If you haven’t done the research, you might find yourself wondering if fasting is safe. You may have heard from people who’ve never even tried it that it’s crazy, dangerous, or just pointless. And yet, for thousands of years, many cultures have embraced fasting wholeheartedly. This ancient practice leads to numerous health benefits for most people—when done correctly.
That said, fasting is not for everyone. Even compulsory religious fasting excuses the sick, the young, and the elderly for their safety. For some people, certain health conditions make fasting inadvisable. Of course, there are many ways to plan and prepare to ensure that you fast as safely as possible. Read on to find out if fasting is right for you and what you should consider before beginning a fast.
Who Should Avoid Fasting?
You should only fast if you’re generally healthy. Some underlying medical issues might prevent you from starting one unless you’re under direct medical instruction or supervision.
You shouldn’t fast if you are on immunosuppressive drugs, currently very ill, or recovering from surgery or injury. Fasting ignites immune cell recycling, a remarkable effect that’s like a reset button for your immune defenses. It helps you replace damaged, old, or rickety immune cells with younger, more competent white blood cells once you start eating again. But if you already have a low white blood cell count, you’re better off not fasting to preserve your immune system, even in its weakened state.
Some people should avoid fasting, including:
- Infants and children
- Type 1 diabetics
- Pregnant and nursing women
- People recovering from a major surgery or serious injury
- Those who are underweight or undernourished
- Persons with a history of eating disorders, such as anorexia, bulimia, or compulsive eating
- People with a history of malnutrition, such as alcoholics
- Anyone with a depressed or compromised immune system
- Those on certain medications, especially those that shouldn’t be taken without food
- People with nutritional deficiencies like low iron status
- People with heart issues
- Those who experience severe heartburn
- Those with very low blood pressure (hypotension)