The Dangers of Fasting

Earlier this year, I completed a 10-day regular fast.  I usually document my fasts to keep track of spiritual and physical changes.  Physically, it was the most difficult fast that I’ve experienced.  After a few days, symptoms tend to subside, but this time, they didn’t.

I endured severe abdominal pain, cramping, fatigue, and confusion for ten days. I may have even been on the verge of kidney failure. My urine was the color of brown liquor. I laid in bed praying not to die. I didn’t even realize dangers existed until this fast.  I’ve done some pretty dumb things like exercising while fasting or going directly back into eating solid food. Not realizing, I could’ve seriously harmed or killed myself by shutting down my organs–mainly kidneys. My spiritual immaturity wouldn’t allow me to think the worst since God was at the center of it all. Regardless of your fasting purpose, you have to be careful and responsible.

The first few days, I drank large amounts of water thinking the pain and weakness was from dehydration. After further investigation, I learned that drinking too much water, especially while fasting, can decrease the sodium levels in your body causing hyponatremia.

Symptoms of Hyponatremia:

  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Headache.
  • Confusion.
  • Loss of energy and fatigue.
  • Restlessness and irritability.
  • Muscle weakness, spasms or cramps.
  • Seizures.
  • Coma.

Midway through, I incorporated coconut water because the high potassium content–fearing I might have a stroke.  Many years ago, I worked with a homeless client that had a mini-stroke because her potassium levels were too low. Well, I may have gone overboard with the coconut water sending my body into hyperkalemia, which is a condition that happens when your blood contains too much potassium.

Symptoms of Hyperkalemia:

  • Fatigue or weakness.
  • Numbness or tingling.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Problems breathing.
  • Chest pain.
  • Palpitations.

I made the mistake of guessing how to handle myself during a fast. Maybe I had a preexisting issue with my kidneys and made it worse. It’s also quite possible they couldn’t filter all that potassium I consumed. I stopped drinking the coconut water and went back to just sipping water instead of chugging it. This stopped the cramping. I only increased my water intake if I felt symptoms of dehydration.

Symptoms of Dehydration

  • Increased thirst.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Tired or sleepy.
  • Decreased urine output.
  • Urine is low volume and more yellowish than normal.
  • Headache.
  • Dry skin.
  • Dizziness.

As you can see, the symptoms for all these conditions are similar. If you find yourself experiencing these symptoms, it’s best not to guess what the problem is  but seek advice from a medical  professional. Remember, less is more while fasting–unless your experiencing symptoms of dehydration.  Decrease your output (energy), intake (water), and environmental noise (radio, television, internet).

Prior to ending my fast, I went to the store to buy soup and juice. While at the register, I forgot to grab an item, and lightly jogged back to the aisle. When I returned to the line, I nearly collapsed over the bagging area. I couldn’t even hold myself up. My heart pumped so hard, I thought it would stop mid-beat. I was hyperventilating, delirious, and nauseous. I barely made it to the car. As soon as I opened my car door, I fell out across the seats. It took several minutes to regroup. When experts say ‘No’ physical activity just trust they know what’s best.

These are just some of the mistakes I made while fasting. I learned that willpower alone is not enough to successfully make it through a fast. Lack of preparation can lead to harmful results. The Living Centre provides several steps to help prepare you for your fasting journey.

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