July 16, 2024

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Fasting: what happens to the body at this time

Muslims fast from dawn to dusk for 30 days. How does this affect their health? What actually happens to our body during fasting?

As the BBC reports, many religions at certain times of the year prescribe fasting – this is a period of abstinence from certain types of food, usually the most high-calorie ones. This week, Muslims began their 30-day fast during the holy month of Ramadan.

Representatives of this religion fast from dawn to dusk; in northern latitudes this is especially difficult. In past years, when Ramadan fell in May, in Norway, for example, Muslims had to fast 20 hours a day. Is such a strict fast really good for health? Journalists publications We tried to understand all the nuances.

The first two days are the hardest

The body enters a “fasting” state approximately eight hours after the last meal. At this time, the body finishes absorbing nutrients from the food received and soon switches to glucose reserves in the liver and muscles. When these reserves run out, it switches to processing the fat accumulated in the body to produce energy for life.

The first few days of fasting are considered the most difficult: the body “learns” to live without food for many hours a day. By burning fat, a person loses weight, reduces cholesterol levels and reduces the risk of developing diabetes. But a drop in blood sugar levels leads to drowsiness and weakness, dizziness and headache are possible, nausea and bad breath may occur. And the level of hunger at this time reaches a critical point.

Dehydration may occur from days 3 to 7

Gradually, on the third to seventh day, the body begins to get used to fasting, and fats are broken down. It is necessary to carefully monitor the replenishment of fluid in the body to prevent dehydration. Meals should include sufficient levels of carbohydrates and fats to maintain the body’s energy. It is also important to eat a balanced diet consisting of nutrients, including proteins, salts and fluids.

Day 8-15: the body gets used to it

During the third stage of fasting, the body gets used to it. Consultant Anesthesia and Intensive Care Medicine at Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge, Dr Razin Maroof, talks about the benefits of fasting:

“In everyday life, we often consume too many calories, and this can prevent the body from performing some of its functions, such as recovery. And this imbalance is corrected during fasting, allowing the body to distribute attention to its different functions.”

Detoxification occurs from days 16 to 30

By the second half of fasting, the body fully adapts. The colon, liver, kidneys and skin go through a detoxification process. Dr. Maroof explains:

“At this stage, the functionality of the organs should reach the maximum level of performance. Memory and concentration may improve, and you may have more energy. Your body does not use proteins as an energy source. This happens when the body begins to be really seriously hungry and therefore begins to “eat” muscles. This happens during prolonged and regular fasting over many days and weeks. Since fasting in Ramadan occurs only from dawn to sunset, this is enough for the body “had time to stock up on potential energy in the form of food and liquid. This protects against loss of muscle mass.”

Is fasting good for health?

Dr. Maroof says that yes, fasting is beneficial, but under one condition:

“Fasting is good because it helps us be conscious in our consumption. However, while fasting for a month is good, it is not a good idea to do it all the time. Reasonable fasting helps replenish daily energy reserves, while unreasonable fasting forces the body to consume itself. Continuous fasting is not the best way for long-term weight loss because eventually your body will stop getting energy from fat and turn to muscle instead. This is unhealthy and means the body will go into starvation mode.”

However, the doctor offers an alternative. He believes that outside of fasting, episodic fasting (or the 5:2 diet, where you fast for a few days between periods of healthy eating) can be a healthy alternative to fasting for months on end.

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