Five stages of fasting in the body

Tasneem Johnson is a registered dietitian.
It’s almost Eid and soon we will be saying goodbye to the holy month – and this is the last column in this series.

During the first 20 days of fasting, I felt my body slowly adjusting to the routine and by day 20 I felt lighter, more energetic and productive than before. But what has really been happening to my body function while I was fasting?

Tasneem Johnson, a dietitian, explained that there are five stages to the 30-day fast. Each stage represents a change in body functions for various reasons.

Stage 1 (day 1 and 2)

Here the body adjusts to the drop in the amount of glucose and water in the blood and tissues by drawing sugar from sugar stores in the muscles, liver and kidneys; and lowering the blood pressure. Your body will also begin to make glucose from things like fat and amino acids to ensure that it has enough energy. This is the stage which is usually the most difficult, and where you’re more likely to experience dizziness, nausea and hunger pangs.

Stage 2 (day 3 to 7)

At this point the body has become more accustomed to lowered blood glucose levels and switches to ketosis, where it uses fats as the primary source of energy. This ups your body’s fat-burning capacity as the body draws on fat stores.

Stage 3 (day 8 to 15)

Since the gut is less active during this time, it’s also exposed to less stress – from things like heartburn, indigestion and food toxins. This means that it has time to rest and repair. At this point, the body takes advantage of the fact that your digestive system is “resting” and directs the energy that would have been used by the gut to the immune system. This increases immune functions, meaning that the immune cells of your body can focus on healing the other areas of the body too.

Stage 4 (day 16 to 30)

During this stage the healing and detoxification of the body continues and you can experience ongoing improvements in your health because of the continued healing and cleansing.

Stage 5

This is where you end your fast and begin to eat during the day again. Ms Johnson said that during this stage one should be cautious as the improvements you’ve made to your health during Ramadaan can be reversed if you begin to eat too much food or a diet that isn’t high in nutrients.

She advised not to fall back into bad eating habits and that it’s best to eat smaller portions of food or foods that are easier to digest – like broths and steamed vegetables – during the day to ease your digestive system back into non-fasting mode.

Ms Johnson said you can continue to fast beyond Ramadaan, as long as you maintain a balanced diet throughout this time.

Fasting is something that you can continue to do throughout the year, but you need to focus on healthy eating to maintain good health during this period.

To ensure that you are staying healthy make sure that you eat balanced meals at breakfast and supper time and drink enough water.

You can also take regular breaks from fasting to ensure that you are providing your body with everything it needs.

It’s not recommended to fast by skipping breakfast or supper because eating breakfast provides your body with important nutrients for daily functions, and sparks your metabolism, allowing your body to function at its best throughout the day and eating supper replenishes the body’s stores and provides the body with nutrients for body functions while you sleep.

I hope everyone will continue cultivating a good lifestyle after Ramadaan and may you all celebrate a healthy Eid.