Fasting is a practice often equated with religion, where individuals give up a specific food, or all food, for a certain amount of time. However, fasting can be done for many reasons, such as body detoxification, weight loss or in preparation for a medical procedure.
In reality, we all fast a little each day, says Sonja Stolfa, a registered and licensed dietitian with St. Francis Hospital. Our bodies fast every night when we sleep. For that reason, it is recommended that a person eat one to two hours after waking up in the morning.
“Prolonged fasting is not sustainable and only serves to slow down the body’s metabolism,” says Stolfa.
During the fasting period, if a person is eating very little to no food, the body begins to pull from its fat storage. However, as soon as he/she begins eating again, that fat is regained.
People who maintain minimal eating habits for years will, over time, experience decreased kidney function and a weakened heart.
Serena Mitroo, an internal medicine doctor with OU Physicians in Edmond, recommends six months to a year of healthy eating and exercise to create maintainable weight loss.
For anyone considering a short-term fast, fluids should continue to be consumed. Otherwise, the body will soon become dehydrated and hospitalization may be required.
After a few days of consuming only liquids, individuals will begin to feel fatigued. They want to be careful not to overexert themselves, Mitroo says.
Individuals who cut meat or dairy from their diets need to make sure they are receiving vital nutrients, such as zinc and B vitamins, from other sources. Otherwise, they may deal with long-term deficiencies.
Fasting can also be used as a way to cleanse the body of toxins, but that’s the job of the liver and kidneys, says Stolfa.
Instead of starving the body, Stolfa recommends eating more fresh fruits and vegetables and avoiding processed foods, which usually contain toxins and hormones.
“Good food gives the body a boost of energy,” says Mitroo “We should always be eating food that provides hydration and nutrients.”