Fasting during Festivals – Guidelines for elders

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With Navratri starting, many senior citizens would be fasting too. Not just Navratri, fasting during any religious festival should be done with proper monitoring, especially by the elderly. Here are some guidelines to follow if you are fasting during festivals.

Fasting is healthy as long as person is well hydrated and doesn’t end it with feasting. However, fasting is not for everyone. Though some people describe feeling euphoric and energized, others feel cranky and sick. If you’re diabetic, severely underweight, recuperating from surgery, or have a serious medical condition, you really shouldn’t fast without close medical supervision. In fact, those with medical conditions are often exempted from religious fasting obligations.

So watch out for the following extremes to enjoy fasting without hospitalisation.

Fasting and electrolyte imbalances– Many senior citizens are on medications and abrupt long fasting can cause dehydration accompanied by electrolyte imbalances, especially with sodium causing hyponatremia- This condition can be serious in elderly and may require ICU admission .So ensure adequate intake of electrolyte and salt during the fast . 

Fasting and dehydration-Dehydration is common during a fast. The body continues to lose water and salts through breathing, perspiring and urinating. If you don’t drink sufficiently before a fast, your risk of dehydration increases. This risk is higher in older people and in those taking tablets, such as diuretics. If you are unable to stand up due to dizziness, or you are disoriented, you should urgently drink regular, moderate quantities of water – ideally with sugar and salt.

Eat Healthy

Eat Healthy

Fasting and GI health-Fasting usually reduces the amount of stomach acid, which digests food and kills bacteria. However, thoughts of food, or the smell of it, make the brain tell the stomach to produce more acid, which can lead to heartburn. People who regularly take medicine for indigestion – such as antacids, antihistamines or proton pump inhibitors – are advised to continue taking them. Reducing your caffeine intake and stopping smoking can also help.

Fasting and diabetes-People who regularly inject insulin are advised not to fast, as the potential risk to health is high. Discuss with your doctor, before starting the long fasts.

Fasting and constipation-When you are fasting be active, drink water regularly. Include lots of fruit and vegetables in your diet and increase the fibre content of your food using bran.

Fasting and stress-Lack of food and water, changes of routine and shorter periods of sleep can cause stress.

Dr. Rohtagi suggests a sample menu for those fasting. This menu is especially suitable for those fasting during Navratri. 

Sample menu plan-

Pic credit: Wikimedia Commons

Pic credit: Wikimedia Commons

On rising-

7 am  Water- 1 glass + few almonds

10 am 1 glass milk

2pm 1 glass buttermilk/ coconut water +fruit

5pm sabudaana papad/ fist full peanuts

8 pm Dinner- Fruits +sabudaana khichdi +curd / Sabudaana kheer

10 pm milk

About Author

Dr. Priyanka Rohatgi

Dr. Priyanka Rohatgi (M.Sc, PhD, ADND, PGCCGM, XLRI) is Chief Clinical Dietician, HOD, Dept. of Nutrition and Dietetics, Apollo Hospitals, Bangalore. She is also President, Indian Dietetic Association ,Bangalore Chapter (2011-14) and member, National Executive Committee, Indian Dietetic Association.