Can fasting kill you? Dietitian weighs in...

Can fasting kill you? Dietitian weighs in...

A dietitian sheds light on whether you should fast and if you do, how long your body can go before starving to death.

Fasting/ iStock

Thousands, if not millions, of people around the world fast for various reasons. 

Some fast to lose weight or detox, others for religious purposes or to prepare for medical procedures. 

However, although not eating for a few hours or a day won't hurt, prolonged fasting can cause health complications or even death. 

A recent media report by The South African states that four people from Kenya starved to death while fasting for four days. 

READ: Three surprising health benefits of intermittent fasting

Sylven Masoga says dietitians do not recommend prolonged fasting because of the negative effects it can have on your body if you do it without consulting a health professional for guidance. 

He says that the body can survive for several days without eating, but there comes a time when the body's food stores are depleted. 

"Although you can take from stores, after a longer time, especially from five days onwards, your body starts to suffer," says the dietitian. 

He adds that for your body to function to its optimum best, you need to eat regular small meals. 

"People should not wait until they are hungry for them to eat. For the body to function properly, they should keep the basal metabolism running by intake of meals."

He says you can even eat "up to eight smaller frequent meals in a day."  

Sylven warns that starving yourself will affect your heart and other crucial parts of your body. 

A report by National Institutes of Health says people who regularly fast more than 16 or 18 hours a day have a higher risk of gallstones.

Another report by WebMD states: "Your body needs vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients from food to stay healthy. If you don't get enough, you can have symptoms such as fatigue, dizziness, constipation, dehydration, and not being able to tolerate cold temperatures." 

Therefore, it is advisable to speak to your dietitian or doctor before embarking on any fast. 

READ: Purtassi fasting: Low-carbohydrate vegetable snacks

Disclaimer: Health-related information provided in this article is not a substitute for medical advice and should not be used to diagnose or treat health problems. It is always advisable to consult with your doctor on any health-related issues.

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