The Dangers of Long Term Fasting
Eating is such a necessary part of life that we sometimes forget we need to do it—no ifs, ands, or buts about it. In a society where a thin body is ideal, people who don’t met this standard find themselves doing all sorts of things to achieve a body that might not be natural or healthy for them. Extreme dieting, over-exercising, and long term fasting are just some means used to achieve the perfect thin body, but this can be harming you more than helping you.
While the dangers of extreme diet and exercise are clear and often well-publicized, not much is known about long term fasting. This activity, or diet type, is nothing new, but it is no secret that practicing fasting can wreak havoc on your body if not done in moderation. To understand the severity of this problem, you must fully understand what fasting is, how it’s done, and how it can potentially harm your body.
What Is Long Term Fasting?
Unlike religious fasting in which one abstains from food for a few hours or a few days for spiritual reasons, long term fasting is done mainly for dieting reasons in order to lose weight or cleanse the body. While this is meant to be helpful by either subduing your appetite or attempting to purify the body of toxins, long term fasting can actually damage your body by throwing it out of balance and causing you to gain weight that’s extremely difficult to lose.
Long term fasting usually means you do not eat or drink anything for days, or attempt to live off of the bare minimum for a prolonged period of time.
In short, long term fasting can be seen as starving oneself, which holds a number of problems on its own.
The Dangers Of Long Term Fasting On Your Physical And Mental Health
Your body is a machine that needs constant fuel and care to work well, so it is not the safest or the healthiest idea to take on a long term fast. The body’s highest priority is to keep itself in a constant state of equilibrium, or balance, and food helps maintain this state.
It does so by feeding the various systems and nourishing them with vitamins and minerals needed to maintain homeostasis.
During long term fasting, this balance is disrupted, which can result in the following dangers and problems:
• It Can Cause You to Retain Weight / Make it Difficult to Lose Weight: That’s right, this weight loss practice can actually have the opposite effect. When you fast for a prolonged amount of time, your body has to find an alternate food source since its main source has disappeared. When your body realizes that it is not receiving any new energy, it does its best to hang on to whatever fuel it last had. This means that fat stores are saved indefinitely so that the body has something to feed on slowly over time.
• It Can Weaken Your Heart: Long term fasting can put serious strain on your heart for two reasons: when you fast, the body burns cardiac muscle for fuel and over time, protein utilization increases, weakening the heart significantly. Though the body tries to conserve as much muscle as possible, the longer the fast, the more that must be sacrificed, and the heart is the first to go. A few days into the fast, the body does switch to using fat, but, as stated, it returns to utilizing protein (muscle) for its main source of fuel. This can weaken the heart so much that it increases your risk for heart failure.
• It Lowers Your Ability to Fight Illness and Infectious Diseases: Again, fasting causes your body to redistribute energy in an attempt to maintain homeostasis. Due to this, you cannot expect your body to function the same way. For example, a small cold or infection that you would have been able to fight off effortlessly before the fast can knock you down for days on end. Without adequate nutrition, your body simply does not have enough energy to fight off infectious diseases. In fact infectious diseases are the number one cause of death amongst starving populations.
• Death: The biggest danger of fasting overall is death. Many people who fast for 20 days or more have starved themselves to death. When abruptly depriving the body of its main source of energy during a fast, it literally throws your various systems into chaos. The body will do all it can to maintain health and life, but this often means it will shut down certain systems in order to save others, which can become a seriously dangerous domino effect that will ultimately lead to death or else health permanent and potentially fatal health problems.
Throughout the 20th century, men and women have died from long term fasting because this is a high-risk, extremely experimental diet plan. While the danger level varies from person to person, it is important to know that this type of “crash diet” is rarely beneficial.