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By Chloe Tortorella ND BSc

 For those of you looking for information on the practical side of The Fast, who have trouble starting or completing the Fast. This article is written especially for you.

We all know the first few days of the Fast are the hardest. One of the physical reasons for this is that the brain hitherto amply supplied with glucose from the regular ingestion of foodstuffs has to now get used to burning other sources of fuel as well as ketone bodies. This takes a few days of adjustment during which some people feel lousy and depressed.

Below I have outlined a few common problems which can cause problems for some  Baha’is during the Fast

Stimulant Withdrawal

Stimulants alter the way in which our bodies provide us with energy. Coffee, tea & cola drinks for example, allows glucagon from the liver to be released as glucose to top up our flagging energy levels. If you rely on stimulants to get you through the day it’s likely you’ll find it pretty hard fasting. So start progressively cutting down your intake about 3- 6 weeks before the Fast starts so that the impact will be minimized when you do fast. 

The Sugar Blues 

The same can be said for relying on sweets throughout the day as this provides an extra load on the pancreas with reactive hypoglycaemia sometimes occurring following the commencement of the Fast. This is where people can feel weak, shaky or dizzy and often very irritable. When this happens some people begin to think of withdrawing from the fast. Cutting down your sugar products intake progressively before the Fast can help, but sometimes other nutrients are necessary to help improve glucose tolerance if this has been a long-term lifestyle choice.

Liquids and Constipation 

Many people break there fast with one glass of liquid and then launch into a big meal, after several days of this some Baha’is get an awful, sick headache and start to feel constipated. This can be caused by several reasons, but one of interest here is insufficient fluids. The main take home message is we need to drink the same amount of liquids we would normally. That means not jumping out of bed 5 minutes before sunrise to grab a quick bite of toast and “toughing it out” through the day.

What it means is getting up well before time so that you can have several glasses of liquid well before your breakfast. This rehydrates the body and intestines contents before you eat. The same is true at the end of the day. Have 3 – 4 glasses of water, fruit juice or clear soup  etc. and wait  half an hour to eat. This will rehydrate you at the other end of the day. If you still feel dehydrated have one or two glasses of water at bedtime. This way your system should run smoothly and you should feel much more able to carry out your normal duties while fasting.  

Fast metabolisers 

Some people eat a large breakfast but feel hungry again two hours later. We call these people “fast metabolisers”. For them a light breakfast is out of the question. Usually they need a meal with plenty of protein, some carbohydrate and some oil or fat. So a complex breakfast is likely to see them sustaining there energy levels better during the Fast than just having large quantities of carbohydrate foods.

Morning Depressives

Some people wake up grumpy or feeling very emotionally flat and don’t feel better until they have had a starchy breakfast. This is usually due to low serotonin. This is exacerbated during the fast. For some people they feel so low they want to stop fasting. The main thing to remember is to eat starchy foods at night so that serotonin will be higher in the morning and the world will seem a better place.

Skipping Breakfast during the Fast

If you normally skip breakfast and usually don’t eat until mid-morning or lunch. You’ll find for most people this is hard to do during the Fast as the fuel your  running on from last nights meal will run out early in the day and there’ll be no mid-morning/lunch top up so your thirstiness and weakness will be exaggerated. You could “hit the wall” and not be able to do whatever you were meant to do for a short, or a long period of time. This is because the brain and muscles may not be receiving enough fuel to run efficiently. The key is good preparation. Make sure you eat breakfast at least during the fast.

So I hope these few tips help some of you to be able to enjoy the spiritual aspects of the Fast less encumbered by various preventable limitations.

Chloe Tortorella BSc Nutrition, N.D.