Fasting is the act of temporarily eliminating food and some beverages from the diet. A simple fast might eliminate only one or two foods, such as soda and coffee or red meat and cheese. More complicated fasts might reduce consumption to only fruits or vegetable juices. Extreme fasts permit only the consumption of water for a set period of time. Fasting is done for a variety of reasons including health, spirituality, upcoming medical procedures and food allergies. Fasting can provide some health benefits, but can also be dangerous if too extreme or done for too long. Diabetics or women who are pregnant or nursing should never fast.
The first stage begins on day one of the fast and usually lasts about two to three days. Blood sugar levels drop and the body's metabolic rate is reduced to conserve energy. The heart rate slows and blood pressure drops also. The first stage of a fast tends to include nausea, headaches, dizziness and bad breath. Mood swings are likely, as well, as the body withdraws from chemicals it may be accustomed to, such as caffeine.
Stage two of a fast lasts from about day three to day seven. Body fat begins to break down. Symptoms of fasting show on the skin and fasters develop blemishes and oiliness. Skin might be pale, as well. During stage two, a faster's appetite diminishes. The faster might feel as if she is coming down with a head cold or the flu during this stage.
Stage three usually lasts from day eight until day 15. A fast this long is appropriate only for those with fasting experience and who are under medical supervision. Fasters claim they feel energetic and clear-minded during this stage of the fasting process. Old emotional issues might arise and fasters might feel more emotional than usual. Canker sores are common during stage three and can be avoided by gargling with salt.
This stage lasts from approximately day 16 until two or three days after breaking the fast. The body has adapted to the fast and fasters say their body feels clean and light. They also report feelings of extreme mental clarity from day 20 forward.
It is important to slowly ease back into solid food when breaking the fast. Even with a gentle transition, the effect of solid food usually causes an immediate bowel movement and a short period of severe diarrhoea. The adjustment after a lengthy fast can take two or three days and fasters should monitor their symptoms carefully.
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