“How useful is fasting?”

“Fasting has been a popular topic for years, but I still haven’t found anywhere information about what fasting is from the point of view of a nutritionist. Is it suitable for everyone? Who does not want to fast? And do I need to take vitamins during fasting?”

Reader marieclaire.ru, 36

Specialist’s response:

The Great Orthodox Fast lasts 48 days, during which the diet becomes severely limited: our diet is deprived of animal products – rich in essential amino acids, vitamins, minerals and fats. It is believed that this kind of restrictions helps people to focus on the spiritual, but, from the point of view of nutritionology, such changes in nutrition increase the load on the body. After all, a menu consisting mainly of carbohydrates and fiber can be unsafe for many people with certain chronic diseases.

The most common symptoms that occur during fasting:

  • Rumbling, heaviness in the stomach, flatulence, constipation/diarrhea;

  • Frequent feeling of hunger;

  • Weakness;

  • Difficult to concentrate, memory impairment;

  • Irritability, anxiety, tearfulness;

  • Sleep disturbance, insomnia;

  • Dizziness, headaches;

  • Exacerbation of any chronic ailments.

For example, if you are prone to an imbalance of glucose in the blood (above 5.5 or below 4.0 mmol/ l), then strict fasting is not the best solution for you. This can lead to even greater sugar spikes/dips and deterioration of well-being and, as a result, to a sharp decline in energy, drowsiness after eating, apathy, irritability and sleep problems. Metabolic disorders — such as obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes mellitus. 

A change of diet towards carbohydrates will not go unnoticed in the case of problems with the thyroid gland or any other endocrine disorders. The thyroid is very sensitive to even the slightest fluctuations in lifestyle and environment. Therefore, people suffering from hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, should think carefully before deciding to fast.

And in general, you can not enter the fast in an uncompensated state, that is, with deficiencies in nutrients — for example, such as protein, iron, B vitamins, zinc, magnesium, and others. These elements are involved in almost all biochemical processes in the body and affect the work of all organs and systems.

Only if you are absolutely healthy and full of energy, fasting is acceptable, but with careful preparation for it and smooth entry. It is impossible to change the diet at the same time — this is a serious stress for the whole body. Start preparing for fasting 2-3 weeks in advance, gradually reducing the amount of animal protein and increasing the amount of cereals, vegetables and greens in the diet. And it is advisable to do this with additional digestive support, for example, taking groups of enzymes that help to break down and optimally absorb fiber and carbohydrates in general.

You may need additional intake of vitamin B12, zinc, magnesium, Omega-3 from plant sources. All mineral and vitamin supplements should be selected individually after a complete analysis of the entire body for nutrients and their deficiencies.

Holistic nutritionist, functional nutrition specialist, thyroid health expert. Graduated from the European Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies (Department of Nutrition) and the International School of MicroNutrition (London).

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