MED-HIVE SERIES : FASTING - IS FASTING MEDICALLY BENEFICIAL?

in StemSociallast year (edited)

A lot of spiritually inclined people are currently engaging a fast despite the religion , a lot of people believe it sharpens their spirit and that they need such a sharpened spirit to forge into the year.
Starting that exercise has helped some reach their target for the year spiritually as many take it to be a good thing to have done a long fast, only a lot of people do it the wrong way.

I wasn't sure where to post this episode of medhive, seeing it qualifies for a good science related post as well as a spiritually inclined topic, many would benefit anyways, so for the more scientific direction I ll be taking, it will fit well in the @stem community.

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Source

Here in Nigeria, I could say that every Church must have heralded a fast for its congregation to engage in , seeking the face of God over matters and also for fellowshipping.
But just recently I had a patient come into my consultation room with complaints of increased heart rates, her android device had detected her pulse really high and she wasn't calm until she needed to see a Dr about it.

At first I had to rule out any cardiac compromise, she was not hypertensive, neither did she have any thyroid or adrenal challenges, neither was she on any drugs at that moment that could make her pulse high, it had been high for the past 12 hours. The problem here was quite unsuspecting.
Who would have known she was fasting, and had not eaten for almost 7 days. Thats not a side of history your mind will go to at such times. What gave it out was when I asked if she had been eating well or excessively ruling out polyphagia (excessive eating) often seen in people with increased thyroid hormones and could also have raised pulse (Tacchycardia). It turned out she was only having just water all those days, 7 days.
I smiled and realised this was just a case of hypoglycemia (low sugar in the blood), due to her not eating anything for a very long time.

Hypoglycemia is a state of low suger/glucose in the blood sufficient enough for the brain and other vital organs to function normally. At that point, the heart is oblige to supply more blood to these areas and so adrenaline (a hormone) is released to make it happen. The patient feels some symptoms I ve loved to describe as SHANTING right form medical school, which was a mnemonic for sweating, headaches, anxiety, nausea/irritable and tachycardia (increased heart beat)

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Photo by Naassom Azevedo on Unsplash

Is Fasting beneficial to your health?

I am sure this has been an age long question, no doubt it helps us spiritually but really, we are physical humans and would need to know just how or if this act of fasting has any benefit at all to our body.

Many people have suggested fasting to be a good weight loss plan, well I ll say it is like a short cut to loosing the weight.

Note that when we fast, we deprive our body of not only the mouthful feeling of food, but the nutrient, vitamins and minerals that the body needs for its daily running, including fluids. Hence the body turns to reserves, yes the body is also s reservoir of these nutrients, where it stores energy sources, mineral resources :), and protein and water. These stores are used up during the period of this fast and as it progresses, well, weight will be lost, but other deficits will also show, so while we get a target of weight loss, it also comes with other deficiencies, which may be detrimental in medically unstable persons. The funny thing here is that if you resume your regular eating habit, be sure to find your lost weight at the door again, moving back in. :)

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Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

There have been speculations of intermittent fasting being the key to this, and this has also been proven to work in some places, how ever, what is more important are the lifestyle changes and diet modifications.

Speaking on Detox, I m sure quite a few propel fasting as a good detox regimen, well, how it goes is this.. the liver , a healthy one tho, is a good detoxifier and it removes harmful products of metabolism (by product from food and drugs) and sets them for excretion, the kidney also does so and removes them as urine. All fasting really aids is the mobilization of stored fat in reserve during ketosis and these frees up any toxicity in there for removal.

But the most common reason I know people to fast is to pray and kill the flesh. So I decide to write about this too.

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Photo by Naassom Azevedo on Unsplash

When Jesus fasted, as we read in scriptures, he was led of the spirit into the wilderness, (a secluded area, with less activity, and less distraction) and there he fasted. I have read of Moses, and Elijah also embarking on long fasts. Here in Nigeria we know many men of God who would go to the mountains to fast long days as well. They often go in groups as well, so when one is weak, another strengthens them and encourages them.

It is important to say that if you ll be going dry or wet for such a long time that you abstain from much activities, that way, your body will conserve energy and you can finish your task. But people engaging in long fasts and still going to their daily jobs and doing house chores as well, with no company, some people do not join there spouses. That way, I think we would get it wrong.

Fasting when it comes to spiritual matters is not only from food, some people have bigger distractions than food that will still hinder them despite their not eating. They are starving. The essence of fasting is for sobriety, reverence and worship.

On a final note, their are a set of people who shouldn't be advised to fast from the medical stand point.

Patients with Peptic Ulcer disease, I often get such complaints from patients who haven't eaten in a while, they develop dyspepsia, or even abdominal pain because of acid secretion, this is usually made worse by the smell or thought of food, another reason why they should have isolated :).

Does fasting cause Ulcer? There is really no research proving this, but we know that it worsens peptic ulcer. This may be a topic for another day.

