKE ADDITIONAL SUPPLEMENTS

When you are fasting, your body tends to miss out on a lot of essential nutrients normally derived from food.

People who are on a diet may be deficient in a number of nutrients including calcium, vitamin B12 and iron, research notes.

You can make up for these nutritional deficiencies by taking supplements upon consulting your healthcare provider.

EAT WHOLE FOODS ON DAYS YOU AREN’T FASTING

According to research, eating whole foods during non-fasting days not only prevents nutritional deficiencies but also reduces the risk of chronic illnesses like heart disease and cancer.

THE TAKEAWAY

From this article, we learn that fasting when sick can benefit your immune system in various  ways depending on the specific type of infection you are suffering from.

However, like every other process that affects bodily functions, the effects of fasting may vary from one person to another.

What works for one person may fail to work for another and that’s totally okay. Don’t get worked up if you realize it’s not working for you.

Also, remember to consult your doctor before embarking on the fasting journey while sick.

If you actually have to fast when you are sick, remember to stay hydrated and while at it, you may want to take mineral supplements to prevent mineral deficiency which can slow down your recovery process.

Finally, don’t forget to listen to the signals your body gives off so that you are aware of its needs at all times.

If you really feel like you need to eat then by all means please, eat. Don’t ignore the signals your body gives you considering the fact that it is particularly vulnerable when you are sick. You might feel hungry when fasting, and here is how to deal with hunger when fasting.

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