Other set of people who shouldn't be allowed to fast are pregnant or breastfeeding women, children, people with chronic diseases involving the liver, kidney, bones and heart, Cancer patients, patients on daily drugs requiring food. Some people who are probably heavy physical or mental lifters may not want to fast as this would reduce their productivity. Also, people with diagnosed eating disorders like bulemia (excessive eating), anorexia nervosa (aversion for food), if these people are allowed to fast, it may worsen their balance.

Diabetic patients are also not advised to fast.

Here is a special piece I ve been working on for a while to post before the month runs out and I am glad to have finished, oh I hope I did, but if you have any questions or further discussions, please feel free to share, infact, I could say you re obliged to engage in the comment section. I ll be there to learn more as well.


References

Does Ramadan fasting increase of peptic ulcer perforations
What are the health benefits of fasting
Diet Myth or Truth: Fasting Is Effective for Weight Loss - WebMD


This is Med-Hive, A series of medical case stories and short explanations on the case, symptoms and slight clinical insight. This does not aim at giving any medical advice as your doctor would do that after proper review involving history taking, physical examination and necessary investigations. However, a healthy society can only thrive with healthy information's like this. I will also love to entertain your questions in the comment section. Thanks for Reading


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It's amazing to see that most people lose the entire point of fast from the very start of that fast. I mean, I have seen people who are already anticipating the time to break their fast even from the onset. Then why did you even start in the first place?...lol. It's quite funny.

I also love the fact that you pointed out that it's not only food that can distract a person from real fellowship with his/her creator. As a matter of fact, food is the least problem of some people. To some, the kind of fast required of them is a day or two off their smart phones and social media.

Personally, I have discovered that when embarking on long days of fast without food, especially longer than 3 days, fresh fruits are the best source of vitamins and minerals even fluids when breaking the fast. I have listened and seen people who have gone for 2 weeks without food, just fruits and water. Speaking for myself, I have been able to go for 3 days just on fruits and water. The drive home point is to know your limits and have a personal conviction for that very fast. Thanks for this boss @jaydr

I appreciate your comment.
I ll like to add still that fasting when it comes to the things of the Spirit should also include fastening to something as against only abstinence.

Drop something less and hold on to something greater.

Just to jump in, if done properly you will not gain the weight back you lost from fasting, I did intermittent fasting and lost 18kg, it's been a year and I haven't gained even an ounce back.

Thats the point, if done properly, diet and lifestyle modifications are the best advised.
Not drugs, or teas.

I think it is easier to take teas though, if I could I would just take some tea to aid the remaining weight loss 😆

@khaleesii most of those teas act by inducing early satiety, leading to reduced dietary intake, leading to weight loss.

Teas don't just burn fat... That's not how the body works.

I didn't say they worked.

It easier to spoil things than to build too.
Those teas, aka agbo are herbal concoctions. Often detrimental for the kidneys.
At that point, weight won't be the issue.

Teas I mean wouldn't be agbo, would be green tea and the likes.

Green tea or red tea..
Agbo la agbo nje

😆 not the same but okay.

Fasting is very healthy if done moderately. Its like a detoxification process plus other benefits. I'm usually not pleased when people overdo it, trying to bribe God to get something from him thereby portraying him as a difficult God. He's a loving father and doesn't need a perforated ulcer before granting our requests

Very true.
Our fast is not a punishment, we deprive ourself of things the body commonly needs and aim to get God's attention.
Neither is it purgation or expiation of sin in order to please God.

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Interesting read mixing science and spirituality, somehow. I am always uncomfortable with the fact some people fast for religious reasons, and hence put their health in danger at the same time.

Its got a lot more to do with understanding why they need to fast and what they need to fast from and what to fasten to.😅

I'm glad you enjoyed this.
Thanks for the comment.

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Thanks.
Thanks for the encouragement.

Thank you doctor, i benefited a lot from this article, but how did this woman endure the seven-day fast? Could the result have been worse than the racing heartbeat?
We also fast for a month a year, but eat at sunset. But during the fasting month, I personally suffer as I feel lethargic and anxious all day because of my needs for coffee and tobacco, and often I cannot even work or interact with people. Is there a solution to this case?

 last year (edited)

Fasting intermittently is known to be healthy as long as you eat at sunset, you may only feel tired and yeah, if your body is accustomed to tobacco and coffee, it will come with some discomfort.

The reason for the fast is what I m really interested in, why fast a year, is it a culture or a religious practice or just a hunch to?

Yes a couple of people have done this, going for 7days on water, or fruits. This wasn't her first time either. A racing heart was just a compensatory action of the body trying to shift into a hypermetabolic state. Often times, it could be dangerous if the heart is not in the best of conditions.
But the adrenaline surge causes that and sets the body on high function so it can breakdown other sources of energy.

It could be worse, yeah.

More worse when the fast is over, the stomach walls are highly fragile and sore from acid secretion and reduced protective layers most of which may have also be broken down during the catabolic state.
What is eaten after that matters.
Nothing peppery, nothing hot, nothing solid. In Nigeria its best to go with pap, bland pap. This prevents ulcer, gastritis, or even a chronic inflammation can ensue which is a risk factor for perforation or even stomach cancer.

Take home lesson:

Do not push yourself beyond your health limits!

Nigerians won't listen.
They think the fast is more important than their faith in God.